TREKKING FOR FREE IN NEPAL HIMALAYAS
If you're hunting for chilled-out, yoga-loving hippie vibes then Pokhara is the place for you. Set against the beautiful Phewa lake, Pokhara is the classic "I only went for 2 days and stayed for 2 weeks" kinda place. Whittle away your days chilling out at the many yoga schools and cafes along the notorious lake side or, if you're up for a challenge, this is the starting place for expeditions to the Annapurna mountain range.
Obviously Nepal is synonymous with hiking and mountain climbing, but for most people backpacking Nepal this can take up a lot of time and money. Some hikes can take the best part of 3 weeks or even more and the cost of permits will easily run into the hundreds of pounds. With that in mind we've put together a little 3 day, 2 night hike which you can do permit-free and will have you back sipping on almond milk iced-lattes at the lake side in no time.
From Pokhara it's a 7km, 3 hour hike almost entirely up hill to the village of Sarangkot. You'll want to spend the night here and get a good rest (we recommend Himalayan Crown Lodge) to get up nice and early for the sunrise views of the 6 peaks of the Annapurna range. There is a viewing point at the top of the village which charges foreigners a 100 NPR (£0.70) fee for the pleasure.
Make sure you fill up with a nice big breakfast because, from Sarangkot to Australian Camp, it's a 21km walk which will take the best part of 7 hours. You'll pass through the village of Naudauda a little after the half way mark which is a good place to stop for lunch at Safal's guest house. The only thing that stands between you and Australian Camp from here is about 3 hours or so of continuous stairs and hills (you do pass through some amazing villages and rice fields on the way). For those of you who have faced the stairs leading to Machu Picchu or Colombia's Lost City and thinking 'how bad can it be?' Trust us when we say, this is a whole different level of stair-related craziness.
So, once you've made it to the top, no doubt you'll be heading off for a pretty early night ready to reap the rewards of your hard work in the morning. Your prize? The best possible views of the Anapurna mountain range you can enjoy without paying for a permit. From here you have a few options - you can either walk back via the villages of Dhampus, Astam and Milanchowk and take a bus back from there, or you can get one from Kande which is only an hour away from Australian Camp.
So here are some more of the beautiful sights we encountered during this 3 day trek.
If you find yourself hungry for a little hiking but don't really fancy leaving Pokhara, then we've got just the itinerary for you. This one starts nice and easy with a boat ride (750 NPR/£5.15) across the lake to Lychee Resort followed by a brisk 45 minute walk uphill to the world peace pagoda. A one hour walk through the hills will bring you out by Gupteswar cave (100 NPR/£0.70 entry) and then cross over the road to check out Devi's falls (30 NPR/£0.20). It's a 2.5 hour walk back to lakeside from here. There you have it, Pokhara's highlights in a day.