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mortimer Jomsom - A travel report by Martin
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Jomsom,  Nepal - flag Nepal
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mortimer's travel reports

Kali Gandaki - Trekking the deepest canyon

  25 votes
Trekking in Nepal is the thing to do for most travellers. 75% of them choose the Kali Gandaki Trek that's about 30000 people a year, or has been before the Maoist uprising when we have been there. On this trek you got a big diversity of nature.


View of the broad Kali Gandaki River somewhere between Tatopani and Khutse
View of the broad Kali Gandaki River somewhere between Tatopani and Khutse
The start for this trek usually is Pokhara to where you fly from Kathmandu in about an hour.

We had a nice TATA India bus that took us the first few miles out of town to the starting point of our trek in Birethani.

In one day you walk about 5 to 8 hours. The daily routine is something like that: Wake up at sunrise 6.00 am - breakfast – 8.00am begin walking - 9.00 30 minutes break - 12.00 Lunchtime - 13.00 afternoon trek - 14.30 30 minutes break - 17.00 Arrival at Teahouse - 19.00 Dinner - 21.00 to bed...

You can walk slowly and savour the whole beauty evolving steadily as you move on. On this trek, that is part of the Annapurna circuit, you can stay in comfortable teahouses, you don't need to camp.
The path follows an ancient salt trading route following the Kali Gandaki River. It's nestled between mountains that are over 8000 meters high. You get the whole lot of nature's diversity coming from subtropical Pokhara all the way up to alpine Muktinath on 3798 meters above seThe start for this trek usually is Pokhara to where you fly from Kathmandu in about an hour.

We had a nice TATA India bus that took us the first few miles out of town to the starting point of our trek in Birethani.

In one day you walk about 5 to 8 hours. The daily routine is something like that: Wake up at sunrise 6.00 am - breakfast – 8.00am begin walking - 9.00 30 minutes break - 12.00 Lunchtime - 13.00 afternoon trek - 14.30 30 minutes break - 17.00 Arrival at Teahouse - 19.00 Dinner - 21.00 to bed...

The journey took us 9 days. You can walk slowly and savour the whole beauty evolving steadily as you move on. On this trek, that is part of the Annapurna circuit, you can stay in comfortable teahouses, you don't need to camp.
The path follows an ancient salt trading route following the Kali Gandaki River. It's nestled between mountains that are over 8000 meters high. You get the whole lot of nature's diversity coming from subtropical Pokhara all the way up to alpine Muktinath on 3798 meters above sea level where no more trees grow.
After our start in Birethani we mounted some 600m to Hille where we stayed for our first night in the mountains. The next day was a though one... Climbing up 1200 meter to Gorepani. Gorepani lies at about 2800m on a pass between Pokhara and Jomsom. You get down into the Kali Gandaki valley right after this small village.
After that the trek took us down to Tatopani at only 1100m. Here you can get yourself a bath in the hot springs, very good! Now we were following the Kali Gandaki River through Ghasa, Kalopani, Tukuche and Marpha before arriving in Jomsom. There we could leave some unnecessary things behind because we returned there in the end.
We had one night in Kagbeni before the final climb to Jarkhot where we slept and Muktinath as summit of our trip. The scenery is incredible, always changing as you walk on to Muktinath, high up in the mountains at 3880m.

Favourite spots:
Prayer wheels in Jahrkot
Prayer wheels in Jahrkot
Along the route there are several great spots:
- orchards full of tasty apples in Marpha
- small shaking bridges
- the towering mountains looking down on your every step you take
- the divide between Marpha and Jomsom where the scenery
changes dramatically
- well kept houses with beautifully carved wood works
- smiling people enjoying their simple lives
- Flowers in the backyard of every house
- Meeting treks with goods from town
- the adventure of flying out of Jomsom
- the beauty of the temples of Muktinath
- the view down to Kagbeni on your way to Jarkhot
- prayer wheels
- prayer stones and flags flying in the wind


What's really great:
Sunrise @ Poon Hill 
Annapurna south, Hinchuli, Machapuchare
Sunrise @ Poon Hill Annapurna south, Hinchuli, Machapuchare
When we stayed in Gorepani we went to see the sunrise on Poon Hill. That was quite an adventure.
At three o'clock in the night there was some commotion in the house. Our guides were up and talking. I joined them and we watched the night sky. Are there some stars to be seen? Is it cloudy or will we get a nice sunrise?
There were some clouds but we could spot some stars, we decided to have a go. After we woke up the other members of our group and got everybody assembled we headed out to the mountain.
Poon hill meant another climb of 400 meter it took us about 2 hours to go all the way up to the summit. The climb is a spectacle for itself as all of the trekkers will want to experience this spectacle. There are groups of lights walking upwards all over the hill. On top you will be able to enjoy the spectacle of sunrise in the high mountains.
There are about 300 People with you on the hill and you can get hot chocolate, tea, coffee and biscuits that were brought up early by local boys...


Sights:
Man carrying chicken
Man carrying chicken
There are many sights to be seen. As you travel along this path you meet a lot of people. As this also is the only way to access these villages you see a lot of goods transported by human power or by little horses. We met a man with Cages full of chicken, when he rested he let the chicken run and put them back in the cage in order to carry on. We met people carrying big beams for the roof from Jomsom to Muktinath. There are this mule treks with colourful harnesses carrying beer bottles or stones. Herds of sheep or goat are taken along the way to an auction.... There is so much going on along this path it's very lively. The villages are all very nice. The houses have richly carved woodworks. Flowers are abundant. As this is an old trading route there is not very much poverty around. It's very nice to see how they preserve food for the winter by laying it out and let it dry in the constant blowing wind. Wood is stacked on the roofs of the houses to be dried by the wind.

