One of our main travel goals from way back in the very beginning of travel daydreaming was to climb to Everest Base Camp. Well, actually that was Sean’s dream. I initially thought he was bonkers, cause obviously Everest Base Camp involves training and like… preparation and thousands of dollars, right?
Not so much. It turns out that Everest Base Camp is highly accessible. So highly accessible actually that thousands of tourists do it every year. However, this year Sean and I weren’t two of those tourists. We set our sights on a different trek. One that was said to be slightly less traveled but possibly the most picturesque trek in Nepal. We headed to the Annapurna Region to do the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek. Also known as the ABC (Annapurna Base Camp). Originally set out as a 10 day trek, we allotted 12 days to allow ourselves a couple rest days when we found a picturesque spot. Little did we know that once you get up there, into the trek… it rarely takes 10 days. We completed the whole thing in 8 days, and we never really felt as though we were rushing, or pushing ourselves too hard.
It was an incredible trek though. You actually hit two major base camps on the Sanctuary – MBC (Macchapucchre Base Camp) as well as the ABC.
Pokhara acts as a gateway to the Annapurnas. Normally, you can see the entire Annapurna range from the main drag in Pokhara, however for Sean and I this was not so. Even though we were technically outside of the rainy season we awoke to a cloudy sky for 3 days in Pokhara prior to our trek. Meaning that we never even laid eyes on the mountain range until we were on it.
For the days leading up up our trek we took some rest days in Pokhara where we met up with a good friend of mine, Jude, and her boyfriend Imi! It was so lovely to see some familiar faces and they helped immensely with recommendations!
To ‘train’ for our trek, we first took a day trip to the Peace Pagoda in Pokhara, it was about an hour hike up a hill to the Stupa and a beautiful view, which probably would have been twice as beautiful had the mountains not been hiding.
So much UP! Followed by a heartbreaking amount of DOWN. It’s really disheartening to climbing A HUGE hill only to reach the top and realize you now must descend into a HUGE valley. This happens many times on the trek, and it ain’t no picnic.
But back to the beginning. Not 5 minutes into the trek we encountered our first road block. Quite literally. A group of about 6 young children were holding hands and standing across the trail blocking our way. In front of them was a small display of flowers and they were all singing in unison. How nice, we thought.
But not really. It wasn’t nice. As soon as we got close enough the children began to ask for money, or sweets, or anything, really. When you leave on a trek and apply for your permits you are told explicitly not to give any food or money to children begging. It only encourages them and to be honest, candy is not what they need. So we politely declined – but then things got real.
These children started screaming – like proper screaming as if we were beating them.
MONEY! give me MONEY!
GIVE ME SWEETS
GIVE ME ONE! while grabbing at the back of my pack – picking at anything that looked even remotely like candy wrappers. It was confronting, to say the least.
We would say Namaste and Goodbye, to which they would respond
The only way to get through the blockade was to physically take their hands and pry them apart. It was rough.
After the first group, we encountered about 6 more on the first day alone. It wasn’t exactly pleasant, but I have to say the children got less pushy the farther along we went. Not all of them screamed bloody murder at us… and most of them ran away if they saw any adults or older kids coming. They were clearly targeting us, the stupid tourists. haha
Mostly, I think it is just a game for them. And fair enough, but I’m still not going to encourage it. Eventually Sean figured out that if we just found the smallest child you could pick them up under the arms and physically move them. They would collapse into giggle and all run away or let go of each others hands and let us by.
We later found out that this whole begging on the trail thing is common practice but ONLY during the Diwali Festival, which was coming up in about 5 days. They were obviously starting early since tourists would not know any better.
Sometimes the groups were much larger though, it would range for 2 or 3 kids to up to about 15. Ahhh!
Throughout the trek we stayed at tea house lodges. You rarely walk for an hour and a half without running into a small village of some sort with accommodation and food. Each night, we would pick a village and find a room. If you promise to eat all your meals at the teahouse you stay at, the rooms are about Rs300. Which is roughly 3 dollars.
On our first night, however, a lovely little lady convinced us to stay with her. If we promised to order dinner and breakfast, she would give us our double room for just Rs100. WHAT?! A dollar? Done. This was probably one of the best teahouses we stayed at solely because this little old woman was so nice to us.
On the second night we stayed at a really lovely spot called Chhomrong. We picked a lodge called the Excellent View and hunkered down for the night. The next day we woke up and got our first real view of the mountains. It sure was an excellent view, and to make things even BETTER, it was also my 26th birthday. Whadda place to wake up. 🙂
The rest of the trek up to the base camps was similar. Trek for 5-6 hours, stop, eat your weight in Dal Baht, sleep, repeat. We reached the MBC on the 4th day just before it started to bucket down snow. On the fifth day we were up early and taking the 1.5 hr walk to the ABC.
We planned that the next we would stray from the trail a bit to end up back at a hot spring that we encountered on the way up – also we’d go back through Chhomrong where we were knew there was a lodge promising pizza and chocolate cake for lunch. On top of that, there were also many German bakeries where we could buy DELICIOUS pastries the size of my head.
If there is one thing I can say with certainty about this trek it’s that there was no lack of delicious desserts. Sean and I enjoyed one EVERY NIGHT. Because when you trek for 6 hours, apple pie is totally justifiable seven days a week. And also rice pudding. And also deep fried mars bars. And also – sometimes for breakfast. Don’t judge us.
After the RIDICULOUS climb of approximately 6, 750, 654 stairs up to Chhomrong, we ate our weight in Pizza and chocolate cake and then took the 1 hour descent to Jinu, where we stopped for the night and enjoy the hot springs and beautiful view. The hot springs were nice. They weren’t as hot as The Blue Lagoon, though, and I was mildly aware that I was bathing with about 40 other people in only luke warm water… but once I got over THAT, it was ok.
Unfortunately, this was the only lodge that I found to be a pretty big let down. While beautiful and overflowing with adorable Nepalese children… this lodge was infested with fleas and tiny baby cockroach type things. I almost took a picture, but I thought better of it. You will have to take my word for it. I slept with a headband wrapped around my ears since I have this irrational fear of bugs crawling into my ears and laying eggs in my brain. Totes normal.
We didn’t know it at the time, but this night in Jinu would actually be our last on the trek. The next day we were able to make it all the way to Nayapul, our finishing point, and catch a cab back to Pokhara by 4pm! We stopped only once to enjoy our massive pastries with some tea.
Now do you recall the children who would line up across the trail and block our way asking for money? Well on this day, the last day of the Diwali festival, they took to doing the same thing – only this time they would line up across the street and stop cars. Seriously, I have never seen anything like it. Hoards of children, linking arms across a street with cars, motorcycles and buses trying to get through. Our taxi driver was one of the only defensive drivers we had in Nepal… and he would usually make it through the hoards of children without giving up any money. On the few occasions that he did shell out some cash, the kids would immediately scatter.
Safely back in Pokhara we secured some accommodation for the night
The trekking was amazing… it was definitely challenging but after a couple days you get into a very easy flow. Wake up, walk, eat, sleep. There aren’t any questions about it. You just do it. And it’s Beautiful.