How can I begin to describe my experiences in the completely captivating country of Nepal? I experienced everything touristy- walked the streets of Kathmandu, and travelled to some of the national parks and most popular cities. I took boat rides on lakes, tasted dal bhat, and met the friendliest beings I’ve encountered in my life. But the trek to the Annapurna Base Camp was the most exciting and difficult part of my adventure in Nepal.
On the first day I was feeling determined, motivated and fascinated. I come from the Prairies in Canada, where the land is flat. There are no mountains and hills for trekking are non-existent. Having said all that, I was wondering if I could make it to the Annapurna Base Camp. The tenth highest mountain in the world has one of the hardest routes; it’s where people often break their legs or suffer from altitude sickness.
I knew the experience was going to be worth it, I had rushed feelings of thrill and doubt at the same time. But that’s just background stuff. We met our porters in Phedi, the starting point of our trek. We had hired two porters, Ganesh and Tanka, the most genuine, hard working, interesting father- son duo I’ve had the chance to meet. To be honest, until half an hour before we began, I was feeling sick.
Ganesh and Tanka carried two full backpacks plus their small bag. It didn’t feel right. I felt like what we were doing was inhumane and on the other hand I had heard they would get paid well and would be able to support their families for months by working for two weeks on the field.
So, we decided we would get another porter, but they would not come until later. The trek began with the famous ‘1 billion stairs’. Ok, I’m exaggerating! But there were a lot of stairs. We literally walked for three to four hours at a stretch. Somewhere on the route, I even stopped counting.
Luckily, Ganesh was there to keep us motivated. His love for chitchat was helping me pass the time. He was someone who didn’t believe in love; he believed in god. He was someone who didn’t support women’s programmes but spoke highly about women being strong and able to do anything they set out to do. He was so contradictory at times, but it was good because he presented different ideas. Ahhh, enlightenment!
So finally, after eight hours of hiking… or rather, climbing stairs was over we arrived in Tolka, a small village on the lap of the mountains where we could see from our room’s window clouds pass through the mountains and then. There was no warm water, oh, and huge jumping spiders. Nonetheless, I was enjoying myself. Physically, my body was sorer than I could have imagined. But I had accomplished a full day of hiking and sweating. My mind was strong, and I began to really experiencing life in the mountains.
In the evening, I wrote my journal, reflecting upon the journey of the day. I had observed so many grand trees full of lush, green moss. Waterfalls that ran rapidly for miles far beyond what I could see. I had jumped over wobbly rocks, crossed bridges that sway as you cautiously make your way to the other side. But it was beautiful.
Wondering how many times could I have died on the way, I fell into a deep, well-needed sleep.
6:30 am: We woke up, ate some chapatti bread with honey.
7:30 am: We started our trek. We make it up to the next hill in five hours. I ate a big plate of veg fried noodles. Since we were close to some hot springs, all of us decided that it would be worth going there. Down we went to the Jhino hot spring. The closer we got, I began to see huge waterfalls, surrounded by woods and two hot spring pools. We took a dip. The hot spring was the epitome of relaxation, or laziness, whatever you want to call it.
I was in a complete euphoric state. Soon the hot spring time came to an end, but I was refreshed and motivated to finish the trek. We were only two hours away from Chhomrong. Tip to anyone going this direction: go to the Fishtail Hostel, they have friendly owners, good food, Wi-Fi, hot shower, a great view and charge only Rs 200 a room. You really can’t go wrong.
I wished I had kept track of different plants I had observed. If you say there are a lot of people in the world, imagine how many plants there are in the world! Everything I saw was vibrant, everything I could breathe was rich with oxygen, everything I smelt was fresh and everything I touched was soft.
My mind was so stimulated that I was discovering my surroundings, challenging my mind and body. I was feeling accomplished already. I couldn’t believe that my body mass was pushing to complete full days of trekking. Maybe it was the rain that was making me feel refreshed as the drops gently hit my skin and face.
We arrived in Dovan, tired, of course. We relaxed until supper and afterwards played cards. As I lay in bed I was reflecting on the changes in my mind. I wasn’t concerned with materialistic things. I was enjoying the simplicity, yet complexity, of the beautiful mountains and everything it had to offer. I was so lost in the scenery and the nature that it calmed my mind and soul.
It was only day 4.
Again, my mind was cleared by the purity of earth, water, light and air. It felt like meditation. Enjoying what was in the moment and forgetting life behind me. Can you say carpe diem? I was adjusting to this mentality and enjoying the therapeutic benefits it was providing me with.
