Horton Plains National Park

After an eight hour night hike up Adams Peak the last thing I thought I’d be doing is going on a 5km walk around Horton Plains the next day…. Because you know… We all thought that was a great idea!

You have to visit between 6am and 10am as the clouds roll over the plains making the visibility at the view points pretty poor. Night Hike aside we set off to ‘Worlds End’ and we were pleasantly surprised by what we saw. It was a truly beautiful park and worth a visit even despite the fact we were all battling  limited movement in our leg muscles.

On the Edge of Worlds End

On the Edge of Worlds End

Adams Peak Night Hike

Adams Peak was by far one of my most treasured achievements from my trip. At 2243m high Adams Peak is a highly religious mountain with many of its legends surrounding the ‘Buddha’s foot’ impression in the rock at the top. Considered a Pilgrimage for most of the locals, as a tourist it was a chance to see some spectacular views and to participate in a wonderful experience.

At first I did take some convincing to do the hike…. which is surprising for most who know me. But I am so glad I did.

The Start - 1am

Team Photo – Start – 1am

With a 1am start, my group of six was told we wouldn’t be needing torches or a guide, which seemed puzzling for a night hike, but they were right. I think our biggest challenge was finding our way out of the car park! When we finally found the spectacularly lit path we began on our slow and steady hill climb. (After being blessed by several monks and ringing ceremonial bells).

Catching a breath in a TeahouseEven in the dead of the night the route did not disappoint. The thousands of people climbing with us were fascinating and more than happy to share their stories. We encountered people well into their 90s making the trip bare foot. If you looked up you were guided by lights to a view of the top. Along the route we stopped at an unbelievable amount of tea houses and found some incredible mini shrines.

Mini ShrineThis might make the trip sound rosey, but it did have it’s downfalls. After our small hill incline we were faced with 5200 steps to the top….. Now if you have ever climbed an endless staircase you will probably be wincing at the thought of the pain those steps caused, and for those of you that haven’t… It’s gruellingly tough. (I thought my Annapurna endless stair case at 3280 steps spread over two days was bad enough). To top it all, at about 3am it chucked it down with rain. This meant that by 3.30am my waterproofs were no longer waterproof and I was soaked through. Taking refuge in the teahouses didn’t help much either as most of them leaked!

However 5 hours and a lot of perseverance later we made it to the top, where we were greeted with a sea of people all trying to visit the temple and to get a look at Buddahs footprint. Removing your wet socks for a trip inside the temple was a step too far for some. After ceremoniously ringing the bell many of the locals would begin to make the long journey back down. Although the tourists all stayed put waiting for the sunrise to hit at 6am.

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I cannot put into words the truly stunning view that revealed itself as the sun rose, It took our breaths away. I honestly stood there speechless, I have never seen anything like it. Once the sun had fully risen we allowed ourselves  a moment to soak it all in before making the long decent back down to the car park.

Adams peak didn’t disappoint us in the pitch black and it only continued to surprise our senses in the daylight. We all got split up on our decent and I found myself invited to a free breakfast buffet hosted by some Monks. By about 8am we had all reached the bottom and regrouped. It was a long challenging night, but well worth it. I would highly recommend doing it if you ever get the chance.

Team photo at the bottom

Team Photo – End – 9am

Trekking in Nepal

I always knew that I wanted to go trekking in Nepal. Originally I planned on going to Everest Base Camp, but after some research I decided that the Annapurna Region looked just as challenging, quite diverse and more interesting. I chose to join the Geckos tour ‘Into the Annapurna’, a mini version of the popular Annapurna circuit trek.

Arriving in Kathmandu I met my small group of 12 and our local guide Raj over a welcome dinner.
The next day we set off on our horrendous 7h local bus journey to Pokhara. This place is a Hikers dream, it was beautiful and a perfect stop off before a hike. You could find discounted real ‘fake logo’ products dirt cheap everywhere. (Kathmandu was probably a little cheaper and had the real brand shops, but the fakes can be very good quality). This is where we bought/rented all our supplies for the next 7 days.

Trekking Overview

Day 1
Start: Naya Phul @ 1035m
Overnight: Ulleri @ 2000m
Steps: 20000
Distance: 16.81km
Time: 8h

Today was tough, after a nice amble walk to our lunch stop we then had to endure a 5 hour staircase to our overnight stop. It was hot and sticky which made it even harder. I have never experienced walking up so many steps before and really wasn’t expecting the walk to be a paved way.

