So here I sit on Spice Jet flight no. SG233 in Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport, Varanasi, destination Delhi then on to Daghbagad, Rishakesh.
Bewildered, confused and I guess you could say enlightened all in one from what Varanasi through in my face for the short 2 days I got lost in the city. Although Varanasi I’m sure has plenty more to see and offer, I feel as though for now its played its part in my journey.
I have spent the past few weeks before Varanasi in Nepal and figured now would be as better time as any to start my first blog entry of my current travels through this strange and exciting part of the world. So without any more enlightened BS I give you my journey through the Annapurnas.
Trekking the Annapurna mountain range in the Himalayas is an experience not easily comparable to many others, it is rated 10th on the world’s most beautiful treks and I have seen firsthand why. This post will be a run down on things I brought, things I wish I had brought as long with a few things I learnt along the way.
First we will start with my kit, what I brought and what I wish I had brought:
Osprey Aether 70L Backpack:
A good pack is a necessity for any trek, especially if you choose not to use a porter as I, as well as many others do. The Osprey series are a reputable and well-known brand, they contain a breathable airflow area ‘Airscape’ through the back and a strong comfortable frame with multi-adjustment options to perfectly suit your body shape and size. I highly recommend this pack.
There is no way about it, you will get dirty on this trek, you will smell, you will wear the same dirty clothes for multiple days and it really will be the last thing on your mind. The sanctuary is generally a 10 day trek, depending on who you are of course depends greatly on how many items of clothing you wish to bring. Here is a list of what I settled for:
1 Long Sleeved ‘North Face’ sweat transfer base layer
1 Pair of Quick Dry fabric shorts
1 Pair of Quick Dry Trekking pants
1 Base Layer Pants
8 pairs of underpants
4 pairs of socks
‘North Face’ Gloves
‘MAMMUT’ Trekking Boots – ‘Impact GTX’
‘North Face’ Neck Warmer and Face Cover
2 100% Polyester Jumpers
Full Body Poncho
My Peruvian Mountain Beanie (which has now followed me through 12 countries)
All these clothes kept me fairly comfortable during my trek and if I were to say the only thing I could have dropped would be one of my t shirts. An extra pair of long pants would have been good as well but not a necessity.
DO NOT bring any cotton jumpers or anything cotton that will be on your body externally, chances are you will get some rain and cotton will not dry in the damp cold conditions of the mountains.
There are thousands of items you can stock up on to make your trek more comfortable, I however didn’t have the money nor the experience to purchase any of these items so I kept it basic.
Sleeping Bag, although all the tea houses you stay at along the way will provide a blanket or 2 if you need one, nothing beats the warmth of a good sleeping bag.
Head Torch, very handy for those late night toilet trips. If you are worried about looking like a dork with a light attached to your forehead then I am sure a simple torch will do the trick as well.
Trekking poles, of course the trek can be done without but I find having at least 1 trekking pole to be an extremely handy item. Unfortunately my poles were cheap knock offs so I only used 1 of them and I couldn’t put too much weight on it anyway so it was more or less used as a balancing device. Still very useful when you’re carrying a huge pack on your back whilst trying to navigate your way up and down rocky paths along the side of the Himalayan Mountains.
3 Litre water bladder, this little chestnut came in very handy especially considering the osprey series come with a bladder compartment and clip to hold onto, plus a feed for the mouthpiece and hose to strap over your shoulder and onto the front strap of your bag. Being able to quickly access your water at any time without having to stop and pull out a bottle is a huge advantage, plus bladders allow a balanced and restricted feed of water which stops over consumption resulting in having to buy more and more water along the way.
Panasonic Lumix Digital Camera, just your standard run of the mill camera. Nothing special but it is tough and durable and has a good battery life. It becomes harder and harder to recharge appliances as you get closer to Base Camp so a good battery life really makes a difference.
Of course your standard toiletries are a staple, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and a simple first aid kit should always be on the list. These things are available along the way if need be.
