AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Annapurna Circuit: Day 17 – Swanta to Khopra Danda

Altitude: 2,200m
Climb: Descent: 1,400m
Time: 3hr 30m + 1hr 30m breaks
Daily Cost: 4,020 rupees ($41/£24)

In the morning the sun was shining and it was warm. We set off, back through the school playground and onto the trail. The good news is that the trail is well marked with blue and white markers. This section was all in forest and the shade kept us cool allowing us to walk fast. We soon caught up with a group of Americans, they were the people who had been camping in front of the other lodge. I forgot to ask why they were camping when there were lodges on the route. Why not camp elsewhere, such as Dolpo, where there are no lodges and it’s camping only. They were going to Khopra Danda, although they were staying the night at Chistibang and getting there the next day. Then they were going over to Annapurna Base Camp. They knew the UK well and even knew Ilkley (about 10 miles from where we lived).

We left them and continued up. We knew we had 1,400m to climb so we were prepared for plenty of uphill. The only bad bits were when the shade ran out and we had stretches of uphill in the sun. The forest was nice and the path was in pretty good condition. At about 10am we reached a lodge. It was hot, but we didn’t feel like having a drink. We sat in the shade and ate one of our trekker bars (basically a muesli bar) and drank our water. The lodge owner told us Chistibang was a little over an hour away and Khopra Danda was about 4 hours walk in total. That was good news. With that we left the lodge up a very steep path.

We continued walking steeply uphill through the forest for about 60 minutes. It was hard work but enjoyable. The area seemed deserted. We knew the French couple we ahead of us and the American campers were behind us, but we felt totally alone. We emerged from the forest to a clearing on the slope with a couple of lodges dug into the hillside. We stopped at the first one, ordered some food and cooled off in the shade. This was Chistibang (labeled as Sistibang on our map for extra confusion). We were now at 3,000m above sea level again. Only 600m further to climb today! The lodge was basic but looked OK. The food took an age to arrive though!

We had arrived at 11:15am and planned an early lunch. It was around 12:30pm by the time we left. The forest continued for about another 30 minutes and we caught up with the French couple, who had obviously stopped in Chistibang for lunch too. We passed them but the French guy sped on ahead. We reached a small lake and the trees stopped here. We had climbed through the tree line and into the mountains proper again! Above our heads was a high ridge, which we guessed we’d be climbing over, and behind us was the valley which we had spent the last two days walking up.

The clouds were now coming back, as usual every day. This was good, it would make the last section a bit more comfortable. This last ridge was a steep climb and Annemarie was a minute or so ahead of me. Up the ridge we went, the sky getting darker all the time. At the top of the ridge we hit the wind, it was cold. From the top it was only about 5 minutes until we reached the single lodge, sitting all alone on the ridge.

We went in and were shown a room. In this lodge, like the last one, the bed still had sheets from the last occupant. The guy stripped the sheets off and promised clean sheets soon. The room was basic, two beds and a table. It wasn’t the cleanest but it wasn’t too dirty. The toilet was squat but with no running water the bucket was filled up infrequently. Best not use too much water to flush! We went into the sparse dining room and ordered lemon tea. We were told no lemon tea yet because the guy with the key for the store room was out collecting firewood. They had ginger tea. That’s fine, we like ginger tea to. The lodge had WiFi, but it mostly didn’t work. Once or twice it would suddenly spring into life and the phone would ping, then nothing again.

The temperature plummeted in the late afternoon. We asked for the stove to be lit but we were told there wasn’t enough firewood and it couldn’t be lit until 6pm. That meant we had a couple of hours wrapped up wearing thermals. Thermal trousers, thermal top, thick coat, hood up and gloves. It was like this that we sat and read.

Once the stove was lit everyone huddled onto the benches around it. There was us two, Harry, the French couple, their porter and guide and a German guy who was trekking alone. The heat was intense and was quickly burning our clothing. We moved back a bit and stayed like that until we went to bed around 7pm. We lay in bed and watched more Simpsons episodes on my phone.

That night I wasn’t well and made a few trips to the toilet. Very annoying and unpleasant.

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