October 28, 2006:
Ghorapani (2,850 m) to Poon Hill (3,210 m) to Ghandruk (1,950 m)
Got up shortly before 5 am and got dressed. Waited a couple of minutes for Bharat and then we
walked towards the start of the Poon Hill trail. People were streaming out of every lodge. So, me and
a few hundred of my best friends started the procession up to Poon Hill in total darkness. Most
people wore a headlamp, I, of course, forgot mine, but there were so many lights, I didn't need one.
It took about 45-50 minutes to get to the top of Poon Hill. It could have been a lot faster, but then
some my "closest friends" were quite slow and as everybody was walking behind each other in one
long line, it was difficult to pass. Anyway, we got up there with plenty of time to spare before
sunrise. Once up, I had battery problems (of course). The "new" batteries I bought in Kathmandu
did not work, so the entire time on Poon Hill, Bharat was constantly massaging one set of AA
batteries while I used the other set in the camera. It worked. Sunrise was spectacular!!!
At first the sun appeared on Annapurna South and then on the summit of Dhaulagiri. I took lots of
pictures while up on Poon Hill. The views were incredible and the South Face of Dhaulagiri glowed.
Dhaulagiri, Tukuche Peak, the Annapurna Masssive including Annapurna South, Machhapuchhare
and of course, the Kali Ghandaki Valley, the deepest valley in the world. We stayed up there until
about 7:15 am and then headed back down to Ghorapani.
Back at the lodge we had breakfast. I had oat porridge with apples and chapati. Then, around 9 am,
we started our trek to Ghandruk. I was under the impression we were going down (as we had only
climbed up the last 2 days). But as soon as we left our lodge, the trail went up. Shit! I was not
mentally prepared for that. And Bharat said: "Don't worry, just a littel bit up". OK, I thought. After
about 300 meter altitude change, we came to the top of the Deurali Pass where we had great views
again of Dhaulagiri and the Annapurna range. We were almost as high as Poon Hill now.
Now, we started our descent (or so I
thought). Well, yes, we descended for quite a
while, very steep at times. Then, after a
couple of hours, it really was a steep descent.  
And I was wondering....what goes down must
come up. We were going down a steep ravine
and there was a ridge in front of us. So, I
asked Bharat: Do we have to go up there?
And he looked at me and said: " No problem.
Just a littel bit." Well, after spending a few
weeks with him and also after this morning,  I
knew his "Littel bit". Sure enough, we had to
climb all the way up again on the other side
of the ridge. Now I was really pissed as I
didn't expect that at all and I didn't want to
go up anymore after all that hiking I had
done. Anyway, after we were on top of the
ridge, we were in Tatapani. We were hungry,
but none of the places there looked inviting,
so we continued. Another 30 minutes we were
in Baranthi where we stopped for lunch at a
very pleasant lodge with great owners! Had
lunch there, a tomato/cheese soup (with the
owner barehandedly grating the cheese into
my soup right in front of me) and then
maccaroni with cheese. Very delicious. After
lunch, we continued our steep descent for
another hour and a half to Ghandruk.
Ghandruk is at 1,950 meters, so we started at
2,850 meters, climbed to Poon Hill which is
350 meters higher, descended back to
Ghorapani, hiked up to Deurali Pass another
300 meters, descended 500 meters, climbed
up another 150 meters and then finally
descended down to Ghandruk. What a
frickin' up and down day when I thought it
was only going down after Poon Hill. The
other thing I didn't like to much was that for
the most part, we were hiking through forest
with no mountain vistas at all. But it was my
own fault as I didn't do any checking on this
route as I didn't think I was coming here.
(This was copied from my diary written that
night. Now, a couple of months later, I
actually have very fond memories of that day
and the hike to Ghandruk!)
While on the outskirts of Ghandruk, we heard lots of loud voices and screaming. We saw that there
was a school with a volleyball field. Two teams, apparantly one from Ghandruk and the other one
from a neighbouring village, had a hotly contested volleyball match going. Bharat and I sat down
and watched for a while and these guys played quite well. It was fun! Our lodge in Ghandruk is very
nice. It is called the Annapurna Lodge. It has 4 stories and is built out of stones and brick, so no
wooden crates for the night. As a matter of fact, all lodges, rooms over here in the Annapurna
region were much much nicer than the ones in the Khumbu region. Towering above the lodge is
Annapurna South and Machhapuchhare. Both mountains came out of the clouds late afternoon and
there even was some kind of sunset on Machhapuchhare.
Lots of nice people in the lodge, including a group of Austrians to whom I talked for a while.
Another good dinner with spaghetti and tomato sauce and onions and then rice pudding with apples
for dessert. Went to bed relatively early as I was really tired after a long but great day.
Dhaulagiri, 7th highest mountain on earth at 8,167 meters or 26,794 feet
Ghorapani (above), Annapurna
range (right) and Bharat (below)
on top of Deurali Pass