Skip to main content

Six of us – Satish Khole, Mrugendra Behere, Shrikant Gurjar, Shashank Nerlekar, Ved Prakash Dubey and I went for the ‘Khopara Ridge’ trek in Nepal (28 November 2023 to 8 December 2023).
Warning: I don’t know if you have ever seen one of those old maps where they mark a spot with a cross and put ‘Here be dragons’ or ‘Keep ye eye skinned for hippogriffs” – but I issue this statutory warning that you have gotten into reading a rather long account. (BTW, the words are not mine, but of P.G. Wodehouse 😊)

The narrative is meant for me to browse over in the later years (when I won’t be able to do trekking). So, enter at your own risk!

This time, we had not done any practice climbs on Sinhagad, so we were a bit worried about how we would find this trek. But the spirit was high, so we recorded this on the hillock in Pune (Tekdi), a day before we left for the trek. Total shining 😊

Next morning (November 29, 2023), we left very early for Kathmandu airport to take the flight to Pokhara. We could see several snow peaks from the flight. It is a short (22 minute) flight.
Our assistant guide and 3 porters also joined us at the airport. We then got into two 4×4 vehicles to drive us to a place called Ghandruk. The drive was about 1.5 hrs (or a bit more). The road was almost non-existent for most parts (as you can see in the video). Our watches thought we were doing exercise and registered thousands of steps!

We reached Ghandruk and assembled our bones together. I had a feeling as if a couple of vertebrae had telescoped into each other and got fused 😊

At Ghandruk, which seemed like a taluka place, we had lunch. Our tryst with Dal bhaat had begun here. Mrugendra ordered Aloo Paratha, which apparently was very tasty. We started our trek from here around 1.45 pm and we had about a 3 hour walk to our destination, Tadapani. The initial path led through some scenic villages
Then started the steps. Endless steps, just going on and on.

While climbing these steps that went on forever (which Ved also called as स्वर्ग की सीढियाँ), we passed through some tea gardens on both sides of the steps.

After about an hour and half of climbing, we passed through a forest.

Again a whole lot of steps to climb. This had slowed us down. It was all very green and scenic. We finally reached a place called Bhaisikharka at 4.45 pm.

It gets dark around 5 pm in these parts, so we decided to stay at this place instead of going further to Tadapani. We had done three modes of travel today – air, road and walk and there was another 45 minutes to 1 hour to Tadapani – so Ang also thought it best to stay here.

We all had a nice hot shower at Bhaisikharka. It was quite cold and the hot shower felt really good. One person who could not have a shower was – Shrikant. He had forgotten to carry his towel. There were only 2 tea houses here and both did not have any towels for sale. Mrugendra, very helpfully offered him his spare towel, which he is holding here. After Shrikant rejected the offer, rather disdainfully, and mentioned some specific part of the body which he would clean with it, the offer was hurriedly withdrawn by Mrugendra 😊

We had good views of Macchapuchhare while going to Dobato. We reached Dobato, again at a similar time like last evening – around 4.15 pm or so. It was windy and very cold out here.
We had told our guide to ask the porters to go ahead everyday and book us at tea houses that had a western toilet, wherever available (as the knees aren’t getting any stronger by the day – and squatting at Indian toilets is getting more and more difficult).

Here, the owner of the tea house told us that only Indian toilets were available. We asked the guide to check in the other 2 or 3 tea houses that were present, so that we could move if they had western toilets. The owner, then told our guide that they had recently installed a western toilet and had done the cement floor for it etc. just 5 days ago and she wasn’t sure if it was ready for use. Our guide went and checked and convinced her that it was ready to use. So, I was given the honour of inaugurating the first western toilet of that tea house. Some of our gang and a couple of porters got around and clapped – but sigh…there was no ribbon to be cut as I entered . I forgot to take the picture of this first western toilet. While I was in there, Mrugendra started yelling to come out – to everyone – as if there was a fire somewhere.
I hurriedly came out to witness one of the best evening sunlight on the hills around. This is what we saw on the mountains around. The light was absolutely ORANGE and the hills were aflame! I have not touched up this picture or enhanced the colour in any way. This is how it was!

This lasted for some 5 to 8 minutes and it was gone after that! We were lucky to see this, no doubt!
Summary for the day –

Date: 30 November 2023
Segment: Bhaisikharka to Dobato
Distance: 7.8 kms
Total Ascent: 3744 feet
Total Descent: 740 feet
Net Ascent: 3004 feet
Next morning, December 1, 2023, we got up at 5 am and went up a small hillock behind our tea house at 5.30 am, to a view point called Muldai (or Mulde) Top. This was recommended as a MUST DO on all sites, so we had planned to see the sunrise from there. When we reached at the top, it was extremely cold and very windy. There was still some time for sunrise. We saw this to the east, where the sun was to come up. It takes about 45 minutes to climb to this place from the place of stay.

