I am absolutely exhausted. My calf muscles hurt, my upper lip is sweating, my arms are weak from carrying heavy objects and we haven’t even started the trek yet. We have just spent all day trawling Pokhara high street for all the necessary gear for our 21 day exhibition around the Annapurna circuit with peaks of 5380m. We had been toying with the idea of Annapurna for a while, we are both healthy people who love the outdoors and as we wanted to visit Nepal it seemed like a must do for our adventure. However, as I sit on our balcony in Pokhara surrounded by our new gear and with only two days to go before our departure the little demon on my shoulder is whispering words of doubt into my ear.
The Annapurna circuit is one of the most well trodden mountaineering routes in the world and for good reason. It’s eclectic scenery includes glaciers, lakes, forests, waterfalls and of course spectacular views of Annapurna’s many peaks, which holds the tenth highest mountain in the world (8091m). For all of these reasons and more (I envisaged myself singing a snowy rendition of Julie Andrew’s ‘the hills are aliiiive’ across the peak of Thorung La Pass) we decided that the trek would be a highlight of our trip.
After doing lots of research (a great website for trekking is Nepal in linked here) and by speaking to various travellers we felt it best to go it alone without a guide. Both for monetary reasons and most accounts will tell you that you are never alone for long. Also that it is extremely well sign posted… I will let you know whether this is a myth upon my arrival back into civilisation. Anyway, we were feeling extremely positive and our fitness levels were good from lots of yoga, it was when we broke the news to our parents that the doubts started to creep in. Both sets were very unimpressed with warnings coming from all angles including that of freak dust storms, altitude sickness and that we possessed unsuitable footwear. The latter was fair enough as until the purchases today we would’ve been ascending in flip flops or battered trainers. We felt that we had done enough research and had made sensible decisions on our travel plans, unfortunately our parents did not. Of course at this point we hadn’t properly spoken to them about it they had just been informed on Facebook about our decision to raise money for two amazing charities with the trek. To their credit they were easily soothed and we know the concern came from a place of love. I think I would be slightly put out if I didn’t even receive a ‘be careful Sophia’, however their words of warning have lingered within my mind. I had a very outdoorsy upbringing and made regular trips to the Lake District for long walks in the fells but I have never done anything like this before. This over three week trek makes my Duke of Edinburgh Gold look like an afternoon stroll with my old, fat Labrador. I hope when I come back down (if I do) that I am still saying this but at the end of the day it is all about self belief. So many people do this trek every year and if they can do it so can I. To quote Obama ‘Yes we can!’ I am going to put my worries about dying of altitude sickness and loosing precious extremities to frost bite on the back burner.
For those of you wanting to do the Annapurna trek, Pokhara is the place to come both before and after. It’s chilled out vibes and abundance of lovely eateries over looking the serene Phewa Lake is perfect for those wishing to relax before or after a long, hard trek. The main trek routes are also easily accessible via bus or private taxi. Depending whether your drop off point is Phedi, Besisahar or Syange times vary from 30 minutes to four hours.
In order to cater to all of the trekkers, shops are stocked full of knock off The North Face gear and anything that you could possibly need for your expedition to the mountains. Predictably there are horror stories of these items falling apart after a few days of wear. If you have not planned ahead and brought suitable shoes (as our parents kindly pointed out to us) your best bet is to shop around and when buying boots head for the 5000 NPR pair rather than 3000 NPR. Although on the pricier side, it is still only $33 and you will be grateful when you don’t have to borrow a pair 2 sizes too small off a small Nepalese man half way up the mountain. I recommend Nasa Trekking Equipment located in Lakeside centre. They were extremely helpful and provided us with cups of sweet Nepalese tea while also giving us advice on our route. Apart from shoes and backpacks you can afford to take the cheaper option. Water purification tablets and altitude sickness medicine can be brought over the counter of most pharmacies for a reasonable price.
This blog link is a comprehensive kit list, including first aid. This is aimed at people who are trekking on their own and staying in the tea houses. If you have a guide or are camping the equipment needed will vary.
It was Yusef who suggested that we used our adventure to raise some money for charity while we were browsing the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. For no other reason then it is a good excuse to raise money for good causes. We decided that we would each pick a charity and the profits would be split 50/50. He chose The North London Hospice, they provided much needed emotional and medical support for his beloved grandad Ron when he was suffering with cancer. The second is Action Village India, after spending two months in incredible India we thought it only right that we put some money back into the country that had taught us so much. Action Village India is a UK based charity and have been working in rural India help to support fundamental and sustainable ways of life for the past 25 years. Such as organic farms, girls education and disability rights to name a few. Both these charities deserve all the help in the world but for now all we can do is try and raise a few quid.
So please get donating, I know that 6 days in, when I have been bitten to shreds by bed bugs and my legs feel like jelly, putting one foot in front of the other is going to be made a lot easier knowing that we are helping people.
You can donate by using this link. Thank you!
I will attempt to post blogs using the wifi in the teahouses but chances are, it will be after I return when I am able to post anything apart from the odd photo here and there. So for now, goodbye and wish me luck on the romp of a lifetime!