Annapurna Base Camp Trek is one of the most popular trek routes in Nepal and probably in the world as well. Highly recommended by many travel industry specialists including Lonely Planet, this is the place to go if you are looking for an adventure. The trek route can be completed within a week or two depending upon how you walk, the places you visit and where you decide to call it a day. With beautiful sceneries filled with greenery, rivers, waterfalls, valleys and the tallest mountains; this trek will take you right into the heart of nature. The final destination of the trek is quite a winner as you will land near the foot of the eight thousander: Mount Annapurna and other mountains that will surround you.
This October as a vacation from the busy life of Kathmandu, we decided to trek to this region. The idea of the trek started from the social network: Facebook, a group was created as a response and people were invited to contribute to pitch in trekking ideas. After valuable input from our traveler friend, Annapurna Base Camp was chosen over Upper Mustang Valley Trekking. After going to and fro regarding the date and the people that would be joining us, a small group of 6 people was formed. Everyone did not know everyone but that was an exciting start.
Our Planned Itinerary
[Starting October 16]
Day 1: Kathmandu to Pokhara by bus (7 hrs). Bus to Nayapool and Birethati (1 hr). [Altitude: 1025m / 3,428ft]
Day 2: Trek to Hile, Tikhedhunga and Ulleri (6 hrs) [Altitude: 1,960m / 5,690ft]
Day 3: Trek to Ghorapani (6 hrs) [Altitude: 2,800m / 9,184ft]
Day 4: Trek to Poonhill for sunrise & view (45 mins up & 30 mins down) [Altitude: 3,200m / 10,498ft]. Trek to Tadapani (4 hrs) [Altitude 2,630m / 8,626ft]
Day 5: Trek to Chhomrong (5 hrs) [Altitude: 2,170m / 7,117ft]
Day 6: Trek to Dobhan (5 ½ hrs) [Altitude: 2,600m / 8,528ft]
Day 7: Trek to Machhapuchhare Base Camp (5 hrs) [Altitude: 3,700m / 12,136ft]
Day 8: Trek to Annapurna Base Camp (2 hr up) [Altitude: 4,200m] Trek back to Dobhan (6 ½ hrs) [Alt. 2,600m / 8,528ft]
Day 9: Trek to Jhinu for hot springs (5 ½ hrs) [Alt. 1,780m / 5,838ft]
Day 10: Trek to Nayapool (5 hrs) and drive back to Pokhara. Drive back Kathmandu (7 hrs)
- Hours depend from one person to another.
- We were looking to combine day 4 and 5 to shorten the trek by one day.
Our Actual Trek
[Starting October 17]
Day 1: Kathmandu to Pokhara by bus. Bus to Baglung Bus Park. Bus to Nayapool. Short Walk to Birethanti.
Day 2: Trek to Ulleri and then to Ghorapani.
Day 3: Trek to Poonhill up and down. Then trek to Benthanti.
Day 4: Trek to Chhomrong.
Day 5: Trek to Himalaya.
Day 6: Trek to Machhapuchhare Base Camp.
Day 7: Trek to Annapurna Base Camp and Down. Trek to Bamboo.
Day 8: Trek to Siumi. Back to Pokhara in a Sumo.
Day 9: Chillax Friday at Pokhara.
Day 10: Pokhara to Kathmandu.
- Our first serious trek started from day 2 where we walked 2 days’ worth of trek in one single day. The energy on the first day was off the charts.
- The next day (day 3) our trek was shortened because of the rain.
- While returning we canceled Jhinudada hot springs because most of us were tired and wanted to go back to Pokhara.
Basic Expenditures of Trek
- Above is a self explanatory chart of basic expenditures on a per person basis for the first 8 days only.
- The expenditures are applicable for Nepali Nationals only.
What We Saw
Limitless hills and many forests, waterfalls, rivers, villages and bridges. They were too many of those. The first time we saw those it was nice and all. But walking through such a path for around 4 days with the same type of scenery will make you want new views. We wanted to see the mountains badly.
We probably saw only 2% of what we were supposed to see from Poon Hill because of the clouds. The first time the mountains showed up was in Chhomrong. The rest of the time, the mountains were covered up with clouds. When we first saw the huge mountains (Machhapuchhare and Hiunchuli) from Chhomrong we went crazy. The clouds left the mountains and it seemed that the sky would be covered up with mountains now. At night the mountains shined from the moon lights and probably the star lights. At morning the same mountains shined after the first rays of the sun touched them.
