The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful – Trekking to the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC)

The Annapurna Base Camp Trek (sometimes referred to as the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek) is a popular, medium length trek into the Himalayas that many people come to Nepal to experience. You walk from Nayapul or Kimche (we chose Kimche) to the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) reaching a height of 4,130 metres and walk through a range of scenery from farmland and vegetation in the lower regions to snow and ice of the Annapurna Mountain Range of the Himalayas as you ascend. Once you reach the top, you then come back down the same way and the whole thing can take anywhere from 5 days to two weeks depending on your trekking speed, route and any additional detours such as going to Poon Hill (which we weren’t doing with the time we had).

We had decided to do the ABC trek a few days before as we had originally planned to do the smaller and easier (although still a challenge) Poon Hill trek. We decided that spending the extra days walking to get higher into the mountains would be more rewarding for the time we had in Nepal and it’s also a trek my dad had done 30 years before – him and my mum trekked for weeks in the Himalayas – and his excited reaction and what he told me about the amazing views we would see when I told him our decision confirmed that trekking to the ABC was going to be good!

When it comes to planning me and Niall create a good balance. I get caught up in what we’re going to do, get very excited and read quite a lot about what we will physically be attempting such as the route and people’s experiences and I was the one to pitch doing the ABC trek. Niall is a lot more methodical and cautious. He will read behind the scenes of our plan and look into the risks and things we need to be careful of before agreeing to it. He then tells me any issues and, if they’re manageable or minor, I slot those precautions into our itinerary. You could say that Niall is a slow burner in making a decision to do something whereas I’m a lot more impulsive and, if I like the sound of something, I’m easily convinced to give it a go. You need the balance, it keeps us safe (not that I put myself in danger with my approach) and it also means we end up being very knowledgeable and prepared for the things we’re going to do. One of the dangers we needed to factor in for this trek was the altitude. Altitude sickness occurs when your body struggles to adjust to the thinning of the oxygen in the air as you ascend and so you become oxygen deprived. This can be fatal. The higher you go, the thinner the air gets and your body needs time to be able to ‘recalibrate’ itself to filter the air more efficiently to keep giving you the oxygen you need. On treks such as to Everest Base Camp or if you were to climb mountains such as Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa which reach even greater heights than our trek, it is a very serious thing and involves taking days out where you do light walks but don’t continue ascending to give your body that time to adjust (known as an acclimatisation day). We didn’t need acclimatisation days and the altitudes we were going to shouldn’t be too much of an issue for us but after both of our extensive reading on the topic we knew it was still a possibility for the altitude to impact us and so we weren’t going to be stupid about it. We knew to drink plenty of water, have good meals and listen to our bodies incase we got any symptoms such as trouble sleeping or constant headaches. We had also bought a medication called Diamox (Acetazolamide) which helps the body metabolise more oxygen and can help with acclimatisation. I wasn’t worried about this but we had made sure to factor in enough time that if we needed to take it slower because of the altitude, we could do so.

Day 1

• Bus from Pokhara (820m) to Kimche (1640m) – 4 hours

• Trekked from Kimche (1640m) to New Bridge (1340m) – 5 hours

At 7am on Wednesday 14th March2018 we left our accommodation in Pokhara where we had arrived the day before (an 8 hour bus from Kathmandu) to head to Baglung Bus Station where we would catch a bus to the start of the trail at Kimche. We were armed with 3 litres of water each – we could refill our bottles for 10 rupees/7p in Pokhara and buy bottles for 25 rupees (17p) – a map of the route which cost us 350 rupees (£2.40), snacks, a sleeping bag, down jacket, a thermal top and a change of clothes. Our 50 litre backpacks (that we had also rented for the trek) were full but seemed to be quite light so would hopefully be alright for the next week of trekking. Although I would class us as relatively fit people, we had been away for over a year and a half so any exercise we had done in that time had consisted of walking around a city or town we were exploring that day – not intensive uphill training. We had never walked this much or this far in our lives with the longest amount of walking we had ever done being the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand where we had walked literally through a cloud for 6 hours and had hated our lives throughout (I did a blog post on this) so maybe we were a bit crazy for even attempting this trek! My philosophy was that the views would keep us going and that we just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and we would be able to get there – we’d soon see if that was the case.

