As part of our family’s early plan to travel to the remote areas of Nepal once a year ( this brings us to understand Nepal more and encourages internal tourism too), this year our family headed to Mardi or Machhapuchhre mountain Trek.
This is a lovely trek that takes you along a walk atop literally mountainous ridges full of rhododendron forests and few villages along the way back. This is one of the shortest treks you can do while enjoying the magnificent Himalayas including the Annapurna range. Specially for Nepali travelers this can be one of the treks to begin your wanderlust journey. And this is a good trek for a family with children to do too (except during snowy, rainy weather and the trek to the basecamp would need experienced guide as you pass through snow, cliffs and ice slippery slopes at times). For Nepali travelers, Rs 2,000 a day for room and board (breakfast, lunch and dinner) would be a good travel expense to carry.
Day 1: Kathmandu (1,300 m) to Pokhara to Kande to Australian Camp (1,900 meters)
We traveled on Buddha Air to Pokhara . Because of random storms, we reached pokhara 5 hours late. We quickly rented a Jeep to “Kande” a stop an hour away on the way to Baglung/Beni. From kande, we started walking at leisurely speed and in about an hour and a half, reached Australian camp around 6:30 pm around sunset. Here is a set of beautiful lodges on top of a forest from where you can see a beautiful view of the Annapurna and Machhapuchhre mountains. While on the way up, you can actually see Phewa taal and the lakeside are of pokhara which reminded us how close we are to both the mountains and lakes of the Pokhara region.
Along the way a black tibetan mastiff was our guide escorting us from the highway all the way up. Later we learnt it was his habit to escort fellow travellers to and fro from the camp to the highway.
Total Walk distance was around 7 kilometers, around 12,000 steps and total height climbed was 94 floors.
Stayed at Angel Guest house where rooms with attached bathrooms ranged from Rs 700 to Rs 1,500.
Day 2: Australian Camp (1950 m) to Pothana to Deurali to Dudh Kharka to (Kokar) Forest Camp (2500 m)
We started our real day long walk around 8 am and reached Pothana , a resting place with a few lodges in about half an hour. Some friends bought a rain plastic that covers the whole body and bag (just a big sheet of plastic) as they hadn’t bought their rain jacket and this spring there was an unusually rainy weather. From there we reached Deurali for lunch in about an hour where we had a good Dal-Bhat-tarkari. Bought some fruits as well as they were going to be rare in the higher elevation and remote locations. We started a steady climb around lunch time and reached our first stop around Surya Danda through a forest of red, white, pink rhododendron trees.
This phase was a long 6 hours walk along a misty forest ( Imagine Lord of the rings forest walk by the hobbits) and we all finally came to a forested clearing with a set of tea houses and lodges where we stayed for a night. The lodge we stayed in (Mardi Guest house) was not up to the standard we were looking for both in terms of lodging and food. Luckily for future travelers, two new lodges were being built so visitors will have fresh and better options.
Total distance walked was over 16 km / 28000 steps and 181 floors climbed in total.
Day 3: (Kokar) Forest Camp to Rest Camp to Low Camp to Middle Camp to Badal Danda (3,250m)
At around 8:20 am we started on our way after having a “kodo bread” for breakfast. In about 45 minutes we reached a solitary lodge aptly called the “rest camp” from which we finally saw “Machhapuchhre” mountain clearly and up close. Through the Lord of the Rings themed forest walk we finally reached Low camp in about 2 hours. It was just before noon when we rested at ViewPoint lodge where we had the best lunch so far (Rs 500 a piece for Traditional Dal-Bhat-Tarkari).
We started around 2 pm and as soon as we started, a light rain started pouring in for a short while. It was a leisurely 2 to 2 and a half hour walk to Badal Danda aptly named after strong mists that would come and go from both sides of the ridge where it was situated in. Here the rhododendrons were in much visible and bountiful display and the forest was all like a colorful monet painting !
At Badal Danda stayed at the lonely hotel Panorama where I had a good potato rosti and cheese pizza for dinner and topped it up with French fries and Vegetable momo ! Met some russian ladies as well as an Israeli father-daughter during our stay there.
While staring on a clear night, had got me wondering with breathtaking days and nights like this, why aren’t there many people coming here to enjoy from all over the world.. And specifically why Nepal has only one international airport built 70 years ago and none after that ?
Walked a total of 10 kilometers but climbed 208 floors and took around 17,000 steps according to my iphone.
Day 4: Badal Danda to High Camp (3,550 m)
The scenery changes drastically from forest to more alpine shrubby bushy type of vegetation and pasture lands. From the early morning you can see a panaromic view of Maachapuchre mountain, and the mardi mountain just before it and also the long Annapurna mountain range of the himalayas. For the star gazers amongst us, the nights are amazing with clear view of the milky way across the sky.
Saw Yaks grazing around High Camp which we reached in 2 hours, and stayed at Namaste hotel there. We had a good time interacting with the locals there who had come there from all over Nepal to work. High Camp is surrounded by Rhododendrons. Just in case, I had fresh garlic soup which offsets high altitude sickness. The pizza they made there was delicious. It was good to see fresh lodges being built which meant this place was getting more popular (particularly with local tourists like us). We spent the day resting and also preparing for a 4 am wake up to hit the final stretch tomorrow to the View point at above 4000 meters or even to the Mardi Base camp around 5,000 meters.
