There are few treks that take you so close to the base of 7,000 and 8,000 meter peaks in a such a short period of time as the Annapurna Base Camp Trek.
Ten years ago we had just booked our honeymoon in Nepal, and yesterday whilst clearing out the basement I found my diary of the trip. My honest thoughts and feelings about the adventure and the journey we were embarking on.
We started with 3 days in Delhi before moving onto Pokhara and the the trek. It’s not my usual style, or even about travelling with kids, but I think it tells you something about our love of travel, and because the diary may get lost, I’ve decided to document it here. Warts and all.
The Annapurna Base Camp Trek takes 7 to 12 days, depending on your itinerary and length of walking days.
This itinerary and the standard of accommodation it reflects are not consistent with the standard now I am led to believe.
29th December 2009
Arrived into Delhi airport at 1ish after a 7 hour flight from Heathrow. We were exhausted and found Delhi’s airport to be quieter but just as chaotic and disorganised as expected.
1hr later we cleared customs and left to find a cab driver and some rupees. Matthew was as sceptical as ever on arrival and was convinced that our taxi diver was out to scam us. I in turn translated that to fear and for the full 30 minutes from the airport to the Oberoi thought we were going to end up separated from our luggage and cash.
Scepticism was however unnecessary as we were safely deposited at our swanky hotel no long after. Our room even has a butler service.
Initial thoughts are that the Oberoi is a quiet oasis in the middle of a very manic city.
We have done very little today, we are shattered. We had a buffet lunch, a sleep, some cake and watched a film. Struggling as I write this to stay awake and it’s only 5.30pm. Need to manage a few more hours.
Feet still have blisters from dancing at the wedding and still think it was the best day of my life. Cannot wait to see the photos.
30th December 2009
The day started very slowly we are definitely taking some time to get over the last few weeks. We had a lazy breakfast downstairs at 360 and then came back upstairs to sleep some more, until at least 1pm.
Then we went into Delhi itself.
We both rejected the taxi outside the hotel gate in favour of walking the 30 minutes to India Gate but once outside we decided a rickshaw was the only way to go as the pavements were non existent.
What can I say about my initial impressions. Busy, mad, dirty, hectic, loud. It was very interesting to be driven around Delhi but very noisy and disorientating. You felt at every turn that you were about to be conned.
There was not a chance that we would be taken to the ‘real’ tourist office despite a few requests. 2 hours out in the real Delhi was enough.
Back to the Oberoi for a sleep and a swim before dinner at Taipan at 9. Very nice meal, few G&T’s and then sleep sleep sleep. Exhausted.
31st December 2009
Woke at 11.30am and snoozed until 12.30am. Shattered. Time to head out to the Red Fort.
Red Fort is one of Delhi’s best loved tourist attractions and I guess you could say we were a little underwhelmed. It has national heritage status but can’t see any restoration in the last 50 years.
It was a lovely temperature though for sightseeing and we ambled about. On the way to the Red Fort we saw two elephants weaving their way through the traffic on the equivalent of the M53.
The roads were much busier than yesterday and it is fascinating how they get where they need to without hitting each other.
We were only out about 2 hours until we came back to our oasis to sleep.
8pm – Just heading out for what we think is an all inclusive champagne/cocktails buffet. Do they not know how much champers can be drunk. Just finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and loved it.
Lovely night at 360 drinking and eating, back to our room for midnight celebrations.
1 January 2010
I think I now feel terrified, or at least apprehensive at the thought of the next stage of the adventure. We have just packed and re-packed our bags for the trek, confirmed our emergency details for a disaster scenario (!) and made sure others can make medical decisions if we can’t. Not the standard prep for stage 2 of your honeymoon.
We awoke again at 11.30am tomorrows 6am start will definitely be a shock to the system. We lazed about until 1.30pm only having brunch at 2pm.
We then made our way to the pool and read our books all afternoon. A perfect afternoon (save for some tetchiness around the insurance and medical form details.)
2 January 2010
Up and out to the airport by 6.30am feeling rather smug about getting to the airport by 7.30am and not getting stuck in rush hour traffic only to find that the flight had been cancelled and no flights were going out of Delhi that morning – the trip looked at risk of collapse.
After a very hassled hour or so it appeared as though we were going to be put on the 12pm or 1pm flight if they were going. Matthew was like a bear. I stayed very quiet and finished the second in the Stig Larsson series.
At 1pm our flight was looking promising, and by 2pm we were heading out to Kathmandu. We arrived and Matthew immediately upgraded us to the Shangri-La (yippee) and then we headed out into town to find food. We ate pizza at a recommended place with Kim (who we met on the flight) and then came back to the room early to make up for the 6am start.
3 January 2010
Arrived at Kathmandu domestic airport at 8am this morning and met AD Sherpa and Dawa our guide for the next 10 days. My mood is calm and I slept well last night, so whilst I am still slightly apprehensive I am reassured that we are in good hands and excited about what is to come.
