Without prior exercise or experience and half of us scared of heights, we walked up the thousands of stairs that lead up to the heart of the Annapurnas. The trek requires stamina, that’s for sure, but here are five reasons why it is worth to endure.
Please be aware that trekking in the Himalayas is a potentially dangerous activity. Access to medical treatment and mountain rescue is poor. Risks include injuries caused by tripping but also sudden weather changes. Several hikers died in a unexpected snow storm in October 2014. Nepal is also in an area with a seismic activity. A devastating earthquake shook the country in April 2015. As of this date (April 27, 2015) it is not save to walk the trek. Please check the conditions before you go, and please do not walk alone.
Rice paddies, waterfalls, mountain views – the landscape is varied and beautiful. That’s why we walk the trek after all. Machhapuchhare aka Fishtail mountain easily becomes my favorite mountain.
After a short night in the base camp, we get up early to see the sunrise and as if by magic, there is not a single cloud. We watch the contours of the Annapurna range starting to glow in a blueish light. Slowly they turn a golden yellow in the morning sun. It is more captivating than any movie.
Your fellow travelers
It is easy to bond with others on the trek – we have so many things in common: Everyone hates leeches. These bloodthirsty little worms sit on the trail, waiting for the chance to make a fast leap forward when the next traveler passes by. Everyone loves traveling. We meet a Canadian in his fourth year of traveling. Our ten weeks trip is really short compared to that! No one is fond of stairs, we are all disappointed when the trek takes us down to the river before we have to climb up to the next village. We end up walking most of the way with a couple from Spain, practicing our Spanish on the trek.
The first friend we make on the trek however is a dog. We meet him during a lunch break in Pothana. He doesn’t mind that we are soaked in sweat after climbing so many slippery and uneven stairs and when we get back on the trek, so does he. He follows us for the rest of the day and half of the next.
The feeling of achievement
If you can afford it, you can take a helicopter flight right to the Annapurna Base Camp, take your pictures and be done with the whole thing in a day. But those people miss the best part. The feeling of achievement when we arrive after several days of walking is enormous, and it is all the greater for having carried our backpacks without the help of a porter.
How we had planned to celebrate Mr. Colors’ birthday but hardly managed to stay awake until 8pm. How we heard the first rumors from the base camp – about a Belgian guy who was offered Viagra as a medicine against altitude sickness by a fellow traveler from China. How an American girl raved about Rotkohl on the evening we spent in the common room of our lodge at the base camp. How a Korean dentist wouldn’t stop stressing how extremely handsome the American girl’s guide was, and how he did not forget to mention that his guide was not as good-looking. How an American missionary showed no compassion towards his altitude sickness suffering friend. How we were warned against the cold nights in the base camp and put on so much clothes (me: skiing underwear, socks, a merino pullover, a hat, scarf and gloves, got into my sleeping bag and crawled under a blanket) that we all felt too warm to sleep.The treats you deserve after the trek
The most convenient base for the trek is Pokhara, a town that seems to have been built for backpackers. With the mountains views and future adventures in mind, Pokhara is pleasant but not very inspiring before we leave. But when we return nine days later, nothing is more desirable than a tomato soup and a lazy afternoon at the lakeside. We treat ourselves to a massage at Jiva’s spa and we repeat the stories from the previous days whenever we meet fellow survivors.
Time of visit: September 2013