Before I made my trip to Nepal, I knew that trekking is a thing there. But I didn’t plan on going trekking myself.
When I got to Kathmandu, I saw how polluted the city was. I knew I didn’t want to spend majority of my time in Nepal there. I booked four nights at the hostel I was staying. I had to figure out what to do after the four nights. Then I met a Canadian guy who just got back from his trekking trip. He went to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) by himself for 10 days. I have heard about ABC from my Nepalese friends in the U.S. I asked the Canadian friend, did you have a guide? He said no, you don’t need one. Most part of the trip, it’s just one road, and there are many locals and tea houses that you can ask direction from.
Previously I have consulted with two traveling agencies. Their pricing is $55 a day with a guide, which is a little pricey for me especially if I would like to spend more days trekking. So I liked the Canadian guy’s answer. The Canadian guy is a city kid (Very clean cut) with a cute turtle tattoo on his leg. He didn’t plan on trekking either before he came. If he could do it alone, I could do it alone. I thought to myself.
I also liked his route, which is a combination of the two routes the traveling agency recommended. I thought that would be great to spend 10 days in the mountains rather than this dusty place.
So I went out and got a pair of trekking shoes for $20 at a local joint. (The shops at the tourist area was trying to rip me off again, asking a pair of shoes for 50 to 80 dollars. I could have got a very nice pair in the U.S for that price.)
I also bought a pair of outdoor pants once I got to Pokhara. The kind where there is a zipper by the knee area. You can detach and attach the leg part to turn the pants into a pair of shorts. It also dries very fast, the shop owner told me. All very useful features it turned out in my trekking days. I also bought 5 more pair of socks, so together I have 10 pair of socks for 10 days in the mountains. (My German friend Lisa told me it was very important to have dry socks, which turned out to be a really good advice, more on this later) The only drawback was that they were low cut, not hiking socks. I didn’t think it would be an issue. You would read later why this was a problem.
I left my laptop and a few other things I don’t need in the hotel I was staying to lighten up my weight. The next morining, I took a two hours bus ride to Nayapul, which is a place most people start their trekking for ABC.
Day 1 The Bottom of my Shoes Fell Off on the First Day, but Locals saved the Day.
The ride to Nayapul was quite interesting. On the bus, there were all locals except me. I sat all the way in the back with my big backpack next to me. The bus smelled a little, but not like unbearable. I opened the window next to me so I could have some fresh air. We stopped by a shop for a break. I managed to get out like the locals do, the bus was crowded with stuff in the way.
We kept going after a while. I was enjoying myself, when all of a sudden (at least to me), the bus attendant shouted out to me, “You Nayapul!” I was surprised. I was thinking that Nayapul would be a final destination where everyone gets off. I didn’t realize it was just a stop on the way to where they were going. I fetched my big backpack and made my way out of the bus. This is it! I thought to myself. This is really happening.
When I got out of the bus, I was even more confused. This looked like a little town. There was no sign about the start of a famous trekking route. In my mind, when I got to Nayapul, there would be a sign, a starting line of some sort and many foreigners with heavy backpacks just starting their trip. No. Nothing. Just a regular town with some store fronts.
I asked a shop owner where I should go for my trekking with my map in my hands, he stopped in the middle of lunch and came over, he pointed at the map, there were grease on his shirt. “Follow the road.” He said. “Follow the main road where the bus came from?” I asked. “No, the small road going down.” He said. “Oh ok.” I replied.
Thus started my 10 days trekking trip. I followed the little road and confirmed with another local if I was going the right way. Actually he asked me first where I was going. I was walking on a road that jeeps can go through as well. I was thinking why do people walk when they can take a car? I shrugged at the thought. Hey I’m trekking. That’s why this is called trekking. I am really doing this. No going back now.
In half an hour, there was a check point at Birethanti. The check point was hidden next to local shops. You would easily missed it. They had to call out to travelers to get their attention. My Chinese friends I met later in the trip told me that they thought the workers there were trying to sell them something until they realized this was the checking point. I thought it was hilarious.
There was a shop selling hiking sticks, which I think would be useful. But the shop owner was charging 1000 Nepalese Rupees for it. I have about 40000 Rupees for the entire 10 days trip. I’m not sure how much my expense would be, so I decided to not buy the stick and save my money for later. It turned out I didn’t really need the stick, but I was concerned at first.
There was one more check point soon after a small bridge. Then I was on my way.
