By now you’ve noticed I really enjoy trekking. But! I didn’t always and I guess like all hobbies you have to start somewhere right? Often people will ask me how I got into trekking, and did I love it right from the beginning. Well, it’s very safe to say that answer is a very hard and very firm NO!
Not to do anything by halves, my first EVER trekking experience was back in 2010 trekking Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal. Read on for a ridiculous rehash of accounts, and I guess, if you’re about to go on your first trek just know that it will honestly be okay! And hey! Even if you have a horrible time, it’s still the most amazing experience…EVER.
I must warn you, this is a very raw day by day account written in my diary each day. There may be a few extra adjectives or exclamation marks, but you’ll get it just fine.
This year I’ll be embarking on my 5th iconic trek, The El Camino in June 2017, feel free to follow the blog for updates on how that goes. I’m sure it will be like nothing I’ve experienced before and I just can’t wait to get started! But first! Where did it all begin? Read on…
First Day of Trekking – Start Naya Pul – Ulleri, 30th May
We meet our guide Gonga at 10:30am. We get in a taxi and drive 30minutes to our first descent. We start walking at around 11:30am and we get straight into it with a decent 6 hour jaunt to reach Ulleri. We stopped often on the trek and it was seriously challenging, the last 2 hours were extremely steep, and yet the motion is very repetitive. I predict our backpacks weigh around 5-7kgs. Even now at this early stage, I thought about giving up.
Once we arrived, we showered and tried to rest our weary bodies. Ate dal bat for dinner, met a funny Italian girl and walked 5 minutes to the town center to see a crop festival. As this is the start of monsoon the locals pray for rain. We watched the villagers in traditional dance. Before getting too tired and too cold we leave half way through to come back to the hotel to rest. It’s freezing!! We are used to warm and balmy nights, I feel like we will be reaching some chilly peaks. Onwards and upwards. Sleep is desperately needed.
From Tikkagonda to Ulleri = 3800 Steps, we’re currently at 2080m above sea level.
2nd Day of Trekking – Ulleri – Ghorepani, 31st May
Note to self: Pan Bread is Tibetan and is a deep fried bread – Not so good with an egg omelette. We start our trek around 9am. The initial descent is pretty tough, we are sweaty quite quickly. Overall, the 4 hours was very relaxing and not too intense. A lot of forest walking, waterfalls and bush like scenery. We are starving by 1pm and reach our guest house just in time for some vegie noodle soup. We were surprised how easy the walk was and would have preferred to keep walking – oh well! I’ve just washed my clothes very much Italian style with a wash board, bar of soap and a scrubber.Feeling chic and timeless.
We are currently at 2750m elevation.
We nap for a few hours, in the afternoon we go for a short walk around the village and bumb into a Sadu Baba, a real holy man. We come back, change clothes, order our dal bat with chapatti, and talk with the Californian tourists who are also staying here. I eat with my hands, just as the locals taught us and await my apple pie dessert. We will go to bed early as we have a 4am start to view the sunrise. It’s so bizarre to look out the window and only see white! We are one with the clouds now! It’s like we are on a plane but we are driving the elevation. My shower was simply delicious, very peaceful this place.
3rd day of trekking – Ghorepani – Chomrong, 1st June
After listening to our American neighbours bicker about who knows what, we finally get to sleep. We are up at 4am and walk the 30minutes to Poon Hill, elevation 3210m. It was brutal!! I thought I might throw up. The top of the hill was surrounded by approximately 30 other tourists – all waiting for the lovely sunshine. The clouds were very discreet about revealing the view, but after an hour or so we got a good view of Annapurna 1 and Machha Puchhre Mountain (feature image.)
We come back to the hotel, eat breakfast and leave by about 8:30am. We trek for a solid 4 hours and stop at Tedapani for the worst lunch we’ve ever had = disgusting veg soup. We’ve only just noticed that we are running out of money FAST! Our first conversation to negotiate a shorter trekking time (longer days, less nights) with our head guide is sour understandably, and so we push on, it is our goal to cut out a nights stop and keep walking to Chomrong.
Little did we know, it was a hard core incline. By 3:30pm it was pouring down with rain. By 4:30, I broke down. It was too hard. It was pouring – we were soaked. And it was all up hill walking. I started crying, it was getting hard to breathe. I finally get a hold of myself and we reached our guest house soon after. We take a hot shower immediately and get some dal bat. We walked 9 hours today. ‘Mechi Lemon’ tea = actually the best thing possible! Everything is Wet! 2 x slimy leeches. I fear there is one in my hair. I fell over 3 times today. Walked downhill backwards. There is officially no more bottled water available from this point (height) on. Need sleep and it’s 7:30pm. Bah!
