Trekking to Panchase has been one of my most treasured and unforgettable experiences in Nepal. Previously in Pokhara for several weeks, my name is Agi Kolettas and I am from UK. My friends and I wanted to go on a short yet spectacular trek within easy reach from Lakeside and free to explore without a trekking permit. Having spoken to both locals and foreigners about it, everyone agreed that Panchase was a must-see that ticked all the boxes. We didn’t waste time. Our small group of four good friends from around the world was the perfect combination, so a Greek, an Indian and two French packed our backpacks and set off for a truly memorable week that will always be with us.
Day to Day activities
Taking the local bus from Pokhara Lakeside, it’s only an hour’s drive to Ghattchhina, where the bus terminates.
From that point, we begin our ascent on foot, following the path by a beautiful river with crystal clear water. We all agree that we don’t want to delay reaching our first stop, but we shake hands to return for a river swim at the end of the week on our way back.
We continue going up through stunning countryside to picturesque Barang village, until we reach Makanpur about an hour and a half later. We find the perfect home-stay for our two nights in the village; cosy, clean and affordable, with friendly hosts that give us a warm welcome and provide a very tasty dal bhat (Nepal’s national dish) and local raksi (rice wine).
Early in the morning, the clouds from the night before have already cleared and reward us with sensational Himalayan views of Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, Machhapuchhare and five peaks of Annapurna. After breakfast with fresh buffalo milk, porridge and tea, we head up an hour’s trek to Adam’s Tribe Organic Farm. According to our map, this is in Pakhure village. Instead, we find out that it’s literally in the middle of the jungle without a single other house or settlement on site, one of the most quiet and isolated spots we’ve been to anywhere in Nepal! Our amazing super-friendly hosts Rouz and Fatima, an inspirational Iranian couple who moved to Nepal a few years ago, give us a royal welcome with open arms and a very interesting tour around the beautiful farm they have lovingly created together. We get on so well with them that our original plan to stay for an hour or so turns out to be a whole day together, complete with a deliciously fresh meal made exclusively from the farm’s organic vegetables, followed by music from Rouz’s impressive world-wide collection of flutes, and even a backgammon tournament! As the sun is setting, we head back to Makanpur, pleasantly content after a really beautiful day.
We continue our way up through gorgeous countryside, pleasantly surprised that in our whole trek so far, we are the only tourists on sight! This makes a welcome change from the super-busy Annapurna trail we have experienced before. All we can hear on the way are the birds and the wind, to the point where a water buffalo groan behind us makes us jump! Taking a short break to rest on the grass is made even shorter when leaches happily attach themselves on us! We get them off our legs and remind ourselves it’s leach season. An hour later we make another stop in Sidhane village, where a priest welcomes us and invites us for lunch. We follow him to his house, meet the family and play with the children, enjoy an appetizing meal, take pictures and get back on the path leading to Panchase Bhanjyang (2,030m). It’s only another hour’s trek to reach it from Sidhane, and we arrive in a misty peaceful landscape. We find a guesthouse with a fantastic big room with four beds and big windows on all four sides. It’s a steal at 400NPR ($4) and we finally have a good rest.
The morning mist is clearing slowly and light rain starts. We don’t miss the hot sun today, but welcome the cooler weather and decide to go to the viewpoint the next day. We meet the lovely Gurung family owners of the guesthouse and arrange with them to have a campfire tonight. The food is just as tasty but more expensive here than in lower altitudes, but everything needs to be carried here on foot. We enjoy the peaceful landscape, have a short walk around and meet another group of tourists from Australia. Campfire is postponed for tomorrow, as heavy rain starts before sunset. It’s our excuse for an early night and hope for better weather tomorrow.
Today we do miss the sun. Light rain continues, the sky is grey and we wait until midday to see patches of blue, then finally the sun comes out to reveal glorious green landscapes, yet still no mountain views. As everything begins to dry, we set off to the woodland area nearby and collect fallen branches and twigs for the campfire tonight. More tourists arrive and agree to join us for a jam session around the fire tonight. We now have a guitar, bansuri (bamboo flute) and jambe (drum). As it’s getting dark, we all join together for a magical night of music, great home-cooked food, beer and singing. We cross our fingers for even better weather tomorrow and go to bed delighted with having enjoyed such a good night.
The sky is clear above us early in the morning but still we don’t have mountain views as it’s rather cloudy in the horizon. We start making our way to the nearest peak, Panchase Danda (2,500m). We climb steps through spectacular Rhododendron forests and reach the famous Shiva Temple. A local kid that follows us explains that thousands of pilgrims fill up the place every March for Shivaratri festival. We’re happy we’re the only people up there today and enjoy the stunning views of the valley. It’s so quiet and peaceful we take our time before making our way down. Soon we reach a tranquil small lake near another temple and rest for a while, watching the water buffaloes happily taking their bath under the hot sun. It soon gets very windy and we hurry down a different path which appears to be a shortcut back to Bhanjyang. It isn’t. We get lost as a dramatic thunderstorm is closing in but we finally arrive back to base just as the heavy rain starts. We watch the storm from our room, lazily playing backgammon and we have an early night.
At last, we are rewarded with incredible mountain views! A morning we will never forget. We have breakfast outside and marvel at the snow-covered peaks, feeling on top of the world! We record slow-motion videos of us dancing and jumping in joy. It’s hard to accept we have to go back to Pokhara today. We watch the horses and goats, green hills and stone houses, Nepali prayer flags, all towered by the mighty Himalayas. We eventually pack our backs and go before midday. This time we need to go all the way down to Ghattchhina and we need to be there in less than 4 hours to make it in time for the last bus. We make a quick stop for lunch in Barang village and take rest in the shade of a huge banyan tree. Arriving at the bus stop in good time, I close my eyes and replay highlights of our cherished week. I smile knowing I will return one day!