Day One: Starting The Annapurna Circuit (Pokhara to Bahundanda via Besisahar)
After many late nights preparing it is finally time to hit the Annapurna Circuit. Day one will take us from Pokhara to Besisahar using the tourist bus, and then from Besisahar to Bahundanda. The total journey from Pokhara to Bahundanda will consist of two buses and an afternoon of hiking. Though, I will go through it in detail so if you are planning your own Annapurna Circuit adventure you will know what to expect on day one.
Pokhara (1400m) to Besishar (820m) – 5 hour bus journey
Besisahar (820m) to Bhulbhule (840m) – 1 hour bus journey
Bhulbhule (840m) to Ngadi (890m) – 4 km hike which took 1 hour
Ngadi (890 m) to Bahundanda (1310m): 4 km hike which took 2 and a half hours
Pokhara To Besisahar
Having purchased ‘tourist bus’ tickets from our accommodation in Pokhara, ‘Hotel Bishram‘ (cheap clean rooms and a helpful manager) we expected a similar journey to the other tourist bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara. Though, that is not what happened. Before I get too into details I will give you a run down of that morning.
Unfortunately, I woke up at 2am with a horrible bout of the infamous Delhi belly. After spending the next couple hours running between my bed and the bathroom the alarm goes off to start walking the to bus station. Full of gastro tablets and antibiotics I waddle the half hour walk to the station.
The tourist bus leaves Pokhara for Besisahar at around 6.30am each day.
At the tourist bus station there are plenty vehicles taking people all over the country. Though, we are directed to one bus a far cry from the regular looking tourist buses. Our luggage is chucked on top and strapped in while we pile on with all the other foreigners. One guy demands that the driver puts a tarp over the bags which he is very hesitant to do. Luckily this tourist pushes and the driver gives up (it ended up raining the majority of the journey as well).
The bus is not full yet, about three quarters of the seats are empty, which means a more comfortable journey. Though, before we know it, just like a tsunami, suddenly a wave of locals squeeze into the bus. Chickens, rabbits and children are all passed around at once. I wish I was lying, but I am not. Every spare seat is quickly filled as well as any space remaining in the aisle of the bus.
With a chicken on my lap and a rabbit on James the bus lurches forward indicating it is time to depart. I am not going to recall the mentally painful next 5 hours of our journey, though lets just say it included a lot of spitting, screaming children and the beautiful squat toilets.
By the time we get from Pokhara to Besisahar it is around lunch time. We are ready to stretch our legs and hit the road. Though, before we can think about doing that it is necessary to check into the TIMS office so they can keep track of us on the trail. As we were on a bus with a whole bunch of tourists doing the exact same thing there is quite a line for the TIMS check in. But now we are on the Annapurna Circuit so can take our time and enjoy nature.
Besisahar To Bhulbhule
After checking into the TIMS office we decide the best option for us is to take a local bus from Besisahar to Bhulbhule. Problem is this would not arrive for another hour. I convince a shop owner to let me use the bathroom and we sit back and watch the majority of the group bargain with jeep drivers to take them further up the trail.
The bus costs $1.80 / 200 NRS and it is impossible to miss as the large brightly colored vehicle rolls up the street. We load onto the small bus, ducking to avoid hitting our heads on the roof and squeezing into a seat. It is obvious this is a local bus rather than a tourist bus as only a small Nepali person could comfortably fit on this seat. Not some white westerner who is nearly 6 foot.
Holding on tight around the corners and over the many bumps in the road I cannot wait to get out and start walking. I must say that the bus journeys in Nepal have taught me to have a lot of patience.
Finally arriving in Bhulbhule we pile out like sardines in a tin. Some people we meet on the tourist bus decide to stay on until the last stop of Ngadi and have lunch before starting their trek. Though, we decide to deal with it, eat my first bites of the day, a snickers bar, and continue the walk.
Bhulbhule to Ngadi
Waving goodbye to the bus as it splashes through the puddles we follow walking behind until it disappears around a corner. Now it was time for the last part of the journey from Pokhara to Bahundanda. Passing by a fast moving river and large concrete industrial buildings, this is the part of the trek often recommended to miss. With pothole and puddle filled roads it certainly is nothing exciting, but we are happy just to be off the buses.
Using Maps.Me to avoid getting lost there are a lot of different paths around here to nearby villages and no real signage. Locals point the way when we look confused so they are use to it.
It is a relatively flat walk between Bhulbhule and Ngadi, only increasing 50 meters over 4 kilometers. Arriving in Ngadi we see our friends enjoying a tea in the sunshine. One of the locals invite us in for lunch, though we decide to head on. She then recommends us a place to stay in Bahundanda, Mountain View Hotel.
Ngadi to Bahundanda:
Between Ngadi and Bahundanda is where you truly get the first beautiful views on the trail. With gorgeous green lush rice terraces lining the path it makes the step walk a bit more worth it.
Stopping fairly often with my camera our other friends, a couple of Brits and Russians, catch up to us. We take a more leisurely pace and decide we will all stay in the same tea house tonight.
Climbing 420 meters over 4 kilometers this is the first real uphill of the trail. Though, its nothing when compared with what is to come further on the Annapurna Circuit.
One last push up the stairs we arrive in Bahundanda greeted by our friends who have been ‘shopping around’ for a place to stay. We are the first group to arrive for the day so have the top pick of accommodation.
Staying in Bahundanda: Mountain View Hotel
After looking at a couple options we decide collectively that the best deal for us would be Mountain View Hotel. Apart from the name they have clean-ish rooms, decent blankets and nice views of the surrounding villages.
The room is free as long as we purchase dinner and breakfast through them. There is charging in the main building and there is wifi which costs 100nrs, though we find out the hard way it does not actually work.
Settling in we take turns jumping in the shower at the shared bathroom, trying to make the most of hot water before we get up to higher elevations where it is scarce. Afterwards we head out to a little table to play cards and have dinner. I get a basic meal because of my upset stomach of Tibetan bread with jam.
Enjoying the mountain views until it gets dark we order breakfast for the morning and head off for an early sleep as it has been a long day traveling from Pokhara to Besisahar and then to Bahundanda.
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Photo credit: “Pokhara Bus Station” (CC BY 2.0) by TaylorAndYumi . “Unloading The Bus In Besi Sahra” (CC BY 2.0) by Greg Willis. “De Bhulbhule à Ngadi” & “De Ngadi (920m) à Chamje (1350m)” (CC BY 2.0) by Jerome Bon . “Room In Bahundanda” & “More Rice Fields” (CC BY 2.0) by Nick Watts .