The taxi had cost us 300 rupees (£2) to get to the bus station and the bus was 350 rupees (£2.40) to get us to Kimche which was a few of hours drive away. We were on the road by 7:50am, both of us were a bit tired (Niall was already asleep on the bus) but looking forward to the trek and reaching the Base Camp!

We headed higher into the mountains which got me more excited as it had been cloudy when we left meaning we hadn’t been able to see the mountains around us. We had a couple of stops on the way up, the longest being at Nayapul which we reached at 10am. This is a place that some people start the trek from but it just involves walking up a road where the buses and jeeps would be driving and so didn’t offer much meaning that from our point of view, it was wasted walking. In Nayapul they filled the bus to the brim with supplies to take higher up into the mountains. We had read that the length of your journey depends on how long this stocking up takes so we just had to sit and wait until they were done.

It all ended up not taking very long and we got to Kimche, the last stop for the bus at 12pm – 5 hours after we had left Pokhara. We started our walk and very quickly had to take off layers as it was quite warm once we got going! We stopped by a small stream and were greeted by a very cute and fluffy puppy that then didn’t leave us for quite a while despite his owner shouting for him to come back. On our walk we passed loads of donkeys with bells around their necks being herded up or down the mountain and passed a few trekkers who were on their descent, ending whatever trek they had been on. I was already loving being in the mountains and seeing what life was like and had seen more donkeys than I had ever seen in my entire life!

Getting from Kimche to the first settlement, Gandruk (1940m) took us around 45 minutes so we were making good time. The rest of the day we passed through farm terraces with big water buffalo and baby goats and climbed up and then back down many, many steps. A lot of the day was relatively easy and we managed it fine. The hardest part was definitely going up a huge amount of steps for around half an hour up to Landruk (1565m) which was a very sweaty journey! Landruk was the next settlement along our journey and also a crossroads for some of the different treks you can do in the area. We had a longer break here before continuing along our way on the ABC route.

After consulting our map we decided we could make it to a settlement called New Bridge (1340m) where we would settle for the night as we always had to factor in reaching somewhere to sleep before the sun set. To get there we walked through forest which looked down into the valley and involved more of the same uphills and downhills we had been experiencing all day. The most annoying downhill was the one that was right after Landruk because of the killer stairs we had just climbed! As we approached New Bridge we passed another settlement and asked them how far we had left to go. We were told 45 minutes to an hour so we decided to press on which obviously wasn’t the hopes of the owners as the journey actually only took 20 minutes so they must have been trying to get us to just stop there for the night instead – we had heard that can be an issue here as they won’t get too many people passing through. From Landruk to New Bridge it took us one hour and fifteen minutes so not that long really and got us that little bit further on our route.

At 5:15pm we arrived in New Bridge and after checking out some of the rooms we chose a double room in Kalpana Guesthouse – our first tea house that we’d be staying in during our week of trekking! The room was basic but clean and would suit us nicely, from all the walking I didn’t see us struggling to get to sleep anyway. It’s not peak season for trekking at the moment and as New Bridge is relatively early on in the route with people starting at different times and from different places we were the only ones staying at the tea house but we imagined this wouldn’t always be the case. The room was 200 rupees (£1.40) and then we ordered our food, dhal baht (rice, dhal soup and vegetable curry), which was 430 rupees each so on the more expensive side of the menu but we hadn’t had a proper meal that day – we had bakery food for breakfast and lunch – and so wanted to refuel well for our first nights sleep so as not to tire us for the days of walking to come. The dhal baht was really tasty and we were offered seconds of everything (a common custom with dhal baht) so it was a really big meal! Many dhal baht’s later we realised just how good his one had been and we wished we had been able to have it every night on the trek as it was definitely our favourite of the ones we tried.

We were happy with how we had got on for our first day of trekking and although bits had been tiring (we did not like all of those stairs up to Landruk) we had managed it fine and we still couldn’t believe we were actually trekking in the Himalayas! It hadn’t seemed like five hours of walking which was hopefully a good sign for the rest of the trek and we had managed to navigate the path well enough only making one wrong turn when leaving Landruk which a local quickly helped us to right before we walked too far. The only issue we had on our first day was that the valley was full of cloud and so we couldn’t see ahead down the valley to what we might be trekking into. We hoped this wouldn’t be the case the full time we were trekking and, as it was so early on the trek, we tried not to let it bother us just yet. With little to do in the evenings we played some cards and then got an early night ready for an early morning and another day of walking.

