Trekking the untravelled path to Khopra Danda
When Chitra Pun told us we couldn’t get rooms at Khopra Danda even though we were the first to reach there, all of us were disappointed. The place was our main destination where Harman, Ranjan and I had planned to spend two days. However, Pun’s disrespectful behaviour towards us, and towards all Nepalis in general, put us off.
That one day nearly overshadowed our entire trip, but overall it was tiresome and memorable. We walked through some dense forests, up and down some steep hills and got to view the majesty of the mountains.
For someone as lazy as I am, I nearly walked 50 kilometres in five days which is something I had never done even on flatlands.
Even though I didn’t meet as many people as I would’ve liked on the trail, walking to Khopra is possibly one of the best treks I’ve done in my life, one that has taught me that you can walk as much as you can while you’re out in the wild.
Kathmandu to Ghandruk
I had never imagined hopping on a non-ac night bus to Pokhara from Kathmandu would be as tiring as it was. After failing to book tickets for other better buses, we had to board the one, humid, stinky and full of people. By the time we got to Pokhara at 5 am, we were shattered. However, getting to Pokhara was only the first part of our trip. We still had to get to Ghandruk, from where we had planned to start our week-long trek to Khopra Danda and back.
As soon as the local bus to Ghandruk started to move, I felt that the plan to save time by taking a night bus to Pokhara was a bad idea. My knees were cramped for room and the awful roads didn’t help my cause either. It was five hours of hell before we reached Kimche, from where our hour-long hike to Ghandruk started. I never thought that walking would be better than the bus ride. The weather at Ghandrunk wasn’t great, but still, the air was fresh and the people were lovely. Our trek had officially begun.
Ghandruk to Isharu
After a comfortable stay at the Old Village Inn, we were on our way to Dobato. I didn’t want to walk as much as the boys insisted and this was going to be a long day as maps.me showed that Dobato was nearly 12 km away.
The initial walk to Tadapani was quite easy. You go downhill from Ghandruk for around 30 minutes, after which the trail starts to get uphill. I was told that the trail during the spring would have a lot of rhododendrons; however, I also came across a lot of monkeys on the trail.
The trail from Tadapani onwards was quite poor. It’s probably the worst trail I’d ever walked. It’s muddy, and not marked well. It is mostly uphill, especially up to a small resting spot called Meshar. The trail after that got a bit better, but still muddy. What made it worse was constant drizzling and misty weather. Had it been sunny, I guess I’d have enjoyed it more but when we came to a small village called Isharu, I couldn’t walk any longer. My mates decided Dobato was a long shot watching my state and decided to call it a day. Thank god!
Isharu wasn’t the best of place on the trail but surrounded by hills, it was quite nice. If you concentrated, you could see Pokhara and the Phewa Lake in the distance. The view made me regret staying there as the view from Dobato would have obviously been better, but the mushroom curry and rice wine we got there made up for most of it. As we were the only three people at the lodge, we were also given a lot of blankets.
Isharu to Dhan Kharka
The day didn’t start as planned. We woke up late which no mountain view and it also meant that the day would end late. We had to walk another 10kms which didn’t go down well with me. But without being fussy, I was on my way.
The initial walk up to Dobato was not hard. It took time, but the trail was quite nice. We even saw glimpses of Annapurna South behind the clouds. The trail was a bit narrow but I was not as bad the one up to Meshar. We reached Dobato relatively quickly, however, we did not get to see the view.
After a quick tea, we then started the walk up to Bayeli Kharka. This was probably the best part of this trail. It was mostly flat as you had to walk through some pretty narrow ridges. It was fun and it wasn’t hard. The cool breeze kept on reminding you that you were close to the mountains. There was no one on the trail, which felt great. I was walking alone looking at birds flying, bees taking nectar from flowers and hills far away basking in the sunlight. It was probably my best walk during the entire trip.
But that happiness suddenly disappeared. After lunch at Bayeli, the gruelling downhill walk started. What was better was the trail. We walked on a wideish path along the forest and met a few sheepherders. But soon, the trail got worse as the jungle kept getting denser and the trail to Dhan Kharka got narrower and worse.
The trail kept on going up and downhill crossing waterfalls after which narrow uphills began. What made it irritating was lack of trail marks, which was why I had to look for boot and trekking pole marks to ensure I was going on the right path. Add leeches to the trail and now you have a walk which will surely creep a lot of trekkers.
