Kathmandu to Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal
June 6, 2023-June 13, 2023
Day 1: Bangkok, Thailand to Kathmandu, Nepal
June 6, 2023
After some much-needed sleep, due to an uncomfortable, all-day, train ride the day prior, we were able to be a bit more leisurely with our time in the morning. We were only staying a five-minute drive from the airport, and our flight wasn’t until 3:00 p.m. We arrived at the international terminal by noon and were greeted with a surprisingly quick customs and security check. We had our last lunch and coffee in Thailand and in no time, enjoyed a short 3-hour flight into Kathmandu, Nepal.
Nepal is, interestingly, 9 hours and 45 minutes ahead of Eastern Standard Time. The 15 minute difference is strange to think about. It makes it harder to do quick math and figure out what time it is in the states. It makes sense when you think about it, but it’s the first time we’d experienced less/more than an exact hour time difference.
From the very moment we arrived, Nepal had a completely different feeling. As an American I feel preconditioned to be suspicious of any random act of kindness. A stranger acting too nice sends my brain immediate “scam” alerts. But after about the 5th astoundingly pleasant person we ran into, including a random South Korean man who shared a taxi and paid for us to drive into town, I was convinced the thin Nepalese air must trigger some kind of kindness molecule in the people who breathe it.
We also ran into a man running a tour company just outside the airport. Originally, he was trying to offer a taxi ride, but when our South Korean ambassador said it was too much, he offered us some great advice.
PRO TIP: if you get a taxi within the airport gates the prices are jacked up almost double because the drivers must pay for parking. But if you walk just outside the airport, you can get cheaper taxis for their usual price of less than $5.00 USD.
Aided with this great piece of advice and sincerity of the gentleman we were more than happy to accept his business card.
After our taxi ride from the airport to downtown Kathmandu (which, despite all the pleasantness, was pretty frightening—I’m surprised we didn’t run over anyone.) we made way to our hostel for the next three nights. While the sleeping arrangements and facilities weren’t the most amazing, the hostel shared the building with an awesome rooftop restaurant and bar. The dining space also acted as a lounge area granting a vast view of the rooftops of Kathmandu. It even included a “hammock lounge,” a large net-like floor holding bean bag chairs on top of the roof at the highest point in the building.
Kathmandu is a little bit like going back in time. Though it is the largest city, and holds the only international airport in all of Nepal, you won’t find any skyscrapers or large sprawling businesses and hotels. Instead, thousands of small apartment-like rooms are stacked and crowded together in an endless sea of chaos that is the city.
After some dinner at the rooftop bar, we took to the vendor-filled streets. We explored for a while, then ended up going to an Irish pub! It’s true what they say: “Everywhere around the world you’ll find an Irish pub.”
It was getting late, and we wanted to take advantage of all there was to do in Kathmandu. So, with plans to start researching in the morning we called in a night.
Day 2: Kathmandu, Nepal
June 7, 2023
If you ever go to Nepal, never, under any circumstances, ever, ever, even THINK about drinking the water. Big giant nope! I had gotten some tap water in my mouth by accident while showering and brushing my teeth, just the smallest bit when I wasn’t paying attention, and my stomach was extremely unhappy with me. Bottled water, filtering water bottles, or ionizing tablets are the only option for drinkable water. River and tap water are both highly contaminated.
Lawrence wasn’t feeling too hot either. Even so: we endured! After a few hours of dead-end internet searches, we opted to message our airport tour guide-friend from the day prior. When we met with him, we were more than pleased to find that his prices were much lower than anything online.
He set us up with everything we wanted to do over the next two and a half weeks. Including giving us tips on the things we should see in do in Kathmandu on our own.
Aided with an itinerary we left the tour office to have some lunch and checkout the recommended monkey temple: Swoyambhu Mahachaitya.
This huge stupa was requested by Buddha himself to be erected. It sits on a hillside overlooking the city and after climbing a, very daunting, set of stairs you can enter and see everything the stupa features. It was almost like a small village where you could find shops, art galleries, worship centers, monkeys, prayer wheels, more prayer flags than you could imagine, and a wishing fountain. The wishing fountain features a small bucket, if you toss a coin and make it into the bucket your wish will come true! Lawrence got 2 in, but zip for me.