Day 2

• Trekked from New Bridge (1340m) to Bamboo (2310m) – 7.5 hours

Our second day started at 6:30am and within half an hour we were eating a giant bowl of hot porridge to set us up for the day ahead. We left by 8am and headed towards the town of Chomrong (2170m). The journey took us three hours and involved one section where we spent half an hour climbing up very steep steps. I had started the day in good spirits, hoping for some clear weather and good views. By the time we were climbing these stairs I was feeling pretty low (Niall had already been feeling low) as all we could see was a lot of clouds and the stairs were incredibly steep. We aren’t trekking to the Annapurna Base Camp for a sense of achievement or because of how much we love trekking (we don’t like lots of walking) but for the views so when there aren’t any views we questioned what the point of it was. We had been feeling quite stiff after our first day of walking so I tired quite quickly once we started walking although that eased off the more we walked and I was managing fine by the end despite it being a challenging and tiring day (both physically and mentally).

The bouldersChomrong was a pretty town and probably one of the biggest that we would be travelling through. This place is known for its chocolate cake and other sweet treats and it full of bakeries but we chose to save this for our return journey as a treat for nearly finishing the trek. We stayed here for around half an hour to rest and have a bit of food. We didn’t feel in great spirits and even contemplated calling the trek off and going back but we decided to carry on and hope for the best when it came to the weather.We trekked for an hour to reach Sinuwa (2360m) which was still mainly uphill. We had seen glimpses of the valley but couldn’t see any of the mountains at the end of the valley that we were aiming for and that was meant to be some of the best views on our walk. Sinuwa had been an option for us to stop for the day but it was still quite early when we reached there so even though we had walked for five hours that day already, we decided to carry on to the next town, Bamboo (2310m). The next settlement of guesthouses was Upper Sinuwa (2360m) which originally confused us as we hadn’t realised Lower Sinuwa and Upper Sinuwa were so far apart from one another (45 minutes walk uphill). It was quite windy up here so we didn’t wait for long before carrying on to Bamboo.

It took us an hour and a half to get to Bamboo. It involved going up lots of stairs through a forested area and then spending around half an hour walking down lots and lots of stairs which filled me with a little bit of dread for our return journey in a few days time. Many people were making that journey up as we headed down and understandably seemed very tired. Niall had a sore back during our days trekking too which wasn’t making it very easy on him either. When we reached Bamboo it was 3:30pm and so we decided to carry on to the next town. Just as we walked through Bamboo to continue on it started to rain slightly and we could feel it getting heavier so we decided to turn back and stay in Bamboo that evening instead. It was cold and all the guesthouses had damp rooms so it didn’t seem like it was going to be a great or warm nights sleep. We ended up staying at Trekking Guesthouse which we aren’t sure was the best of the bunch but it’s hard to know when you’re looking around trying to beat the rain! We had made the right choice to stop in Bamboo though as soon after we had found our room the heavens opened and if we had been trekking to the next settlement we would have been soaked through!

The rain persisted, became very heavy and was accompanied by thunder and lightning with the storm continuing on into the night. We were very cold in the evening and so decided to sleep in our sleeping bags instead of the damp duvets and also got out our down coats which we hadn’t expected to need until we reached the Annapurna Base Camp. We were feeling very low and were both very fed up that our amazing Himalayan trek which was meant to have stunning views was very cloudy and was now rainy and cold! After a couple of hours bundled in our sleeping bags to try and warm up we decided to go for our dinner. We had dhal baht again that evening and played cards and the down jackets were able to warm us up a bit. There were more people in this guesthouse compared to the night before and a lot of them had guides and porters who would then be sleeping in the living area once everyone went to bed. Some of them started getting their beds ready whilst we were in there and although they would never have asked us to leave we didn’t want to stop them going to sleep so we headed to our room instead. We hadn’t realised what good pace we were making until talking to one of the guides who was surprised we had come from New Bridge that day and even asked us if we were short on time because of the distances we were travelling. As the only thing to do is sit and play cards or eat the food when you reach the tea houses we had no intention to be there early in the day and we are much more of a ‘keep moving and be doing things’ kind of people. The rain was so loud and heavy and the room was very cold so we could only hope that the sleeping bags would keep us warm enough that night. We hoped that the rain would make all the cloud disappear but we would just have to wait and see in the morning if that was the case.

