Mind-blown. Annapurna Base Camp Trek.

11 days of hiking, below freezing temperatures, endless refillable dhal bhats, constant momos, two books, plenty of podcasts, music on shuffle, thousands of stone steps, wobbly bridges, unbelievable vistas, meandering paths, uphills, downhills, overladen donkeys, foul smelling donkey poo, beautiful flowers, butterflies, magnificent snow capped mountains, a couple of lonely moments, plenty of friendly faces, random conversations, achy legs, sunshine, blue skies, mind-blowing scenery… I could go on. Wow, the Himalayas have got me.

I did it.

Annapurna Base Camp has been conquered by a 5 foot 2, independent, solo, female traveller and what an experience it was. There were a few tears on the way, not of sadness but just astonishment at the beauty and also the happiness of completing an incredibly tough, physical and mental challenge. Despite that, all I could do when I reached the NAMASTE ABC sign was grin, very widely (and of course talk in an excitable, high pitched voice…I’m blaming the altitude).

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ABC, 4130m – April 2018

Wifi popped up along the ABC way, but as expected it was unbearably slow. However, I got to pretend I was a (very) amateur Nat Geo presenter (HA) by sporadically uploading Instagram stories from the trek; you can view these here (click the Himalaya highlights).

Now that I’m back in Kuala Lumpur, not only am I seriously sweating (as I’ve gained about 30oC) but typed versions of my ABC travel journal (plus plenty of photos) will be uploaded over the next few weeks. Until then, here is a brief overview of the route I took, lunch locations, guesthouses I stayed in (plus the address and phone numbers if I have them) and some mini observations.

THE ROUTE, ACCOMMODATION & LUNCH SPOTS:

