Rather than head home for Christmas this year, I filled my bags with hiking gear and headed off to the Annapurna Range in Nepal. Years of dreaming, was finally becoming a reality. It took us 11 days to complete the trek and everyday we learned something new.
Day 1: There is such a thing as too many layers.
Every morning we woke up feeling cold and we would think “Lots of layers today.” Actually, no! Once you start moving and the sun peeks out from behind the mountains, it gets hot. And you know what? It isn’t very easy to take off long underwear in a dirty squatty potty.
Day 2: When you learn a lesson, follow the lesson.
Wear less layers!
Day 3: If you read that you should sanitize the water and your Nepalese guide tells you there is no need, you should probably still purify your water.
Giardia is pretty common in the mountain water here. You quickly realize why. Each day you try to avoid stepping in the thousands of horse, mule, donkey, sheep and goat poop patties. Our guide assured us that the twenty minute boiled watered for sale is perfectly acceptable. Our rumbling tummies seemed to disagree though.
Day 4: Put the clothes you want to wear the next day in your sleeping bag before falling asleep.
This was the best trick of the trip. Waking up in a room that was ten degrees Celsius, and getting colder each day. It was hard enough to get out of bed and remove your pyjamas, exposing your naked skin to the icy air, only to put on freezing cold clothes for the day. If your clothes had been in your sleeping bag all night, they were a toasty treat to put on in the morning.
Day 5: Take the longest route to reach your destination
We were greeted by many Namastes along the trail, from both locals and fellow trekkers. There were two main routes to reach Annapurna Basecamp, one longer than the other. We noticed a common trend. The hikers that were sick or struggling to reach base camp took the shortest route possible, rushing to the top. Those who took their time and took the longer route seemed to make it without many problems along the way
Day 6: When in doubt eat.
When you force your body to walk for six to seven hours each day for eleven days straight, you need to treat it well. In the Nepalese trails, there are many teahouses along the way, where you can pay a small price for an amazing meal. If you are feeling a bit peckish and you see a teahouse, we learned to stop and eat because you weren’t always sure how long it would be until you found another one. Although we had a few snacks hidden away in our bags, there is a limit to how many cliff bars you can eat.
Day 7: When the guide doesn’t tell you anything about the terrain the next day, assume the worst.
Our guide, Ram was excellent at briefing us for the next day. He went over our suggested wake up time, told us about the terrain, the altitude, the amount of water we would need and every other little detail we might want to know. However, on the evening of Day 6 he left out some information. It wasn’t until half way through Day 7 we realized, he left that out for a reason. The only way to describe Day 7 was ‘up, up and more up.’
Day 8 Choose your hiking partner carefully
As we neared the top we met many people trekking by themselves. After striking up a conversation we realized that they didn’t start out alone, but there hiking partner was experiencing altitude sickness, so they left them 2 days ago and continued on. Altitude sickness can go from bad to worse very quickly, I would be very upset if my friend decided to leave me alone on the mountainside if I was that sick. It is also important to have someone who is able to focus on the positives and ignore the aches and pains that you are experiencing on the trail.
Day 9 Have something to look forward to on the way down.
Hiking up is challenging but hiking back down is really tough too. The constant down, takes a toll on your knees and toes. We focused on the hot springs that awaited us. It had been nine days since I showered and I dreamed of the hot springs as each step drew me closer.
Day 10 Have headphones and music available.
Our guide was great but after 10 days with him, I was ready to say goodbye. I think spending that much time with anyone can be difficult. My hiking partner came prepared with music and headphones. She was able to put on her headphones and have some peace on the trails. I on the other hand, was forced to continue conversing.
Day 11 Don’t forget to look back.
On the last day we found ourselves rushing down, two steps at a time. I paused for a moment and looked back, the view took my breath away. It was incredible to look back and think. I was there, way up there just yesterday. I accomplished that!