As it stood at the end of day two, we weren’t happy and were very demoralised about the whole trek. We hadn’t seen great views as it was either hazy or obstructed by big clouds and now we were ending our day cold and with it raining outside – really not ideal. More annoyingly is that you know the view would be great had it been clear and so our bad luck with the weather was the only thing in the way from this being a phenomenal trip. I guess that serves us right for not going in peak season and you never can truly predict the weather!

Day 3

Bamboo (2310m) to Annapurna Base Camp (4130m) – 9.25 hours

Another hot porridge to start our day but this time we had beautiful clear and blue skies showing us snow covered trees and mountains! These were the views we had been waiting for and I’m not ashamed to say I actually gave a squeal of delight when I went out of our room and saw it that morning! We had decided to let the weather decide how our journey progressed, if it was cloudy we were potentially abandoning the trek and if it was clear, we’d definitely continue. So with the mountains beckoning us, we continued on towards the Annapurna Base Camp!We walked with a new spring in our step marvelling at the mountain views that were all around us. It was truly stunning and I still can’t believe we trekked through the Himalayas – I don’t think there is anywhere quite like it.

We reached Dobhan (2505m) around fifty minutes after setting off having left at 8am. The journey should have taken an hour and a half so we were ahead of schedule which we were happy about. The journey was mainly through a woodland path but there were often breaks in the trees to see the imposing mountains around us. We loved it and it kept us moving on at a good pace the rest of the day.Our next stop was to get to Himal which took us an hour to get there which was also ahead of the schedule so we were making good time for our day of trekking. This was a nice little stop but we carried on through, only stopping for a water break. The views continued to amaze us and we just couldn’t believe we were walking in such amazing scenery.

Deurali (3230m), the next settlement along our route, had been a proposed stop for us depending on how we were doing for time nd how we were feeling. It had taken us an hour and a half to get there and it was only 12pm so we shared some noodles and ate our biscuits giving ourselves longer to acclimatise to the altitude and have a bit of a rest. The climb up to Deurali was very steep so we were glad when we reached the town. There are four guesthouses here and it’s a very common place for people to stop for the day and continue onto the Base Camp in the morning. Although it was good and probably necessary to refuel here, the hour of rest made the next climb harder as our legs seized up somewhat so I wouldn’t want to take such a long break again.

The walk to Machapuchare Base Camp (MBC) (3700m) took around an hour and a half although the signs said it would take two. It was a very steep climb but pretty with many waterfalls from the massive snowfall melting and falling down the mountain. During this leg of the journey Niall hit a wall and found the climb a particular challenge (we both found it hard though). We got through it though and soon only had the two hour trek to ABC to go. After speaking to people we met along the trail we learnt that the heavy rain we had whilst in Bamboo had been a huge blizzard up above with many people having to spend an extra day at Base Camp before being able to come back down the mountain as the snowfall was so heavy. It made us glad we hadn’t reached Base Camp the day before as it’s notoriously cold up there. We were hoping we’d have a clear morning the following day to get great views of Mount Annapurna.

Mount Machapuchare, despite having a base camp, is actually forbidden to be climbed as it is considered sacred and the home of Lord Shiva. We didn’t see the mountain due to the clouds that had engulfed the area as the afternoon wore on but we hoped to see it in the morning as it’s meant to be very impressive.

Leaving MBC and on our way to ABC, we started walking through snow and heavy winds and were wearing our thermal tops and down coats to keep warm – we would have been screwed without them! It was during the last part of our journey that day, an hour and a half walk, where I hit my wall and I found this leg of the journey very challenging. The icy conditions, together with my feet being wet from the snow, cold winds and a consistent incline made me struggle to find the motivation to continue particularly as I knew it wouldn’t be warm at the top. I knew how close we were to our goal so I managed to keep moving as well as with encouragement from Niall but the cloud had also heavily set in and so we only saw the base camp around thirty metres before we reached it. What was especially lovely was that a dog from where we ended up staying bounded down from the accommodation to greet us as we arrived at the signs indicating you had reached Base Camp.

