How to do the Mardi Himal trek in three days

- Marissa Taylor, Kathmandu

Jun 6, 2019-

Upon reaching the clearing after Middle Camp, a sea of green hills on the south, and a majestic Machapuchare on the east—set against a deep blue sky—made up for the landscape. A blissful quiet filled the air, which was then broken by the sounds of a radio.

 A flock of sheep suddenly appeared out of nowhere. At least a hundred of them, walking, pushing, chewing. A shepherd came along, carrying an old FM radio, whistling, trying to push the sheep out of the way, to clear the trail for me to pass them by.

 My brother and I had been walking for the past five hours or so. And we were already tired for the day. Our destination is High Camp, and we ask the shepherd how much more we have to walk. “You still have another two hours to go,” said Chandra Ghale, a resident of Lwang, a Gurung village. Ghale said he, with his cousin, has been camping out along the Mardi Himal trek trail, in the middle of nowhere, for the past week, carrying just enough food supply for them. “The grass here is great for sheep,” he told us. “So, we always come up for the sheep when the grass is green.”

The place where we were at—somewhere between Middle Camp and High Camp along the Mardi Himal trek—offers a view that is sublime, to say the least. Lush ridges, an uninterrupted view of Annapurna South, Himchuli and Machapuchare, and hills that stretches as far as the eye can see. For a while, you forget just hours ago you were caught in the chaos of everyday city life.

After a quick conversation, we bade Chandra goodbye and started making our way up the hill. We had only began walking earlier this morning, after a night bus ride from Kalimati, Kathmandu, to Lakeside, Pokhara, and a jeep ride from Baglung Bus Park to Sidhing.

 The route we were on is not usually what people take while doing the Mardi Himal trek. Most start their journey from Kande, then stop at Forest Camp (2,600m) for the day via Australian Camp. The second night is usually spent at High Camp, and then the third at Low Camp. Most descend on the fourth day.

A flock of sheep grazing enroute High Camp. Post Photo: Marissa Taylor

 My brother and I, however, had limited time at our disposal and had to get the trek done quickly. Thus, we decided to hike up the path most descend upon (through Siding, passing through Lwang, Chandra’s village). This meant we had to walk the same path twice, but we honestly did not mind because the journey was filled with forested paths, which then gave way to sleepy, little hamlets that were filled with waterfalls, rivers and small pools of clear water.

 Our itinerary to complete Mardi trek went something like this: We would walk through multiple forested hills for more than half a day through settlements like Lwang, Lumre and Sidhing (in that order) to reach High Camp—on the first day itself. We knew this would undoubtedly just invite high altitude sickness—a risk we were willing to take.

 Then we would walk up to base camp and back on the second day. We would stop for lunch at High Camp, before heading down to Low Camp (2,990m) for the day. On the third day, we would walk back to Sidhing and take a jeep to Lakeside to end our trek.

 And although the trek turned out to be much more challenging than we had anticipated, it made for a wonderful quick break. Despite the trail's being in the middle of nowhere, as it were, the lodges at the camps provided you the rest you needed after a long day of walking--with the most basic necessities--a narrow bed, a blanket, and warm meals by the kitchen stove. The rooms are fairly spartan: you will find only two beds in each room, and maybe a table in the name of furniture. The stone walls of the rooms blocked the wind from entering, but gaps between the stones let in chilling air. If nights get too cold (and believe me they do), you will have to resort to layering on all the clothes you have. And although the lodges do have electricity, you won't find a charging station for your phone, so make sure to pack your power bank.

 The menus at the lodges offer a variety of items: You can order apple/buckwheat pancakes, Tibetan bread, omelettes or porridge for breakfast; dal bhat tarkari for lunch and dinner; or you can order anything from chowmein, pasta and fried rice to French fries or momos. But the meals are nothing impressive. A suggestion: because you have to ascend quite a bit in just one day, you might want to drink up some garlic soup—which is available at all the lodges—as it helps abate the sickness.

  As for the trail, because you have to ascend up to 4,500m (the highest point of the trek) and then descend in just three days, you might find the path tough--many are beaten down by herders/traders, and some stretches are slated with limestone slabs. The narrow trail takes you through forests carpeted with fallen leaves, grassy ridges, hills cut with waterfalls, and sheer cliff faces. The trail is beautiful, but it features a lot of steep climbs and descents. Novice trekkers may find it tough, and can get lost too, if they are not too careful because the trail-markings are not placed properly.

 Also, if you have the time (unlike me), you can also try some of the local cheese from Badal Danda, which is a small clearing with a few tea houses, just a little after you cross Middle Camp.

Whether it be feeling existentially insignificant but strangely exalted while gazing up at the starry sky, or being awed and exhilarated while beholding a stunning sunset, Mardi gave me exactly what I had come for: a little peace, a little contemplation. And although the trek was meant to be short, it ended far too quickly, but it ended with a promise of return.

Only next time, I will come with a little more time in hand.

Published: 07-06-2019 07:00

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