197,108 steps (and 41 cups of tea…) is what it took us to venture around the Annapurna region of Nepal across 9 days. Beginning in Nayapul (1070m) and journeying up to the breath-taking Poon Hill (3210m), before ‘summiting’ at Annapurna Base Camp (4130m). The trail led us through an abundance of captivating scenery; walking through thick jungle, alongside rivers, down charming stone pathways which wound through small communities and up sets, upon sets, upon sets of stairs.
Trekking is certainly not everyone’s idea of a holiday but for those willing to give it shot, trekking is a great mix of site seeing, physical activity and even relaxation. It’s not relaxing in the way that you’d usually envision (perhaps sitting by the pool, tropical drink in hand, without a care in the world). However, it’s relaxing in the way that you’re immersed in nature, different glorious views around every corner. It was relaxing in the way that it allowed me think, reflect and find a certain calmness I had not felt for a while. Conversely, in the midst of some hours of walking, you’ll find yourself engrossed in the feeling of walking with a quiet mind.
The trails in Nepal are used for a large proportion of the year, given the weather is not in the extremes (monsoons or snow). We set off in late September and crossed paths with a larger volume of trekkers heading into the peak season, early – mid October. You’re guaranteed to come across dozens of interesting fellow hikers. For us this included: a wonderful Polish couple who became our beloved friends (and my savour when struck with traveller’s tummy), a group of four Kiwi’s aged 69 – 80, who’s contagious optimism and relentless humour was a point of great inspiration, and a pair of Alaskan’s who shared rice wine and Scrabble. While not everyone you come across is eager to have a chat, you’re likely to repeatedly cross paths with a few friendly groups. We trekked with a guide and porter, however many people go unaided. A number of men and women even travel solo around parts of the Annapurna region.
The most popular mode of accommodation while trekking are Tea Houses. Let me tell you, after a day on route it becomes clear why they’re called Tea Houses. Be prepared to consume more tea than you’ve had your entire lifetime. 5 cups a day from the crack of dawn to sunset is not uncommon. The food is modest and fairly delicious (…given you order wisely). Nepali local dishes are always a great choice, where as foreign foods like spaghetti can be a gamble. Dal Bhat (lentil soup, vegetable curry, rice and assorted side dishes) is an absolute must and you’re guaranteed a generous second helping (usually only 500 NRP, approximately $5 AUD). Apple pie and hot custard is an unexpected but pleasantly comforting end to the day, available at almost every guest house on route.
Communal showers and toilets (of both the Asian and European variety) are plentiful and you can find small, clean rooms for a good price at every stop. You’ll find a power point to charge your phone just about anywhere (although be prepared to pay a small fee to do so in some more remote locations) but good luck finding decent reception or Wi-Fi.
While some days of trekking may be leisurely, expect a number of challenging days, especially as you ascend. Your limits will be tested while the sun beats down, especially for those of us with milky white skin, and you sweat more than you once thought humanly possible. Your patience and perseverance will be pushed when faced with another uphill climb (see Day 1: 266 floors, 150 of which were probably done consecutively, seemingly straight up). Although, I assure you, the satisfaction of a brilliant view and the things you will encounter on your journey far out way any temporary discomfort.
It’s hard to limit myself to write to a neat word count as there’s so much to experience in Nepal, especially while trekking. In my mind, trekking is an absolute must if you find yourself travelling to this area. Itineraries are extremely flexible, which means there’s something for just about anyone. On foot you can experience a completely different side of the country, inaccessible by any other mode of transport. Trekking is a refreshing getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and the city of Kathmandu, which is very much like that of Cambodia, Vietnam and other South East Asian countries. If you’re thinking about partaking on some trekking be prepared to pack light and wash often, hit (or be hit by) the wall occasionally and be captivated by this beautiful country.