Prior to leaving the U.S., Phi and I received a ton of great advice from friends that have also done extensive traveling. One particular relevant example came from a co-worker of mine who had been fortunate enough to travel the globe.
Me: In all of your travels, what are the top 5 things you’ve done?
My friend: Nepal. Simple as that.
Nepal was already #1 on my list of things to see in Asia, because I so badly wanted to see the Himalayas and to experience hiking in them. His response just further solidified my desire to visit Nepal. With that said, we had to find a trek that was at a reasonable altitude since Phi has had altitude problems in the past. We decided trekking to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) was perfect for us. It enabled us to see some of the tallest mountains in the world, but really only reached ~14,000 feet. The trek did have us sleeping at base camp, but the acclimatization schedule was really strong and we had altitude pills if needed.
Where did we trek? The Annapurna Massif is in North-Central Nepal and includes 1 peak, Annapurna I, over 8,000 meters (1 of 14 in the world), and 13 peaks over 7,000 meters. Annapurna I is also the most dangerous 8,000 meter peak in the world. There have been around 200 successful ascents and around 60 deaths on the mountain.
Getting to the trail: A bumpy start
So, we flew from Hong Kong to Kathmandu arriving around midnight. We took a day in Kathmandu to meet our guide, get our jackets/sleeping bags and get organized. The next day, we had a 9 hour incredibly bumpy and slow bus ride form Kathmandu to Pokhara, which is close to the trekking start point. However, we saw some incredible scenery on the bus ride and did get to see much of the Nepalese countryside.
After taking a 45 minute taxi to the trail head, we embarked on our trek. It’s worth noting that we had a guide and a porter as well. For anyone that is considering trekking in Nepal, please reach out to me and I should be able to give some good advice.
The ABC trek
The trek into base camp was magnificent. We generally trekked somewhere around 10 -14 miles per day and got stunning views of the Himalayas. At times, we were in forest but got to see monkeys and other wildlife. Some of the hiking was pretty challenging as it was almost all either up or down; however, it wasn’t the most difficult terrain. We quickly realized that up and downs were going to be common: even on days we were going to higher elevation, we found ourselves hiking downhill a bit as well!
Temperature wise, it was pretty hot during the day and much colder at night. Each night, as we got higher, it was noticeably colder. One of our favorite parts of the trek were staying in teahouse in small Nepalese villages. We got to get a glimpse into Nepalese culture and life plus meet many other trekkers (mostly from Europe and Canada) that hiked at a similar pace to us. We stayed multiple nights with some of our new friends, which was great for sharing travel stories. It’s amazing to learn how many others are traveling for extended periods as well.
The only blip climbing to ABC was that I got what we believe to be food poisoning the 2nd night. I was super sick and basically incapacitated for about 14 hours. Our guide was planning to take a rest day, but thankfully I felt much better in the morning and we continued as originally planned.
A most humbling experience at Annapurna Base Camp
All told, we arrived to base camp 1 full day ahead of schedule. Nothing could prepare Phi and I for how majestic and enormous the Himalayas were. Nothing could prepare us for how cold it was either!! We spent one of the best afternoon/evenings of our lives exploring base camp, taking pictures, reading memorials and taking in the sheer beauty. Some of the highlights included taking in a crystal clear sunset together.
We were also lucky to be at ABC the night of the super moon. The snow-covered mountains were lit up by the moon. The whole experience at ABC brought tears to our eyes multiple times. We both commented that it was the prettiest place we’ve ever been.
In the middle of the night (around 1 AM), Phi developed a pretty bad headache. She started to feel worse as the night went on and had no appetite. We woke up our guide around 6 AM and started heading down the mountain by 7 AM. Amazingly, as we descended, Phi slowly started feeling better. It was a pretty scary experience, but we ended up hiking from ~14,000 feet to 7,000 feet that day. What a difference!
The hike out was a little less exciting. The highlights were continuing to hike with some of our new friends and spending an afternoon in a hot spring. It was great to relax and get clean!!
Arriving back in Pokhara, the total trek was 8 days and 7 nights (1 full day ahead of schedule). The nice thing was we got to have an extra day to relax in Kathmandu, but we have quickly realized when in Nepal, it’s much better to be in the mountains than in the cities.
Those were some of the most magical 8 days we had spent together. Our days of hiking in beautiful scenery (from views of mountains to roaring rivers to passing through bamboo forests and crossing wooden bridges) were bookended with early morning hopefulness for a strong day of hiking and early evening bedtime reflections of our day in the wild together. It’s hard to find the words to properly describe this journey and it’s even harder to describe the beauty that was Annapurna Base Camp.
So maybe this is a good time to let pictures help tell the story.