We stayed in a guesthouse which cost us 400 rupees (£2.80) for a private room which was double what we had paid the previous nights but it is Base Camp so we had expected the prices to be higher. We desperately tried to warm our feet up and then went into the restaurant to have a big pot of masala tea which gave us three mugs each and significantly helped in warming us up. We played cards and as the tea had made us quite full we didn’t eat as much that night. Niall had fried rice and I had spaghetti which was cheaper than the dhal baht and filled us up enough until the morning.

I was so proud of our achievement to reach our final destination of the Annapurna Base Camp! We had walked so far that day and climbed a huge altitude as well as braving some cold, cloudy, snowy weather at the top. We didn’t even know what we had arrived at as we could only see cloud but we had still made it. No matter what we had reached Base Camp and that was an achievement in itself – we just had to hope the weather would clear in the night to make all the sweat and pain worth it.

Niall woke up at 3:30am and quickly woke me up too so that we could get out and see the incredible stars that covered the night’s sky after the clouds and snow had cleared an hour or so before. We had never seen so many stars and because there was no light pollution and we were so high up they were beautifully bright. We saw shooting stars and were excited to wake up the next morning in the hope the sky would stay clear for us. We didn’t stay out too long as it was pretty cold but I’m still so glad we went out to see them!

Day 4

ABC (4130m) to Sinuwa (2360m) – 10 hours

We were up at 5:50am and got wrapped up warm ready to see what the Annapurna Base Camp was all about. The sky had remained clear as we’d hoped and the views were amazing. I don’t know how to describe how incredible what we were surrounded by actually was. It was simply stunning and one thousand percent made the last few days trekking worth it!

Mount Annapurna is known as the deadliest mountain in the world due to it having the highest percentage of people who try to climb it dying. Being such a deadly mountain, there are a number of memorials at Base Camp to commemorate the lives that have been lost. This is where you go to get the best views of the mountain range and it’s lovely with loads of colourful prayer flags covering the memorials and the grand, imposing mountains range towering over you. It took our breath away and we could have looked at it forever had we not had to climb back down the mountain again and get warm.

We had purposefully got up so early to watch the sun rise over the mountains as this lights up the Annapurna range to be a beautiful, golden colour which I had never seen before and it was beautiful. We stood and marvelled at the mountain range for a long time before going back to our accommodation to have some hot porridge for breakfast and pack to head back down the mountain.

So many people went out to see the views for such a short amount of time and then left straight away but we made sure to head out again for one last look before we set off. We had spent three days to get there and to see this mountain range and we potentially would never be back there to see it again so we were going to make the most of it whilst we could! It also meant we were able to see the mountain range when the sun had fully risen and the the brightness of the place was quite spectacular! When we were there a few helicopters arrived bringing people to Base Camp to see the mountain ranges before taking them back to Pokhara. Although we wouldn’t have turned down a helicopter ride back down the mountain had one been on offer, you don’t have any sense of achievement or journey that comes with trekking to that point. I think the three day trek made us appreciate what we were seeing even more compared to if had we had flown across the same view for instance.instance.We left at 8:30am and had the magnificent Mount Machapuchare to marvel at on our way down. We made sure to regularly stop and take in the mountains all around us as well as get as many looks at possible of the Annapurna mountain range. We didn’t mind taking longer on this leg of the journey as we may never be amongst these mountains again but it was also incredibly slippy and we were just in trainers with mine having barely any grip so I was like Bambi on ice (literally) as we headed down slowing us further which was frustrating for us both.Me being BambiBecause of how long it took us to walk down from ABC to Dobhan, we were a bit concerned we wouldn’t cover the ground we had wanted to cover before it got dark. Luckily, once we reached Dobhan the ground wasn’t very slippy and, despite it having been snowing since we left Base Camp, the conditions were much better and we were able to make up a lot of ground putting us in better stead along our trek. We had factored in the trek taking us six days but we wanted to get it done in five days after having made it to the top of the mountain in only three days so we pushed ourselves hard to reach our final destination of Sinuwa where we would spend the night before finishing the trek to following day.After passing through Bamboo, where we had stayed a couple of nights before, we had to climb well over 1000 steps to reached Upper Sinuwa. These steps seemed to go on forever and were such a killer, I swear I even crawled up a few of them by the end. What made these steps worse was that they weren’t straight up so you thought you had reached the top to get there and see the steps turn at a 45 degree angle and continue on into the distance. A dog from Bamboo had walked with us for the first leg of the stairs which was really nice but I didn’t blame him for turning back pretty quick!

