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My trek to Annapurna Base Camp without a guide and any trekking experience

This is a first part of translation of my report for one of Russian forums: this format is good for both storytelling and sharing the experience. Writing this report, my primary goal was to show the trekking beginners that this route is not as complex and dangerous, as it is sometimes presented 😉 However, better to know some hints in advance! Our hints were founded by Mr. Cat, whose idea it was, originally – and I am very thankful to him!

Our room’s view to Pheva lake

Day 0. Pokhara
I woke up before sunrise. It’s our last days of 4 spent here to prepare for the trek to Annapurna Base Camp: to buy all equipment (literally all, as we came after 2,5 months in India with shorts and swimsuits, which are almost useless here), and to take some rest after our last trip (1,5 days from Varanasi: train to Gorakhpur, local bus to Sonauli, and especially 16 hours in local Nepali bus to Pokhara). This place is great – clean, chilly, with no cows / monkeys / crowds making anyone insane in Varanasi! And shopping – finally, there is something to shop! Varanasi had a lot of sarees, of course, but how much a backpacker needs a saree? Now we need everything – and we buy:
– Trekking trousers for me and him – 2 500 rupees each
– Trekking crosses for him (there are many reasons for crosses vs trekking boots, which are heavier and more expensive) – 3 500 rupees
– Trekking socks – half a dozen! 200 or 300 rupees each, depending of thickness
– Fleece top for me – 1 000 rupees
– Thermoset for him – 2 500 rupees
– Windstopping jacket for him – 2 500 rupees
– Fleece scarf for him – 200 rupees
– Gloves for us both – 1 000 rupees each
– Trekking sticks – 2 pairs, 2 000 each
– 2 Thermoses and water bottle – 1 800 rupees total.
The last things were planned to make our own tea and drinking water: in electricity shop we found a water heater to put into the bottle (hello to the soviet years), and a plugin to transform a lamp bulb into a socket. The electricity of any type is a paid service, although the plugin is officially sold in electric shops. For me, I prefer to be fully equipped to pay less in the lodge – because anything you will need there will have a price.
Besides all above, we took some food: tea bags, noodle soups, cookies, snickers (for a chocolate addict), and a bag of peanuts – and the only peanuts was a mismatch! Better to take another pack of chocolate!
The last thing we needed were the trekking permits and TIMS – the permits are a kind of a fee to enter the conservation area of Annapurna (theoretically covering all the harm trekkers could make), and TIMS are the  documents of “who are these crazes and where to find their relatives”: it states that we go by the ABC route and we have no guides or porters, yuppie! 🙂 Both documents require only 4 photos per person and 20 min of time in ACAB office of Pokhara, friendly authorities!
So, we are fully equipped. A last t-shirt with yaks, a last good dinner… The consequences of my bronchitis from Varanasi vanished from a small mixture from the next door farmacy, and my spine should be safe with a 15lt sack for cycling – yes, there are no too small bags, if to pack your stuff wisely! Mr.Cat took his 85lt sack, which was halfly full with his jacket, but at least should be comfortable… And of course it wasn’t! 😉
Day 1. Pokhara – Phedi (1 400 m) – Pokhana (1 990 m)
Trek started! A little bit later 😉
The typical trekking day is starting at 5.30-6.00, but… It’s not our case 🙂 Hardly awakening by 7.00, we are still eating sandwiches in Sheela Bakery (yummie!), and we are in the bus from Lakeside to Zero Kilometer – a starting point for all buses leaving to north, including ABC, Poonhill, and other routes. The trip ends really quickly: the conductor took us off after 5 min saying the Zero Kilometer is just 5 min by this street – noisy and dusty street… After 15 min this street is really noisy and too dusty! But where is the station?!
– But we are going to trek, no? – mr. Cat says calmly, – let’s consider this a training!
Ok, but I hope the trek is far from the traffic! In 5 min on this street you understand why all local people wear anti-dust masks everywhere – and even have the fashion trends for that!
Finding a necessary bus was easy, but after one hour we are still sitting at the station – of course, the conductor told us it will go in 5 minutes. But we still have some tea from Sheela Bakery!
By 11.00 we are finally in Phedi: our starting point to the trek is looking quite abandoned. Where are the joyful trekkers and friendly ACAB officers to check permits? Maybe we are not in Pfedi? To be honest, we wouldn’t get to this place if 4 Nepalese girls wouldn’t get interested in who is mr. Cat and where do we go. They were shouting to the bus driver “STOOOP!” so loudly it would stop a Boeing! �� But what’s next?
The villagers we’ve found guided us to the stone stairs. Oh yes, true, that was in Lonely Planet guide! It’s nice to forget about 500 m up under the midday sun… Whatever! We go up.
And up. And up. What is it? Is this a trek? Just going up by a stone steps until you find yourself in ABC in a better shape? My shape is as bad as my sack is little! And my knees would scream without the sticks! I learn to use them, and finally find myself almost on the top of the first mountain: and the chaotic landscape of hills and trees and houses besides immediately turns into the beautiful rows of mountains, villages and forests; the shadow of the clouds cover the hillsides, but the sun is still shining to other hills!
We enjoy the first Gurung village on the way: beautiful landscapes, friendly people… We try to use the antiseptics for the water from a well (unsuccessfully – the water got such a chloride taste!).
