Trekking to Ghandruk is quite a feat of valor, especially for novice and occasional travellers who can take this as a rare bragging opportunity.
Pokhara for all its charm and sights to see and places to visit begins to wane after a few days. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great place to visit but you find yourself looking at each other on the fourth day going, “Now what?” The short and easy answer is - look to the hills. When one has done all that fancies them in Pokhara, it can be a stepping stone for those who wish to come that much closer to the Himalayas. Ghandruk it is.
The premise to end up in Ghandruk will have you first exhaust all resources at Pokhara. While the trekking trail is quite famous, it does take some pondering over to do for beginners. But finding whatever fortitude you can, and saying it’s now or never is highly rewarding. A cab will take you to the starting point of the hike that is, Beni Nayapul. And it’s so encouraging talking to the locals when you are starting an arduous hike. They put you at ease saying, “Oh, it isn’t that far, you’ll be there in 4 hours.” With a smile too; it’s all such a reassuring illusion. The trail there is lit with spring water spouts as well as plush green vegetation. After walking for what feels like hours, you reach a pipeline that falls below to a small dam. This will look all very bizarre and to cap it all off, there will be no hikers on the supposedly busy trail. But trudge on, and a popular companion is the music in your earphones. It makes the trip shorter and longer at the same time in ways you will find out once you do it.
To finally meet a local who says we should’ve started ascending hours ago and then gives us a new route to go up, is where one realizes why they should always stay alert while hiking. And always look out for poorly marked signs. That’s what they say, and rightly so I guess, “Just go up.” So finally traversing up hills and enroute you run into some awe-inspiring sights. The clouds come in right after noon so the temperature drops giving you the luxury to walk in the lap of gentle breeze. Traditional swings, lush farms and old houses crack a smile on your face as you realize you have done exactly what you came for; escaped the regular life to explore something new. And on foot, you should be mighty proud about that fact.
A professional hiker reading this could refute, but the last few hours are always the toughest. Especially on the way to Ghandruk, there are a lot of ‘false hills’ that can be mistaken for the destination and you might speed up to get there faster. Only to discover, another taller hill once you get there. It’s like nature playing cat and mouse with you. And without realizing but quite naturally so, taking the longer route will have set you back an hour, so now you will be battling a race to beat nightfall as well. There are these stone steps that are made to ease the trekker’s plight for the last hour or so. And while you’re draining your last strength to take another step, local kids are jumping and skipping their way to the top.
Finally, you reach Ghandruk and the bazaar opens up. First thing you should do is grab refreshments and replenish your energy. The accommodation enquiry comes next. We settled down at this great guest house that overlooks the mountains just right. With the night comes enormous fog and clouds rushing in. If one takes a picture of it, you’d think it’s snowing as it can be that thick. The patrons there recommend some local sel roti that is quite honestly not like any you’ll get in Kathmandu. You need to try it and then doze off and embrace that well-deserved sleep.
It’s the next day that it all pays off. The glimpse of the Himalayas this close is humbling and breathtaking. The view from Ghandruk is one to take in. The scenery on the way is a story of its own. The misty night is stuff of lyrical magic and the image of waking up to snow capped legends, makes you forget whatever it is that you come here for. An incredible getaway that leaves you wanting more.!
Approximate time taken to reach there from Kathmandu
Where to Stay
Pack at least two bottles of water, and juice. Food should be light like Granola bars or some Wai Wai.
Rs.300 per room in Ghandruk, but the food is expensive. So a bill of 2,500 or more shouldn’t be of surprise.