In Chhomrong, the sky was clear as well. I doubt it but I’d like to believe that we saw a faint part of the Milky Way right above us. Forgot to use Google sky map or a high exposure shot in our camera to capture what was there at night.
The first time we saw the whole mountains was at night in Machhapuchhare Base Camp. Mount Fishtail / Machhapuchhare was right there, right in front of us. We were almost behind the mountains at this part. We were actually at the exact west of Mt. Machhapuchhare (Fishtail).
A Short and Simple Video of Annapurna Base Camp
Finally, when we reached base camp by trekking as early as 4 in the morning, everything cleared up. The sky had no clouds and mountains seemed to touch it. We were surrounded by many mountains. We could touch the foot of a few of those mountains. The mountains that we saw and that I remember the names to are: Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Hiunchunli (we were behind Hiunchunli), Machhapuchhare, Ganga Purna, Annapurna III and Mardi Himal. There were snow there as it had snowed 2 days ago.
We were also fortunate enough to see the first rays of the sun hit Annapurna South and Annapurna I. The mountains were golden, shining bright from the first rays of the sun. We could even view the sun rise later and the best part about this was that the sun came from behind Mount Machhapuchhare (Mt. Fishtail). I believe that it was already 8:30 when the sun first peeked.
What We Did Not See
Due to the unpredictable weather, there were clouds and rain that haunted us for a two days. Our trek was via Poon Hill where we would be glancing at where we were going to. But those clouds covered up the two – three ranges (Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and Nilgiri mountain ranges) that we were supposed to see and we only saw a glance of Annapurna South and probably what we thought was Machhapuchhare. But reaching the base camp and seeing a magnified view of almost all those that we missed beats it.
Our View From Poonhill
View from Poonhill (this happened only for a few minutes and then clouds covered everything)
There were also very few wildlife probably because of the weather and altitude. We saw mice (I didn’t), others saw what was probably mountain goats and monkeys. I saw only a few butterflies that could survive well at such high altitude.
What was Fun About The Trek
Almost everything from eating at one place to sleeping at another, viewing the huge mountains, greeting everyone we met on the way (most people we met were from Holland), dancing at a certain cultural dance in Benthanti, resting, sleeping, taking pictures, taking videos, missing on shots, bargaining, talking with the locals, eating dal bhat, eating something else for a change, drinking tea, stopping and resting, nature, watching the sun rise, watching the sun set, watching the moon, watching the stars, mistaking a light bulb for the moon from inside a room, joking around, worrying about availability of rooms, six people sleeping in one room, trying to get the best spot of the bed were some of the simple but fun activities that I can remember right now.
The most fun part of the trek was undoubtedly reaching Annapurna Base Camp. The feeling of being surrounded by the mountains was great. Playing in the snow, watching the first rays of the sun hit Annapurna South and Annapurna-I was also awesome. Watching the sun rise from behind Machhapuchhare was a great feeling. Playing around in the snow was also fun. Overall, this felt like a great achievement.
A 360+ Photosphere Picture of Annapurna Base Camp
What Was Challenging About The Trek
The endless uphill and downhill were quite a challenge for us. Those never ended and we had to climb a hill for hours just to trek down from the same hill but from the other side. Going up was slow and took a lot of energy. Going down was quick for some but for others it was painful due to the stress it put on our legs. The rain was also difficult.
Frankly, we were also worried about Acute Mountain Sickness due to the high altitude. Once you hear enough about this, you will begin to imagine the symptoms showing up in your body. You can neither ignore it nor can you think a lot about it. Putting a variant of Nepali Pepper (Timmur / Schezwan Pepper) was our answer to it but having this spice in our mouth early in the morning is not something that we wanted. None of us got it.
What We Learned / Suggestions to Other Trekkers
The trek was a great experience. Joining in a few strangers and returning as friends was really great. These were some of the things that we experienced and learned during this lengthy trek:
- Walk Together: Remember that it is a vacation and not a race. You might be the strong one who can rush through the trekking path but not everyone can follow. Don’t just have one friend in the trek, make the group your friend. This means that you should travel together with your group mates and not rush fast, leaving others behind. You must learn to enjoy the beauty of the place, take pictures and act like a tourist. So, be patient and walk together. The only exception to this is that you can walk ahead of the group to get a place to stay or order food in advance to save time for the entire group.