Our next way is just a walk on almost flat forest, though Dhampus (our first check point). However, nothing is easy: the rain starts! Just after Dhampus and check point it becomes so heavy that we run to the first shelter – and next 30 min we sit under the roof of a Gurung house with the owners, two Korean trekkers in the rain coats, now useless, and the chickens! Chickens are ironic, and we are too: it was a bad idea not to take rain coats!
The girls start before us, and the rain doesn’t stop until the first stop: Pokhana, at least 2 hours before the first day stop by Lonely Planet, which is Tolka. The first lodge we see is more than ok for two wet and tired trekkers! We ask if the room is free of charge as soon as we eat only in their restaurant, and get the positive answer. The meal is instant noodles and instant soup, but it gives us a cozy room with mountain view and the toilet in the yard 🙂
Day 2. Pokhana (1 990 m) – Landruk (1 620 m)
The morning is so beautiful! The Machhapuchhare in the first light of sun is unbelievably close to us and will be even closer by the evening! It would be better to have no line in the toilet :))) But everyone are fast: by 7.30 we leave with all other trekkers. Someone is going with us, someone will finish the trek in couple of hours… After the end of Pokhana village, we choose between two ways: one, which looks more a trekking way, goes into the sunny forest, and another, with the car wheels marks, goes around the hill in the shadows. We prefer shadows: the morning just started, but it’s pretty hot! I think it’s a good idea to wear less in the mornings after this way, when we stop each 200 meters to take off something!
The shadow road is empty of cars, but full of other life: a small deer jumping across, the cows are browsing on the hill above… Or maybe these are the yaks?! Unfortunately, no – ABC is too good for yaks, they are replaced here by dozens of porters (these guys in cheap old slippers will make any well-trained trekker in special boots!). On the decent after Deurali we meet two German Trekkers accompanied with a dog. ABC? No, they didn’t make it… A dog? Just a local! The dog changes its company and follows us for a time, to change the company again at the bottom of the hill – and go back, upstairs. What’s up with you, little Nepalesian? His nose is terribly broken long ago, and we found more marks of the fights between dogs and other animals around. Maybe there is something near – something with claws and teeths, you never know. We never knew in a Cotigao sanctuary in Goa, until a big cat started the hunting around us!
After this wild hill the road is again too civilized: it goes up to Tolka, the biggest habitat area on this route, so we are celebrating our arrival too early: eating lunch in a cozy lodge, we guessed it was 2 km to Tolka afterwards! The endless day is even more endless while the pack of Mr. Cat doesn’t want to go up. We stop each 10 meters, I am full of the glittering stones along the road, and dream of throwing away of half in that too-big-bag, but finally we make it! Tolka is too crowded, luckily for our day plans, to stays or a night: moreover, we are immediately surrounded by the children asking for chocolates! I am not only choko-addict: I am a principle person, and begging is not a good thing! While I try to send away the children, Mr. Cat is attacked by a very confident young lady asking the same. Chocolate. Never!
The end of this day, although, is quite positive: soon after Tolka the jeep road is ended by a very pleasant Landruk, and we are just on time for a hot shower and the rain starts even later than we choose a lodge: Hungry Eye, we are so hungry! Here we also propose to “sleep for eat”: we don’t check other restaurants, but the room is free! I found my best trekking dish: fried potatoes (at least something not instant!), and I try Gurung bread: a thin baked pancake, of course with the same soup as dal-bat! Mr. Cat eats dal-bat and I see it will never be my favourite. Luckily, I was never forced to eat it!
Day 3. Landruk (1 620 m) – Chomrong (2 210 m), the longest accent!
The night in Landruk is awesome: starting from the stars reflected in the house lights on the hills around Modi Khola river, ending by the enormous fresh air in the morning. You can’t stay calm, the adventures are calling! We almost run forward, which is easy as descending to the river, I jump on stones, and, of course, I hurt my leg. It’s not serious so better hide it from me and my friend! We can still enjoy the waterfalls (there are so many of them, I can’t believe I was eager to see Devi’s Falls in Pokhara!), we start to greet other trekkers (one overloaded Malaysian guy asks us if there is a place to fix a computer in Moscow – what an image we have?), and finally, we are eating cookies!
There are some suspended bridges: they are small and trustworthy! This is something I was afraid of the most: I am afraid of the heigh and depth, and my bad coordination multiplies the bridge effect. So, the suspended bridges are the worst place on earth for me! But these are ok, I hope to skip this fear. Ha-ha!
Just after the New Bridge village (with a pretty 5-days-old bahra, as the goats are called here) we find something interesting. Yes, the name of the village has a reason, and here we go:
For 30 min I am the most terrified person in Himalaya! I would do anything now to learn how to fly, honestly! But I go forward – slowly, slowly, I remember all funny stuff we’be discussed on the way, the best moments of out travel, persuading myself I am far from the shaking bridge, ten meters below and everything… Ufff, finally I’m on the ground! Looking back, I see a group of tourists waiting for me to finish. I feel so much thankful to them, because with two persons this bridge would shake enormously. We go up, and on another hill 15 minutes later I see a first trekker of that group still on the middle of this bridge… Better forget this experience!