When I saw Dhan Kharka from afar, my happiness was beyond everything. I had made it. My mates had reached the place an hour earlier and were quite worried if I was lost. They were just as happy to see me as I was happy to see Dhan Kharka.
Our plan was to go to Khopra, but due to congestion, we were advised to stay at Dhan Kharkha also known as Chistibung. The lodge owners there were quite nice and always smiling but the food was crap. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten such disgusting food. However, their hospitality made up for the food. After chatting with the lodge owners sitting in the kitchen, we called it a night.
Dhan Kharka to Khopra and back
Whenever I recall that day, all I want to do is punch Chitra Pun. Ranjan wanted to go to Khayer Lake so we started at 6 am. He was up there before 8 am followed by me who reached there around 8:30. But Harman was nowhere to be seen. He had overtaken me as soon as we started climbing but he hadn’t reached the top. We were worried. “Surely he lost his way,” said Ranjan. But there wasn’t anywhere to get lost. The trail was quite bad but it was relatively easy as it was mostly uphill for nearly 90 minutes, after which it got quite flat.
After waiting for two hours, we were thinking of heading down but then Harman arrived. He told us that he got lost on the way while trying a shortcut. We were extremely relieved. But he was disappointed that we were not allowed to stay there.
However, before we got back, Pun said, “No hard feelings. It’s just the way it is.” He told us that they could not give rooms to the domestic tourists as they spend less and make more noises.
Disappointed by his attitude, we went back to Dhan Kharka, where Harman said we should stay an extra day. As I’d walked more in two days than I had in the past two months, I didn’t complain as I could rest for a day. We stayed at Dhan Kharka, drinking and talking to fellow trekkers who too had been denied a place at Khopra. None of us liked Chitra Pun. We met a boy who’d come from Ghorepani who had heard about Pun’s antics as well. “The lodge manager at Ghorepani told me that Pun is an ass. Your stories prove that,” he told us as we looked at the stars on a clear night sky.
I swear I had never seen so many stars. It just made that day in Dhan Kharka even better.
Dhan Kharka to Ghorepani
Another 10-km day! So we started early. We were told that the trail wasn’t hard; that was a relief. I and Ranjan headed towards Ghorepani while Harman went towards Khopra. He was going to have a long day.
The first stretch from Dhan Kharka to Swanta was easy. Some uphill, but it was mostly easy downhill until you reached a hydropower project site, surrounded by marijuana plants. The trail then moved through a jungle with a narrow path that had nettle plants on both sides. Some said the walk was scary but I thought it was calm, walking through the jungle. In no time, we reached Swanta where I and Ranjan settled down for our first proper meal since Ghandruk.
After a proper chicken dinner, we started our walk towards Ghorepani. The locals told us the walk was easy but we didn’t find it easy. Walking through more narrow paths through jungles, we reached Chitre after which the gruelling walk towards Ghorepani began. I could see the place from a distance but it was always that bit further. Gasping for breath slowly, I eventually reached the place and we picked a hotel and called it a day.
The first thing both of us did was a hot shower after nearly a week. Then, we waited for Harman whose last message had come from Swanta.
After waiting for nearly four hours, Harman arrived. He looked exhausted. But he also looked relieved when he saw us. As soon as he came, so did the rain and that came as a relief as walking such an uphill in the rain would be a mammoth task even for him.
Thundershower meant the place also didn’t have lights so we called it an early night as we’d thought we might have gone to Poon Hill the next day.
Ghorepani to Ulleri
The next morning Ranjan called us out asking if we were going to Poon hill. But none of us were bothered. We’d been to Khopra which had similar views and Poon Hill could be done another time. We had a good night’s sleep and headed towards Ulleri from where we hoped to get on a jeep.
The trail to Ulleri was all downhill. It was quite easy. I’d call it the easiest day. After four days of walking such ridiculous trails, this one I felt was a piece of cake.
It took us three hours to get to Ulleri, where we had to bargain for a jeep which took Rs 1,000 to Nayapul. We had no choice so gave him that. From Nayapul, we found a jeep to Pokhara, where were spent the night before coming back to Kathmandu.
Photos: Harman Singh