Just because I like the number 7, that’s it! I’m kidding. Well, I just finished a 7-day trek to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC Nepal), a famous and popular trek route in Nepal. Going up to the snowy Annapurna Sanctuary mountain range and waking up in the morning and chill.
1. The way from Kathmandu (Kat) to Pokhara (Pok) is super bad, super dusty & super heavy traffic
I arrived at Kat at night so I couldn’t see the street clearly. The next morning, while on a coach to Pok, I realized how badly dusty the city is. The dusty air lasts from Kat to Pok. Dust everywhere. Green trees covered with dust. The road has many under construction parts that contributed a lot of dust. Although I was inside a close-door bus, I couldn’t avoid dust. The Lonely Planet also says about the dust in its book, Nepal.
In addition to dust, the road is also very bumpy. The old intercity bus shook from one side to another, then another side… It took 9 hours for the 200 km distance. You can imagine how bad the road is.
Not only the road, but the trek route of the first day is also dusty. That night after I took a bath, I immersed my clothes into the water, it changes the color immediately.
The traffic jam is much worse than in HCMC. From Pok back to Kat, I was on a much better bus: spacious, big chairs, eating table, closed-door, air conditioner. I thought it was a great journey until the bus got nearly to Kat. Super heavy traffic jam! It took 10 hours from Pok to Kat. From the bus station to the hotel, the situation was not better. The day after, we had to cancel to city tour in the midway due to traffic jam. How tired!
– Bringing your mask is a suggestion. The local people also use masks.
-It took a lot of time to move between the two cities. So don’t plan anything that so close to the time. You may not on time.
– If you wanna travel like local people, you can choose the local bus as I did. Else, you can choose a flight. It only takes 30 mins between the two cities.
2. Super long food preparation, super late meal and super big dishes
On the flight to Kat, I quickly read Lonely Planet Nepal, and knew that Nepalese have breakfast very late. After waking up, they just drink tea. Until 9 or 10 am, they start to have their breakfast and have dinner near bedtime. It’s true when I came here.
My first meal is the breakfast at the hotel. I had to have it early in order to leave on time. Then I waited too long on the bus for the lunch. I expected it was at around 12pm something. It turned out that the bus stopped for lunch at about 2pm. So hungry! The lunches on the trek are late too although it was adjusted a little bit earlier for tourists.
The lunch time on the way back to Kat was also another challenge. I had breakfast at about 7am, got into the bus and left Pok. Then it stopped for breakfast at about 10am but I was still full at that time so I didn’t take that meal. And, as usual, the bus stopped again for lunch at 1pm. The time between of my two meals last long endlessly.
We often had to wait about 1-1,5 hours before we could have our meals even we pre-ordered sometimes. It was tired to wait. A day when we arrived, our guide asked us to stay in the room until the meal was ready so we did not have to wait tiredly in the dining room. Waiting for meals became so normal that one day we were too surprised to have lunch after just 15 mins. And that was the only “on-time” meal. The wait was not only on the trekking days but also on the day we came back to Pok.
Each dish here is big as well. A plate of fried rice, Spaghetti or a sandwich can be shared for two women. (I mean, a woman like me). The first few meals, there was a lot of leftover because I could not have it all. After that, I shared with my accompanies so we could finish all.
– Bring your own snacks to prevent hunger.
– Before ordering your dish, please look around to see if anyone is having the same dish and how much it is, or you can share it with your friends. If you are a picky eater, bring your own food.
– Nepalese foods are not diverse.
3. Super wonderful trekking route & super tired
Before coming to ABC Nepal, I heard that the trek rout looked beautiful all the way long. When I came there. it’s true. All the way in the jungle, the green leaves turned to yellow. It looked romantic. There was always opportunity to see the Fishtail or Himachuli peaks hidden behind mountains and trees. Waterfalls looks amazing.
Below is the terraces with yellow fields. Above is cloud flying slowly under a clear blue sky. It was cloudy and gloomy only once on the day we got to ABC. There were small cute houses with a lot colorful flowers in villages that we passes through. In summary, the scene is beautiful all the way.
However, it was easily tired because of stairs. Trails are much easier and less tired for me than stairs. But there are a lot of human-made rocky stairs on the rout. The guides and porters said it was easier for guests to walk on stairs. But the case is not for me. I prefer trails. That’s why when going down, I chose trails whenever possible.
– A good and wide-angle camera phone or a GoPro or something like that is nice to have, so you don’t miss any opportunity to take beautiful pictures.
– You should spend time to see by your eyes rather than taking pictures. No matter how good the pictures are, they can not show the whole imposing scene. That’s not to mention, taking pictures may slow you down or fall down because of slippery.
– Besides trekking to the basecamp, you can choose a helicopter. It takes only 12-15 mins from Pokhara to the basecamp (instead of trekking in 4 days). I’m not sure about the price. I heard that it costs 3,000USD/hour/4-5 pax. If you want, let double-check.
4 . Super unrealistic Annapurna Sanctuary
Waking up in the morning and surrounding by amazing snowy mountain range was a hyper feeling. The high and low peaks create a huge white area. I just wanna watch it forever. When the sun rises, my God, the scene looked so stunning that no cameras can take. I just watched it by my eyes.