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DAY 1 – pokhara Airport
  • DAY 1 – Kathmandu – PokharaNayapul – Hille
    • Hille 1430m 
    • Kathmandu – Pokhara via Yeti Airlines and the chaotic, seemingly always delayed domestic terminal, a 25 minutes flight (great service, you get a drink and a sweet)
    • Pokhara – Nayapul, a long and really bumpy drive, it took over two hours
    • hikefour hours, relatively flat on dirt roads, wide valley and great hill views throughout
    • evening accommodationDipak Guesthouse and Restaurant (Tikhe Dhunga Hile), the shower was excellent (if you ignore the cave-like room it was inside), a hot gas shower, the toilet was quite clean, the rooms were very basic and really cold and there were no electrical outlets in rooms, plus there were lots of power cuts throughout the evening
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DAY 2 – Hille to Ghorepani (photo taken on the long uphill to Ulleri, Annapurna South in the distance)
  • DAY 2 – Hille (Upper Hille) – Ghorepani 
    • Ghorepani 2750m via beautiful Ulleri (1960m)
    • hikesix hours, unbelievably steep, constant stone steps, you think they’ve finished and they keep going (as always incredible views to accompany them), the first view of Annapurna South plus the start of hundreds of pink and red rhododendron trees as you get closer to Ghorepani (this is only during Spring)
    • lunchFishtail Viewpoint Guesthouse (Banthati-9, Ulleri), my first momo experience (excellent), you can see Annapurna South from here
    • evening accommodation The Sunny Hotel (Ghorepani, Deurali, Myagdi, +9746048245), this accommodation was too busy, absolutely full to the brim with large groups so I didn’t like it, yes there are quite a few gas hot showers but the bedroom was unbearably cold and the toilets were not clean and really overused (there should be more toilets), slow wifi and no electrical outlet in the room, I would not stay here again
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DAY 3 – Ghorepani – Chuile (photo taken along the path on the way down from Poon Hill)
    • DAY 3 – Ghorepani – Chuile
      • via Poon Hill 3030m
      • hike – 4:30am start to hike for one hour up Poon Hill for sunrise (an incredibly busy hike, a slow and steady queue of people all the way to the top), then breakfast back at The Sunny Hotel, then a further six hours; this is the best section of the whole trek for rhododendron trees (in Spring), absolutely astonishing, rows upon rows of rhododendron flowers with the Annapurna peaks behind them, absolutely loved this stretch of the trek; again it’s uphill from Ghorepani and until you reach a great viewpoint overlooking the Annapurnas, the path continues through a forest and then descends incredibly steeply, this was a very difficult downhill
      • lunchin Bhanthati, at the first restaurant you come to after the stone steps; best dhal bhat and momos of the trip
      • evening accommodation – couldn’t get a room in Tadapani so I hiked another hour to Mountain Discovery Lodge (Ghandruk-8, Chuile, Kaski, +9746008916), best accommodation of the trip: clean, private room, incredibly hot gas shower, lovely, warm communal dining area (heated) and beautiful flowers planted all around the guesthouse, the bedroom even had an electrical outlet that charged all my devices really quickly (I had no idea how rare this was going to be)
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DAY 4 – Chuile  to Chromrong (photo taken in Mountain Discovery Lodge)
      • DAY 4 – Chuile – Chromrong
        • Chromrong 2050m
        • hike – six hours; woke up to a fantastic sunrise over snowy peaks in Chuile, brilliant views of the mountains and the deep valley from this guesthouse; the hike from Chuile down the valley was long and steep but as stunning as ever (there was a clean toilet break on the way down, just don’t breathe in), the descent down the valley reminded me of the hike down the Colca Canyon in Peru (one of the world’s deepest canyons); as you can probably imagine the walk up the other side was really tough, a seemingly endless steep climb (granola and nut breaks required)
        • lunch – the first restaurant we got to at the top of the other side of the valley  before the Jhinu junction, the curry was nice but this area had far too many flies
        • evening accommodation Excellent View Top Lodge and Restaurant> (Ghandruk, Chhomrong, Annapurna Municipality-11 +302847536), the shared rooms I passed through did not look nice but the private, en-suite room I had booked was actually very good, clean and relatively warm, the only downside was the shower was solar-powered so cold, I did not shower here; this accommodation has a proper coffee machine and served excellent coffee
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Day 5 – Chromrong to Bamboo (photo taken in Sinuwa as I sheltered from the rain)
      • DAY 5 – Chromrong – Bamboo
        • Bamboo 2310m 
        • hikeabout seven hours with a rain storm thrown in; this was tough, after yesterday’s climb my legs really ached so I took today’s route quite slowly; this was the first day I wore my hat, it was incredibly cold by the time I reached Upper Sinuwa; after climbing up to Upper Sinuwa you go through a forest for a while and then down a lot of stone steps (great valley views from the top) until you reach Bamboo right at the bottom
        • lunchHill Top Lodge and Restaurant (Upper Sinuwa), stopped here to avoid the wind and rain, it was absolutely freezing; after lunch the clouds lifted and the snowy peaks appeared, gorgeous
        • evening accommodationworst accommodation of the trip and I’m really annoyed because I don’t have the name (think I was just too lonely and sad here), it was the first guesthouse you come to, it consists of a main house with a kitchen and dining room (there’s a large Malaysian flag on the wall), then across from there two rows of rooms in two separate buildings, with the bathrooms outside, at the far end; my room was basically a shed and that’s a compliment, imagine cardboard walls, unsealed, painfully cold, this also meant I heard every loud snore that my neighbour delivered; dirty bathrooms and overused toilets although the gas shower was very hot; my experience here was slightly tainted by the lack of friendly faces and the areas around my room and the bathroom were dominated by intimidating men who would not stop staring at me; the three guesthouses in Doban looked much nicer than the options in Bamboo, if I had known this (or if my guide was more flexible) I would have pushed to book somewhere in Doban rather than Bamboo
