It is strictly forbidden to visit Nepal and not do a trek.
Seriously, it would be a crime not to do so. Because you have no idea how magic the Himalayas are, and you almost certainly will cry of happiness.
If you think you are too cool to cry, the fact that this trek is a physical challenge can lift up your ego instead (and then you can secretly cry when nobody is watching).
Without any preparation, consideration, information, and more “-tions” that I can not think of right now, I left for a trek into the Himalayas. Because when I arrived in Nepal, that was the thing to do apparently.
It all started with a kitchen owl coming back from his Everest trek and a curious Marie.
I fired off tons of questions and ended up having a long conversation surrounded by maps and photos. I was officially sold.
But not for the “real thing”. Everest was a bit over my head, so I thought going for the Annapurna Circuit instead.
Side note: Later it turned out there is not much of a difference in terms of degree of difficulty. The Everest Basecamp Trek is just more popular for obvious reasons.
If the reason is not obvious to you: newsflash: Everest is the highest mountain in the world.
On this trek you’ll only get to see the big boy on arrival, and that’s it.
I found myself a partner on trekkingpartners.com, and two days later we left off.
Since I had never done a hike in my life, getting a partner seemed like the way to go. However, once we started walking, it soon became clear to me that this was not necessary at all.
The trail is so well-indicated and there are so many people that it is almost impossible to get lost.
Ok, I did get lost once, so scroll down for more information about that.
Since I am a loner, I did most of the trek alone, at my own pace, listening to my own thoughts.
Here are some things you should know for a low budget experience:
- Do not plan.
Just get to Besi Sahar and start walking.
- Don’t get a guide
Everyone will recommend you to get one, but really, it is not necessary at all. They are expensive and talk all the time. Agreed, you’ll learn more about the stuff you see and you don’t have to worry about reading a map. But where is the fun in that? For me, personally, it just takes away a big part of the experience. And I’ve crossed loads of people who highly regretted having a guide tagging along.
- Don’t get a porter
Carry your own shit. I mean, seriously. If you can climb up to 5400 meters you can at least carry your own underwear.
- Make sure your Visa is valid for at least another month (or two
The day before I left on the trek, I had extended my Visa for another three months. And I am very happy I did this. I‘ve seen too many people rushing because their Visas were running out. Most people only calculate two weeks for the whole trek, which is doable, but this does not include the flexibility of staying wherever you like or do interesting side treks. And i assure you; you will want to wish you had done this before walking into the wild.
- Fix your hiking permit.
- Get a map.
I had: "Around Annapurna: updated for avoiding the road".
- Make sure you have enough cash on you
There is a bank in Besi Sahar, though, there is a fee of 700 rupees to whit drawl money, and you can only take out 25.000 at a time.
Then, there is another one at Manang and Jomson, but again, the fee to take out money is super hight, plus, you can only take our 10.000 rupees at a time. So, it adds up pretty fast. I have spend about 500 euro for one month, and got in money troubles twice. Nothing is more annoying than having to worry about money while you have all this beauty around you. My budget could have been reduced by half. But once in a while I liked to splurge on a 800 rupees vegan burger. And I was simply not prepared for this one at all.
- Bring food
Everything gets more expensive by the meter you climb. You can end up paying 850 rupees for a Dal Bhat (normally 150 rupees). And trail mixes and dried fruits cost about 300 - 500 rupees per bag. If you want to go low budget, buy loads of nuts, peanut butter, dates, dried fruits, etc in bulk before you leave. Ok, its is heavy to carry all the way up. But cuts a big part of the costs. Or, you can simply not snack.. But I mean, hey, we’re all human right? For more information about the food during the trek, click here.
- Make sure you have your hiking gear assorted.
Try to avoid buying gear on the road.
- Go in low season
I went from the 22nd of April to the 22nd of Mai, and it was absolutely perfect. There was a cosy activity, but not a big crowd for sure. You’ll meet people, but you’ll also be alone a lot, which leaves the scenery all for yourself: no people spoiling your perfect nature shot 🙂 , and in the evenings you can share your stories and tips with others.
Also, in low season, the lodges will offer you free stay when you eat at their restaurant in return. This had its advantages and disadvantages.
What if you get lost?
Everyone I passed I would greet with
“Namasta, *name of the destination*?”..smile..”Danyebad”.
This gives you a friendly short means of contact with locals and the certainty you’re on the right way (even though you were already hundred per cent sure). As a solo, you better be safe than sorry.
Maybe I’m not the best reference, because I got lost big time. On one of my side treks, there were no people at all, and I had no idea if I was right or wrong. The blue-and-white indications were mostly washed away or not present at all.
I was surrounded by jungle and shouting for help. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life and I am super thankful for it. It has made me more confident about my abilities in moments of distress.
I always left very early in the morning to reach my goal by noon. In this way, if I would get lost, I would have at least 6 hours before it gets dark to find my way out. It gives you time to get lost.
Also, in pre-monsoon, it mostly started storming around noon, so better to avoid the extra drama.
What I’ve noticed is, that because I panicked, I put myself in deeper shit. In my case, I started running and climbing into the wild without thinking straight. At the moment I stood still, let it sink into my brain and looked around I quietly tried to retrace my steps and all of a sudden remembered every small detail. By simply getting my shit together, I found my way back and met three village women who showed me the way.
- Stay calm
- Absorb your surroundings while walking. Look around, enjoy and remember. I’ve been really surprised by how much small details I still remembered. This goes automatically in survival mode, I guess.
- Leave early, so you have the maximum amount of hours of daylight
Try to recall signs of civilisation. Did you see an electricity cable? A shed? A herd of yaks? If yes, try to get back to this place and wait for help.
- When in doubt, go up.
From up the mountain, you’ll have a good overview over the area and maybe you can spot a house of even a village.
- Read survival stories.
Watch some documentaries (NOT "Man Vs. Wild", he’s a moron)
I remember recalling a (Dutch) survival story about a woman who got lost in the wilderness for 5 days and was found back alive. Thanks to this story, I knew exactly what I needed to do in case I would have to stay in the jungle overnight.
This hike has been the best experience of my life. I got to learn to read a map, stretch my legs, clean my lungs, hang on the roof of the world, save myself in stress situations and got to know beautiful people on a mission.
The Himalayas are truly magic and absolutely stunning. You’ll see the landscape change from low to high, following the wave of rich vegetation to scarce snow topped mountains.
This is not only a journey to pass to 'the other side', but also a journey to yourself. The whole trail will teach you in the same way life does.
Thank you, Annapurna, thank you abundance and nothingness.