It takes four hours to reach Forest Camp (2,500m) where there are supposed to be tea shops, but it is deserted. Unlike other popular trekking trails, the tea shops here are spaced more widely and since food has to be portered in, it is more expensive.
But there are signs that things may change soon. In anticipation of the growing popularity of the Mardi Trek, new rest houses are going up at a rapid pace. The lodges are all recently built, still smell of fresh wood and don’t even have names or menus yet. You just hope the new blue tin roofs do not photobomb the sweeping view of the Annapurnas.
Locals say it never rains on Mardi Ridge, it pours. Or, it is snow and hail. True to form, there is a terrific hailstorm that morning at Forest Camp. At Low Camp (2,970m), the clouds open up just enough to offer a magnificent view of Mt Machapuchre, blanketed in fresh snow (pictured).
Badal Danda lives up to its name, with clouds obstructing the view. Snow starts falling by afternoon in light swirls and by morning it covers the trail. The narrow trail hugs the cliff on one side with a sheer drop on the other, the rhododendrons are now deep red, looking like shining drops of blood on the snowy slopes.