Rejuvenate your soul in the lap of mountains, amid the enchanting rhododendron forests, changing landscapes and panoramas, and engross yourself in the majestic twin peaks of Mt. Machhapuchchhre
As they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, my friends and I barely knew that we would have one of the most memorable trips of our life when we planned a trek to Mardi Base Camp (MBC), during our winter vacation. Mardi trek was quite popular during this time of the year and we could see people posting pictures on social media standing atop of MBC. The photos certainly added fuel to our excitement, so we did a little research. Mardi turned out to be a middle-level trek which can be easily done by beginners as well. As soon as the vacation began we thought of setting off on our journey. So on Jan 3, we took a bus to Pokhara. We stayed there overnight and then the next morning, we headed to Baglung bus park and hopped on a bus leaving to Kande Village. We had our breakfast in Kande and started our trek to the Australian Base Camp from there.
The plan was to reach a forest camp that day. From the Australian Base Camp, we reached a place called Pitam Deurali where we had our lunch, filled our water bottles and took the route to the forest camp. From here, you will find blue and white markers painted on trees and stones all the way to the top of MBC. The way to forest camp is an everlasting, beaten road that was beautiful all the same but at some point, you just start getting tired of the unchanging scenery that slowly engulfs your mind. Nonetheless, there are some clearings along the path, from where luckily my friend Suveena and I got to see the sunset. It was a thing of pristine beauty and also an alarming reminder that darkness was upon us. Little did we know then that we had left the boys behind while taking a break as we thought they would eventually catch up. It was getting dark and while we were already enjoying the warmth of the woodstove at a cottage in the forest camp, there was no sign of the boys. We were tired and also it was too dark to go look for them but that was exactly when we heard the noise of their arrival.
Apparently, there are only solar-powered lights here. To charge your batteries, you will have to reach the low camp because they have hydroelectricity there. You have to carry plenty of water while you leave for forest camp because not a soul was in sight when we were so thirsty and we had to pay 100 bucks for a bottle of plain water in a dubious looking store. There are some 3-4 housing options in the forest camp. But one has to choose wisely as the price of the stay varies drastically from one another.
The next day, we had our lunch at a low camp where the hospitality was quite nice. We charged all of our batteries with a multi-plug that we carried. Then we set out uphill again. No matter how much rest you get, these up-hills drain you instantly with the load you are carrying. The smarter thing would be leaving some of your belongings and taking what you exactly need and not overburden yourself with extra baggage. You can actually leave some of the things in places that you stay. There was a forest leading to middle camp and then the vegetation changed due to the variation in altitude. After that, the hills were covered in golden grass. When the sun shone on those yellow hills, it was a sight to behold. It was like walking through one of those “Lord of the rings” scenes. The land made out of hopes and dreams.
But then the sun hid behind the clouds. Slowly small flakes of snow started to fall. It got cold instantly without the sun. Now we had to walk through those scary paths where if you take one wrong step, you fall a thousand feet below. By the time we reached the high camp it was getting dark. We searched for a place to stay. There were a few lodges. We were recommended one by the people in the low camp. The place was named Fish-tail lodge. The snow was falling slightly and disappearing. We were afraid of heavy snowfall as it would make the stony-paths slippery and increase the chances of accidents.
The next morning, my friend Suveena, she woke up early to use the washroom. As soon as she exited, she entered the room again saying she got scared by the mountain that was looming before her. I was speculating her words as I was warm in my bed but also got excited quickly and decided to get out of the room at 4 in the morning. And then there it was. The majestic Machhapuchchhre with its beautiful twin peaks standing peacefully in front of us. Maybe it was the dawn, but there was something so serene about the night sky filled with thousands of stars and the beautiful mountains resting in the moonlight. We took some further steps towards our left and the enormous Annapurna range greeted us in its full glory. Suddenly a realization hit me that the hours of non-stop walking was all for this view before us. And I can say it was truly worth it. The only stupid thing that followed was we should have walked to the base camp immediately. Because when we reached the base camp around 2 pm that day, the clouds were already starting to cover the peaks.
The walk to base camp was inviting as we were moving towards the mountains. All the restlessness vanishes with a view like that. Towards the south, you can see the rolling hills as far as the eye can take. The sunlight hitting the dry grassland rejuvenates the entire land. Some snow was spread over where the heat of the sun couldn’t reach. Everything was so picturesque. We were literally above the clouds and that state felt so liberating. The formation of clouds was so much quicker than I imagined. And it was happening all before my eyes. I was awed by the sight. You can have a spectacular view of Annapurna South, Annapurna 1, Hiunchuli, Gangapurna, Glacier Dome, Lamjung Himal and towards the east, the Manaslu range of mountains from MBC. As for Mardi Himal, it is located just beneath the towering Machhapuchchhre.
We left the base camp immediately as the clouds totally engulfed us when we reached there and chill hovered around us. The pathway was dangerous so we descended through the same route which we took while getting there. It didn’t take us long to reach high camp. But since we’re waiting for our friends, it got dark when we finally decided to leave high camp, and stay at low camp because the temperature was -4°C last night and there was no water, only ice through the pipes. We passed the hills immediately looking at the golden sunset but when the forest trail came upon us, we had to get the torch lights out of our bags. An incident where my friend saw two green sharp eyes in the forest made us run for our life and descend to low camp even faster than we intended. We spent the night in low camp and decided to catch the early vehicle from Sidhing to Hyangja and then a taxi to Pokhara.
Basically, you will have a clear picture of life in remote Nepal. All the arduous walking is worth it when you take a look at the breathtaking scenery which transforms every moment, the snow-capped mountains and the enchanting rhododendron forest beneath the majestic Mt. Machhapuchchhre. The coveting twin peaks of Machhapuchchhre is enough to pull you towards the base camp. And if you’re lucky,a sighting of Lophophorus, the national bird of Nepal is not so unusual in the vicinity of the base camp. On the way to Mardi, you can find a plethora of rhododendron forests and just imagining the scenery, when the rhododendron buds are in full bloom was enough to make me think of revisiting this place in spring.
How to get there: Travel to Pokhara by bus or a flight and a ride to Kande village. Trek to Australian Base camp-Forest camp-Low camp-High camp and straight to Mardi base camp.
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Nisha Maharjan is a content writer at Nepal Traveller. She loves occasional reading and travelling.