First Experience of Trekking In The Himalayas
First Experience of Trekking In The Himalayas
My first trekking experience was in the Nepal Himalayas.
Annapurna Circuit Trek November/December 2014
A month before my fortieth birthday, I undertook my first trek, having never done anything like it or similar before. My experience with Raj’s company, Responsible Adventures, from the first e-mail I sent inquiring about trekking, could not have been better.
The months leading up to Nepal’s departure saw me preparing for something entirely new for me, and Raj’s advice was invaluable. I was in regular contact with Raj asking many questions, which he patiently and comprehensively answered, which was very reassuring.
I had booked to spend some extra days in Nepal outside the trekking itinerary, splitting the time between Kathmandu before the trek and Pokhara after it. Raj assisted me with my additional inquiries and travel arrangements and met with me the morning after arriving in Kathmandu. Raj took me on a walking tour of Kathmandu and Swayambhunath, the Monkey Temple. Raj also gave me some other ideas about spending my time in Kathmandu. Knowing that I enjoyed cycling, I suggested I rent a bicycle and cycle to the medieval city of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley. This was quite an eventful ride and one I certainly could not have planned! Dodging the busy weekend traffic of the city and negotiating my way through the main and side streets was quite an experience and tested my cycling abilities in ways I didn’t think were possible! This said, I had an enjoyable day exploring another part of the Kathmandu Valley rich in some of the most exquisite religious architecture, narrow cobbled streets, various squares and courtyards filled with temples, red brick houses, shrines, statues, and other artefacts. The trekking itinerary soon arrived and consisted of a car journey to Besi Sahar, where my trek would begin. After lunch, we set off for Bhulbule, and I took my first steps of many on a trip that would excite and delight me at every corner and have me fall in love with the Himalayas.
Being my first day, I had no idea what to expect, but my guide ensured I was looked after, arranging my order for that evening’s meal along with plenty of hot tea and breakfast the following day. I soon fell into a routine that served me well. It helped me adjust to life on the trekking route, providing me with a sense of self-assurance and confidence in an area that, to begin with, was unfamiliar to me but soon became very regular and comfortable. One I would come to miss once the trek had concluded.
A typical day started with my guide knocking on my door in the morning, and after getting ready, I would go to the dining room for breakfast, which was always served promptly. After breakfast, I would pack my final bits, and then we would set off for a day of trekking and chatting! My guide ensured I was kept safe and well on the trek, pointing out any hazards such as thorny bushes and nettles in the lower regions and advising on how to negotiate any terrain that might be tricky. For me! He also carried my trek pack, arranged the evening’s accommodation at every destination at the end of each day, and ensured I was well fed and hydrated.
In the lower regions, it was clear to see the industrial progression, including hydroelectric plants, fish farms, and of course, the road slowly creeping further along the trekking route. This took up quite a lot of the conversation, to begin with, with me asking about how this impacted the local communities and their lives and the pros and cons of this modern advancement. As we started to leave this behind, my attention turned more towards the mountains and even more stunning scenery and local life along the route. As we ascended, the landscape began to change, and once we got above 3,000 meters, my guide added an acclimatisation walk to the day’s trek. This usually consisted of an additional hike for about an hour and a half heading upwards before coming back down to the tea house, seeing me trekking high but sleeping low. I am sure that this helped me acclimate to the altitude and meant that I did not need to rest day in Manang. I certainly didn’t feel I needed to have a rest day. Although I noticed that sleep was becoming a little more elusive, the further up we got, I always felt healthy and well, and the altitude did not appear to have any adverse effects on me. Despite this, my guide did suggest I add garlic soup to my already increasing meal in the evening, saying that it would help with acclimatisation. As my appetite didn’t appear to be suffering, I happily added it to my dinner order!
Feeling strong and well during the trek meant that we seemed to be making good time on each day’s walk, so when we arrived at Thorung Phedi at lunchtime, we decided to head up to High Camp in the afternoon rather than spend the night lower down. This also means that the long day going over the high pass at Thorung La would be slightly shorter. It was always lovely that I could discuss these sorts of things with my guide, and it made me feel like I could give some strong opinions as to how the day would unfold, and I wasn’t just being led the whole way. It was also nice to know that my idea was considered and valued by my guide. The morning going over the high pass, Thorung La, started early (I had not slept much that night, but it did mean I was able to witness some of the most incredible night skies I would ever see), and we were the first to leave High Camp under a moonlit sky. I was told that night’s temperature had been in the region of -17 degrees C, and by the time we reached Thorung La, my two litres of water had frozen solid! Trekking through snow and ice was quite amusing at times, and there were still the telltale signs of the blizzard and the events that had occurred in the region earlier in October. Although sobering and humbling, it did not detract from the immense sense of achievement of reaching the pass, and I was able to celebrate with stock photos of myself underneath the many fluttering prayer flags hiding the official sign as well as one of the most welcome cups of tea I think I have ever had; so much so, I stayed and had a second while waiting for some of my friends to arrive.
The trek down from Thorung La to Muktinath was probably the most challenging part of the day as I stumbled and slid over snow and ice with my trekking poles, coming into their own! Some of the ice had formed into round spheres of varying sizes to add to the excitement, so at times I was trying to walk over ice ranging in shape from tiny marbles to footballs! Once safely down from that area, we found a tea house where we stopped for lunch before continuing on our way. It was quite a relief to finally walk into Muktinath after a long day, albeit very rewarding. The next few days saw us descend just over two thousand six hundred meters to Tatopani, where I caught up with some of the friends I had made along the route and where we all enjoyed soaking in the waters of the hot springs before heading upwards again to Ghorepani! An early morning wake-up call saw my guide, and I join others for the hike up to Poon Hill at 3,210m, where we were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise over the mountains. With only two days of trekking left, it was a lovely way to finish the trek.
The trek concluded in Pokhara, where my guide made sure I was checked into my hotel before we headed off for our last lunch overlooking Phewa Lake. I could not have asked for a better first-time experience trekking, and it would not have been possible without Raj and his team at Responsible Adventures. As well as taking care of all the logistics of the trek, I was kept well informed about the areas we trekked through, the mountains that surrounded us, and the local traditions and customs. Furthermore, consideration was given to my health and well-being, which meant I could relax and enjoy the whole experience. I highly recommend Raj and his team at Responsible Adventures to anyone interested in trekking and tours in the Himalayas. I am certainly looking forward to returning for more adventures with them!
Text and Photos: Tara Austin