Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem...

Tripoto
10th Nov 2018
Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

Mardi Himal is a 5787 m tall mountain situated on the side of sacred & impressive Mt. Machhapuchchhre (6993 m) in the famous and spectacular Annapurna sanctuary; Mardi Himal Trek takes you to the awesome place surrounded by those dazzling mountains.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... 1/1 by Eleutheromaniac
Mountain Range seen from the Aircraft window en route to Pokhara.

It had been 5-6 months since I wanted to complete it but circumstances were not favoring. During the festive time few months back, I messaged and reminded Shrijan, who was in Pokhara about the same, and he agreed this time.

The trek to Mardi can be started from the place of your choice, it can be started from Dhampus or Kande or Ghandruk or Sidhing. Most people prefer either Dhampus or Kande as that is the scenic one. I don't prefer going from Siddhing (you will feel that treacherous due to very steep trail) rather choose that route to return from the top. Ghandruk can also be chosen if you want to explore more area of the Annapurna region & more importantly you have time.

See Photos

I bought a ticket to Pokhara for early morning of 10th November, collected some itineraries of the trek and packed the backpack. Just a day after Deepawali, the festival of lights, I started my journey to the lesser known side of the Annapurna.

Five days of Deepawali holidays were over but fun was about to get started. My flight to Pokhara was at 8:30 in the morning. With high hopes of flying on time I moved to the Airport at around 7:00. I completed the boarding and check-in formalities and surprisingly I was in the aircraft at 8:20.

Manaslu Mountain Range.

Photo of Kathmandu, Nepal by Eleutheromaniac

Circling the urban agglomeration of the capital city along with the green, vegetated slopes around, the Buddha Air, ATR 72 flew towards the west. As the aircraft gained heights, the city and green hills started looking smaller and mesmerizing mountains begin their show; floating clouds were adding life to it. The smooth flight with amazing views of mountain ranges like Ganesh, Manashlu and Annapurna - what else you want in the early morning? As the plane passed Manashlu range the few glimpse of Annapurna II gave a bit sad news that weather in Pokhara and around is not clean but who cares? I have 3 more days! I realized its time to land when I saw the bird eye view of Begnash Lake and amazing fields around from the aircraft window. After 25 minutes of panoramic flight, landing gear touched the Pokhara airport. It was 09:15.

Begnash Lale, Pokhara.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac
Day 1

Pokhara is the best destination for adventure, leisure activities or simply relaxation and more popularly, a trekking gateway to the Annapurna. As I reached Pokhara I called Shrijan, who was waiting for me in Bhat Bhateni; I took the taxi and reached there at around 20 minutes.

We decided the route for our trek : Kande (1770 m) – Australian Camp (2050 m) – Pothana (1960 m) - Pitam Deurali (2100 m) - Forest Camp (2550 m) – Low Camp (2990 m) – High Camp (3580 m) - Upper viewpoint (4450 m).

After brief shopping of chocolates and dry foods, we walked towards the Pokhara bus park for about 15 minutes to catch the local bus to Kande, from where we were starting the trek. With the tortoise speed of local bus it took nearly 2 hrs. to cross 30 Km of Baglung highway to Kande. In no time we were on the nice trail to Australian camp few minutes later we started gaining heights. The steep trail, sometimes normal and sometimes through stone staircase, kept on going crossing few small villages and mostly jungle until Australian camp.

Trekking trail, Kande

Photo of Pokhara, Nepal by Eleutheromaniac

Incredible view of Annapurna South, Hiunchuli, Machhapuchchhre etc. can be seen from that small settlement with few tea houses and camping sites. We had no luck that day as the clouds were covering it all. From Australian camp, the trail to Pothana was easy one.

Pothana.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

We reached Pothana in a flash and decided to have the lunch for that day, we ordered 'Dal - Bhat' and had some rest in the hotel backyard. As soon as we had nice lunch we moved towards Pitam Deurali and after just 30 minutes of uphill trail we reached there. Pitam Deurali is a small village situated at an altitude of 2100 m and surrounded by spectacular mountains and hills.

Jungle trail to Pitam Derali.

Photo of Pothana, Dhampus, Nepal by Eleutheromaniac

As we reached there, a confusion doomed us - whether to continue to Forest Camp or call it a day. Both of us were completely new to the trail afterwards so we inquired about the time to reach Forest camp, everybody said about 5 hrs. minimum. Clouds were hovering around the hill making the surrounding dark, it was raining lightly so we didn't want to walk in the dense jungle at night rather decided to stay there - it was just 15:30. We were not happy with the decision though.

We went to the room just to drop the bags then got back and stayed in a warm dining room sipping tea in a big glass. That was actually boring so we decided to follow the trail towards Forest camp for few moments, just for fun. Chirping birds and flowing winds through trees - that was magical evening inside the jungle.