Total walk today was around 10 km, and climbed 70 floors and 15,000 steps.
Day 5: High Camp to Upper View point (4130 m) back to High Camp and then to Low Camp (3000 m)
Total distance travelled was 17 kilometers , 132 floors climbed and 28,000 steps walked.
We started the day literally in the night around 4 am when we woke up and started off the walk at aruond 4:45 am in the morning with a headlight and our walking sticks. It was a tough climb on such a high altitude. By 7 am we had pushed through cliff ridges and steep climbs across slippery paths to reach the lower view point where you had to walk on snow ! We pushed towards Upper view point after having a warm tea ( & trekking fav – Nebico coconut biscuit) at a makeshift temporary tea shop opened by a local who would go up here everyday at 4 am and wrap things up and leave by 10 am. During this climb we fortunately saw a few rodents and birds (Danphe was a specialty in that area) and stumbled upon one that even looked like a miniature form of red panda ? Unfortunately couldn’t take a photo of them.
Even the flora was exotic with colorful plants dotted along our way. The panoramic view from here was astounding and the weather was clear with few clouds. We decided not to go all the way to the base camp as the ridge was difficult and steep for our tastes.
At about 9:30 am we started our descent back to the High camp. We had a good lunch back at the high camp and started our way back to the low camp around 1 pm. Had a good tea break at twin peaks lodge in middle camp watching the mists coming up from both sides of the ridge to clash with each other ! At high camp had a good conversation with local business owners and employees on the state of tourism there ! This region holds a lot of promise if they can maintain the safety standards here. I felt they need to build a safer route specially when it rains and snows above the high camp.
At night we stayed in Hotel Viewpoint at low camp which is much warmer and cozier.
Day 6: Low Camp (3000m) to Forest Camp to Kalimati to Ghalel village (about 1500m)
Total distance travelled: 17.5 km, 27,000 steps and only 16 floors climbed (as this was mostly downhill)
Today was a lot of walking down more than a kilometer in altitude. We steadily came all the way back to Forest camp where we had snack and then made it down to Kalimati to have lunch. We finally started seeing streams again. After kalimati we again went downhill all the way to a secluded Ghalel village. Then again towards late afternoon arrived at Pokhara canyoning retreat , which was besides an absolutely stunning waterfall even during the dry season we were in. Relieved to have an attached bath with hot shower to cleanse ourselves !
Day 7 : Lumre to Pokhara (832 m)
We had a great morning swimming and enjoying the giant waterfall right beside our resort. As we approached mid day we took an hour long local jeep ride (Rs 100 a person) along Mardi river upto the highway that leads to Pokhara. This river road (seasonal) ran across rivers and it was fun to go above rivers and streams. From the highway we took a city bus that took us near the Lakeside and after one more switch reached the shores Phewa lake where we stayed at a local hotel. We had good food at the a popular vegetarian restaurant OR2K.
The next morning we took a (tourist) bus from the Lakeside to Kathmandu. Sadly a typical 5 to 7 hours ride took us 10 hours to reach Kathmandu because of constant traffic jams and delays.
This ends the beautiful Mardi/ Machhapuchhre mountain trek which me and my wife and a few friends did. It made for a good family trek which I encourage Nepalis and others alike to do.
Alternately: you can also go directly from High Camp to Low Camp to Sidhing to Pokhara.
Here’s their account. A couple of our friends had to cut the trip short, and complete the trek in five days heading back to Pokhara. This cuts the trip by 2 days. From high camp, you can either go down a separate route to Siddhing in five hours, as claimed by the signboard or return back to low camp and take the route to Siddhing from there. We learned from others that the route to Siddhing directly from High Camp is too steep downhill for a comfortable walk.
At an average good speed, you can reach Low camp from High camp in two hours. You can either stop there for a tea break or a lunch break.
From low camp, the route to Siddhing can take between two to three hours. There are a couple of times when there are forks on the path without any signboard. In the first fork, we took the right turn which turned out to be the correct way. In the second fork, we were left with a difficult choice and decided to take the right turn again, however, it turned out to be the more steep downhill road with uncomfortable walking paths. We believe the left turn was the lesser steep way but a longer road down to Siddhing.
The road has hardly any sign board or markers on the trees to guide your way, and depending on the time of the day you are traveling, you may not meet anyone for a long time. There is only one tea stop in the middle of the way from Low camp to Siddhing.
Once we reached Siddhing, we were delighted to see a couple of Jeeps lined up. However, we learned that we will have to wait until the Jeep fills up for a rate of 1000 rupees (1 US dollar is roughly 100 Nepali rupees) per person for six people in the jeep, if not, we would have to reserve the whole jeep at 6000 rupees if people do not show up after a few hours. It is a two hours drive back to Pokhara on the Jeep with beautiful views or waterfalls and the Mardi river.