My time in the village was amazing. However, I wanted to experience more of Nepal and the one thing Nepal is known for is the Himalayas. To have a chance to live in these mountains, be fed by them, call them home for this period of time was a humbling experience that just cannot be replicated anywhere in the world.
However, when I yelled and yoddled every morning to wake up and greet the peaks surrounding my village, I always wondered, how does it look from up above. The hills in my village were peaking above 2 to 3 thousand metres, however, whenever I hiked a tiny bit higher, I started to see over the peaks and discovered there are always some taller ones. I wanted to see actually how far up does life prevail in the Himalayas.
After finishing my time in the village I took the bus to Pokhara. It also took two whole days, however, no form of discomfort would spoil what I was about to see.
People that went to Pokhara at least once would use terms like “the most beautiful city ever”, “paradise” and all forms of superlatives. However, these words just can’t do justice to a place like Pokhara.
The lake is the signature feature of Pokhara, stretching the mountains further apart, creating mesmerizing views combining beautiful temples, slopes covered with green of bamboos, waterfront cafes and the 8-thousanders peeking behind all of it. The unrealistically peaceful environment is however created by the people that visit. Tourists from everywhere in the world meet in all shapes and ages for the purpose of taking in the mountains and the locals live and breath Annapurna lifestyle. People with sun marked skin, big fat smiles all around, chilling after or before exhausting trekking, or just being at peace for whatever reason.. I swear, there are no anxious, nervous or negative people in Pokhara. There is just no place for it.
One thing that is a must in Pokhara is an open air cinema called Movie Garden. Spot designed to make people feel united, connected in peace and set them off into the world. Evening showing of the movie Ghandi under the stars with a beer while passing around tokes with random strangers from everywhere in the world was pure magic.
Permits for Annapurna national park are around 35 dollars, however trekking itself consists of stuff that you need to pay for such as food, supplies and nights at the trek should be counted beforehand. For reasonable prices for such a once in a lifetime event is a small bargain to pay. When you are fine with buying food in grocery stores in Pokhara before setting onto the trek, you will only need money for warm water, emergencies and very reasonably priced mountain accommodation and transportation to and from the trek.
Annapurna mountain region is a fairly vast area with many possibilities for picking a trek that suits your skills. I have decided to go as high as I have ever been and that meant going to Annapurna Base Camp at least. One catch to it all was my stubborn decision to try and check snowboarding in the Himalayas off of my bucket list. So I took my regular Lib Tech Banana that has already seen some better days, strapped my boots into the bindings, clipped it onto my regular backpack, packed an extra layer for boarding purposes and set out on my way. I had no real training, neither have I ever done anything similar, however, with snowboarding being one of my stronger skills, I figured that getting onto the snowy parts with my board on my back would be a walk in a park with a piece of cake for breakfast. Oh, how little did I know.
Can’t really remember the actual number, but the locals called the trek to A.B.C a Journey of a (somethingsomething)thousand stairs. Even if I am not sure whether it was 5 or 25, I guess it still counts as a f**kload. During my 6 day hike I sweat out everything I could and I needed 150% of my focus to complete the journey. When your body starts breaking down 3 days into the trek it’s not like you can just stop and quit, because there is sometimes literally no other choice but to keep walking. You can pay a local to carry your luggage for about 25 bucks a day, or you can ride a horse for 50. Yeah, right…
I was glad I had enough cash for the way back. So I pushed through back pain caused by the snowboard shifting from side to side after each step, I pushed through my legs burning from basically doing non-stop quarter squats with 20 kg of extra weight, I pushed through 3 dripping layers a day (with necessary help of pain killing herb) and I set my sight on snowboarding the Himalayas.
However, the third day of trekking, my body broke down. Starting to hike every morning before 6:30 to get warm, having only a couple short breaks for a breather and the extremity of the condition changes throughout the day caused my legs to shake uncontrollably, my back cramping every time I put stuff on it so I got to a point where I could not carry my board for another step and I was ready to call it a trip. After 2 hours of hiking I stopped in Dovan village, 2900m with the final peaks being right there for the taking.
Half a day resting, talking to passing tourists and recovering strength it became clear that there was no chance I could snowboard in the Himalayas this time. Snowline started to show well above 5500 with limited possibilities of continuous freeride lines or easy access, which would mean excessive effort for a thing that just was not worth it at that time.
