Fly to Kathmandu.
Those on the group flight from London will arrive in Kathmandu and will be transferred to The Royal Singi Hotel in the afternoon. Those not travelling with the group from London will meet us in the hotel. There will be a full trek briefing this evening.
We take a flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara, where we meet our transport for the five hour drive to Beni (823m).
The town sits at the confluence of the Kali Gandaki River and the Myagdi Khola. A hub for trans Himalayan trade Beni was attacked by Moaists in 2004. The guerrillas came from Dhorpatan along the tails we use the next couple of days.
We start our trek today with a fairly long but easy walk through scenic villages to Darbang. The trail follows the Myagdi River to Tatopani (890m), where there are some hot springs that are said to have curative powers. The next significant settlement is Babichaur (980m). During the war the Maoists controlled much of the area west of here. Our camp tonight is near Darbang (1070m), a village which lies at the confluence of two river valleys. It's a commercial trading village between Myagdi and Dolpo and Baglung and Rukum.
As we cross the river we get our first glimpse of the mountains ahead. Passing a nettle cloth factory we head to Ranibas after which the Dhaulagiri Range temptingly starts to appear ahead. We cross the Dang Khola by bridge and then ascend fairly steeply to Dharapani. The climb is well worth the effort and from the quiet settlement we get wonderful panoramic mountain views. Climbing further we come to our camp tonight at Takam (1675m). For the energetic there is an optional walk up to Mattikhanna. Due to its strategic location it was the headquarters of the Maoist regional command for four years during the war. It's more famous now for its stunning mountain views and a 1.5 hour climb takes us through Kopal Danda village to Mattikhanna.
A day of ups and downs today as we pass through many small villages. Just after Sibung the trail splits - we head west towards Dhorpatan whilst the trail to the north heads around Dhaulagiri. We climb up to Macchim (1885m) and contour round the ridge into the Dar Khola Valley. We then descend to Gatte Khola village and continue to Phelegoan. The village of Muna is above us as we descend to cross the Dar Khola. A little further on we pass a magnificent waterfall as we cross a small river before the climb to the large village of Lumsung. There are many villages in this area and all are self sufficient farming communities living off the land. From Lumsung we descend once again to the river before a final climb to Moreni (2275m), where we camp tonight.
A long day today as we cross our first pass. The trail climbs up through the village and further to a ridge. From here we get magnificent views of the mountains to the north. It's another 2-2.5 hours to the top of the Jaljala Pass (3414m), a long wide meadow. The long climb is worth it for the fantastic views from the top. In the monsoon these beautiful meadows are occupied by shepherds as they bring their herds of animals to graze on the succulent grass. We descend now to the Uttar Ganga River, which we follow all the way to Dhorpatan. We are now walking through a spectacular valley, carpeted by flowers in the monsoon. Parts have been scorched by fire and we walk through an eerie landscape of burnt trees. Continuing through extensive areas of pasture we finally reach our camp near Gurjaghat (3015m).
Just after Gurjaghat we have to make a short detour to cross a side stream by bridge and then we head back to the Uttar Ganga. This river drains the Dhorpatan Valley and emerges from the southern slopes of Dhaulagiri. On our ascent to Chhentung village we can see a Bon monastery above us and a traditional Tibetan medicine school. We continue climbing gradually to Chisapani and further past a settlement of Tibetans. Just after Chisapanai we enter the Dhorpatan hunting reserve and have an easy walk into Dhorpatan (2870m). There will be time this afternoon to explore the village - there used to be an airstrip here - it is also the junction of trails heading in all directions.
From the former airstrip we climb up past the police post to Syal Pake before we descend to the Uttar Ganga River. We do not cross the river but continue heading west along the river bank passing though several small villages. At Masa we will see the wonderful apple orchards before we have to cross the river by bridge and climb up to Niseldhor (2620m).
