I hadn’t come to Nepal to trek yet I find myself climbing the tenth highest mountain in the world. The Annapurna Sanctuary is Nepal’s most popular trekking area and provides much of the country’s income. I prefer to go “off the beaten track” but there is a reason why tourists fly hundreds of miles to trek to Annapurna Base Camp. In fact, I can think of plenty.
Everyone told me I could not trek in Nepal unless I invested in some kit or at least a proper pair of shoes, neither which I had. During my first few weeks in Nepal I got caught up in the whole ABC (Annapurna Base Camp)/EBC (Everest Base Camp) trek talk and I just had to see what all the fuss was about. Kit or no kit, I was going trekking.
Hugo and I extended our visas in Pokhara (3500rp) and purchased our TIMS card (2000rp) and ACAP permit (2000rp) surprisingly quickly, we have heard of others who have waited hours for theirs. We did decide to invest in one item of kit, fairly “pricey” rain ponchos. Being cold is one thing but being wet and cold = game over. These “top kwality” (Nepalese spelling) items fell apart as soon as we got them out the bag during the first of many afternoon downpours.
The trek to Annapurna Base Camp and back is a 8-10 day trek but we wanted to do it in seven to free up more time to purchase a bike and cycle to India – our new plan! To be honest, I was a little nervous. Plenty of people have died on this trek, trapped by avalanches and many suffer altitude sickness.
Most people we met had a guide and were kitted out to the nines with down jackets, trekking poles and more stuff than I actually own strapped to their back, or in some cases their porter’s back. There was no denying that we were ill prepared with Hugo becoming a minor celebrity. A few people we passed told us about two siblings they’d heard about doing it in canvas shoes and the brother in shorts. I wonder who that could have been?!
Yes my feet were wet. Yes I was a little cold at times. Yes I stank one hell of a lot. But I made it and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I cut up bin bags in an attempt to keep my feet dry, asked for extra blankets at night, made a trekking pole out of bamboo, kept my bag dry with carrier bags and tied my wet socks to my bag each day to dry in the sun. My wet clothes slept with me between the two blankets to dry them out and warm them up for the chilly mornings. I packed plenty of snacks to keep me going and a kilo of oats which became the bane of my life but equally provided me with my favourite brekkie every morning.
Here is the route we took with the towns in bold being where we stayed the night.
Day 1: (start 1pm) Nayapul – Birethanti – Chimrong – Syauli Bazar – Kimche – Ghandruck
Day 2: Ghandruck – Komrong Danda – Kimrong Khola – Chhomrong – Sinuwa – Bamboo – Dovan
Day 3: Dovan – Himalaya – Deurali – Machapuchre Base Camp – Annapurna Base Camp
Day 4: Annapurna Base Camp – Machapuchre Base Camp – Deurali – Himalaya – Bamboo
Day 5: Bamboo – Sinuwa – Chhomong – Jhinu (Hot Springs) – New Bridge – Landruck
Day 6: (finish midday) Landruck – Tolka – Bhedi Kharka – Pittam Deurali – Pothana – Dhampus – Phedi
The good thing about this trek is that it’s varied. It began on a dirt road overlooking rice paddies and weaved through small mountain villages belonging to the Gurung communities. Then came steep up and downs through lush greenery and bamboo forests. More up and downs through paths lined with rhododendrons followed by rocky climbs alongside snow-capped peaks. Finally we hit snow which was my favourite part of all despite the wet feet.
We were pushing our luck ascending so quickly with many we met becoming ill with altitude sickness. Hugo suffered heavy breathing during our night at 4130 metres and Alessandro was forced to descend and spend the night at Machapuchre Base Camp below but thankfully we were all fine. Sunrise over Annapurna One (8091m) and Annapurna South (7219m) was spectacular.
We returned via Jhinu for a blissful dip in the hot springs (50rp). I didn’t have any spare clothes with me or any underwear but luckily over-prepared Alessandro had a spare compression top so I could soak my aching muscles. Hurrah!
I freaked out when a tick attached itself to me but no harm was done. Everyone who we’ve met who had been trekking in the region has suffered from itching weeks after. I have no idea why but you will get “the itch” – be warned!
Menus remain the same during the entire trek with the government setting the prices which gradually rise the higher you go. The western and Nepalese food is surprisingly good and reasonably cheap unless you have an addiction for Mars Bars and Coke, like Hugo. Cheesy potatoes are the go to food at Annapurna Base Camp (middle guesthouse).
Our last breakfast at Bhedi Kharka (first guesthouse on the return) was the only bad meal we had with Hugo’s Bounty bar being a year out of date and Paul receiving this tiny bowl of egg (above) after ordering scrambled eggs on toast. When asked the lady said “no toast” and that was that.
I may not have been prepared, both in terms of fitness and kit, but I enjoyed every second of my trek to ABC. I’ve heard so many horror stories with people saying how difficult it was and I can kind of see why (graded as a medium/difficult trek) but I didn’t experience the same feeling. We walked through snow, rain, hail and wind. Compared the scenery to Narnia, Switzerland, Borneo and Wales and indulged in litres of warm tea and guilt-free chocolate.
I highly recommend this trek to anyone. Depending on what time of year you go you are likely to encounter others but for me this allowed me to share the experience, the excitement and the achievement. One final word of advice, don’t start in Phedi as there’s thousands of steps which would have lead me to lose the will to live immediately. Good luck and safe trekking.