ABC‘s height is “just” 4,130m but the highest peak is Annapurna One which is 8,091m. It’s the 10th highest peak in the world and the highest one in Annapurna Sanctuary. Besides, there’s a sacred peak that no one is allowed to come, Fish Tail. There are Annapurna Three, Annapurna South… as well. All are beautiful.
– As in number 3: good camera. Choose the right place to take photos.
– And nice clothes to have good pictures for social media but don’t forget to keep yourself warm. The degree may negative Celcius.
5. Super healthy body and super strong mind
Trekking required a healthy body, of course. But for this ABC Nepal trek, you also need endurance to go far, strength to carry your backpack because the longer you go, the more heavier you feel it. This trek requires 7 continuous days walk. Each day it takes 7-9 hours to go up and down, up and down for a distance of nearly twenty kilometers. You can imagine how much and how long you will go so you can well prepare.
My group has a “newbie” who hadn’t gone any trek nor practiced any physical exercise before. He got injury in the very first day of the trek. It was so serious that he couldn’t move properly. It was said that he might be left behind waiting us to come back. But he did not give up and he conquered the trek finally.
When you go up higher, the air is low-density, the temperature is lower. They causes some issues with the body such as lack of oxygen, headache, dizzy. I did not have problem with breathing but I got headache at ABC. It got better when I went down. I also got running nose a little bit. Other members in the group including men and women got difficult breathing, long-lasting headache, insomnia.
In the morning before we got to ABC, there was a helicopter coming to recuse a woman (I guesses she’s Korean). I did not know what happened but she could not move. She was carried by a male, breathed by an oxygen tank. All of us felt fear.
– It’s recommended to practice physical exercises before the trek. For those who are frequent exercisers, keep going until the day you go. You don’t need to practice harder. For those who are not, let practice 2-3 months prior.
– Use Vitamin C daily. Drink water a lot.
– You can use painkiller medicine and/or use Salonpas every night to feel better tomorrow.
6. Super nice weather
Except for the first morning with a lot of dust, the weather is nice all the trek. The sunlight is beautiful. And luckily it did not rain.
On the evening of the fourth day when I nearly arrived at the base camp, it was super cloudy and gloomy. There was snow. I thought the weather could be bad like that in the day after and we could not see the beauty of the mountain. But to our surprise, the later morning was so beautiful. When the sun rose, its sunbeam over the snowy mountain ranges created a stunning beauty of nature. It was cold but it was so beautiful. So, I went out of the dining room to watch it, then came in, then went out, then came in…
This trek was drudgingly but worth it. I could see the snow the first time in my life and enjoy the sunrise in Annapurna.
– Clothes should be flexible for the weather. A raincoat or waterproof coat, warm coat, gloves should be packed in your backpack. You should not put it in the porter’s pack.
– I had only one set for the whole trek includes one water-proof pant and one heat-tech T-shirt. I washed them at night and wore again in the morning. If it was cold, I wore a sweatshirt, then I took off when it got hot.
– A one-size-bigger waterproof shoe is a a suggestion.
– Remember sun cream and cover your face, especially when the sun is intense. The sun in the mountain areas is much more intense than the lower areas.
7. Super cute trekking group
When I register for the ABC Nepal trek, my friend and me booked the tour with GoNepal in Vietnam. They cooperate with Odea Services in Nepal. After that, I knew that the group combined 14 pax (10 women and 4 men). Before the trek, we were added to a Messenger Group but we did not know each other until we met in Nepal on the first trekking day.
Our group had both old and young, Ha Noi and Saigon. The oldest one is 52 years old and the youngest is 24 years old. Whenever we stopped to take rests or had meals, we talked and laugh a lot. It sounded noisy but it was so fun.
Our two guides and seven porters were fun and enthusiastic. You can say that they pretended to be that way because they were serving clients. Not really. I saw they were very honestly. They served clients with smiles. They made jokes moderately to reduce tiredness. They sang, they danced. They talked happily to each other which I could understand but I saw they really happy.
The boss Devi of Odea is a nice guy too. That man has a strong-look body and a big boss manner of 2-3 hotels with about 40 staff. He was the one who picked us up at the hotel. In the last day when we arrived Kathmandu, he invited the group dinner with a lot of delicious food, wines, beers and shisha. He prepared cars to take each of small groups to the airport. He helped us to check the flight situation. In my case, that the Malindo Air cancelled the flight was informed us by him.
– You should join a group from a tour company. It is fun and crowded. You will know more people and not worry so much about services such as meals and hostels. In high season, if you go alone, it’s hard to book a room and you may sleep in a dining hall.
– If you go to a group, you have a chance to know more guides and porters. (The larger the group, the more people serve them). But the negative side of a big group is that you may not like the noise or you are not matched with them. So let go with a clear mind and a heart.
Bonus: All the above things are not super absolute. I went in October (start of the high season), booked a low-cost Standard package (they do have Deluxe package with higher cost), went in 7 days (they have 10-day, 15-day… packages), with a group of 14 people and was served by Odea Services. If you choose differently, you may get a different experience.