After having usual dinner, 'Dal - Bhat', we were off to the bed thinking of amazing journey till High Camp the next day.

Annapurna South, Annapurna I, Hiunchuli & Machhachchhre seen from Pitam Deurali.

Photo of Deurali, Ghandruk, Nepal by Eleutheromaniac

Early morning, we woke up to an picturesque landscape of Annapurna range. Having some reservations yesterday on staying at Pitam Deurali were washed away with the mesmerizing views of mountains of Annapurna region.

Annapurna South & Annapurna I.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

Machhapuchchhre, Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Dhawalagiri were shining with the sunrise color making everyone busy with their cameras but no camera can capture that moment than your mind. We were very excited with the thought that we are going to the lap of those mountains. From 'dark' to the 'gold', mountains kept on changing the color delaying our schedule as I didn't want even to blink my eyes. Anyways, after having black tea, we started the journey towards Forest camp at 7:00.

Annapurna South & Annapurna I.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

Leaving the popular Annapurna Base Camp trail on left we took an secret trail to Mardi to the right. Just some moments into the trail we saw few Kalij pheasants which disappeared immediately into the jungle. The trail to Forest camp kept on going up and down through dense forest of oak, maple, hemlock and rhododendron, mostly tricky and narrow and somewhere no path.

Jungle trail - just follow the color symbol.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

The jungle was quite enough to listen own heartbeat. It was not hard to recognize the route because the right path were marked with white & blue color - follow the color stripe of the trees, you will not get lost. After lovely morning walk in the thick forest, we reached Forest camp at 9:50.

They said 5 hrs. yesterday! Really?

Forest Camp known as Kokar among locals, is preferred choice among the Trekkers of that route for night stay, as lodges there have bigger capacity and nice & wide open spaces for tents as well.

Forest Camp.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

After lunch in the Forest Camp, we begun the ascend towards Low Camp, it was 11:15. We were unlucky with the weather except for few hours in the morning. The trail kept on going up through the forest, and due to fog we were just seeing the trees and the trail but no surrounding scenery. A chilly breeze blowing through the jungle made wonderful music.

Badal Dada & surrounding.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

With the change on the altitude, the forest vegetation also started to look different. Passing the rhododendron forest covered with moss, lichen and ferns we reached Low Camp at 13:00 o'clock.

Low Camp.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

Low Camp situated at an altitude of 2990 m has few lodges. We got some energy with a bowl of potato soup and off to High Camp at 13:30. After a short and steep trail we left the forest behind, landscape has changed to grass hills and very few trees. We continued our journey in the small grassy pathways crossing Badal Danda and Lower High Camp; on a clear day those places offer stunning view of Mardi Himal, Annapurna South, Hiuchuli, and Machhapuchhre but the day was not one of them, every beauty hid behind the clouds.

Grassy pathways to High Camp.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

The winding trail continued through the edge of the hill. It was freezing cold and we were seeing only the few portion of the trail ahead due to dense mist and that condition remained same until we reached High camp at 16:00. It was a gloomy Sunday.

We climbed to 3580 m from 2100 m since morning, the ascend was tiring but worth it.

Due to communication problem, we were unable to contact the lodge, which belonged to Shrijan's friend, from our way. We went to that friend's lodge but came to know that even the outdoor tents were packed. There were no options left except the dining table. We also asked nearby lodges but all rooms were already booked; so we came back to the first one deciding to stay there. (Message: Book a place before getting there.) As the outside weather was very cold and misty, we chose to stay indoors and enjoy the warmth of the heater in the dining hall sipping the black coffee; the room was pack with Nepalese as well as foreigners.

In that crowd there were four teenage girls who were complaining on each and every matters. I don't know what to say to the people who goes near to the mountains and complains because that's cold. You have to prepare for that by yourself. And you also don't get random things that comes on your mind. Most trekking destinations in Nepal are in remote areas and they provide basic accommodation. Most of them have dorm rooms and shared toilets. You need to compromise on it. There are many destinations that provides the fancy things of your thought but high altitude trekking is not one of them; adventure is not easy.

The dinner started at around 17:30 keeping the foreigners on top priority. We were almost last group to have the meal except the tourist guides. After wonderful 'Dal - Bhat', with which we never get tired of, we stayed in one of the beds in the hall. May be due to the crowd, the room was warm. We slept only after all the activities of the dining hall were over, thinking of the fantastic last day of the trek tomorrow.

Annapurna range and the twinkling stars.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

Despite many people cramped together in the small beds of the dining hall, we had a good night's rest. We woke up at 3:30 in the morning and by 4:00 we along with other groups were already on the trail to Mardi base. It was pitch dark and the twinkling stars were making the superb view of the sky. We kept on ascending through the unsteady rocks with the help of mobile's lights. It was getting tougher due to the route itself and the increasing altitude. As it was dark while climbing, we actually didn't realize the complexity of the trail.

