I have cobbled together some bits and pieces of information that might help you if you are planning to do some trekking in the Annapurna region of Nepal. If you want to read the story then click here and here!
First off, why choose the A.B.C trek over all the other available treks?
A.B.C is a good one if you are short on time and still want to experience the full magnificence of the Himalayas. We did our trek in eight days, which included two days travelling from Kathmandu to Pokhara and back. So if you are only able to visit Nepal for two weeks then this trek will give you the most bang for your buck. The start of the trek is easily accessible and unlike treks in the Everest region you don’t have to take a flight. Also unlike most treks in the everest region, A.B.C only goes above 4000m for one day, so you have less chance of developing altitude sickness. The lower altitudes also mean that temperatures are less extreme so you don’t need much technical or fancy gear.
Organising the trek: Three ways
There are three main ways to do a trek in Nepal.
1. Organising the whole thing yourself.
2. Joining an organised tour.
3. Going through an agent
Now I can’t comment much on the first two options as we chose to have an agent organise the trek for us. Although a little pricier than going at it alone, the agent took all the stress away and was really great for first time trekkers like us. The agent did everything. He organised a wonderful guide who looked after us the whole way, even ordering our meals and making sure we hadn’t left anything in our lodge rooms! Basically, we didn’t even have to touch money the whole time. The agent also organised our TIMS card and our permit which is required for all trekkers in the Annapurna region.
We did meet a lot of people who were trekking alone and in groups without a guide. If you are an experienced trekker with good fitness, survival knowledge and a good plan then I am sure you will be okay.
As for organised tours, we couldn’t help but think it would be difficult being put in a group with people of all different fitness levels and ways of trekking.
Our trek cost us $75 each, per day. Therefore as a couple we paid $1200 for the whole experience. This covered absolutely everything from the bus, the permits, the food and the lodges. All we had to pay for was snacks and water. I can’t comment on how much it would cost going without a guide but the costs everyday do rack up so take more money than you think you will need. Just keep in mind the prices go up the higher in altitude you go.
Some examples are:
1L of filtered water: 70-100 rupees
Veg Dal Bhat: 350-500 rupees
Glass bottle of coke: 60-200 rupees
Heating the dining room: 100-150 rupees/ per person
Hot shower: 100-150 rupees
Snickers bar: 100-200 rupees
The bus from Pokhara to Kathmandu is a tourist bus and leaves from Thamel (The tourist area of Kathmandu- great for buying and renting trekking gear). It costs 1000 rupees ($11) and is very comfortable. The driving is safe and slow, ensuring you don’t catapult off the side of one of the very steep cliffs outside of Kathmandu.
The benefits of having a guide and a porter
Firstly you are contributing to the local economy and providing much needed jobs for the local community. Secondly, you are not going to get hopelessly lost on a snow-covered path or at a confusing crossroads.
We wouldn’t have been able to do it without our guide and porter. As we are first time trekkers it was invaluable to have someone to lead the way and keep us going at a steady pace on the right track. Our porter Bikas was a delight and although hats off to anyone who carries their pack, I just wouldn’t of been able to do it because I am just unfit. Just make sure you don’t ask your porter to carry any more than 20-25kg.
Guides and porters can be organised through an agent or can easily be found on arrival in Pokhara. If you are coming to Nepal then shoot me an email and I can give you the number for our guide Simon who was excellent.
A suggested packing list for the cheapie traveller
Who can afford North Face anymore? Seriously, you don’t need fancy gear to trek in the Annapurna Region. Thamel, the tourist region of Kathmandu, is full of shops that sell knock-off gear for very reasonable prices. For a short trek, knock off gear will do just fine. We went in March which is the end of winter here in Nepal so this packing list will differ if you are going in the heat of summer (don’t do it) or the middle of winter (um.. nope).
Trekking boots (I bought mine in Thamel for 5000 rupees or $55)
8 pairs of socks
Two pairs of trousers (Jeans, leggings, trekking pants. Whatever you like)
Two long sleeve shirts (Mine were just cotton. None of that fancy wicking business here)
Two T-Shirts (It gets hot)
One comfy jumper or hoodie
One down jacket (You can rent them in Thamel for 60 rupees a day which is less than a dollar)
One waterproof jacket (Bought mine in Thamel for 4000 rupees or $44)
One beanie or warm head thing
One pair of gloves (Mine were crap and I still have all my fingers)
8 pairs of underwear
Woolen booties for the lodge
Slip on sandals for the lodge (Didn’t have these but wished I did everyday)
Solid shampoo and conditioner
Bar of soap or decanted shower gel
Wilderness wash (washing socks etc)
Baby wipes (for when its too cold to shower)
A serious lip balm as your whole face will dry up like a prune (I recommend Lucas Pawpaw ointment)
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Down sleeping bag (Can rent in Thamel)
First aid kit with lots of painkillers (Anti-inflammatories for painful muscles and joints)
Water bottle which can hold boiling water
Camera, notebook, chargers, iPhone
A light and easy to read book
A swiss army knife
Don’t go too crazy with the packing. My stuff all fit into an averaged sized packing cube and a toiletries bag. Remember that you aren’t going into the wilderness of Siberia, there are shops along the way and they know what travellers want and need.
A word about the lodges and the food.
The lodges are very basic with just a bed, pillow and a light bulb. If you get cold you can ask for a blanket which are very heavy and warm. Don’t rely on the blankets though because in the busy seasons the blankets run out. The lodges all have a dining room and if you are feeling generous you can pay to heat the room. Strangely, you pay per person in your group for the heating but everyone in the dining hall benefits. Most lodges have the option to charge your phone, fill up your water bottle or take a hot shower for a fee. It gets more expensive the higher you go up.
Every lodge has the same menu. It is very carb-centric. Think pasta, potatoes, bread and rice. The western food on the menu can be a little weird so I would suggest picking Nepali options. I ate a lot of vegetarian Dal Bhat, veg noodle soup, cheese chapatis, and Gurung Bread (A fried bread that tastes like donuts!). Prices range from 350 rupees for Dal Bhat at the lower lodges to 500 rupees at A.B.C.
Being a responsible traveller
Avoid taking rubbish into the Annapurna area. Take all snacks out of their wrappers and bag them in ziplock.
Don’t buy bottled water. Lodges will fill up your bottle with filtered mineral water or boiling water.
Ask before taking people’s photos.
Stay on the beaten track. Don’t traipse through the bush, you could squash plants and animals.
If you are not sure where the path is, stay still. It is a busy track and someone will come by soon and help you out. It costs a lot of money trying to find lost people!
Be modest. Always wear a shirt.
Eat the local food. Not only will it gain you respect amongst the Nepalis but it is easier to source.
If you can eat vegetarian. You will be less likely to get food poisoning!
Make sure your insurance covers you and give your insurance details to a trekking buddy or a guide.
Heed avalanche warnings! (oops)
Recognise the signs of altitude sickness and if you experience any of the symptoms then head down, down, down.
I hope this helps in the planning of your adventure. If you have any questions I would be very happy to answer them so send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.