My first experience in Nepal was filled with earthquakes and relief work, so it was not until my third trip to Nepal that I finally got a chance to go trekking Annapurna Conservation Area, something most people do their first trip. Was great to cross another thing off my travel bucket list (because we all know my lazy ass isn’t making it up to Everest Base Camp).
How To Get To Pokhara
All Annapurna adventures begin in Pokhara, arguably Nepal’s most beautiful city. Flights in/out of Pokhara offer an amazing view of the Annapurna Mountain Range, including Machapuchare aka Fishtail. (Had I not been sitting in the aisle of out little Buddha Air plane, maybe I would have actually gotten a photo.) Arriving via road is also a scenic sight, albeit decidedly less fun on your posterior. Nepal is like a mountainous wild west, and while there are luxury accommodation options here, getting to/from them is often everything but luxurious.
Twenty years ago Pokhara was a village, a bump in the road, but now as a result of modern tourism and increased numbers of trekkers pouring in to the region, Pokhara has turned into a thriving city that rivals Kathmandu in modern technology and soon smart phones may even be available for sale here.
What To Pack For Trekking Annapurna Sanctuary
Trekking in Nepal nowadays is not like it was 20 years ago. Most of the guesthouses have hot water available for showers (for an extra charge) and wifi available, although yes it is as slow as you guessed and not useful for much more than sending tweets. Items like water and toilet paper are not hard to find while trekking, but other supplies you should get before leaving Pokhara:
- A quality backpack Even if you hire sherpas to carry your gear (see below), you will still want a small camera bag or backpack to carry your camera, water, snacks, first aid kid, wallet, etc.
- Walking sticks Not everyone uses these, but those who do swear by them. I personally prefer to have my hands free to operate a camera or catch myself if I fall, but if you fall less than me…
- Your camera equipement Don’t be that guy who flies halfway around the world only to forget his camera battery charger in Pokhara because trust me, you won’t find one up in the mountains.
- Consumables There’s plenty of tea houses in Annapurna Sanctuary but if you like granola bars, trail mix, or any other foreign foods, Pokhara is your last place to grab them.
- Beer / Alcohol There is nothing more refreshing after a long day of mountain trekking than a nice cold beer. Unfortunately alcohol increases in price drastically the higher you get up the mountain, so if you plan on drinking a lot during your trek, it is best to start prepared. Bring a couple bottles of beer with you, or better yet a bottle of whiskey. If the weight is too much for you, just toss the bottle in the sherpa bag. DO NOT buy a case of beer bottles and except your sherpa to carry it without offering him some.
Forgetting any last-minute supplies?
Nepalese people from around the country come to Pokhara to find work but foreigners come here to trek. Any last minute items you need to prepare for trekking the Annapurna Circuit can be found at one of the many shops around town. This includes camera gear, SD cards, GoPro accessories and/or solar chargers — here is your last opportunity to get them.
How To Get To Nayapul
Nayapul is your gateway to the Annapurna Conservation Area. It is also where the roads end. Small groups would probably find it most affordable to take a public bus from Pokhara to Nayapul (less than 200 rupees / $2 USD) but larger groups and more discerning trekkers will want to hire a driver from in town. It is around 2000 rupees ($20 USD) per vehicle for a ride to Nayapul, however rides back to Pokhara after your trek can be negotiated for cheaper, as there will be extra drivers around “town” eager to make some money. (I use the word “town” loosely.)
We opted for a private jeep. Two, actually.
While much of our group slept on the 40km drive from Pokhara to Nayapul, the view was too beautiful for me to close my eyes. The road switchbacks up along the mountain edge until you reach Nayapul, which is essentially your last access point to the human world. From here on you’ll have to rely on your legs. Or in our case, our sherpas.
With our sherpas already a good hour ahead of us, our ragtag group of questionably-prepared travel bloggers, writers and photographers hit the road — I mean, the mountain — running. However despite high hopes for this adventure, only one of our group decided to start the trek with an ice cold “Gorkha beer to give me strength like the Gorkha”….can you guess who?
Love how you are holding a beer before trekking a mountain in Nepal. Good lad.