There were very few trekkers on the road, because it was monsoon season. The only groups I have seen were an European group and a Chinese group. There was a porter with the Chinese group who insisted on walking with me. A porter is a guy who carries people’s big backpacks. He is a local who spoke limited English. At first, I didn’t get it. He told me to walk first. Then I realized that he wanted to walk with me. I didn’t need or want anybody to walk with me. But he insisted so I let him.
It started drizzling around probably 2pm, only two hours since I was dropped off by the bus around noon. Luckily I was prepared for it. I had my rain coat out. Then the rain started to get heavier. As I was walking, it was revealed to me that the bottom(the sole) of my right shoe fell off. On the first day of my trekking?! I thought to myself. I was screwed. This was going to be a serious problem. I don’t know how long I would be able to trek anymore.
I sought shelter as we were walking up to a tea house. I asked them if they had super glue, and they did! What is the chance? I thought to myself. I ordered a cup of milk tea and glued my shoe. As I was waiting for my shoe to dry (I wanted to give it a good half an hour at least), I decided to get lunch there. I ordered Tibetan bread with honey and chicken soup. It was expensive compared to the food outside of the mountains, but I wanted to reward the people who helped me when I most needed.
Chicken soup was very meager with barely any chicken in it, not much vegetables either. (Which was common in the mountains I would learn in the next couple of days) But I wasn’t complaining. The bread was really good. I got a second one and took half of it on the road with me. By then, the porter has left. He didn’t have that much time to spare. But all is well.
I continued my travel soon after lunch after thanking the host profusely. I was very grateful for the tea house, without it, my trip would be much more difficult.
I soon arrived at a little village, probably the first one on the road. The route took me through it. I asked local what the village is called. He said Hille. He also told me that I should stay there for the night. It’s cheaper there. The other places after here would be more expensive. (Which is not true I found out.) I kept going, because it was too early to settle.
This town was incredibly beautiful. I was quite memorized by it and took many pictures. A woman at the top wanted me to stay the night there and told me the next stop would be expensive again. I really don’t like when people pressure me to do business with them. I also feel like their intentions are not come from a good place.
So I went on. The next stop is Tikhedhungga, which is a common place for travelers to settle for the night. I heard from the porter who walked with me earlier that the Chinese group would spend the night there. The stop after that is Ulleri, and it’s two hours away with straight ascent. A shop owner at Hille told me that, he also pointed to where Ulleri is up in the mountains. It’s high up there and looked quite intimidating. I knew it would be dark by then if I continued. But I have my headlight. I also didn’t want to do the ascending in the morning and got all sweaty first thing in the morning. I would rather do it at night while it was cool. So I pushed on.
The stairs were pretty steep. And there were water running on part of it. I saw a snake (the first and only one in this trip thank God). He was minding his own business going from one side of the stone stairs to the other. I quickly walked over. Was I scared shitless? yes. I saw a snake! I saw a snake! I told myself. What other creatures live in the mountains? Better get to my destination soon.
I past a house by the stairs, it was getting gradually darker. A man in his thirties was working on polishing a piece of wood in his front yard. He saw me walking by myself. He told me it would get dark by 7 or 7:15. There was one hotel right up the stairs I should stay. It’s not safe to walk in the dark. I thanked him and I could tell his intention was good unlike the shop owners who talked to me early. The mountain people are good people, I thought to myself.
I ran into another person on the way, he told me it was only half an hour away now. He said the view up there was great! I could tell he was trying to encourage me and possibly made the estimate shorter than it was so I could feel better.
At 7:15 sharp it was dark like the local has told me. I turned on my headlight and did the final climbing. By the time I reached Ulleri, it was 7:30pm. I felt like a champion reaching my final destination.
The first lodge owner wanted to charge me extra for wifi. I wasn’t having it and walked to the next hotel. Three hundred, the owner said. I said two hundreds. He said, only if you eat here. I said I would eat there. But only breakfast, I couldn’t have dinner. I was still full from lunch earlier. He said ok and took me to my room upstairs. The room was very clean with two beds. I had my own bathroom with hot shower. Pretty nice for two dollars I thought to myself. I took a shower and wrote a little bit in my journal. I checked the map to see how far I have come that day. Quite impressed with my progress.
The night was a little chilly. I wore my hoodie and my short to sleep. I didn’t bring any long pants except my hiking pants. Possibly a mistake. I thought to myself. All in all, A great first day.