The Himalayas. A word that sounded so distant and majestic, only heard of in stories of the Far East. I always thought that trekking the Himalayas was a challenge very few daring people took on. That was my sheltered naivety of course. But moving to Asia brought such destinations closer and they became more possible to get to. So, when we researched the Himalayan mountain range, we discovered it wasn’t that impossible to go on a trek. We opted for the Annapurna mountain course due to our time frame and it being our first trekking experience. Thought not as well-known as the famed Mt. Everest, Annapurna is not much smaller in height. While Everest peaks at 8,848 metres, Annapurna reaches 8,091 metres. A common course is to trek to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) at 4,130 metres in 10 days. We could only devote 7 days to the Himalayas, so we chose the route to Poon Hill (3,210 metres).
Arriving in Pokhara
To start your journey, you must go to Pokhara, a small picturesque town at the base of the mountains. We arrived in Pokhara via bus—a cliff-hugging, shaky trip from Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. We found comfortable lodging at Snow Hill Lodge in Pokhara, where we stayed for two days to get prepared. Most accommodations will hold your luggage while you trek, which is helpful. We spent our time getting trekking permits and enjoyed canoeing on the lake, as well as having delicious meals of chai and parantha (hot, crispy, fried “bread”). Then we were ready to go.
Our trip began with an hour taxi ride on the winding mountainous roads (arranged for by Snow Hill Lodge). Our driver dropped us off at what seemed to be a random roadside shop. To the right of the shop was a path we were told to follow. We did, and it lead us to a permit office after which we could officially begin our trek. And off we went!
The adventure begins…
The first day of our trek proved to the most difficult as our legs were not used to it. We trekked for five hours along dirt roads that still had a few vehicles passing by. After a while, the roads were replaced by stone paths and the vehicles by the jingle of transport mules. The latter became a habitual sound over the next few days. We stopped for the day in a small town overlooking rolling green hills. The accommodation was basic, but comfortable. We got an early night’s rest and woke up fresh for day two.
Cold nights and hot days
The scenery changed constantly as we got higher into the mountains—from wide open roads, to winding stone steps, to lush green forests. We each carried a backpack with rain covers to protect our belongings. During the day, it would occasionally rain, but was mostly very warm and sunny. The mornings and evenings were crisp and we would shed layers as the day grew on. The nights were another thing. The temperature would drop considerably. The accommodations had stone-walled rooms. Thick, warm blankets were thankfully always provided (we had heard otherwise). However, as someone who is very sensitive to the cold, some nights even all the clothing and blankets weren’t enough! The sunny warmth of the day was quickly forgotten as I shivered to sleep. It was as though the mountain was reminding us of its regal power. And power is just what we felt when we first caught a glimpse of the snowy white peaks. We had to stop in our tracks and truly take in the complete majesty of them.
Meals on the mountain
One thing I failed to mention so far is what we ate. On the mountains, you will find one staple meal—dhal bhat. Made up of lentils, cooked vegetables, rice, and a dried-lentil cracker, this hearty meal offered the necessary nourishment for our long days. The best part—free refills! Dhal bhat is completely vegetarian. As meat is hard to come by up in the mountains, you will pay about double the price if you want it. Eating dhal bhat for lunch and dinner every day meant there were times when we wanted a change. However, the “pizzas” and “pastas” on the menus were certainly not what the people of the Himalayas took pride in. It was definitely the fresh, home-cooked taste of dhal bhat that we remember.
For breakfast, we ate dried oats that we had brought with us and drank tea (although the only form of milk up there was powdered). We also had other snacks such as nuts and dried fruits to keep us going. Another important thing to bring are Aquatabs to purify your water. This allowed us to fill up our bottles anywhere and not risk the possibility of getting sick from the water. We easily found these tablets in Pokhara. In the evenings, over a game of cards, it was comforting (and warming) to have a drink of local Khukuri rum. We even created our own drink of rum, hot water, honey, and fresh mint called the “Hot Himalayan”. In contrast, during the day we found that a drink of “Cold Lemon” (lemonade with ice and sugar) was perfectly refreshing.
Hot meal of dhal bhat
Our amazing adventure on Annapurna continues in Part Two…