If you are arriving here from Part 1 you could be excitedly packing your backpack and getting ready for the trek of a lifetime. Don’t be deterred, but before you trek off blindly you might want to know a little more of what you’re in for. Here are the rest of the questions I should have asked:
#9) How did you do laundry?
Laundry, now that was the worst. The only way to do laundry is by hand and leave it to air-dry. As I mentioned before, the water is straight from the streams, so it is absolutely ice cold. I recommend washing only what’s absolutely needed (underwear and socks) and try to do a little at a time every day. The other clothes will get dusty and dirty within an hour of hiking, so washing it is almost pointless unless it’s starting to smell. Yeah, gross, right? Here’s a shot of me having the time of my life scrubbing a stack of clothes in Muktinath. (It took at least an hour for the feeling to return to my fingertips when I finished ringing out the ice-cold water).
#10) Are there showers?
Sure, there are showers, but the real question is “are there HOT showers?” I’ll say the only hot showers were the gas showers where you can see the gas heater burning. Don’t even bother with any other types unless you are that sadistic person that enjoys an icy shower or even splashing a bucket of lukewarm water on yourself. The gas showers are present in some guesthouses in the villages and usually cost a few bucks, but remember that just because the water is warm doesn’t mean the rest of the room will warm up.
#11) Are there bathrooms?
There were rooms with the word “toilet” on it that usually means a hole in the floor. I’ll just leave it at that. There were a few places that had western toilets but most didn’t work properly and usually required pouring a bucket of water into the bowl to flush. Gross, I hate talking about bathrooms.
#12) Where did you stay at night?
There are numerous guest houses throughout the circuit except at High Camp where there was only one place to stay, but it had plenty of rooms to accommodate hundreds of trekkers. Our favorite place was the New Yak Hotel in Braga, with excellent food, a warm stove in the dining area, and nice rooms.
#13) Did you do any side treks?
We only took one side trip which was to visit Ice Lake. The trail begins on the edge of Braga at 3,450 meters elevation and leads up to the lake at 4,600 meters. The trail was fairly steep and very exhausting. We set off about 7 or 7:30am in order to get to the top well before the afternoon winds picked up. This was without a doubt the most picturesque day of our experience. For the entire hike, we could look out over the valley surrounded by the enormous snowcapped peaks surrounding us. The Ice Lake itself is not much to see, but looking out to see the Chulu and Annapurna peaks really made it worth it. Not to mention, it’s an acclimatization hike as well to prepare for the upcoming climb over the Thorang-La Pass at 5,416 meters.
#14) Did the altitude affect you?
The altitude didn’t affect us that much on this trek, most likely because we had been in Tibet for a week prior to setting off. Altitude sickness is a very serious condition though, but can be easily managed with drinking lots of water, climbing slowly over the days of trekking and going to lower altitude if needed.
#15) What was your favorite part?
My favorite part of the entire trek was our side trip hike to Ice Lake. We packed only water and cameras to climb to the top for what I think are the best views of the Annapurna Region. Here are some of our best photos from the top.
Whitney’s favorite part was the variety of animals and wildlife we encountered along the way. We were guaranteed to stop for every single animal while she talked to them and took their picture. Maybe we’ve been in the city too long, or maybe it’s just she’s an animal lover. Either way, here’s a few pictures from her favorites.
#16) What was your least favorite part?
Ok, if I didn’t make it clear already…The cold nights absolutely made moments of this trek unbearable reaching as low as -15C near. I definitely should have read more about staying warm before I arrived. I imagined some sort of fireplace in a lodge with surrounding rooms or bunks. For the few places that did have a fire, it was located in the dining area away from the rooms so nothing was warming them. Then the rooms themselves were made of stone or concrete walls that are already cool to begin with. At times, I was wearing in all the layers I mentioned above while squeezed into my sleeping bag with a blanket on top.
#17) Did you feel safe?
Not counting the “adventure” path our guide took us on, there was only one time when I was a bit concerned for our safety during this trek. Not long after we left the village of Ledar we came to an area with an official warning posted to “watch for falling rocks.” In this area it appears that rock slides have taken out portions of the trail on a number of occasions. Then as we looked up we could see some grey deer walking high on the hill of which are known to inadvertently kick rocks that tumble down toward the trekkers below. Luckily we did not see any rocks fall nor hear of anyone being injured during our time on the circuit. By the way, the various suspension bridges felt new and sturdy, so I had zero hesitation crossing them.
#18) Do you meet other people?
This is one of the most popular treks in Nepal and well known around the world. We met and enjoyed the company of a variety of people taking the same journey with whom we shared our experiences. There were the Holland girls, the Argentina group, the Czech girls, the Canadian (he was hiking in shorts and a t-shirt in the icy weather…makes sense), and others. We seemed to share a few stories with a different German couple each day and met a few Israelis cooking on a stove they were carrying. We would watch the Nepali guides and porters slapping the cards down on the table in a heated card game then laugh together at the expressions when someone picked up a bad card or won dramatically. Sharing the same goal of reaching the top of Thorang-La Pass and eventually the entire circuit, it was easy to strike up a conversation with plenty to share.
#19) How much did it cost?
This is a complicated question because we hired a guide and porter for our trek that was an all-inclusive package. For a total of $2800 for the two of us the only out of pocket expenses we had for the entire trek was a few drinks and internet access a handful of times. From our arrival in Kathmandu to our departure, from the airport and back, we were treated to the best trekking experience we could have ever asked for. It is possible to do things for less, but as Whitney reminds me often, “you get what you pay for!”
#20) What did you do to recover after the trek?
On our final day, we trekked only a few hours from Tikedhungga to Nayapul where we caught a local bus to Pokhara. As you could expect, we were quite exhausted from the journey and didn’t want to do much of anything. We booked a small hotel with the most important amenities, free WiFi, hot showers, and western toilets (that actually worked). It’s funny that the list of expectations has dwindled to such small things that we had taken for granted for so long! We simply relaxed at the hotel, catching up with friends and family over the internet, sleeping in as much as possible, and occasionally walking into the downtown area for lunch. The time in Pokhara was completed only after getting a much needed post-trekking massage at the Seeing Hands Clinic. FYI, even if you are not trekking some distant journey like we did, we’d still recommend a visit to Pokhara to escape the craziness of Kathmandu.
We truly had a once in a lifetime adventure on the Annapurna Circuit. It was a trek that took us far outside our comfort zone and into a world we may have never known. Bravely signing up for a three week trek was definitely an “ALL-IN” move for our first true trekking experiences, but we wouldn’t change a thing. Yes, It was very hard, but well worth it all in the end and we hope this helps prepare the next trekker for the challenge.
Now, we’re off to the warmer regions of Southeast Asia.