The 8am flight is likely to fly at about 10/10.30am. Flights have started to take off now the fog has cleared (it’s 9.30am now) and hopefully we will be on the move soon. Dawa is on the job moving around the room checking we will not be left.
12.30am – First omelette of the trip. Matt thinks it will be the first of 20. The adventure really starts here as it’s hot and sunny but the steps out of the trailhead look steep. 3-4 hours of walking today – this is it. We are off!
3.5 hours of walking today in truly beautiful scenery. It was incredible. The food was also much better than I thought. Dah Baht – a mixture of lentils, curried vegetables and rice was actually pretty nice.
We only made it to Pokhara the first night due to our delay in Delhi. The room was as expected, basic but seemingly clean with a toilet next door. I braved the toilet but not the shower – think I will be dirty for a long time.
Sleeping went OK, broken sleep 10-1 but then slept 1am-6am pretty pleased with the day 1/night 1 experience!
4 January 2010
8am – Up, we survived the night and had breakfast outside with a lovely family from Columbia, looking at stunning views.
This family is an inspiration and are mid way through a 3 week trip to Delhi, Kathmandu, 4 day trek in Annapurna, followed by 9 days in Bhutan. We must remember them in the future. They also introduced us to friend eggs and chappati for breakfast, and noodle soup and tuna/cheese momo’s (basically dumplings) for lunch/dinner.
This morning was truly superb. Stunning stunning views. 3 hours plus 4.5 hours walk to go.
8pm – we made it. All the way to Chorong. 8 hours of walking with only an 1hr break for lunch. It was hard going but thoroughly enjoyable. Up and down dale just doesn’t cover it.
We had arrived to a guest house in a different class to last night. We have a double bed and we have a bath and a shower. It was so amazing for being so incredibly unexpected. I mean the shower was actually hot.
We then had a very lovely and filling Dah Bhat served by a lovely lady. To top it off even the toilets are clean. We will definitely stay here on the way back.
So two days down and it looks like I might be able to do this. Fingers and toes crossed for the altitude tomorrow as we will cross 3000m tomorrow afternoon.
5th January 2010
8.30am – plan is Chorong to Himalaya Hotel (hopefully)
Our guide has sensed our desire to do this trip in 7 nights not 9, leaving us time for 2 nights of mountain viewing in Pokhara.
10.30am – It it tougher today, feeling like I hope I didn’t peak yesterday. Met a group on the way back down who said “it was worth every painful step”.
The challenge bit really does feel like it’s starting and it’s difficult not to look back and realise how hard it will be on the way back too. In my head I thought it would be down on the way back and up on the way there. It is much more varied than that.
By 10.30am we have reached Shinuwa.
1pm We have reached Bamboo for lunch which means we are now a full day ahead of schedule.
The last two hours were easier than the first, but lots of downhill which will be tough of the return. It’s still very warm which is incredibly surprising. I think the cold will start with vengeance tonight.
My feet have a couple of blisters but nothing too major. We are however only mid way through day 3. At least 5 more to go. The day has stayed clear so far today so the views have been stunning. Someone has however started a fire on the hillside which apart from the obvious threat is threatening to spoil the views.
It should be 2.5 hours to Himalaya Camp this afternoon. Looking at the accommodation at Bamboo it’s going to be an interesting night. I have however seen three Korean girls who look very un-hardcore and if they can do it, so can I.
8pm – Made it to Himalaya Camp after a really lovely afternoon. Not too hilly, not too hot, just right. It was a really great afternoon.
Tonight however might make me cry. No decent toilets, it’s very cold and I am terrified about needing a wee in the night. It’s 8pm now and we are going to get into our sleeping bags and play scrabble in air it’s so cold we can see our breath in it.
This is not fun.
On the plus side because we are walking so quickly we will only have two nights of this cold/style of accommodation and I must be able to do that.
We are now debating the Shangri -La in Pokhara for the additional 3 nights. Expensive but at this point I think we deserve it!
6 January 2010
Today has been incredible. We have reached Machapachure Base Camp, the views have been incredible and we both feel fine. We are going to head up to Annapurna Base Camp after lunch as the sky is crystal clear and it is only 11am. What a morning. Makes last night worthwhile, I hope I can remember this view and this feeling tonight.
4pm We reached Annapurna Base Camp at 3.30pm. Brilliant. So so proud of us. We are ace. It is going to be a cold night but we have hot chocolate and warm clothes to see us through.
Very very glad we persevered and after tonight it should get easier.
Our guide and partner have scared away a young French student who I took pity on during the day and gave food to and a spray as he had got sick. The guides don’t want him around as he has come up here alone and badly dressed and it’s not safe to do that. They don’t want the responsibility for him.
Scrabble game 3, I am 1 up.
This has been the best day of the year so far.
5.30pm Our guide has just found a heater so it’s a bit warmer now.
