Following a secret trail along a watercourse ravine, leaving tourists, other trekkers and even villagers behind, we enter an enchanted forest of birch, giant rhododendron, mountain oak, maple, and daphnia, and camp in a small clearing far from the beaten trails. Dawn brings a spectacular sunrise: Machhapuchare’s famous triangular fishtail peak turning pink to gold, the more distant bare rock wall of Annapurna II still in shadow. As we climb, the flora turns to classic cloud forest with mosses of lichen, tree ferns and orchids hosted by the hardier trees.
Now and then, there are windows in the woods that look out onto thrilling panorama towards Hinchuli. Just a short steep climb through storm-torn trees, broken by the winter snows and wind, and we are out of the forest. We picnic in the meadow with its tumbling stream. Annapurna South and Machhapuchare seem near enough to throw a rock at. You are standing on a spot that has been your constant aim for days now, a place, a time, a view that is almost impossible to equal - and you’ve earned it!