After our trek we thought of writing a few tips and recommendations based on our experience. We hope they can be helpful for any of you who plans to go for a trek around the Annapurnas!
These are some of the things to have in mind before you start your trek:
- Choose the route and get a map. There are many possible trekking routes within the Annapurnas. Select the one that you like the most and that better suits your needs and fitness level. Even though the routes are marked quite well, try to get a map of the area.
- Permits and Registration card for trekkers. Nepali authorities require you get:
- ACA Permit, which is a permit to allow you entering the Annapurnas conservation area
- TIMS (Trekkers’ Information Management System) registration card for individual trekkers
Both are obtainable at ACAP office in Phokara and cost 2000 NPR & 1600 NPR respectively. You will need to bring 4 passport size pictures and provide information about your route and the length (days).
- What to bring really depends on the length of your trek, the route and your own judgment. This is what we brought for our trek:
- Basics: Good trekking shoes and shocks, long & short comfortable trousers, a couple of breathable & fast drying t-shirts, thermal pants and t-shirt and fleece, hat & gloves.
- Jackets. We both had waterproof and windproof jackets and we wondered if would need any wormer jackets. Thanks to the recommendations of a Spanish guide we meet in Phokara we decided to rent a couple of down jackets. While we really only ended up using them on the day we crossed Thorong La, I don’t regret our decision!!!
- Walking Sticks. While it’s not a must, I would strongly recommend bringing a couple of walking sticks, specially for when you have to go down the strenuous hills. We rented and while Isma didn’t really use his one, I ended up using the two all the way!
- Sleeping Bags. While it is possible to get blankets in the most of the guest houses & lodges, I would suggest you bring one (prepared for -5 or -10) as you will most likely need it when going higher than 4500m (we only used it 2 nights).
- 1st Aid Kit: A must bring. Remember to include Diamox.
- Water. Safe Drinking Stations are available in a good few villages around the Annapurnas, but not in all so I would recommend you bring some kind of water purifying tablets with you.
- Mobile phone: except for the pass, there is only coverage with NTC all the way around the Annapurnas, so you can get a prepaid NTC sim card before the trek.
- Others: Cards, books, head lamp or torch.
- Porter vs Guide. While neither of them are really required for the treks in the area, we chose to hire a porter, Bishal, who also did as a guide at times for mainly two reasons:
- To carry the extra trekking gear we rented in Phokara.
- Because we thought we could help at least one porter by giving him a job for a couple of weeks.
- Altitude sickness. It is really important that you familiarize yourself with what is Altitude sickness, hot to prevent it, which are the symptoms and what are the possible consequences.
In addition, we were recommended to bring Diamox with us. Not to take them as a prevention but only in case of starting to develop the symptoms.
- Shape / training. This is just a quick note to say that it would be better to be in a decent shape before starting a trek… but even myself, who used to get tired after going up the stairs one floor was able to complete it, so you can also do it!
- Accommodation it is very easy to find. There are villages every few km and the most of them have at least a couple of guest houses & lodges. Some of them have better facilities than others (hot watter, coal heater, Internet, phone), but overall the most of them are quite ok (note that there aren’t any 5 stars hotels up in the mountains!). Prices of the rooms are usually cheap, we paid 100 NPR per room the most of the nights, but in return they ask you to have dinner and breakfast in the guest house.
If you need blankets, remember to ask for them as soon as you get to the lodge, as there might be none left later in the day.
- Food is also available everywhere and 9 out of 10 times it is delicious! Apart from all the guest houses, food is also available in many coffees and little rural restaurants.
- Safe Drinking Water (SDW). SDW stations are places were you can fill your bottle with purified water. There are stations in many villages. It is much cheaper than bottled water, which can cost up to 150 in some places, and it is much more environmentally friendly.
- Altitude sickness. Altitude sickness symptoms can start developing once you go higher than 3000m. It’s important that you are aware of the possible symptoms and that you react accordingly. These are some of the recommendations we were given to try to avoid altitude sickness:
- Once you go above 3000m drink at least 2 or 3 liter.
- Even though you can reach a higher point trekking during the day the recommendation is not to sleep more than 500m higher than the night before.
- Take between ¼ to ½ aspirin each night before going to bed, is good for the blood flow.
- Garlic is also good for the blood flow. Have garlic each day! Either raw or in soup.
- Walk slowly, don’t force yourself. Rest as often as you need.
- Stretching once you reach the destination for that day. Just 5 mins of stretching helps the muscles a lot and you won’t be so shore the day after. We forgot to stretch a couple of nights and we felt it!
- Porter. Normally porters pay for their own food and accommodation (make sure you agree to this before the trek). But they only eat and sleep where you do, as the guest houses provide accommodation and cheap food for them if you stay there. In our experience it’s better to try to stay in guest houses where big tourist groups do not stay, as they normally give preference treatment to the porters of the big groups and your porter might not be given a proper bed to sleep.
- Trail. The routes are quite well marked and it’s normally difficult to get lost. And always if doubt, you can ask one of the locals and they will happily indicate you the right path. So in our opinion a guide is not really needed, a map and keeping an eye on the signs is more than enough!
Getting back to Pokhara it is easy. We ended our trek in Nayapul and from here there are plenty of local buses passing by every 15mins and also many taxi drivers who will be eagerly offering their services. Buses take only about 3 hours and they are reasonably comfortable.
Now it is your choice how to celebrate the completion of your trek and how to rest! Pokhara it’s a lovely place to spend a few days resting, eating and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the town.
Have a nice trek!!