Thinking of the cuties, thinking of the cuties…

– Tomorrow we should pass another bridge on 2 000 meters height – says my friend. And my mind is paralyzed with an image of the tiny bridge above the canyon so deep that you can’t see its floor… Later I got the height is calculated from the sea level, not from the floor!

This is a bridge I like!

The way to Jihnu is descending and ascending on the sunny side of the mountain. Hot! The water from the lodge in the morning is finished, and no lodges or houses around  to find more. But there are a plenty of small waterfalls on the side of the road, flouting and blinking under our feet… Ehm, what if…? First we try to drink just a little from a waterfall, checking several times it’s clean. We drink a little, wash our hands, but the thirst doesn’t go away, and it’s so hot! It ends up for me drinking almost one litter and having a shower in a waterfall – after all, we are wild people now! Fortunately no-one see how wild I am 🙂
Jihnu is full of trekkers, the reason is obvious – this is a small and bright village with cozy shelters, and there are the hot springs down! After the springs we can stay here, or we can go 1 km up to Chomrong. Of course, we will go to Chomrong! We are crazy: the clouds are in the sky preparing another rainy midday. But whatever! We leave most of our belongings to a logder, 30 minutes down – and we see hot springs: three baths for trekkers and porters on the side of Modi Khola. Very nice, even without swimsuits – we swam in t-shirts. Are we wild people, or no? :)))

Warming in the bath 🙂

In the springs my foot calms down and becomes a little bit smaller, but still hurts! And now we should go up from the very river to the top of this mountain – to Chomrong. The rain starts, and we start too. First to Jihnu – pick up the bags and take a look at the colorful houses, passing the strange white “UFO” (water supplies?), and going up next 2 hours. The stairs are made of glittering stone, it would be comfortable if it wouldn’t be so long, but we are still lucky the rain is small… We feel happy seeing the first home – but it’s not Chomrong yet. It is a home and shop of one old lady and her son – he makes the strange laughing sounds. She tells us some years ago an avalanche passed on him, and her only son became a kid again… His dog, Duni, is reached of commands – he taught it before he lost his mind. Sad place, if not this dog!
 We pay for the tea, which has a taste of never washed bowler, but still works to revive us. In an hour, we are in Chomrong, seeing only 3 lodges in the darkness – no free rooms, solar showers with some hot water, and the dinner we eat almost silently. The last ascend for this day – to a second floor of the lodge – is almost a torture!

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