At around 6:30pm we arrived in Lower Sinuwa after finally completing those stairs and then reversing the whole process by climbing down a similar flight of stairs on the other side of the mountain! We had had clear skies during our descent and when we arrived at Lower Sinuwa we had beautiful views over the valley as the sun began to set. The first price we were given for a room in the guesthouse was 400 rupees which we weren’t going to pay and was obviously the owner exploiting the late hour we arrived at the village. Thankfully, the next guesthouse, Himal Guesthouse, gave us a private room for 200 rupees which was what we had expected to pay. After another Dhal Baht for tea (the ABC porridge hadn’t filled us as much as usual that day) we were both so tired and ended up falling straight to sleep. It must have only been around 8pm and, had it not been for a couple of barking dogs, we probably would have slept through the night until morning. We had walked really far that day and had also been up at 3:30am and 6am so I’m not surprised we were so tired. We were also on our fourth day of walking which does take its toll and by the time we had arrived at the guesthouse we had sore feet and Niall had a sore back so a sleep to rest our aches and pains was welcome and necessary. It was another successful day and, even now, I can’t believe how stunning the Annapurna Base Camp had been… it really did make any hard climb or aching feet completely and utterly worth it!

Day 5

Sinuwa (2360m) to Kimche (1640m) – 7 hours

Kimche (1640m) to Pokhara (820m) (by bus) – 3.5 hours

We woke up to the sound of the birds on a clear morning which would be our last morning before we got back to Pokhara. We were proud with our progress but had some long climbs up lots more stairs before we reached Gandruk (1940m) where we were hoping to be able to get a bus or a jeep to take us back to Pokhara.

The first leg of our journey was relatively easy with more waking downhill giving our legs an ease into the last day. We had porridge again for breakfast which was a lot nicer and more filling than the day before and felt good about the day ahead so started the day at a good pace.

On our approach to Chomrong (2170m) we knew we had another long slog up over 1000 steps and we had remembered how people had really struggled with these when we had been heading towards Base Camp three days before. Thankfully, this ascent was coupled with an amazingly clear day and we were able to rest whilst enjoying the views of beautiful snowcapped mountains. This is what we should have seen on our first couple of days of the trek. Instead we had only seen cloud and had walked through Chomrong demoralised and fed up. We actually got a surprise when we turned and saw the mountain ranges hanging over us as we had no clue we could see anything like that so far down into the valley… it shows the difference a bit of cloud can make!Chromrong is known to us for its chocolate cake after reading an article in the Times that talked about the chocolate cake at the Chomrong Cottage Guesthouse. We had saved this chocolate cake as a reward for nearly completing our trek and so stopped here on our way through the hilly Chomrong. The lady who owned the guesthouse was very friendly although she sat and waited for us to try the chocolate cake to see what we thought of it which I found a bit nerve wracking seeing as I wouldn’t want to offend her with a bad reaction! The chocolate cake wasn’t bad but we hadn’t expected to be eating anything world class and it had some hot chocolate sauce on too which was a nice touch. Chomrong has an awful lot of bakeries and lots of places selling chocolate cake and other sweet treats so it would be a good place to stay the night if you were taking the trek at a more reasonable pace to us to have lots of cake to fuel your next few days of trekking. It was lovely and sunny and we ended up basking in the sun a little too long before continuing our trek on to Gandruk.

After reaching the top of Chomrong it was another long descent to the next village of Jinhu. It had been a hard climb when we had climbed these stairs a few days before so it was nice to be climbing down them instead and we were thankful that when we had climbed them it wasn’t as hot as it was today. We carried on walking, trying to make up some time after our long stop in Chomrong and reached New Bridge, where we had spent our first night of the trek at around 1pm.

It was nice to have reached New Bridge and we wished we had longer to stop for some food here as it gave us the best Dhal Baht of our trek and all the other food other trekkers were enjoying for their lunch also looked very good! In all of the guesthouses that are dotted along the trek the food is the most expensive thing as this is where they’re able to make their money particularly as they can’t dictate where people’s trekking schedules will have them stop for the night but almost everyone will stop at some point for lunch or a snack.

