I was in Pokhara and the time had arrived to begin my trek to the Annapurna Base Camp. Trekking is probably one of the main reasons many people come to Nepal.
I was under the impression that the 4 weeks I recently spent in a Muay Thai Boxing camp would somewhat prepare me for this trek but it didn’t. I think only lots trekking can prepare you for trekking. And a few weeks on the stair treadmill might come in handy too for this particular trek. Yes, there were lots of steps!
Anyway, here is a day by day run down of my Annapurna Base Camp trek – an 11 day trek which took me right into the heart of the Annapurna mountain range, home to one of the 10th largest mountains in the world and a large number of other peaks
I described my preparation for this trek in my previous post. Coming with me on the trek so I didn’t get lost, was a Nepal trekking guide. They say you should never trek alone and some of the missing person signs I saw on the way up there affirmed that.
As there are so many photos in this post, I have decided to make this post more of a photo entry with captions describing the incredible time I spent in the hills and mountains.
Day 1 – Nayapul to Tikhe Dunga
The day started with a very long traffic jam to the beginning of the trek in Nayapul. Turns out there had been a bit of a landslide – a troubling start.
This was the very start of the trek. I had hardly slept the night before due to the anticipation so was a little tired but still very excited.
The trek started in the hills. You can take a more direct route right into Annapurna Base camp which takes about 7 days there and back but I had decided to take a slightly more scenic route via Poon Hill as I was in Nepal for a month so not on a tight time frame.
This is the Nepal national dish known as Dal Baht which would become something I ate every day. I loved it. It covered every food type you needed – vegetable soup, rice, potatoes, chicken and bread and cabbage. The great thing about it was that at each place they would just keep topping it up until you were full “More rice” “More Potato” “More Chicken” – Yes please!! I never needed dessert.
We arrived at my first lodge in Tikhe Dhunga quite early at about 1.00PM. I was hoping it might be a bit later as I felt it could be a little boring hanging around in this tiny village all day but it was nice to relax and just read my book. He said that on the first day he does a shorter trek so you can warm into it. I drank a lot of tea!
Day 2 – Tikhe Dhunga to Ghorepani (base for Poon Hill)
Although I didn’t take any photos due to the sheer struggle of it, this day started very tough with a 1.5 hour climb up steep stairs. I understood why we had stopped at 1.00PM the previous day now. My guide didn’t even break a sweat but I was goosed by the time we reached the top.
This was the top of all those steps we climbed.
My guide started picking random berries and fruits from the trees. Just in case he didn’t know what he was doing, I pretended to eat them but secretly dropped them on the floor. I didn’t want to eat some form of poisonous berry!
We made it to Ghoerpani, the final destination of the day. It was a hard trek today.
In Nepal, you don’t have to camp when trekking. They have tea house lodges all the way along the standard routes. They are usually very basic though. Ghoerpani was one of the nicer ones, they even had a fire in the lounge and a book shop.
Day 3 – Ghorepani to Tadapani
We awoke at 4.45AM the next day to ascend Poon Hill. Only in Nepal could a 3,000 metre peak be called a “hill”. To put things into perspective, the biggest mountain in the UK is Ben Nevis which stands at 1,300 metres. Here that would be barely be called a mound.
The reason for ascending Poon Hill is that you are supposed to see your first great, panoramic view of the Annapurna Massif to where we were headed. Unfortunately I saw only this – cloud. We waited a while to see if it would clear but it didn’t.
I don’t really know how you become a “founder” of a hill but this guy is quite well respected in Nepal as he did a lot of work for the hill and mountain side community including initiatives in education, water and food supply.
I am never going to moan about a cushty office job again after seeing what these porters do. He was carrying two girls bags for them on their trek. After he has finished with them, he will do it all over again. Must be fit!
My guide told me a sad story about this spot. Only weeks before a friend of his had been a guide for a 52 year old Korean man who tragically died of a heart attack on this spot. They had to evacuate his body by helicopter. They marked it here with rocks so the helicopter could see where to land.