Accommodations:
View of the interior court of a guesthouse in kuthse where we stayed
View of the interior court of a guesthouse in kuthse where we stayed
There are no phones around to make reservations for your Teahouses. Our porters always went ahead and found some rooms for us.
The rooms are pretty basic, you get two berths with a thin mattress covered by some linen, there normally is some kind of bed table and that’s it. The walls between two rooms can be a mere mdf plate about an inch thick. You get some privacy and can close your room by a padlock but you can hear every word the people in the room next to you talk.
Take your sleeping bag with you, and be sure it is fit for circumstances in the mountains, it can get very cold!

Nightlife:
Views along the path...
Views along the path...
There is not much electricity around so no clubbing and pubing the nights away. Anyway after a whole day of hiking in pure fresh mountain air you're spirit is more into sleep than anything else. You will sleep with fists clenched and relax enormously on this trek!

Hangouts:
View of Jarkot
View of Jarkot
Some recommendations for your Kali Gandaki trek. This trek is so easy you could do it all by yourself, but it's not advisable to do this. Porter/Guide is an honourable job in Nepal; it's a good way to earn money for local people. You don't need to feel like you are posh when somebody carries your luggage.
Pay your dues in local money... we met some girls on the path with a 20 Dollar bill that they wanted to change...
Electricity is sparse so be conservative. Try to save hot water. There are some guesthouses that have solar powered hot water showers (a black tank on the roof) but the reservoir is not very big and there sure are some other people staying with you in the same guesthouse.
For the Kali Gandaki trek you need only to be reasonably fit. When you go with a porter you just need to carry your daypack.
There are several companies doing this trek in groups. I’m sure you can find an organised tour at a reasonable price anywhere in Kathmandu’s or Pokhara’s tourist areas.

Restaurants:
Children playing at Muktinath
Children playing at Muktinath
In every village you find small restaurants selling all sort of food. Remember that there is no road connecting them every single bottle of soft drink or beer has to be brought and taken out by mule treks or manpower…
The food generally is tasty. You will have to have a go on Nepali Daal Bhat. A super delicious lentil stew/soup with tasty steamed rice, curried vegetables (potatoes, peas...) and a spicy/sour/refreshing relish (rhubarb, herbs, tomato) depending on the season or the personal recipe of the cook. I can assure you that's one of the best meals you have ever eaten. It's normally served on a special plate with several moulds in it. Like that every item of the Meal is separated and you can mix them to your like.

Other recommendations:
View of Jomsom's airport. Notice the terminal to the left and the landing plane on the right.
View of Jomsom's airport. Notice the terminal to the left and the landing plane on the right.
You can fly out of Jomsom to Pokhara after your trek which is a funny experience.

You need to be at the airport one hour before the flight and need to check in like for an international one, with security checks and all that sort of stuff. Then you wait for your plane to arrive in a crowded stinking waiting hall. The airport building is not very big and you walk to your plane when it’s announced. Your baggage is brought to the plane by the airport staff on a small sack truck. It’s all very well organised and everybody gets his job.
There is only a certain time window in which the planes can land and start again depending on the thermal winds that blow constantly in the valley.
When flying back to Pokhara you go the same way as you did on foot, it’s a scenic flight just above the tree tips…It’s very nice if you're not anxious.

More pictures and a slide show are available in my gallery! Feel free to have a closer look!

Thanks for reading
Martin

Published on Tuesday October 12th, 2004


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Wed, Jan 11 2006 - 04:46 AM rating by wojtekd

Excellent, bringing memories back - I did this trek years ago...

Wed, Aug 31 2005 - 07:58 AM rating by dipaks

Thank you for the writing wonderful report to this great place. I love it very much about their people and traditional culcure. it is a peace place of Nepal as well as almost good weather.
Thanks once again.....

Wed, Aug 10 2005 - 11:59 PM rating by hellman

Great report, cant wait to get amongst it one day...

Sat, May 28 2005 - 09:44 PM rating by kandath

Martin,
Stunning report indeed. Photographs wonderful too. It gives inspiration to put together my planned reports on Kerala. Well done. Without doubts deserves maximum points
Kris Kandath

Sun, Oct 17 2004 - 03:56 AM rating by gloriajames

Excellent Report !!! *****

Fri, Oct 15 2004 - 08:44 AM rating by fieryfox

Wow Martin! What a great report. I hope to experience this adventure that you have described so well.

Farizan

Thu, Oct 14 2004 - 12:48 PM rating by wreckit2

he Ri

Thu, Oct 14 2004 - 05:31 AM rating by marianne

A perfect read andan invitation to go. I especially like th picture of the chickens
Marianne

Wed, Oct 13 2004 - 09:26 AM rating by bear495

Martin,

This is a comprehensive report. Thank you for all of the information. It sounds extremely interesting. Perhaps I missed the information, but how many days of walking are needed to complete this Kali Gandaki Trek?
Keep up with the enjoyable reports.

Russ

Wed, Oct 13 2004 - 12:52 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

hii martin
glad to read so minute details ,very informative .
ravi

Tue, Oct 12 2004 - 05:47 PM rating by magsalex

Great report. Conjours up the flavour of the place. And great pictures too.

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