Earlier in the year, I was looking for some respite from the hustle and bustle of city life, to soak in the beauty of nature, and do something good for my body and mind. With my amazing and spontaneous travel buddy, Selvie, we decided to venture on a trek in Nepal, to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC, 4,130m). Nepal is celebrated for its majestic landscape, being home to eight of the 14 “eight-thousander” mountains, and its roots to spirituality, being the birthplace of Buddhism. Felt like the best of both worlds.
While Everest might be the most well-known peak (8,848m), Annapurna (I) is the slightly shorter sister (8,091m) that is also a little more vicious, known to be the most dangerous summit due to its harsher terrain. The base camp of Annapurna (4,130m) is also lower in altitude compared to Everest (5,380m).
The trip spanned 10 days but the actual trek was close to 6–7 days due to the travel time from Kathmandu to the start of the trek. Trekking in ABC is considered moderately difficult and we covered over 80km of trekking. You don’t have to be an athlete to do this trek but you wouldn’t want to be out of shape as well. In terms of altitude, I could feel it getting more challenging once we reached 3,000m but there were no signs of altitude sickness.
Overall, for a first-time trekker, there were several points in time (especially when the walls had worms and the toilet condition was dismal) where I wondered “Why am I here? Why do I do this to myself?”. It reminded me of the times running half-marathons, where I would tell myself to never do this again but end up signing up for the next marathon anyway. The mountains and valleys are truly a sight to behold and while I can’t say that I will be back for sure, it is good to leave the familiar for a while and it does remind me that we can (and probably should) live with much less.
Kathmandu to the start of the trek
Upon arriving in Kathmandu, I couldn’t help but notice that the city was a lot more devastated than I had anticipated. Most buildings (including the airport) appeared to be under construction and being my first time in Nepal, I wondered how much of it was because of the 2015 earthquake. Air pollution was rampant and sanitation was also an issue, as the tap water was yellow and had a smell.
That being said, we stayed in a more tourist-centric part of the city, Thamel, which was lined with plenty of small shops selling Nepalese souvenirs.
Traveling from Kathmandu to the start of the trek was a journey in itself. The bus ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara was seven to ten hours and in retrospect, I might have opted for a private car as opposed to a public bus.
From Pokhara, we then took another three to four hour jeep ride to the start of the trek. It was a bumpity rickety car ride but it felt pretty serene having the wind (along with sand and dust and the five pimples that resulted from it) in my hair and watching the locals going about their daily lives with a view of the mountains.
Trekking to ABC
The trek on the first day was a short three hour trek. It started off with the sun shining brightly on our exuberant faces, matching our spirit. However, the sun was not our friend for long and out of nowhere, it started hailing harmless little pebbles, which I thought were really cute initially. Without warning, they soon turned into vicious pelting stones in a heavy storm which really hurt! Caught by surprise, we were drenched and cold and had to hide from the storm in a small hut. Did we anger the mountains? Highly temperamental. It was then that I learned how much we were at the mercy of the mountains.
Aside from that, the trek was fairly smooth sailing, though it did rain every afternoon. Most of the trek was hopping from stone to stone trying not to step on dung.
The toughest part of the trek was the journey from Deurali (3,200m) to MBC (3,700m). It was the combination of the altitude and rain, and the fact that we were ascending 1km in a day. The most dangerous part of the trek included walking across a steep icy mountain with a passageway the width of your foot. Trekking up was okay, but it was the trekking down the ice mountain that saw us fall a few times. The lodge at MBC also definitely tested me. We then woke up at 3am the next day to reach Annapurna BC in time for the sunrise (which did not happen because it was cloudy but that’s okay).
Conditions on the mountain were uncertain and not always the safest. The lodges at ABC were destroyed post the landslide in March and along the trek, we had to divert our paths several times due to landslides.
Life is so much simpler when all you do is walk and look forward to your next meal. I’m not sure how much of it can be attributed to the cold and hunger, but I really enjoyed the food served in the lodges (I just refused to look in the kitchen). Dal Baht is a staple Nepalese dish that consists of rice, lentil soup (Dal), and a variety of side dishes including potato curry, vegetables, and papadum. I absolutely adored the pizzas, a must try!
“I like the mountains because they make me feel small. They help me sort out what’s important in life.”― Mark Obmascik
The answer is food.
Accommodation at lower altitudes was definitely better because it is easier to transport building materials and more people visit these lodges. As we go up in the mountains, the standard of accommodation deteriorates.
All things considered, trekking to ABC was refreshing and worth the challenge. “Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” -Greg Child. I hope you find what you’re looking for!