Day 2
Start: Ulleri @ 2000m
Overnight: Swanta @ 2800m
Steps: 26154
Distance: 21.73km
Time: 7h

Today we still had about another 3hours of the staircase to conquer to get to our lunch stop in the village of Ghorepani. Where many people stop overnight before heading up Poon Hill. We were so thankful the stairs to be over but then had to head down the icy track down the valley and then back up a hilly incline to our evening lodge.

Day 3
Start: Swanta @ 2800m
Overnight: Chhiping @ 3000m
Steps: 13615
Distance: 11.3km
Time: 4h

Today was fairly challenging and mostly uphill after a morning decent. We were walking through Rhododendron forests and crossed paths with many wild marijuana plants. We were only just starting to feel the affects of altitude here. The nights were also becoming much much colder.

Day 4
Start: Chhiping @ 3000m
Overnight: Khopra Ridge @ 3660m
Steps: 8788
Distance: 7.29km
Time: 3h

This day was probably our toughest day. It was short, but a constant assent. We were all really feeling the affects of altitude. My hands were swollen, with every step I took I was so breathless and it felt like I would never go back to breathing normally again! To get to the lodge on the ridge we had to skirt over a recently snowed over ridge, I was so scared a Sherpa came back just to hold my hand across. The view was worth it though, high above the clouds we saw an amazing sunset and sunrise. The temperature that night dropped to about -6degrees and we were all wearing so many layers of clothes!

Day 5
Start: Khopra Ridge @ 3660m
Overnight: Swanta @ 2800m
Steps: 22404
Distance: 18.61km
Time: 7h

Because of the unexpected snow it was too dangerous to continue on our original planned circuit and had to head back the way we came. Going back down was much quicker and we found ourselves having a spare afternoon to sit and play games. That evening the Sherpas even put on a show of song and dance for us. (There was no power or lights here, like many of the places we stayed).

Day 6
Start: Swanta @ 2800m
Overnight: ??? @ 1500m
Steps: 29917
Distance: 24.88km
Time: 8h

Today we had to head back down the ridiculously tall staircase. The decent was so much harder and was testing muscles I didn’t even realise I had. We all struggled to walk that evening and hosted hotel stretching sessions to ease our seized up muscles.

Day 7
Start: ??? @ 1500m
Finish: Naya Phul @ 1035m
Steps: 10000
Distance: 8km
Time: 3.5h

We couldn’t believe this was our last day. The week had gone so quickly and we had achieved so much. As a group we got on really well, although we were tired and achey we just didn’t want it to end. We played games as we strolled along our easyish last leg.

Trekking Food

The food on the trek was quite limited. We had the same menu breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and the higher up we got the more expensive it became. The prices and menus were regulated by authorities in the region to ensure that prices were fair depending on the difficulty to get food to the location. Each place we stayed had a tuck shop, which mostly consisted of coconut crunches (a brand of biscuits) and pringles. I normally had either a pancake or fried potato in the mornings and then Dal Bhat (an unlimited, lentil dish, curry, veg and rice set) for lunch and dinner. I would try to eat Momo’s or fried rice instead of Dal Bhat whenever it cropped up on the menu for some variation. We didn’t drink alcohol at all. I think most evenings our Sherpas were in the kitchen helping the guesthouse staff cook our food. There were also cafes, restaurants and shops along the route.

The Sights

The walk was fascinating, each day we were walking through different terrain. As well as the mountain scenery and wildlife I also got an insight into remote mountain life in the tiny thriving communities. Each day we would pass donkey pack horses led by men who would walk our routes twice as fast just to provide supplies to the villages. I saw men and women of all ages working as Sherpas carrying up to 30kg packs with their heads (not backpacks). Children would trek up the tracks just to get to school and everyone we met was so friendly.

We would often stop to look at the views. On a couple of occasions I would point to a sight and say, ‘What is that (4000m high) mountain called?’ The response I always got back from our guides was, ‘No my friend, that is a hill!’.

I often spoke to our guides and sherpas who were more than happy to talk about their way of life, government and beliefs. They would also point out every Rhododendron bush/tree we passed, (apparently the national flower). I had an amazing eye opening experience and would gladly recommend anyone to venture their way over to Nepal.