After an hour of walk, we reached a tea shop also known as the lower view point. We stopped there to have a cup of ginger tea. As we got out of the tea shop we saw the light fog all around the hill, which wasn't the condition we wanted.

Golden Cloud 9.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

Eastern sky was gaining some lights but the conditions looked unfavorable to have the clean panorama of the Annapurna range. With full positivism on mind we continued to hike to the upper view point. After few minutes, may be for our happiness fogs were cleared up and blurred shape of mountains were visible. And for some more times the hide and seek of mountain and the cloud continued and the mountain won. We kept on walking in the ridge of the hill, but felt so risky while looking left and right sides (If you are afraid of heights, just look at the front trail, not the sides of the hill.), when we reached some open space near the upper viewpoint the clock ticked 6:00.

Annapurna range glowing with sunrise colors.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

The eastern horizon just above the clouds was turning to the gold during the sunrise. Annapurna South (7219 m), Annapurna I (8091 m), Hiunchuli (6441 m), Gangapurna (7455 m), Machhapuchhre (6993 m) and Mardi Himal (5587 m) etc. were lit by the sun’s rays. We were watching the uninterrupted views of those mountains from Upper View Point and the fun continued for couple of hours. It was one of the fascinating moments of the trek, words cannot do the justice.

Panorama of Mountains.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

We went there to watch the early rays touching the mountains, look at the sea of clouds below us, sense the cool breeze and have the feeling of being alive - nothing were missed but you.

Beautiful horizon above the clouds.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

I am not a bird, I don't have wings but my feelings were just like Céline Dion song -

"Mmmmmmmmmmmm...

I get wings to fly,

Oh, oh... I'm alive...

Yeah!"

Jump with Joy.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

Everyone who reaches the top want to stay there for long but that's not what life is. If you keep on staying in top of one hill you will miss the beauty of another waiting for you.

The see of clouds seen from upper view point.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

At around 7:45 our descend started, light cloud started hovering around and in 20-25 minutes the white fluffy clouds covered all the awesomeness of the place - no worries... we will see that on pictures. Only worry was the dangerous downhill trail being covered by the cloud too. We started walking consciously on the edge, sometimes standing still and looking at the steep cliff on the sides. The trail was so tricky that sometimes we walked with our legs and hands. Few portions of the trail were so risky, you had to be very much alert on where to keep your next step. While walking we were wondering 'How the hell we did the uphill climb in this near vertical path on almost dark?'

Trekkers getting down to the High Camp.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

If you plan to visit Mardi during the winter, you must check whether the lodges are open or not; and you may not go past High camp, as all hills above will be covered with thick snow.

High Camp.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac

Anyway, we reached the High Camp safely with lots of photos and more than that - tons of memories. After a rest of about 15 minutes then the breakfast we started the descend through the same route till Low Camp then followed steep downward trail to the village of Siding (1700 m). That day's plan was to reach Pokhara as my return ticket to Kathmandu was for early morning next day. The downhill trail was so boring and monotonous - nothing exciting to see. The few sweet things during that descend were chocolates and dry fruits we ate.

We reserved a Jeep to Pokhara as we reached Siding. The road from Siding was adventurous just like the trekking; we were jumping inside the vehicle and the path continued through Tamang and Gurung villages. Beautiful and classical houses, lovely fields, and waterfalls were representing idyllic Nepali countryside. Those indeed made the jeep trail so much interesting. We reached Pokhara in slightly less than 2 hours.

From 3580 m we descended to 820 m.

As we arrived in Pokhara, we went to the hotel and became fresh. It was the last night in Pokhara for this trip so we enjoyed the musical lakeside vibes till midnight.

Pokhara is one of the scenic cities in the world, you can walk by the shores of the lake looking at the panorama of Annapurna; or hike around the Peace Stupa or Sarankot, or enjoy the adventurous activities like paragliding, zipline, flying on the ultralight aircraft like a bird or simply stay on a bar with a bottle of beer - choice is yours.

A village and fields seen from Siding.

Photo of Enchanting Mardi - a hidden gem... by Eleutheromaniac
Day 4

In the early morning next day, I went to Pokhara Airport for the return journey to the capital.

Return flight to Katmandu.

Photo of Pokhara Airport, Pokhara, Nepal by Eleutheromaniac

If you want to get closer to the beauty of Himalayas but have very short time, there is no perfect destination for you than Mardi Himal Base. It is a short but the finest trekking trail that gives the opportunity to explore hilly landscapes, spectacular close up views of the entire Annapurna range and clouds playing hide and seek with all those.

Make your shoes dirty but mind clean, when are you coming?

Welcome to Nepal.

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