My soul was becoming satisfied with every step I was taking. Every movement had to be balanced and contemplated or the consequence would be me falling into a waterfall, or off the edge of a cliff. Did I mention we went on the trek during the monsoon season and everything is slippery when wet? The possibilities of death or injury were endless.
I saw these obstacles as challenges, I was ready to conquer them. Yes, I had my doubts, but I also had my curiosity. Can I do this? Well I’m sure as hell going to try! I was proud of the strength I pulled out of somewhere. At the end of the day I realised we had reached the Machhapuchhre Base Camp(MBC).
We got a good view of the top of Machhapuchhre and Annapurna south. I felt so small next to the mountains. I made it this far! No sickness, no injuries, all positive feelings and experiences.
The day’s wakening up was a bit of a disaster. None of us was feeling a 100%. Some of us had a headache, others had nausea and none of us slept well. To top it off, during an attempt at drying some clothes by a water heater, the water in on heater had spilled. Leaving Leonie’s and Lisa’s shoes soaked.
I forgot to mention… there was SNOW where we were staying. The combination was not good. But we managed. We packed up, ate, hydrated ourselves and each took a pill. Diamoxin prevents altitude sickness.
Everyone was slightly worried. Again, this thought of ‘is this going to end badly?’ hit my brain over and over. We all knew we had to try though, it was our goal after all. Everyone told us to listen to our bodies when we are up in the mountain. Today was the day we were going to make it to Annapurna Base Camp whether we liked it or not.
The view was a good distraction; waterfalls flowed under the snow. The top of the mountains were so close it felt like I just could just reach out my hand to touch them. The air was thin, but fresh with rain. And then I could see it “Welcome to Annapurna base came (4130)”.
Little ol’ Emily’s made it to the ABC! And I was so proud. We had zero visibility due to the clouds and fog, some may say a misfortune. We had victory BBQ chips, ginger tea (I ordered black tea but whatever) and posted photos when we reached the lodge at the base camp.
After a short visit, we headed back down to the MBC . We weren’t in the greatest of conditions and we wanted to get down as soon as possible. I think after accomplishing our goal, we lost the motivation to continue the trek.
Wake up. Head down, down, down. Back to Chhomrong (remember the place I recommended? Don’t forget). We were heading down, but don’t let that fool you, we had to walk many stairs. I thought my legs would give up.
I honestly did.
I wanted to finish the trek today. My body was telling me I couldn’t. Of course, I pushed, and I made it. The motivation now was the Italian restaurant in Pokhara, pizza, pasta, beer, and a nice hotel. I was getting irritated with being surrounded by others all the time, I needed a day of alone time.
In the evening, we decided to split the group as some of us wanted to do a longer hike and some of us a shorter. As I mentioned earlier, it was supposed to be a 10-day hike but we agreed we would stop at seven.
It was just a matter of the last day trek being longer or shorter. I chose the shorter option as I knew I couldn’t find the determination to do a full day of trekking again. The discussion ended the night as there was a bit of tension, although nothing serious. I was off to bed with the thought of Pokhara.
The last day. Italian restaurant. Warm shower. Warm weather. Yesssss.
Although the day did not end without hardships. It was one of the hottest days since we landed in Nepal. What was only a four-hour trek felt like an eight-hour trip. I think we were on the brink of getting heat stroke.
I could hardly wait to be done. We took a short break and when Lisa and I headed down the path we wondered if we were going the right way. Lisa headed a bit backwards to see if he’s around. About seven minutes went by and I started to worry.
I don’t see Lisa or Tanka and I began to panic. I’m thinking ‘I’m in a Nepali mountain village, I have no way to contact someone, not even sure if this is the right path back’.
Ok, finally, I saw Lisa, no Tanka. We decided to head forward and hope we would find him. We did find him later and then we haphazardly rushed to the bus station. Done.
So, what can I say about the Annapurna Base Camp trek?
It was demanding but peaceful. I encountered challenges and accomplishments. I cleared my mind from city life. I became stronger mentally, physically and spiritually.
I would recommend this trek to everyone as it really allows you to appreciate the scenery, feel empowered and face a positive reality. I won’t say it was not hard, it was probably the hardest expedition I will ever go on. But the gratification and liberty I felt afterwards was worth every second!
The author is a Canadian student, discovering Nepal and writing about it.