However, the other realization that came out of half a day resting was, that there was just no way in hell I would not see A.B.C. All the tourists coming up and down described it as once in a lifetime experience. I decided to take the last leg of the trek which would take about 6 hours to complete without my snowboard.
The thing is, nature in these altitudes in Europe looks way different from Nepal. Before reaching 3k the environment is comprised of thick bamboo jungles with other bushes growing wildly with humidity reaching 90%. After 3k however, the bushes and bamboos disappear into rough alpine that has characteristics of the Alpine peaks of France and Switzerland, but still in this altitude the only thing you can do is keep looking up.
I swear, there is no description for the size of these mountains. Shadows these peaks are throwing down the valley in the afternoon cause temperature to drop drastically when passing from a sunlit part of the trek into the shadow. Glaciers melting below the snowline gave birth to beautiful massive waterfalls all around the steep slopes all the way up to Machapuchre Base Camp at almost 4k. This was the last resting place before the actual finish line, last chance to realize how cold it actually is even on the sun when you stop, last chance to put on all layers available and last look on the valley before turning into the Annapurna glaciers.
Whether it was altitude sickness or just plain exhaustion, the last 2 hours between M.B.C and A.B.C were the hardest ones to walk. The south face of Annapurna is so massive that you can see it from M.B.C but when you think that you are almost there, you get disappointed by seemingly never-ending hike to A.B.C.
We reached the camp before 4pm on 4th of December. The lodge itself rests at 4130 yet still, all you can do is twist your neck looking at the peak of Annapurna. The sheer size of the face is astonishing. I quickly realized why is this peak considered to be one of the deadliest mountains on the planet when I heard the sound made by an avalanche on the south face. Up here, nature is in charge.
After spending the coldest, yet one of the most memorable nights of my life in the lodge, I could not wait for the sun to rise to warm up, pay my respects at the deceased mountaineers’ memorial, and start walking down the hill.
No matter how beautiful this place was, to survive in these conditions means to keep moving and I really wanted to get warm as soon as possible, so after taking all necessary pictures, I left.
Descending to lower altitudes sounds easy enough, however it still takes a toll, especially on your knees. However, to finish the trek there still meant 2 days of up and down trails in some of the most challenging conditions possible. Additionally, i had no other choice but to pick my snowboard up on the way down and carry it back for 2 more days. Your body really does notice the toll taken by these mountains after a couple of days. How do you motivate yourself to go on? You treat yourself to something amazing.
On December 6th I woke up knowing the fact that it is possible to finish up the trek later that day and have a shower in Pokhara before falling asleep. However, there was one more stop to make.
The area was mapped out very clearly in each one of the villages and on my way back was a small mark saying HOT SPRINGS. I mean, c’mon. If there was ever a chance anyone wouldn’t go, let me know. It was even worth it to go when I knew I had to go down to the river and back up to the trail, because really c’mon. Would you not want to sit in 40-something degree water after being completely drained for several days? Would you not want to sit in hot springs so close to a glacier river that you could use it as a hot tub-cold tub treatment for sore muscles? Would you not want to relax your muscles and mind in such a spot with people from all around the world? Would you come for even a couple hours to think back on the journey accomplished and on what is yet to come? Thought so..
I finished that day by having a shower and a cold beer at a hotel in Pokhara that same day. Even if it meant getting out of the tub and push through the last 5 hours until after dark to reach the road and transportation, the last leg of the trek concluded the whole trip after 6 nights in the Annapurna region wilderness. So was it worth it all the money, all the pain, all that effort for not snowboarding at all? You tell me.
Annapurna looks massive from anywhere you look at it, whether it is from the basecamp, or from the bus 6 hours away from Pokhara. Through views like those that you realize Nepal as a country and what it takes to live here. Great distances and natural obstacles define a country to the same if not bigger extent as man made conditions. Development, quality of life and even the lifestyles themselves are subdued to the natural conditions and not to what the west considers an appropriate governance.
I recommend Nepal to everyone looking to experience something different, and to anyone that lacks time to slow down. After all, man does not dictate time here, nature does. Times may therefore appear slower or obsolete to some spectators here, however the locals see it as “peaceful and spiritual” times. So come and experience the difference.