The several hour bus ride from Pokhara to our trek’s starting point was a bumpy one to say the least, but we all made the most of it, playing games, talking, listening to music, napping. Everyone was eager to begin the trek after being stuck sitting on the bus.
The trek did not disappoint. As our Nepalese guide Gokul would sing, “Sometimes uphill, sometimes downhill.” That quickly became the theme song of the trek.
The view while trekking was absolutely stunning, as you’ll see in the photos; that made the grueling parts of the trek much easier to bear, as well as listening to music or podcasts. Plus the porters carrying tons of food and miscellaneous items on their backs with nothing but flip flops on their feet certainly gave us some perspective.
The first day was only a half day of hiking, and then we stopped at the first lodge (of many) that we would be staying in. We were all grateful to reach our destination and change out of our sweaty clothes, put our feet up, and many of us immediately reached for our notebooks to write about the experience of trekking in such an awe-inspiring place.
All of our days consisted of us waking up around 6:30 AM, packing, eating breakfast at 7:15, and then hitting the trails by 8:30. Generally lunch would fall around noon, where we’d stop at one of the lodge restaurants or tea houses. Dal bhat, a traditional Nepalese meal made with rice, cooked lentil soup, and usually some vegetables, was a staple dish for many, especially because it is all-you-can-eat, and after all that trekking, we could eat a lot. Gokul introduced us to the phrase: “Dal bhat power, 24 hours,” which was often chanted by group members. Hot chocolate and black coffee were also staples of ours, especially when it got very cold, as it often did.
After lunch we’d trek some more, until we reached our home for the night. Some of us braved the cold showers, while some of us gave up on the idea of ever feeling clean again.
Our nights were often filled with card games, laughter, storytelling, writing, reading, and most of all, trying to stay warm. Thank goodness for those rented down jackets! Some notable card games we played were Oh Hell, Mafia, and Egyptian Ratscrew.
One night we had local traditional Nepalese dancers perform for us at our lodge. They sang and danced and pulled many of us into their performance.
Our guides, Gokul and Chandra, made the trek into an even better experience than we could have hoped for, constantly regaling everyone with incredible stories of past treks, or just making us laugh when we thought we couldn’t walk another minute or climb one more haphazardly placed stone stair. There is never a dull moment with Gokul, and his ceaseless support and jokes were a never ending source of joy for all of us. Chandra’s patience and incredible stories inspired all of us to keep at it and push our limits. We truly could not have done all that we did without them.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how incredible this team has proven to be, whether it be the sheer number of stairs everyone managed to climb, or the several sick people that performed so incredibly despite wanting nothing more than to sleep their colds away. I was constantly in awe of this team’s continued vigor for our trek. I barely heard any complaints throughout this, but what I did notice was everyone’s seemingly unending motivation to make sure we all had the best time possible.
Our guide Gokul came around knocking on all of our doors at 4 am shouting that it was time to leave for Annapurna Base Camp. Although it was too early to fully function, you could feel the excitement of the group’s energy as we set off up the mountain.
Our headlamps lit up the immediate path and everyone was startled when hundreds of goats came into focus along the path.
As we reached the top, my eyes started watering at the tremendousness of the surrounding mountains. It was a feeling I had never felt before.
Our time at the base camp passed quickly and everyone was sad to see it go when it was time to trudge down the mountain.
We spent the rest of the day playing card games and resting from the altitude back down at Machhapuchhre Base Camp. Many people fell victim to “the Annapurna cough” and an afternoon of rest was well appreciated. Although the panoramic views of the mountains were incredible, many people were ready to begin the descent into warmer weather.
Our first day of downhill began with the group passing back down through glacial canyons filled with waterfalls and sheer cliffs of green. We flew down the path passing the hostel we had stayed at on the way up in less than an hour. The downhill proved to be much faster but many experienced pain from the impact of the stairs. We covered 12 miles in one day and everyone was happy to see the tea houses’ menus having cheaper prices since we were farther down the mountain. The next morning, after stretching, we set off on a day that would include many more “ascendings and descendings” according to our guides. The stairs ended up being less difficult than we had initially imagined as most of us had convinced our bodies that it was natural to hike up and down over 3,000 stairs. As we hiked the scenery changed from cold tundra to dense jungle and the beauty of everything around us kept our negative subconscious at bay.
We spent our final night in Jhinu where many of us took advantage of the hot springs that were situated along a roaring river. While enjoying the warm water we were visited by a playful family who entertained us by leaping through the trees across the river. Knowing that it was our last night on the trek many went to bed feeling somewhat melancholy.
The final morning we hiked down what appeared to be the most technical part of the entire hike resulting in a sprained ankle and many hurt knees. By the time we arrived at our bus, the sadness of leaving the trek escaped our minds and the group was ready to head back to civilization.