I always knew that I wanted to go trekking in Nepal. Originally I planned on going to Everest Base Camp, but after some research I decided that the Annapurna Region looked just as challenging, quite diverse and more interesting. I chose to join the Geckos tour ‘Into the Annapurna’, a mini version of the popular Annapurna circuit trek.
Arriving in Kathmandu I met my small group of 12 and our local guide Raj over a welcome dinner.
The next day we set off on our horrendous 7h local bus journey to Pokhara. This place is a Hikers dream, it was beautiful and a perfect stop off before a hike. You could find discounted real ‘fake logo’ products dirt cheap everywhere. (Kathmandu was probably a little cheaper and had the real brand shops, but the fakes can be very good quality). This is where we bought/rented all our supplies for the next 7 days.
Start: Naya Phul @ 1035m
Overnight: Ulleri @ 2000m
Today was tough, after a nice amble walk to our lunch stop we then had to endure a 5 hour staircase to our overnight stop. It was hot and sticky which made it even harder. I have never experienced walking up so many steps before and really wasn’t expecting the walk to be a paved way.
Start: Ulleri @ 2000m
Overnight: Swanta @ 2800m
Today we still had about another 3hours of the staircase to conquer to get to our lunch stop in the village of Ghorepani. Where many people stop overnight before heading up Poon Hill. We were so thankful the stairs to be over but then had to head down the icy track down the valley and then back up a hilly incline to our evening lodge.
Start: Swanta @ 2800m
Overnight: Chhiping @ 3000m
Today was fairly challenging and mostly uphill after a morning decent. We were walking through Rhododendron forests and crossed paths with many wild marijuana plants. We were only just starting to feel the affects of altitude here. The nights were also becoming much much colder.
Start: Chhiping @ 3000m
Overnight: Khopra Ridge @ 3660m
This day was probably our toughest day. It was short, but a constant assent. We were all really feeling the affects of altitude. My hands were swollen, with every step I took I was so breathless and it felt like I would never go back to breathing normally again! To get to the lodge on the ridge we had to skirt over a recently snowed over ridge, I was so scared a Sherpa came back just to hold my hand across. The view was worth it though, high above the clouds we saw an amazing sunset and sunrise. The temperature that night dropped to about -6degrees and we were all wearing so many layers of clothes!
Start: Khopra Ridge @ 3660m
Overnight: Swanta @ 2800m
Because of the unexpected snow it was too dangerous to continue on our original planned circuit and had to head back the way we came. Going back down was much quicker and we found ourselves having a spare afternoon to sit and play games. That evening the Sherpas even put on a show of song and dance for us. (There was no power or lights here, like many of the places we stayed).
Start: Swanta @ 2800m
Overnight: ??? @ 1500m
Today we had to head back down the ridiculously tall staircase. The decent was so much harder and was testing muscles I didn’t even realise I had. We all struggled to walk that evening and hosted hotel stretching sessions to ease our seized up muscles.
Start: ??? @ 1500m
Finish: Naya Phul @ 1035m
We couldn’t believe this was our last day. The week had gone so quickly and we had achieved so much. As a group we got on really well, although we were tired and achey we just didn’t want it to end. We played games as we strolled along our easyish last leg.
The food on the trek was quite limited. We had the same menu breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and the higher up we got the more expensive it became. The prices and menus were regulated by authorities in the region to ensure that prices were fair depending on the difficulty to get food to the location. Each place we stayed had a tuck shop, which mostly consisted of coconut crunches (a brand of biscuits) and pringles. I normally had either a pancake or fried potato in the mornings and then Dal Bhat (an unlimited, lentil dish, curry, veg and rice set) for lunch and dinner. I would try to eat Momo’s or fried rice instead of Dal Bhat whenever it cropped up on the menu for some variation. We didn’t drink alcohol at all. I think most evenings our Sherpas were in the kitchen helping the guesthouse staff cook our food. There were also cafes, restaurants and shops along the route.
The walk was fascinating, each day we were walking through different terrain. As well as the mountain scenery and wildlife I also got an insight into remote mountain life in the tiny thriving communities. Each day we would pass donkey pack horses led by men who would walk our routes twice as fast just to provide supplies to the villages. I saw men and women of all ages working as Sherpas carrying up to 30kg packs with their heads (not backpacks). Children would trek up the tracks just to get to school and everyone we met was so friendly.
We would often stop to look at the views. On a couple of occasions I would point to a sight and say, ‘What is that (4000m high) mountain called?’ The response I always got back from our guides was, ‘No my friend, that is a hill!’.
I often spoke to our guides and sherpas who were more than happy to talk about their way of life, government and beliefs. They would also point out every Rhododendron bush/tree we passed, (apparently the national flower). I had an amazing eye opening experience and would gladly recommend anyone to venture their way over to Nepal.