From Niseldhor we contour on a wonderful trail high above the river through magnificent forest. We pass through Kore Dharamsala and upper Damchan before we descend to lower Damchan. Across the valley is Ghumilibang, where there is an isolated church built by a missionary who lived for many years in Taka. Crossing the Damchan Khola we are now back close to the banks of the Uttar Ganga River. In March and April locals fish here for trout. The next settlement is Upallo Sera, the site of a major encounter between police and Maoist guerrillas in April 2000. From here we cross the river and ascend to Taka, a large settlement with about 400 closely connected houses. The people in this area are Khams and their villages are very medieval with passageways between dwellings and shared rooftop courtyards. There is also a church in Takam, built by the missionary who lived here for many years before the conflict - he learnt enough of the local Kham language to translate the Bible.
A hard day today as we cross our second Pass. We descend through Upallo Sera and then enter a gulley to the south. The trail climbs steeply to a ridge with great views looking back to Taka. We have a short descent to cross a stream and then continue climbing all the way to a stone gateway which marks the Tila Pass (3005m). We have time to enjoy the great views all around us before we descend for a couple of hours following the Jhari Khola to Lukum (2095m). Lukum is populated by Magars and Khamis and Shamanism is still practiced here - between July and August there is an annual gathering of Shamans in the village.
Another quite tough day as we cross the Mandune ridge. We descend to cross the Lukum River on a log bridge and then we head into a canyon to the south following the Ruji Khola upstream. The trail is faint and overgrown as it climbs to the gateway to the Syaubari (or Apple Orchard) Pass (2670m). On a clear day it's worth taking a 5 minute detour to the south of the pass for the views. Mount Sisne is the prominent peak and the valleys all around are magnificent. The pass divides 2 districts - we leave Rukum behind and now enter Rolpa. We descend to the Mangri Khola and an easy trail desends to the Thawang Khola Valley. We head up the valley crossing several tributaries before a final climb to Thawang village (1975m). At the entrance to Thawang we are greeted by a huge black and white mural of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Engels and Mao! Thawang is one of the oldest communist centres in this part of Nepal and experienced some heavy fighting in the war. 1.5 hours away from Thawang is the Ajambari Jana commune, established in 20013 as Nepal's first commune.
Today we cross our second Jaljala Pass! The trail heads south crossing the Daut and Fiba Kholas on the way out of the village. The main route to Jaljala crosses the Rachibang Khola and ascends to a ridgeline at 2125m. We follow the ridge for a while before descending to cross a stream and then climbing up again past the two house settlement of Tejibang and further to the top of the Jaljala (3090m), an open area of grassland. From any of the small surrounding hillocks we get even better views of the Himalaya to the north. Due to its location the area around here served as a training ground for guerrillas. We descend past a new temple at Bujuthan to a stone path. 5minutes up the path is Bhangma Pup (Torch Cave), a large cavern that serves as a shrine. We continue descending on a stone path which zig zags quite steeply through Jemthang to Sukulbung.
Day 14 - 15
These last two days bring us south to the end of our trek. From Sukulbung we can see Jelbang below to the south. We follow the ridgeline steeply down to Jelbang, past terraced rice paddies. A road is being built up to Jelbang and we may see the odd jeep. We now follow the Naibang Khola downstream and passing through Rulbang we contour round many tributaries. At one point we cross the Kenganath Bhanjyang (1245) and descend again to the Lungri River Valley. Our trek ends at Sulichaur (2725m), a large village and with many tea shops.
A very long drive back to Kathmandu. It is 50 miles on rough road to the Mahendra Highway, where we then head east to Kathmandu. (We may not reach Kathmandu today, in which case we stay overnight en route).
Today is free for sightseeing in Kathmandu. You may wish to visit Durbar Square in the heart of the old city where the old Royal Palace, with its intricate woodcarving is located. Outside is Kumari Chowk, home of the Kumari, the young girl who is revered as a living goddess. The whole area is a maze of temples and images. Alternatively you may wish to visit the monkey temple at Swayambhunath, one of the largest Buddhist Stupas in the world at Bodnath, or the most important Hindu temple in the valley at Pashupatinath. Sightseeing tours can be booked locally. There is also the chance to take the optional scenic mountain flight for amazing views of the Himalaya including Everest in the morning. This can be booked and paid for on arrival in Kathmandu. For more details of all the optional activities please refer to the Optional Excursions section. (Please note this day is kept spare in case we do not manage to drive to Kathmandu on Day 15)
The trip ends after breakfast. Those on the group flight will be transferred to the airport for the flight back to London. Those not on the group flight will leave us after breakfast.