There are few commitments or constants on this journey but one of the things I knew I definitely wanted to do somehow some way was trek in the Himalayas. The Himalayas span five countries, two of which are Nepal and India, and I have been living in the villages throughout the Himalayan mountains for the past month.
The bad news: I missed my opportunity to trek in Leh, because I only had four days there due to visa situation.
The good news: I kept my word with myself, which was that I would stay in a place (in this case it was Manali) as long as it made me happy and leave when I was ready to leave.
The result: trekking in the Himalayas in Nepal instead :)
When I arrived in Nepal, I spent a couple of days in Thamel, a neighborhood in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu. One morning I was roaming around, decided to grab a coffee from a street stand and saw two guys sitting on a nearby stoop drinking their own coffees. Asked if I could join. We started talking and it turned out one guy, Luk, was from Singapore and had just booked a 9-day trek to Annapurna Base Camp. (At 8091m, Annapurna is the tenth highest mountain the world.) The other guy -- Mountain Ram -- was the owner of the trekking company. After a few minutes and a firm handshake, I had joined the trek.
So good morning from the Fishtail Villa in Pokhara, Nepal, where the houses are hot pink and have full wraparound balconies on every floor, the sun is blazing hot and the backpacks sold on the street are made of THC-free hemp. We're about 6 hours northwest of Kathmandu. (The bus ride was so much better than India. The bus had velour seats and seatbelts, and the cliffs actually had some large cinder-block barriers forming makeshift guardrails). I like Pokhara better than Kathmandu. With its banana leaf plants and bright orange sunrises it's got sort of a Key West vibe about it.
In an hour, we'll drive another 90 minutes to the base where we'll begin Day One of our trek. Me, Luk, Yadav (our guide) and Mahess (our porter). Yadav and Mahess are da bomb. We had lunch all together yesterday and we were able to understand each others' humor and have a really awesome time. And I'm really glad Luk and I crossed paths when we did.
To be clear we are not fully climbing Annapurna -- you need a special permit and a letter of recommendation to go beyond a certain elevation (those people are pretty badass, right?) -- but we are climbing to the point on the mountain where those badass people begin their journey up to Annapurna's peak. Our highest elevation will be 4,440m. Each night we'll be staying in 'tea houses' where locals will welcome us in from the day's climb and feed us whatever's on the menu for that night.
It will be a challenge and an experience for sure. Though trekking for up to 8 hours each day will be physically exhausting, I am not particularly concerned about the technicality of this trek... but I am pretty nervous about spending these next 9 days:
- with the same people 24/7
- without warm water
- in some places without running water at all
- without clean clothing
One thing I've learned about myself is that I get very anxious if I don't feel like I have a 'way out.' It's not exactly claustrophobia... but I guess I like to have an exit strategy at all times :) It's about having the option.
I am now being summoned for breakfast... dal bhat, to get us energized. Dal Bhat is like a combo platter plate: loads of rice, lentil soup, mixed vegetables, a tablespoon of some sauce that looks like runny peanut butter but isn't and I can't figure out what it actually does taste like, and hopefully we're getting some pakoda too (Nepali version of tempura)... and of course milk coffee, which I drink every morning.
And after breakfast... off to da hills!
Cue THE CLIMB by Miley Cyrus. JK don't. Okay do. Come on who doesn't love that chorus!?!