7 January 2010
8am I cried, no actually sobbed for 20 minutes this morning.
9am I’m fine now. Going to put it down to altitude. Views are stunning. Very very spectacular. It is however cold, very very cold.
9.30am Sun has come out and all is well with the world, that is until Matt discovers he has strained his knee. One knee support and a few ibuprofen later and we set off back downhill – not the best for a bad knee.
We make it to Bamboo descending by nearly 2000m. It is the busiest teahouse so far and we meet an Australian couple who have had to turn back because she has hurt her knee too.
Teahouse is awful but food is good.
8 January 2010
Bamboo to Chromrong and the dream of a western toilet and hot shower.
Back to the Himalayan View for some luxury and a little downtime we hope. The walk from Bamboo to Chromrong should take around 4 hours so we are going to take it very slowly and enjoy the views and the sun.
4.30pm You can see how far we have to decline and then how far we have to go back up – ouch!
Arrived at Chromrong for utter luxury, a clean toilet and a shower – yipee! Lovely evening with an Ozzie couple chatting and putting the world to rights.
9 January 2010
Our last full day and night and the third day without a cloud in the sky. Matt’s knee us giving him hell though and we have a long way to go down (and then up). I am hearing ‘fuck me it hurts’ a lot.
10am We’ve walked past many farms this morning and it’s like watching villages from days gone by. A market economy with farmers growing items for sale. We saw a 4ish year old carrying her own body weight in a basket. They obviously start training young. The view ahead is fab, but looks very very hard.
8pm Worst meal yet today, but a lovely afternoon reading in the sun. I think we will reflect on an amazig walk but tonight I’ve had quite enough. I want a proper meal and a proper bed.
Scrabble with a nice Ozzy girl tonight who seams quite lost.
10 January 2010
Our 2 week wedding anniversary.
1pm We made it out of the hills and are waiting for a car to take us to the hotel. It’s an odd mix of people here. Locals, tourists, those going about their own business and those hoping to make a quick buck.
We’re hoping someone will come soon but you can’t be sure. The Ozzy girl got picked up quickly and we’ve seen a few buses so we won’t be stuck, civilisation is close.
Can’t believe we’ve done it. Can’t believe we got married and I now have a new surname.
Wow – we survived.
6pm The Shangri – la Pokhara is ace!
We went out for dinner with Matthew, Talisha and Tanya tonight in Pokhara to a great steak restaurant called Moondance. Really fun evening until I fell down some stairs at the end of the evening and really hurt myself!
11 January 2010
8am In agony. Dr arriving to take us to hospital.
11.30am We had finished at the hospital by 10,30am I had been x-rayed and diagnosed with a dislocated elbow and had it fixed and put into a cast. Better than the NHS speed I reckon, although dirtier and more terrifying. Both doctors I saw were brilliant though. In a cast now though for 3 weeks. Happy honeymoon.
4.30pm Lovely afternoon by the pool. Sling doesn’t hinder sunbathing and book reading too much.
6pm Matt had to bath me and wash my hair. Welcome to married life.
8pm Had dinner tonight with Matthew & Talisha at the vege punjabi restaurant in Pokhara. Another lovely night.
12 January 2010
A fantastically uneventful day. Our only aim is not to leave the Shangri-la today and just read boooks and relax.
Arm is doing OK provided I keep topped up on ibuprofen, of which we have plenty.
13 January 2010
Arrived at Dwarika’s today at around lunchtime. This place is just stunning and we have a beautiful room with 4 poster bed, two sofas and the most enormous bathroom.
Even better, Richard Gere, yes the Richard Gere, is sitting in the courtyard!
Had a long lunch staring at Mr Gere, so exciting, and met a lovely Ozzie called Andrew who is going to have dinner with us later – a 12 course Nepalese feast.
Lovely evening, food very good and amazing for £30. Nice wine and lovely company. Stunningly fab hotel.
14 January 2010
Mr Gere smiled at me in the lobby!!
It’s our last night in Nepal tonight and we went on a 1/2 day city this morning with a guide. The monkey temple was underwhelming but the old town was fascinating (so many people) and the stupa was enormous and striking in its size. So unexpected behind a row of shops.
Back to the hotel for lunch and persuaded the staff to set us up a table in the sun right next to Richard Gere.
On his way out of the hotel Richard Gere stopped for a few minutes and actually chatted to me and asked me how my arm was, what I had done and then wished me well. I am hopelessly star struck and can’t stop smiling!
We then had an afternoon reading and relaxing in this truly beautiful hotel. We then went into Thamel to meet Tanya for dinner at Fire & Ice. I don’t rally envy her 16 nights in Kathmandu alone.
15 January 2010
Our last morning of honeymoon really. Sad. I don’t want to have to go back to Delhi. Such a shame we couldn’t stay here for longer. It’s been a fantastic few weeks (despite the arm) what an amazing trip!
I wonder what the future holds for us and what sort of adventures!