— Andy McElwaine (@andymcelwaine) May 28, 2017
Trekking Travel Tip: *Do* Get Sherpas
While much of the Annapurna Conservation Area offers mild to moderate trekking, there are definitely some steep spots and hard stretches. These are even trickier when wet and/or covered in buffalo poo. Unless you are traveling very lightly then I recommend hiring sherpas to accompany your group. Our tour package included several sherpas, so we didn’t have to pay extra for them, merely tip each one 500 rupees a day ($5 USD) for their services.
Where is the Birethanti TIMS checkpost?
From Nayapul it is a 15-minute walk along the Modi River to the “New Bridge”, entrance to the Annapurna Conservation Area. Register at the TIMS checkpost before crossing the bridge — after the bridge is another checkpoint and you’ll need to have all your paperwork in order. Do not lose your card as there are checkpoints scattered throughout the ACA. (Although there was much talk of updating the TIMS system after the Nepal earthquakes in 2015, nothing appears to have changed yet.)
Which Route To Choose?
The beauty of trekking around the Annapurna Conservation Area is that there are small villages scattered throughout the mountains here. Not only does this allow you some flexibility to “create your own route” but it also prevents you from getting too lost, because within a few hours of hiking you are guaranteed to pass through another small village or past a couple of tea houses or guesthouses.
Our group of professional bloggers only had 4-5 days free for trekking, so unfortunately going all the way to Annapurna Base Camp was out of the question. Instead we headed for Ghorepani and Poon Hill. From there we went to Tadapani and then on to Ghandruk. However rather than continuing to on Chnomrong and ABC we trekked to Kimche and from there caught a jeep back to Birethanti.
You Cannot Fight Mother Nature, So Don’t Even Try
One thing you learn very quickly when traveling is that you cannot fight Mother Nature. Don’t even try it. She always wins. And unfortunately for us, she decided to make our Annapurna trek as rainy as possible from the first day.
Nepalese Raincoats The tea shops and guest shops will happily cut one side of a plastic trash bag to make you a Nepalese jacket for the modest fee of only $1 each. That may sound expensive, but if you encounter more than just a few minutes of rain, this will be the best dollar you spend in Annapurna. 😉
If the rain gets really bad it can take the fun out of trekking, so don’t be afraid to take a day off and lounge around your guesthouse. Beds only cost a few dollars a night and food/electricity/wifi costs are minimal, you might as well stay another day. Crack and beer, put down your phone and soak up the surroundings.
Warning Haggling around Nepal is normal but inside the Annapurna Conservation Area all prices are set by ACAP and there is no haggling allowed. After the second tea house you’ll realize all the menus on the mountains are also the same — this is why. ACAP regulates everything.
Souvenir Shopping While Trekking
The souvenirs for sale in Kathmandu and Pokhara are exactly the same as the ones for sale up in the mountains around Annapurna EXCEPT for one important difference — here all the profits will go to a family that can really use them, instead of to some middleman in Pokhara.
I purchased all my clothing and other souvenirs in Ghorepani and Ghandruk where the money will go to good use. I also bought a lot of postcards and mailed them out to friends, fans and followers via Twitter. Thankfully there are plenty of post offices on the mountain trails 😉
Oh The Sights You’ll See!
Trekking in Nepal is first and foremost about the scenery….unless you are climbing Everest, then its about the challenge, obviously. But for most of us the scenery is enough. Remember to soak up as much of the view as possible, even if the weather is cloudy or less than ideal.
More photos from our Annapurna journey:
How To Get Back To Civilization
Getting down the mountain is decidedly much easier than getting up. And much faster, as one might expect. However the views are no less beautiful so be sure to soak up every minute of it. After all, when is the next time you’re going to be trekking in Nepal? Plan ahead and make the most of your trip — Bookmundi has 400 separate Nepal tour packages covering not just the Annapurna Circuit but every corner of Nepal. Earthquake repairs are still ongoing — come here, spend a few dollars, and rest easy knowing that you’re helping Nepal, one of the friendliest and most beautiful countries on earth.