Money, Money, Money
The trek itself really doesn’t cost that much, food is cheap and the accommodation is even cheaper. Where you are going to want to watch out cash wise is the little markets and stalls each town has set up, they really know how to over charge especially as you get further in the mountains so if you are going to buy some Nik Naks do it earlier on in the trek. Try to budget for around $15-$20 a day. 20,000-30,000 Rupees all up should manage a 10 day trek comfortably.
That’s about it, sure there are other things that would have made my trek more comfortable but this was more than enough to get me buy over the 10 days I spent in the mighty Annapurna’s.
What I wish I had brought:
Although I really didn’t Need anything else, there are definitely a few things that would have made certain times more comfortable.
Water Purifying Pills, as you will probably be aware the water in Nepal isn’t exactly drinker friendly so you generally have to just constantly be buying bottles of water. A few people I met brought along their own water purifying pills which you simply throw in a bottle full of the tap water available along the way and it will purify it and make it readily drinkable within minutes. A great way to save money on water.
Hot Water Bottle, yes you heard right, a hot water bottle. It gets cold, and I mean really cold. Especially for a sunny Queenslander such as myself. There were a group of Korean trekkers along the way who each filled up a hot water bottle just before bed and I remember being so jealous of them I was seriously considering stealing one. The problem is the closer you get towards base camp the colder it gets, but not just cold, damp as well. So everything in your bag is not only cold but wet. That’s why you generally end up sleeping in the exact same thing for days on end, everything else is wet! A hot water bottle would have been the perfect accompaniment to throw in the bottom of my sleeping bag on the cold wet nights.
Biltong, Beef Jerkey etc… As a self-confessed carnivore, I found the vegetarian menu found throughout all the villages to be quite tiresome. Sure at the beginning some chicken dishes are available but other than that its vegetable this and vegetable that. This did not sit well with me and by the end of the trek I was really struggling, physically and mentally. Something like Biltong, a South African dried meat snack would have been perfect. It is quite similar to Beef Jerkey only far more substantial and extremely tasty. I doubt this can be purchased in Nepal but I know its readily available many countries so look it up before you leave. If not simple Beef Jerkey would work a treat as well. I can picture myself now, just finished hiking my way through snow and mountain, perching myself on a rock and pulling out a big piece of dried beef. What a Man…
Guides – Do you Need One?
Here is quite probably the most discussed topic before, during and after the trek and right now I will give a definitive answer with full confidence. In three small words…… Not At All. At least not for any human being with the ability to follow a path.
However that is not to say that a guide should just be shrugged off as some sort of scam for the Nepalese to make a few extra Rupees on, I myself had a guide for a part of the trek and found it to be a good experience, but definitely not a necessity. Here is a rundown of what the guide will provide:
Accommodation and Service, this is the main aspect of the guide really. They sort out accommodation and pretty much wait on you hand and foot. It is quite nice to be able to walk into a town after 6 hours of trekking up mountains and have a bed waiting for you to collapse into. They also sort out your food and anything else you need, within reason of course.
Insight to the Nepalese Culture, it was really good to have someone to talk to who was able to tell me about Nepal, its people and the culture in general. A couple of the nights I also joined him for dinner with the family who owned the guesthouse, this also included several glasses of the local wine or ‘rocket fuel’ as it should more appropriately be called. It was fun and pretty much made having a guide worth it in itself.
Avalanche Zones, there are particular areas along the trek, especially as you approach the sanctuary itself, where avalanches can be quite a hazard if you are unlucky enough to get caught in one. Having a guide will point out where and make sure you don’t dawdle about in these areas. There had been 2 significant Avalanches within the past week when I was trekking through so I was happy to have someone telling me to put a little extra spring in my step.
Be Careful When Choosing a Guide!
Make sure you do your research when sorting out a guide, I heard some terrible stories people had with their guides either being lazy or just full blown insane to a stage where one guide threatened to kill someone in the group for simply laughing at him while he was dancing.
Hopefully this post helps with organising your own Annapurna Trek, stay tuned for my next post in which I will go through my route and the trek itself.