- Group Needs First: Spock from Star Trek couldn’t be more right. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.” Just because you want to do something badly while the group is too tired to continue, you should not pressure the group to do it. Negotiation and sacrifice of individual wants for the benefit of the group is the smart path. Always put the needs of the group first.
Distance and Time: During the trek you tend to ask other people how much longer to a certain place. Their answer won’t apply to you. You might take longer or shorter (probably longer) to reach your destination. There is no use in counting those hours.
- Walk as Planned: Follow your itinerary. It has been designed to give you the enjoyment. Just because you’ve reached a place early doesn’t mean that you should attempt to reach another station. There might be people who are tired or even you might need rest because of the hours of walking. Begin walking as early as 7 and end by 3-4. Spend the rest of the day socializing, re-vitalizing and drying your clothes and yourselves.
- Book Ahead / Reach Early: When you travel during the peak season, due to the limited number of hotels people will tell you that you might not get a place for the night. Try to book ahead for that but you will be told that the place is full. It is because of the fact that many bookings turn into no-shows. You will be better off reaching your target place on time to get the room. The people are nice up there so you never get stranded. You might have to sleep in dining rooms sometimes but those are nice as well. Having a sleeping bag helps.
- Acute Mountain Sickness: While climbing to high altitudes, very few come across what is known as Acute Mountain Sickness (A.M.S.) or simply Altitude Sickness. Click here to see the symptoms and other details like treatment of A.M.S. You can’t ignore this sickness as in extreme cases it may even result in fatality.
- Be Prepared: Pack your luggage, just take what you need, make a list, double check and don’t forget anything. You luggage should include warm clothes, medicines, massaging and pain-relief creams, sanitary items, socks, sunblock, instant water purifiers, energy bars, walking sticks, good shoes, water bottles, mobile phones, chargers, camera etc. Don’t forget money, budgeting and proper spending.
- Rest and Diet: A healthy diet and rest is important. Try local dal bhat or foods like pasta, pizza and other stuffs with cheese. Those are necessary for your body. Never waste food. Always eat right and if you don’t feel like eating, think of your food as your protein, vitamins and calcium that will help you rebuild and give you energy for the next day. Remember to carry energy bars, juices, water and other high energy foods such as nuts, cheese and dried fruits. Milk, muesli and eggs comprise of a good breakfast. Alchohol is not recommended at high altitudes. Make rest stops and drink enough water. Sleep adequately.
- Respect Local Culture: Remember, you are entering a place that has a different culture from what you were used to. For example while entering the main portion of the Annapurna region, you will have to understand that due to religious beliefs, you won’t be allowed to eat meat. Respect such cultures and you’re golden. Also don’t forget to take your wastes with you to keep the trekking track clean.
- Be Mentally Prepared: While trekking, you will be homesick at times. You will miss your comfortable bed, television and bathroom. Be mentally prepared for this.
- Take a Porter/Guide: If possible take a porter and/or a guide along. They can help you with your bags, find you places to stay and order your food in advance. Also, remember to treat them as people/friends. Paying them does not mean that you are their master. Treat them like you would treat a friend. Ask them about their day, give them treats and be their friend.
- Weather Can be Harsh: Due to the unpredictability of the weather of the region, it might be hot, wet, windy, dry and/or cold. So be prepared to face the heat or the rain. Light raincoats and warm clothes are a must.
- Friends are Important: Make sure that there are people that you can trust. You might need help with different things and trusty friends will never say no to you. Make sure you have someone who will be there for you for every situation. Make sure you do the same for them.
- Take a break: Take a long vacation from your work and normal life. Make sure you have the number of days plus a few more days required for the trek. Otherwise, you would be rushing all the time because you don’t want to show up late at work or home.
- Namaste Everyone: On your way, you will come across several trekkers and local people. It is always nice to smile at other trekkers, greet them with a friendly “Namaste” and sometimes talk to them for a short while.
Is This Trek Recommended?
YES, HIGHLY !!