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DAY 6 – Bamboo – Duerali (photo taken during a lunch break in Upper Sinuwa)
      • DAY 6 – Bamboo – Duerali
        • Duerali 3230m
        • hike – hardest morning as I didn’t sleep at all in Bamboo due to uncomfortable, cold accommodation and a noisy neighbour; after all the downhill to reach Bamboo the morning hike started uphill, under tree cover and on an uneven path; the best part of this hike were the views after Himalaya as you start to get really close to the snow capped peaks, around five hours hiking; this was the first section of the trek where the scenery blew me away so much tears came to my eyes
        • lunch Himalaya Guesthouse (2920m) – great momos, they even let me go in the kitchen and watch them being freshly made
        • evening accommodationNew Panorama Guesthouse and Restaurant (+9746065008) THIS PLACE HAS A COFFEE MACHINE, an actual coffee machine, incredible, such a treat (although I did feel sad for the donkey that must have carried it up here); this was the first place I had to share a room, (and American couple, really friendly but definitely an odd experience sharing with a couple), the room was clean but very small, however the two toilets were not clean and I couldn’t even face a shower, it was far too cold, I just put all my clothes on instead
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DAY 7 – Duerali – ABC (photo taken on the stretch before MBC, one of my favourite parts of the trek)
      • DAY 7 – Duerali – ABC 
        • ABC 4130m (via MBC 3700m)
        • hike – in my opinion this is the best section of the trek, absolutely unbelievable scenery, there are just not enough positive adjectives in the dictionary; I didn’t think this section of the trek was difficult, I reached MBC relatively quickly (about two hours), following the wide, turquoise river up and over boulders (goosebumps and a couple of tears at the scenery and approaching the aim of my trip); this part of the route is prone to avalanches so you shouldn’t linger; after MBC it’s a slow and steady uphill (two hours) to ABC, wide, open, an obvious path, very straight forward to follow (in Spring), awesome views in every direction
        • lunchShankar Guesthouse and Restaurant (MBC, Kaski +061696484) at Machhapuchhre Base Camp, great views here
        • evening accommodationAnnapurna Guesthouse and Restaurant (ABC Ghandruk-9, Kaski), I had to share a room again, this time with a couple from Hong Kong, the rooms are exactly the same everywhere you stay (no electrical outlets in the room), unsealed, small, freezing with a communal bathroom; there were only two squatter toilets, both revolting, no sink so you brush you teeth outside in the snow, I never saw a shower but I wouldn’t have used it anyway, far too cold (-15oC at night if not colder)
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DAY 8 – ABC – Lower Sinuwa (photo of the accommodation at ABC)
      • DAY 8 – ABC – Lower Sinuwa
        • Sinuwa 2350m
        • hike – the longest hike of the trek (nine hours) and all a repeat, I wanted to stay in Doban but I couldn’t get a room and there was no way I was staying back in Bamboo so I kept going to Sinuwa; the majority of the route is downhill except a really long uphill stretch after Bamboo (those horrible stone steps again); left ABC about 8:30am (because I didn’t want to leave, lots of fun to be had in the snow) and I just made it to Lower Sinuwa before sunset
        • coffee breakDuerali – couldn’t pass by one of the only coffee machines on the route and not stop for a drink, fantastic coffee location
        • lunchDoban (2505m), my first rosti of the trip, delicious but it must have been made from about 4 potatoes which made the post-lunch hike difficult, I was far too full
        • evening accommodationHimal Guesthouse and Restaurant (Sinuwa-9, Kaski +9746014688), I had to share a room again but this time my roommates were my guide and porter so nicer than strangers, clean, very hot gas shower (my first shower in days) and a relatively clean toilet, small dining room with wifi but we had a powercut, no electrical outlets in the room, really impressive views from this guesthouse
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DAY 9 – Lower Sinuwa – New Bridge (photo taken at Himal Guesthouse in Lower Sinuwa)
      • DAY 9 – Lower Sinuwa – New Bridge
        • via Jhinu hot springs 1780m
        • hikeapproximately five hours, lots and lots of steps and a really steep downhill (before Chromrong), great views of the valley and of Jhinu as you slowly approach it (I would not want to walk up to ABC from this side, it looked really tough); I should have stayed in Jhinu but my room had been given away (happened a few times on this trip, it’s definitely tricky to secure a room as a solo traveller, they just want groups), instead I soaked in the hot springs, (a 30 minute downhill hike, great hot spring showers but the pools are only warm and very small, if you’re too tired from walking I wouldn’t bother), then I continued on another hour to New Bridge
        • lunch – a coffee and cake break in Chromrong at the German Bread Bakery (Chromrong-9, it has a circular Lavazza sign above their espresso menu); I remembered this cafe from passing on day 5 and was very happy to get a chance to stop this time, a proper coffee machine, delicious coffee and fantastic homemade cakes and pastries plus excellent views
        • evening accommodationKalpana Guesthouse and Restaurant New Bridge (+9819174745) clean, light, private room but disgusting, overused bathroom; hot gas shower in a cave-like room (luckily separate to the toilet), no electrical outlets in the room
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DAY 10 – New Bridge – Tolka (photo taken during a lunch break in Landruk)