4th Day of trekking (2840m elevation) – Chomrong – Himalayan Hotel, 2nd June
Forgot to mention yesterday we passed some villagers who were looking after 350 goats. I was impressed.
We left at 9am this morning, for some reason we cant sleep in! SO annoying! We both woke up at 5am however the sunrise was incredible. Once we left the guest house, my body was completely shutting down. I couldn’t find the energy to talk, let alone walk a 610m ascent! I felt so weak, my body ached. We passed two guys on our way up, one had lost his wallet so they have obviously had to cancel their trip, so we haven’t seen them again. So sad! And so it goes…
We get to Bamboo by 12:30pm and have lunch. I feel better but still not great. We push on to Dovan, by this stage Kate and I realise we are VERY low on cash. We have not brought enough money at all! Once we arrive in Dovan, we meet an American father and son and tell them about our financial predicament. “Hey Aus –tray-lya!” they call out to us and are kind enough to give us 2000Rs on the condition that we do the same to someone in need when we are older = GOD BLESS AMERICA!!! We have taken now to sharing all meals. The walk from Dovan to Himalayan Hotel is pretty good. Lots of water falls. The clouds are right next to us now. We reach the hotel at 4:30pm, shower, eat and hopefully = pass out.
~~ On the way we passed a sacred point where you cant bring through any meat or eggs. We are now in the Annapurna Sanctuary.
5th Day of trekking, 3700m – Himalayan Hotel – Machha Puchhre Base Camp, 3rd June
We literally slept next to a water fall last night, the sound was like the ocean, heavenly. I finally slept well. We share an oat porridge and make our descent by 8:30am and by 1:30pm we reach base camp. It was essentially ALL up hill. BRUTAL. We decide to stay here tonight to try and adjust to the altitude. And to not over do it by pushing too hard. We have decided to splurge on our lunch/dinner on a tomato and cheese pizza for 400Rs. There is no electricity so we will aim for an early night. Forgot to mention, when we were on our way here I had a bad case of diarrhea so I had to go behind a rock…explosions! Then I see some other trekkers and sit down and squat and… yep… you guessed it, I sat down. Vertical. Right on top of you know what. Everywhere. HELP!
6th day of trekking, 1430m – Machha Puchhre Base Camp – Chromrong, 4th June
Our day consisted of visiting the following places: Annapurna base camp, Machha Puchhre Base Camp, Himalayan Hotel, Bamboo, Dovan, Siwaya, Chomrong = Crazy ladies!!! 10 hours of walking!
Okay, day starts at 1am.
Kate: “Give me the torch, there’s something crawling on me”
*Grumbles*, passed the torch and roll over.
Kate turns the torch on again at 2am. “There’s a f&*king mouse in my bed!” The cheeky little thing had jumped onto her bed, then onto the table and then onto my bed. Convinced that the mouse had crawled onto her face, Kate was hysterical. Truth be told it was actually hilarious. She kept saying “Lex, we haven’t had our rabies shots” “We’ve got rabies!!” It’s very difficult to get back to sleep after this, as you can imagine. By 5am, we’re up again – this time in order to catch a good view of ABC at sunrise. It’s a 2 hours walk up a 430m ascent. And its SO cold!!! Another reason sleep was difficult!
Last night I had to pay 150Rs for a bucket of hot water. A small price to pay to get some dignity back. I cleaned myself from the hips down. The water was very nice and warm – the air was bitter cold = ouch!
We started walking by 5:30am, we get hot quite quickly but it’s too cold to remove gloves or jackets. For the record, I hate walking up hill. Fortunately the walk wasn’t too strenuous, the waterfall hums gently in the background. It becomes the soundtrack to our journey. It’s so lovely to see flowers among all the grey rock and murky clouds. They are vibrant, red, yellow and purple flowers.
We reach the sign, THANK GOD!! I thank my body, my heart, my mind and my spirit for getting me this far. The base camp is among the mountains we have been admiring for the last 6 days. We are filled with joy, accomplishment and pride. We continue up to the lodges, past a volleyball court and come to a shrine for Anatoli Boukreev who was killed by an avalanche. The view is somewhat of an anticlimax as there is a huge ‘moraine/glacier (?)’ which is literally a huge hole in the ground. We quickly take as many photos as we can before the clouds steal the view away. We head back to the lodge for a cup of hot coffee and read all of the letters from fellow trekkers. Kate finds a photo of herself and sticks it among the many hundred. I scramble to find a pen and paper and write:
“It’s not the journey, it’s the destination. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. … either way, WE MADE IT! Kate, Lex, Ganga, Australia, 2010”
It was very fulfilling! We make our descent soon after back to MBC. We have reached the point now where we just want to get back to Pokhara. We’ve loved the experience and wouldn’t take it back… but… we’re kind of over it. I know, I know, it sounds terrible, but I think its our guide, the weather and the insects. We decide to try and get back in 3 days. We share a veg omelette and walk at about 7:30am. Within half an hour Kate’s knee really starts to hurt. 7/10 pain level. So we take it easy back to the Himalayan Hotel. We arrive at 11:30am and have some lunch with our new friends we’ve been following for days.
