I’ve been thinking about good motivational quotes and paragraphs to start this blog but after abusing my backspace and delete buttons, I gave up. It’s been a while since I put my travel stories on paper and I think I’ve lost the touch of the flowery words to start my tales. In that case, let me start this one with a message of gratitude for my good friend Riz of Lamyerda.com for giving me an opportunity to be a guest blogger on her awesome site. So here it is. Most of us do have some silly Bucket List and I am no exception. Two of mine are “Travelling to the Himalayas” and “Experience Snow”. Who could have known that I can tick both just with one trip? And that is all my story about.
The Target Location:
Annapurna Basecamp is a common topic along the trails of Malaysia. At 4130 meters, Annapurna Basecamp is just 35 meters higher than Mt. Kinabalu. But don’t be fooled as we are only talking about the base camp. Annapurna Mountain is the 10th highest mountain in the world with only 69% of successful summits, the remaining 31%…fatalities. So not be a morbid one, reaching Annapurna Basecamp is definitely a badge of honor for every hiker and traveler.
We started the preparation several months before the trip. Group chat has been created and we started to talk to over 30 people from different places. We had participants mostly from different states of Malaysia, Singapore, and The Philippines. Practice hiking was conducted left and right for physical conditioning. We were told not to buy many gears in Malaysia as it will be cheaper in Nepal. NEX Adventure led by Mr. Shariman Said and his ambassador Ms. Noriza Yusoff Ali made the trip possible. They took care of almost everything including visa and travel insurance processing. This is one of the most organized trips I ever had.
For Malaysia, Singapore, and Philippines passport holders, a visa is required to make a trip to Nepal. Like I mentioned above, NEX Adventure took care of most of the group’s visa processing though I had to process my own (because I almost didn’t make it). Processing for Nepal visa is so easy. You just have to bring the form, one passport size picture, and RM95 for 15 day-trip. Your passport needs to have at least 6 months validity for you to apply for Nepal Visa. Your visa will be ready the very next day. You may also do visa on arrival which looks pretty easy as well. Travel insurance is a must. We used AIG Travel Insurance for RM124 Standard Policy. Get that insurance ready unless you are loaded enough to pay thousands of USD in case you need a helicopter rescue.
Annapurna Circuit will make the Mt. Kinabalu trail looks cute like a keychain. Don’t buy your gears just because it looks cool. You need to think of its use and weight should be considered as well. We bought some gears in Malaysia and the rest from Nepal. Get that day backpack ready. The lighter it is the better but never compromised the quality. The day backpack will only carry your essentials like food and drinks while the bulk will be left in the hotel and a 7kg pack to be carried by the porters. If cold is not really your friend, you better pack some body warmers that you can by cheaply in Malaysia or online. You can buy walking sticks, gloves, beanies, down jackets and others in Nepal for a considerably lower price. Bargaining in Nepal is so easy they are willing to let go some of the items for half a price. Think about your boots as well. You do not want to carry multiple boots for different terrain and climate so buy something that can withstand rocky and dusty roads, never-ending stairs, and snow. Have those raincoats and wind breakers ready as well. And lastly don’t forget those polarized sunglasses.
The Most Awaited Day:
It takes 4-hour flight from Malaysia to Kathmandu. Take note that Malaysia is 2 hours and 15 minutes ahead of Nepal so make sure to adjust your watches. We were welcomed with flower garlands and warm welcome despite 18-degree temperature. We had a 2-night stay in Pilgrims Hotel located at Thamel, the tourist capital of Kathmandu. We went gear shopping the next day. Just a tip: Shopping is fun in Kathmandu. From time to time someone will approach you to sell you something. Something like ganja. Because the happy weeds “ grow like weeds” everywhere. But that is just some side info, we didn’t buy those. We are here to talk about the gears. Everything is cheap and it is so easy to bargain. They easily give a huge discount if you buy multiple items. We also try to search for Kamar Taj where Dr. Strange got his powers. Apparently it doesn’t exist.
Kathmandu to Pokhara:
From Kathmandu, we took a good 8 hours bus ride to Pokhara. Get your buffs and sunglasses ready if you are venturing into a land trip. The road is bumpy and dusty all the way. It might sound stressful but it is nothing but fun. Nepalese knows how to welcome their guests. The trip is filled with music and laughter. The tiny bus is packed with over 30 people and equipped with a television. Nepalese music plays non-stop. Each song is like…8 minutes long.