Whilst we were near we asked what the best way to get to Gandruk was as we didn’t want to make the trip through Landruk, which was a slight detour, like we had done on our first day of the trek. We were told to follow the signs to Motkyu which would lead us on a route that would take around an hour and a half to two hours to reach Gandruk. He told us that it involved going up hill but that it wasn’t too bad.

This was certainly not the case and the route we ended up taking wasn’t even marked out on our maps! We had to walk up an incredibly steep hill that looked more like a dirt pile than an actual trail and involved us continually having to ascend over the top of the mountain instead of around it! We couldn’t believe that the end of our trek was turning out to be one of the hardest parts but we had committed to the route now and so had to continue on and hope we would reach Gandruk in time for the last bus to Pokhara.

At Motkyu we saw some jeeps parked up and so asked them how much it would be to get back to Pokhara having read that people had been able to negotiate rides for around 700 rupees. We were not so lucky and were quoted 5000-7000 rupees for a ride (£35-£50)! We certainly didn’t have that money with us and even if we did that was not in our budget and so we carried on to Gandruk which was along a winding road that carried on ascending up. We ended up taking short cuts up the hills between the winding roads which cut a lot of time off or journey even though it was a lot more tiring and so reached Gandruk just before 3pm.

The people in Gandruk were really helpful and many of them, children and adults, pointed us in the right direction to get to the last bus to Pokhara that would be leaving at 3:30pm. We had done it! We had managed to trek to and from the Annapurna Base Camp in five days and had now reached Gandruk in time for the last bus back to Pokhara. We were so happy and had really enjoyed the trek despite how challenging it had been.

Our spirits were quickly dampened though by the bus driver who was waiting with his empty bus just outside of Gandruk. The driver clearly just wanted to exploit us for any money he could and so lied to us and told us the last bus had left early and that the bus we were looking at wasn’t going to leave until the following day because no one was in it. He told us he was kindly going to take us back down but that it would cost us 500 rupees each (it cost us 350 to get up there) as well as an extra 500 rupees because the bus would be empty. We were furious as we knew that the bus would be full on the return journey as it wasn’t even 3:30pm and we knew the buses were also used to transport goods up and down the mountain. We refused the price and carried on to Kimche to wait for the bus there as we knew it would then have people on it and so he wouldn’t be able to try and charge us such a ridiculous price. The experience brought us down with a bump and reminded us of the time we had been having in Kathmandu where we had often felt exploited and scammed.

On our way to Kimche we met two young Nepali men who told us the bus was coming and that it should cost us 300 to get down to Pokhara. We asked if they would help us to get a good price for the bus and explained the price we had been quoted and they agreed to help us. They lived in Nayapul which is one of the last Himalayan towns on the ABC trek and it confirmed to us that the Himalayan Nepali people were very friendly and kind as we had experienced over the last five days.

Despite a price being agreed of 600 rupees for the two of us we ended up having to pay 800 but got dropped off at the Lakeside of Pokhara instead of the bus station which was further out of town. This was only after lots of arguments and us point blank refusing to pay the higher price he later tried to charge us. It made me even sadder to be leaving the beautiful mountains and made the last leg of our journey that little bit more tiring when we should have just been elated at what we had just achieved… some people are just jerks I guess.

In Pokhara we stayed back at the guesthouse we had stayed in before starting the trek and that night we treated ourselves to a big meal of a pizza each, chips and a drink (Niall even got to watch the football) and were able to enjoy what we had achieved as well as reconnect with family and friends after five days ‘off the grid’. The whole experience was probably one of the most challenging things either of us had ever done but getting to the top and standing amongst those mountains will stay with us as a highlight of our time away and the achievement we feel for having competed the trek and walked all of those hours is immense. I don’t think I’ll be rushing to do another trek on this trip, one is enough for us, but I’m so glad we chose to change our plans and trek to ABC instead of Poon Hill.

It was time to get back to Kathmandu where we had scheduled in a couple of days of rest and time to plan what we would be doing once we got back to India. We had no sightseeing planned and would be focussing on catching up on sleep and rest our tired legs – what could be better?!

Sending tired, accomplished, altitude climbing love x

2 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful – Trekking to the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC)

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