We wait out the rain and start walking again by 12ish. Kate starts popping the drugs and gets her knee strapped. I walk behind her the whole way through Doban and Bamboo. At Bamboo we reach a mental crossroads: I feel fine to continue, Kates knee is killing her, but she just wants to get back. It’s 3pm. So we make the only choice possible = Rock, paper, scissors. Which has been a key decision maker for us this whole trip so we trust it’s judgement. I won, so we kept on walking to aim for Chomrong but settle for Sinuwa as it takes much longer than expected. Our guide isn’t pleased with us for pushing but we are determined and extremely low on cash.
Kate yells “Our generation wants everything faster, cheaper, better” and I yell “We’re young and crazy! We’re crazy, but we’re not stupid!!” Whilst Ganga is annoyed at us, he is also very much pleased with himself. We are the first people he has ever trekked with in 4 years that have gone from Ghorepani through to Chomrong and then ABC to Chomrong in a day. The locals are also surprised as we pass through. Kate finds a leech on her stomach, disgusting!!! We reach Sinuwa and hate the idea that Chomrong is only on the other side of the river. The river is only 1 hour… so… we push on further! As the walk is mostly stairs it takes us at least 2-2.5 hours. We walk down to the suspension bridge and then face the BRUTAL vertical steps. For ONE section of the walk uphill I count 661 steps. That was only for the consecutive section. The rain is teasing us and will stop and start at any given moment. As we reach Chomrong it’s about 6:30-7pm!! BIG DAY!!! We stretch, shower and eat Dal Bat for dinner before heading to bed. We estimate we will probably have enough money to eat our OWN dinner and breakfast and then share lunch tomorrow. We will try to get back to Pokhara in 2 days. We are already planning on how to treat ourselves upon returning back to our bank balances and bars and shopping and souvenirs and food and our clothes………………..
7th Day of trekking – Chomrong – Pokhara, 5th June
Ahhhh luxury. We wake at 7:30am, now considered a sleep in. So glad to have put the Chomrong stairs behind us. We each have a lemon tea and I order a oat porridge with fruit for myself! We aim to get to Jinue (Hot springs) by around lunch time and then get ½ way to Naya Pul. I would love to go straight to Naya Pul – but we could be pushing it with Kate’s knee. Anyway – onward and upward.
The day started terribly slowly, as the descent was all downhill (stairs) so Kate couldn’t push herself, so to amuse myself I listened to music and took photo’s of…. well anything. We make it to Jinu and decide against the hot springs. Instead our guide organises a taxi for when we reach Naya Pul. This is when we realise our reality = We’re coming home! Yah! The remaining 6 hours of the walk is mostly down a gravel driveway. We smile and say Namaste to all the locals. By 6pm, we’ve made it! Someone was having a laugh when they decided to add a load more stairs at the end! We get back to Pokhara, say goodbye to Ganga, See Ya! We eat like Queens, get to our hotel room and SLEEP!
Some findings from the trek:
- Customary to say: Namaste to every. single. person you pass
- Pan bread or gung bread = under no circumstances
- Leeches = sneaky, disgusting creatures
- Meichi lemon tea = delightful
- Most useful item brought by Kate = A Head Torch, Lex = Toilet Paper
- Most embarrassing injury = Lex on edge of cliff
- Hint to future trekkers = Air guitar whilst walking downhill does and will result in slipping over
- Mountain Angels =The Americans
- Word of the week = Make shift
- Most thought about lyrics = “Too much of anything is not good for you baby” – Barry White
- Most common song sang by guide = Buffalo Soldier – Bob Marley. Note, this is the only line known.
- Best advise = If your guide says a route is impossible, tell him to recalculate
- Couldn’t have done without = MUSIC!
- Would have been better with: Lex = A warm cardigan, Kate = Camera strap
- Lame movie quote to get me up stairs = “I shall conquer this…. I shall!”
- Most importantly = Budget your finances for God’s Sake!