You have a beautiful, 360 degrees view here. Ang pointed out the different peaks to us from north to east. Some more peaks on the other side being pointed out by Ang.

The town seen below in the picture is Ghorepani. The arrow is pointing to Poon Hill, which is a famous view point in the Annapurna region. You see about 270-300 degrees view of the same that you get from much higher here at Muldai top.

This is a video of mountains – at sunrise!

In the distance, you can see a swing that has been installed on the top. It is at the top of the precipice, apparently. We missed going there, though.

The majestic Mt. Machhapuchhare. Probably one of the most beautiful peaks (shared with Ama Dablam, I would guess).

After breakfast, onward to the next destination – Chistibung (Also known by another name, Dhan Kharka). People spell Chistibung as Chistibang also, but our guide told me that the pronunciation for it is चिस्तीबुंग. Well, so be it. We would be overall going downhill but again, there would be ups and downs. On the way, Machhapucchare and multiple layers of mountains were visible. The cloud formation looked nice.

In the valley, we could see a Yak kharka, with lots of Yaks. Kharka in Nepalese means a plain. A plan where they rear Yaks is called Yak Kharka. We had stayed at Bhaisi kharka on the first night, which meant it was where they reared buffaloes.
We have to go there. I have marked the place with an arrow. That’s Chistibung. It is farther than we would believe.

We reached Chistibung around 2 or 2.30 pm. We have not had lunch as yet, so they asked where we would like – outside in the sun or inside? The answer was obvious! This place was called Rockland and had excellent internet connectivity – free!!

Summary for the day –
Date: 1 December 2023
Segment: Dobato to Chistibung (Dhan Kharka)
Distance: 9 kms (including the visit to Muldai top – which was about 1.5 kms roundtrip)
Total Ascent: 2602 feet (including 600 feet for Muldai top)
Total Descent: 4103 feet (including 600 feet descent from Muldai top)
Net Descent: 1503 feet

Next morning, December 2, 2023, we had to climb to the Khopara ridge. This time, fortunately, it was switchbacks and very few steps. We took a break here to drink water. Pemba, our assistant guide is on extreme right.

Mandatory photo against Dhaulagiri 😊

Finally we reached the tea house at Khopara ridge. Fantastic location. It is a tea house run by the community. Here you see Annapurna South on the right and Annapurna Fang in the middle. Our lodge at Khopara ridge. The community lodge (tea house) was good but had only Indian toilets. So, on asking a couple of times, the guy reluctantly told that we could use the new wing which was a little away from here (like 50 metres, maybe) – but was costing double the room rent here (NPR 2,000 instead of 1,000) but each room had an attached western toilet! We said भारत माता की जय! and immediately told that guy to take us there.

This was the fantastic view from this new building. Those people were reluctant probably because they are paid employees of the community and don’t care less if the community makes money, as long as they don’t have to walk extra to reach that place. This is the picture taken just as the sun was setting. The whole Dhaulagiri range was bang in front of the lodge.

Once again, layers of mountain ranges in the evening light. Great view!

The beautiful sunset.

The light on the Annapurna is slightly modified on its own by the Pixel camera and it looks more orange here than it really was. But the rest of the video has proper colour as it was seen by naked eyes.

After viewing the beautiful sunset, we settled in the restaurant to play some card games (like exploding kittens)

Electricity, Connectivity, Hot soup and food, Bed, Blankets – और क्या चाहिए? 😊. Ved, about to retire for the day. We are now at more than 12,000 feet (which was true at Dobato also). The four of us – Shrikant, Ved, Satish and I decided that we would take the next day as a rest day and would not do the trip to Khayar lake – which is another 3,000 feet up – and is quite challenging. We decided that we would preserve our knees to come back for yet another trek 😊. Shashank and Mrugendra decided to do the Khayar lake trip next morning.

Summary for the day –
Date: 2 December 2023
Segment: Chistibung (Dhan Kharka) to Khopara ridge
Distance: A little more than 3 kms
Total Ascent: 2350 feet
Total Descent: 175 feet
Net Ascent: 2175 feet

Next day, December 3, 2023 was rest day for 4 of us, but for Shashank and Mrugendra, it was the toughest day. Pemba and one porter, Balkumar, accompanied them. Ved and I got up early to bid them goodbye and also to watch the sunrise. Of course, the sun was behind Annapurna, so we could not see the sun, but the light could be seen spreading.

They started climbing up towards Khayar lake around 6.30 am. Since it was already told to us that it is a tough climb, Pemba was told that they have to turn back at 1 pm from wherever they were, as it would be difficult to come down in the dark, after sunset. Here you see the first rays hitting Annapurna.
The first rays hitting on Dhaulagiri!

