I’ve wanted to see Nepal firsthand ever since seeing the beautifully produced documentary “Unmistaken Child,” in which a young monk traverses Nepal’s remote mountains in search of the reincarnation of his Tibetan Buddhist master. When I saw the Travelzoo Top 20 deal for a 10-day trek through the Himalayas to Annapurna base camp, I was ready to book immediately. My boyfriend was more hesitant. Although we’re both fairly physically active, we had never done anything more than a day hike before. Eventually I convinced him that we had plenty of time to train and prepare over the summer.
I booked the trip for October, just after Nepal’s rainy season and the beginning of peak fall tourist season due to sunny, mild days with afternoon temperatures reaching the 70s (the spring months are also a popular time for trekking). Although it rained the first two days of our trek, the remaining days were as lovely as promised, though temperatures at night dropped lower the higher we climbed.
A typical day on the trek meant waking up early, eating breakfast, and then hiking for three hours until we stopped for lunch at one of the small towns along the route. Then we’d hike a few more hours until reaching our tea house accommodations for the night, where we’d unwind, eat dinner, play cards and read before succumbing to exhaustion and retiring to bed – sometimes as early as 8 p.m., when I’d normally just be starting dinner in New York. But the early bedtimes meant waking up with the sunrise for another active day outdoors.
The terrain varied remarkably each day of the trek. We trekked through quaint villages, lush forests, dense groves of bamboo and rhododendron, stepped farmland, and alpine landscapes. The hiking was definitely a challenge, with steep staircases and rocky paths at high altitudes, but the stair training we did in our 36-story NYC apartment building paid off. The highlight was reaching the Annapurna base camp, the highest point of our trek, in one of the world’s most beautiful mountain basins. From there we could take in all the major mountains of the Annapurna range, including the infamous Annapurna I, whose slopes have claimed the lives of more than 50 climbers who attempted to reach its summit (or one out of every four attempt).
Our own group had a similar success rate, though fortunately with no permanent damage. Two trekkers were helicoptered off the mountain due to altitude sickness, while the remaining five of us made it back to the laid-back resort town of Pokhara without incident. After cleaning up in our separate hotels, we reunited at a local bar to toast our trek over a hard-earned Everest beer.