DAY 10 – New Bridge – Tolka

    • Tolka 1700m
    • hikearound three hours; as I stayed just before the bridge, my hike started with the bridge crossing, unfortunately it rained most of the day so there should be fantastic views of the Annapurna Massif along this route (behind you) but I only saw tiny peaks on a couple of occasions when the clouds broke; again there’s a lot of stone steps going uphill on this route, I found it difficult (it was day 10, wobbly legs); after Landruk you are back on a jeep road (not busy), very strange after being away from roads for 10 days
    • lunchHimalaya New Lodge and Restaurant (Landruk Lumle), fantastic views of the valley (even in the rain) and if it’s clear the Annapurnas from Landruk, this would be a good place to spend a night
    • evening accommodationHotel Namaste (Annapurna VMC-7, Kaski), excellent location and garden, dreary common room, unfriendly staff; I actually had a private en-suite room but I wish I hadn’t, the first bathroom had a huge leak so I moved room and the second bathroom still had remnants in the toilet from the previous guest, disgusting, I would not recommend this place (my guide said management had changed and they were not looking after the property well), there looked to be nicer places further along the road
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DAY 11 – Tolka – Kande (photo taken in Hotel Namaste looking on to the Annapurna Massif)
  • DAY  11 – Tolka – Kande
    • hike – about five hours, Tolka has absolutely stupendous views of the valley, Annapurna South and Himchuli, I was lucky to wake up in the sunshine so for my final day I saw the Massif as clear as it can be, perfect; more uphill, more stone steps through a forest, gorgeous views but really hard work on day 11; after lunch you definitely feel the Himalayas are long gone, it feels more like a weekend wander via the Australian Camp (only pass through here if it’s on your route, it offers a great view of Pokhara but not much else and seemed like it could get busy)
    • Kande – Pokhara this was a beautiful hilltop drive, through a few busy villages, great views of Pokhara and the Lake
    • lunch – at the other Duerali about 1.5hours after Tolka (I was hungry earlier than usual, I wouldn’t normally stop this soon for lunch), disappointing curry but great chapatti
    • evening accommodationThree Sisters Guesthouse, (Pokhara) average guesthouse but comfortable, the rooms are quite old but it’s only $20 a night, so I wasn’t expecting too much, unfortunately they use solar power for the showers so my shower was just warm or cold, not what you want at the end of an 11 day hike, I really wish I’d booked more luxurious accommodation, big mistake

THE END

Hearing traffic, getting in a car, pollution, dust, saying goodbye to my guide and porter… really sad. Take me back to the clean, clear, magnificent air and views of the Himalayas.

There you go, an overview of each day of the Annapurna Base Camp trek which I completed in April 2018. More details, anecdotes, photographs and videos will follow in the next few weeks. I’m having serious Himalaya withdrawal symptoms, one of the best travel experiences I have ever had.

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Day 1 checkpoint Vs day 11 checkpoint

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