Panoramic view from our lodge. While the other three ventured out and went up a bit in the afternoon and came back, I just lazed around.

That evening, we entered into the kitchen where we found this guy playing flute. He was a bit drunk, but was playing quite nice. The other guy in the video, who is cooking, plays the guitar, apparently.

Now, here are some pictures shared by Shashank and Mrugendra, of their climb to Khayar lake. Here they are, negotiating on ice. If any of them had fallen and had any injury, there was absolutely no one around to help – other than one porter and one guide.

The steps leading to the lake. Quite a steep climb, I was told.

Shashank stopped just short of the lake and waited for Mrugendra to go up to the lake and come back. Here is Mrugendra at the Khayar lake. This is supposed to be a sacred lake for the Nepalese people. Apparently, Khayar lake has another sister (called ‘Hidden Lake’) in the same region, which is also supposed to be sacred. Balkumar and Pemba also went up to the lake and paid their respects.

Summary for the day –
Date: 4 December 2023
Segment: Khopara ridge to Chistibung
Distance: A little more than 3 kms
Total Ascent: 175 feet
Total Descent: 2350 feet
Net Descent: 2175 feet

Next morning, December 5, 2023 – we started our trek to Swanta village. Again, we started early – I think around 7.30 am. We had a lot to descend today – about 3.5 hours. A dog from Chistibung decided to come with us and actually came down all the way till Swanta. Here is a narrow bridge we crossed on the way. The way was through dense forest – almost a rainforest – and apparently infested with leeches during monsoon. Luckily no leeches this time.

Pemba and I walked ahead and reached the Swanta village. The village is quite cute and clean. This was the place we were going to end our trek and take a jeep once again to go to Pokhara. Rest of the gang coming down to the lodge where we waited for lunch, just before leaving by road to Pokhara.

End of trek, waiting for lunch.

Shrikant’s birthday was yesterday (4th December) and Ang had ordered a cake at this place. Unfortunately, we did not reach this place yesterday but came today. So, he had requested them to keep the cake cutting for 5th December. Here is the cake cutting ceremony organized by Ang.

After lunch, we had a very bumpy ride (with absolutely no roads for almost 2 hours) after which we hit a proper road. By the time we reached the hotel in Pokhara, it was evening. We then had a celebration dinner along with the guides and porters at a place called ‘Boomerang’ – a very nice restaurant. Boomerang has a cultural dance programme every evening. Once we had let loose a few beers down the hatch, the gang decided to join the dancers and danced along with them. It was a great way to end the trek. After this, we had lovely filter coffee outside and then walked back to the hotel.

Summary of the day –
Date: 5 December 2023
Segment: Chistibung to Swanta
Distance: Almost 5 kms
Total Ascent: 1075 feet
Total Descent: 3555 feet
Net Descent: 2480 feet
Next morning, December 6, 2023 – we decided to go to Sarangkot, a view point in Pokhara. They have a very modern ropeway built over there. We went up by ropeway. It is quite a way up. The length of the cable is about 2.4 kms and it takes about 9 to 10 mins to reach the top. Wonderful view from the top. You can see the town of Pokhara in the valley. Machhapuchhare is there in front, once again.

Next full day, December 7, 2023 we had a free day in Kathmandu. Ved wanted to visit the Pashupatinath temple. Ved had helped me a lot during the trek (him being the youngest and me being the oldest 😊). So, even though I am an atheist, I decided to get up early, have a bath and visit the temple with him. We had darshan of Pashupatinath and listened to some vigorous songs in the praise of the lord and then came out. Here is Ved while coming out of the temple. Shashank also accompanied us to the temple.

After coming back, we spent late morning and early afternoon in visiting Patan (the old town in the Kathmandu region). Lot of temples were there in this area. This place had been completely flattened and ruined during the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. This is a UNESCO heritage site and everything was meticulously restored. Some of the scaffolding you see is where restoration is still going on.
Our gang of six in Patan!

There was a school trip of grade 1 kids and they were really enjoying themselves. Here they are, gleefully shouting, when the pigeons all flew up together.

Inside one of the buildings in Patan.

A throwback on the same picture taken in 2011, when we had done the Annapurna circuit trek – a couple of people are different from then.

That evening, we did a lot of shopping – small stuff to carry back home. That evening, the owners and organizers of the trek, Mr. Deepak Shreshtha and Mrs. Suchitra Bhandari treated us to a wonderful dinner at their new restaurant in the hotel. It was really good.
Next morning, December 8, 2023, our flight was at 2.20 pm. We left by around 10.30 am to beat the traffic. The red cloth around our necks is what the organizers present at the end of the trek, as a symbol of honour.

A thoroughly enjoyable and scenic trek. Highly recommended. Difficulty grade moderate to difficult.

Leave a Reply