Pokhara is quite a different view compared to Kathmandu but pretty much like Nagarkot. The city is less busy, less dusty and colder compare to Kathmandu. You can do the second wave of gear shopping and visit the local bars. For those who drink, try Nepal Ice. They will serve you a super icy beer that surely will help you battle the cold weather. The view of the snowcapped mountains is already visible from our hotel particularly once the clouds cleared up around 8 am. We stayed one night in Pokhara where we sorted out our things. We had to leave our bulky and unnecessary stuff to the hotel which we retrieved after the hike.
It took us another 3-hour bus ride from Pokhara to the hike starting point. Essentials were packed in our personal backpacks and the rest of our belongings were carried by the porters. The first few hours of the hike are pretty much like other hikes I had. Rough roads, typical views, encounters with the locals from time to time. Until mother nature presented the vision that I will never forget. The view started reminding me that I am now trekking the HIMALAYAS. The feeling is just unexplainable. Blue sky, cold weather, gentle sunlight and a view of mountain tops that we will be conquering in few days’ time.
Pretty much we were on foot for 9 days. 7 am to 12 pm, lunch break for an hour or two then trekking again until 6 or 7 pm. There are tea houses which serve as a mini hotel along the way. If weight loss is your target, do this trip and I can guarantee you at least 10kg loss after 12 days. The Himalayas is a holy mountain and animal slaughtering is not allowed at some point. For the entirety of the hike, we survived in fried rice, eggs, and Dal Bhat, a locally famous food. I never appreciated tea until this trip. Ginger tea, lemon tea, black tea, you name it and our dear guides will get it ready.
We were in our 3rd day of hiking when it started snowing. For someone who grew up in a tropical country, snow is something that we are always looking forward to experiencing and true enough, it is quite a spectacle. But that is not all. As the cold weather started to take a toll on everyone. Our noses started to bleed which is normal as I was told. Still, give me quite a scare as I thought I blew half of my brains out. Sleeping is quite a challenge as well. We must sleep in a sleeping bag every night with at least 3 layers of clothing. Shower? I didn’t have much. Water is painfully cold but you can pay to use hot water which doesn’t help much anyway. Cold weather, less sweat, less shower, no problem. Stop judging, you will say the same anyway. One of the million things about this trip is the Nepal dogs. Along the trail, you can find dogs which you can pet. They are just sweet creatures that will give you a Game of Thrones experience as they follow you like a dire wolf.
It is not all happy story though. 3 of our members had to be evacuated by a helicopter on 3 different occasions due to hypothermia. The journey seems to get tougher and tougher as we draw closer to the basecamp. At some point, we had to divert from the original trail due to avalanche warning. The last 2 kilometers are the hardest. Almost knee-deep snow and blizzard started to become unforgiving. Visibility is quite a challenge as I can barely see the person 5 meters away from me. I would be honest when I say, it scared me and made me questioned myself. 2 kilometers seems so far. We can see the basecamp but it the limited movement is just making it so much more difficult. I think I stressed out enough the difficulties so now you would understand when I say I cried when I reach the big sign saying “Welcome to Annapurna Basecamp”. Well, I turned around and saw everyone is crying as well so that is a feel-good moment right there.
We slept in the basecamp while a snow storm is burying almost everything. But like any other storm, it passes. The next morning, I thought I died and gone to heaven. Imagine this, super crystal white snow that gleams under the morning sun. We were sitting on top of a hill with a hot tea watching the basecamp slowly goes to life. And of course, unlimited photos left and right. We spent a couple of hours documenting one of the most memorable parts of our lives before we packed up and started the journey back. After couple more days we are back to Pokhara where we spent another day before we head back to Kathmandu.
The Journey Ends:
We stayed another couple of days in Kathmandu sharing experiences, wandering around and just simply interacting with the locals. We had a “graduation” dinner where we were awarded the certificates proving that we conquer ABC. 12 days ago, we were just strangers to each other. After surviving everything together, saying goodbye is now a challenge. Our members are from Singapore, different parts of Malaysia, and the Philippines. Tears here and there as we bid goodbye to our dear guides and porters and most especially to the strangers who we are now calling brothers and sisters.
Members from different parts of Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines are still connected through a group chat where we plan our next trips
About the Author:
Pinoy Voyager is working fulltime in a corporate company who find comfort in traveling and adventure. He gets lost most of the time in the city but mountains and jungles are his comfort zone. He never considers himself as a tourist but a voyager. Considering Malaysia as his second home, he already finished visiting all Malaysian states and now venturing into overseas travel. From the Philippines, he traveled in Singapore, Thailand, India, and Nepal while currently situated in Malaysia. Follow him on Instagram