Well at least I was going the right way – coming from Ghorepani and headed to Tadapani.
Biggest pile of random rock piles I have ever seen. I have seen a lot of these in my travels and have never understood why people do it but it looks cool.
I was beginning to really cherish sights like these villages because it meant a tea, snack or meal break. Or at least a rest.
A Langur Monkey. I was walking ahead of my guide and didn’t spot it but he did – one advantage of taking a guide. My one was a very good animal spotters. Another advantage was that he seemed to have incredibly acute awareness of what the weather would do. One day he said “It is going to hail today”. I didn’t pay much attention but sure enough a massive hail storm hit us later. It was the only time hail fell on our trek and the only time he said it would hail.
The accommodation was essentially prison style with very small rooms, hard single beds, cold outside showers, no heating or ventilation and no WIFI in many of the places. Some places had WIFI for a fee. I stayed off it most of the time as it gave me a nice feeling of getting away from it all. Sometimes later in the trek you had to share a room with other trekkers.
Day 4 – Tadapani to Chhomrong
It was a beautiful morning that day and I got my first good glimpse of the mountains we were headed to.
This was my first view of what is commonly known as Fishtail mountain – it is a holy mountain and forbidden to climb it.
I was really starting to feel it today. Whole body was aching.
You never knew what was round the next corner. I was really beginning to dread sights like these by day 4!
I think you can only get away with this socks and sandal look on a Himalayan trek- no way I was wearing my trekking shoes in the evening and it was too cold to wear sandals without socks!
Horse eating in the rain. I tried to tell him to come under the shelter I was standing but he didn’t listen.
That evening the skies cleared up and we got a nice view of Fishtail Mountain whose real name is Machapuchare. Nobody has ever climbed this mountain as it is a protected sacred mountain.
Day 5 – Rest day in Chhomrong
It was another beautiful morning – the weather was always much better in the morning. I was extremely exhausted today and my whole body was aching so after a chat with my guide over breakfast I decided to take a rest day – it was a lovely place for it and the next stage of the walk was the hardest part. The direct route up to Annapurna Base Camp.
Chilling on my rest day. I read a whole book that day.
My 12th black tea of the day – the problem with drinking so much tea is that I was always waking up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet!
Day 6 – Chhomrong to Duerali
We had a long day ahead of us today – trekking to Deurali. The last town before the Annapurna base camp.
They are not going to win any awards on this trek for originality of their lodge names but this place certainly did live up to its unoriginal name.
Walking down was not as hard from a cardio perspective as walking up but was very taxing on the knees.
This was the meat cut off point – the sign ahead says that no meat is allowed past this point. We were entering the region of the holy mountain so meat was banned for religious purposes but my guide explained it was also helpful from a practical purpose as it was not healthy or easy to transport well preserved meat this far up the mountain.
Scenery was getting more epic by the mile.
Deurali – view from the lodge I stayed that night.
Day 7 – THE BIG DAY – Deurali to Annapurna Base Camp
We were heading right into the frozen heart of the mountain range today.
My guide alarmed me at some point during this walk as he said we were entering an Avalanche risk zone where people had died before. He said there was an alternative route which would take us an extra 1.5 hours. Assuming he would take that route, I followed but he didn’t and he went the shorter route he just explained was the avalanche risk. My mouth started to protest by my exhausted legs wouldn’t let me speak. As it turns out and my guide explained later, the current season has a very low risk of avalanches. I wish he had explained that before we walked along that route.
Fishtail mountain basecamp – a bit misleading to call it a base camp as this is next to the mountain that nobody is allowed to climb.
This is Annapurna Main 1 – the 10th highest mountain in the world. It might not really look like it from these proportions but you have to remember we were already 4,000 metres above sea level.
I was literally breathless during this part of the walk – firstly from the views and secondly from the lack of oxygen at this high altitude.
Made it to base camp!
View from the lodge. I met some nice people in the lodge this evening. A Thai couple and an English couple. The English couple had been travelling the world for 10 months. Under the disapproving glare of my guide who had previously said I shouldn’t drink alcohol above 3,500 metres we couldn’t resist a couple of rum shots to celebrate making it to base camp.
Day 8 – Annapurna Base Camp to Chhomrong
Overnight it had snowed quite heavily so we had to begin our walk in deep snow. I was starting to wish I had purchased waterproof hiking boots.
My guide – he kept calling my “Boss” throughout the whole trek. That made me a little uncomfortable so I told him to call me Daniel from day 1 but he didn’t really listen………so I learnt to live with it after a while. He told me that all his trekking gear he had got from other customers who gave them the gear when they had finished the trek. His pink rain coat affirmed that for me.
For a couple of hours we walked with an Italian girl and her guide. She didn’t speak a word of English but it was nice to have a bit of different company on the trek.
Day 9 – Chhomrong to Jinhu Danda (Hot Springs)
I understand the phrase “Work like a donkey” now . Sorry about the finger!
We only trekked for 2 hours today and made it to some hot springs where we spent another 2 hours. The hot springs were great for my tired legs but I think my body just went into “Time to relax” mode. I was more exhausted after the hot springs then I had been for the whole trek!
We were walking out of the mountains now and into the hills but via a different, more direct route.
Day 10 – Jhinnu to Landruk
Saw some very interesting looking plants growing naturally in the wild on my trek this morning.
This was my lodge for the night – these dogs kept following me around everywhere I walked.
I had finished my 3rd book today so I decided it was time to treat myself to a couple of cold beers. I even bought my guide one.
My last evening staying in a trekking lodge.
Day 11 – FINAL DAY – Landruk to Phedi (bus back from Phedi to Pokhara)
Normally, I would be quite nervous if I saw a big bunch of bulls in my pathway but here it was just normal. I barely batted an eyelid.
See if you can spot the monkey!!
It got really foggy that day.
And then it started raining.
Some more lodges with original names.
And another one here! Not sure how they come up with them.
This was towards the end of the trek. My left knee had really started to hurt by this point and I think I had a strain, every step was painful – I was just happy it had started on the last day and not sooner.
When we got back to Pokhara, I was even presented with a certificate to mark my achievement. The guy on the left is my trekking guide. I have no idea who the guy in the middle is. As you can see I look pretty rough by now – I had really enjoyed the trek but was so excited to be back in town and in a nice hotel for a rest.
So that was the end of that.
A very tough but fantastic experience and I want to come back next year and do Everest base camp. Part of the joy was just seeing the locals going about their daily life in the mountains.
I am glad I took a guide with me – although it did reduce a bit of independence on the trek for me, there were quite a few advantages. The first being of course that it was a bit of extra insurance so I didn’t get lost and had someone to help me if I got in trouble or injured but also lots of smaller things – he helped to translate and talk to people at the lodges and shops, he was good at predicting the weather and based our schedule and lodge stops on that’s. I was surprised the amount of times we stopped off and then a few minutes later it would pour down with rain. He was great at spotting animals, I saw lots of monkeys and deer which I never would have spotted without him. He was informative and told me lots of stories about the mountains and Nepalese life. He also gave me safety tips such as the bad things to eat that could get you sick etc. And as a solo trekker, even though I did meet quite a few people on the way, he was good company. I will miss our chats about Nepalese life over a tea and a Dal Baht. He was also very helpful – for example the zips on my shorts broke one day – no way I would have been able to fix them with my clumsy fingers but he got out his penknife and sorted it. Twice I nearly left something behind at a lodge – a t-shirt and my phone charger. He noticed both times. Little things like that were nice too.
I have definitely lost a few pounds too so it has been good from a fitness perspective and overall this rates as one of my best travel experiences – definitely up there in the top 3 anyway.
This truly did feel like an office escape!
Now – time to sleep for a week