We had to turn in early due to a very early wake up call the next morning. We were meeting with our guide at 5:30 a.m. for transportation back to the airport for a very special flight.
Day 3: Kathmandu, Nepal
June 8, 2023
By 5:30 a.m. we were outside our hostel and met by our guide, Jay. He had arranged a taxi to take us to the airport where we would board a 45-minute flight over the Himalayas and get a glimpse at Mount Everest.
The small passenger plane was set up so that every person got a window seat giving them a chance to see Everest either on the way there or back. There were 2 seats on either side of the aisle giving Lawrence and I a chance to see it both there and back while sitting in the aisle seat each time.
We got lucky with a clear, cloudless day, and absolutely fantastic views of Everest, Lhoste, and more Himalayan giants. The mountains are so tall you are basically parallel to them, rather than above, while in flight.
We were rewarded with certificates at the end of the flight for our “accomplishment” of purchasing a plane ticket. As someone who doesn’t foresee summiting Mount Everest in their future, the high price tag was well worth it! It was incredible to see and something I can cross off my bucket list. Plus, we were finished up and back at our hostel by 8:00 a.m!
The rest of the day we took to prepare our gear for the next leg of travel. We were going on an 8-day trek and needed to do a bit of shopping. Kathmandu is specially equipped to sell trekking gear due to their proximity to the Himalayas. We got everything we were missing, packed up, and got some rest for our next stop: Pokhara, Nepal.
Day 4: Kathmandu to Pokhara, Nepal
June 9, 2023
Today we took the worlds bumpiest bus ride a few hours outside Kathmandu to the Trishuli River and try out some famous Nepalese white-water rafting.
Though only around 30 miles outside the city it took us close to 4 hours to reach our destination. The roads in Nepal are some of the worst we’ve seen. Even the major highways were winding, bumpy, dirt roads. The busses had trouble navigating the narrow, single lanes, especially when met with traffic coming from the opposite direction or construction.
There also seemed to be a lack of traffic rules. Or if there were, nobody bothered to follow them. Every time traffic started to pile up, questionable, selfish, decisions by drivers only made the stopped traffic worse. Vehicles, including our bus, were unwilling to let anyone pass or get over which constantly clogged the road. Needless to say, we were over it by the time we finally reached our destination 2 hours late.
Trishuli River was a milder choice for water rafting. It was often leisurely with little spurts of rapids here and there. After getting lucky and rafting in rainy-season-fed category 4 rapids in Costa Rica a few years ago it was hard for Nepal to measure up.
There were a bunch of little stops along the river which mostly included some form of swimming. We were pretty opposed to submerging as it was some of the most disgusting water I have ever seen. And I grew up with the Mississippi River in Iowa, so that’s saying something. After learning the ropes in Costa Rica and having “don’t fall out of the raft” be a major goal, it was a little strange that they encouraged jumping to and from the raft as we were sailing. Lawrence and I had told the (very annoying) other guests in the boat and the instructors we had no interest in swimming and were harassed and peer pressured the entire time. It got old quick.
The banks of the river were lined with huge trash piles, garbage floated around everywhere in the water, the water was murky and had a questionable “swampy” smell. I really preferred to do what we had signed up for and white-water raft. Not swim through the rapids while near a raft.
When we had arrived at the end of our rafting journey more unpleasantness awaited us. We were told there were showers at the end of the river, but there were not. So much for feeling clean or dry on the 5-hour ride further to Pokhara.
To top off our experience our bus from the Trishuli River to Pokhara arrived two hours late and with standing room only for the first 45 minutes. Since there was no AC or fans onboard, we were forced to open the windows where the surrounding area was thick with haze from the dirt constantly being kicked up on the road.
We finally arrived at our hostel after 11:00 p.m. We took industrial strength showers and got some much-needed sleep.
Day 5: Pokhara, Nepal
June 10, 2023
With the luxury of a private room, we took the day to rest and recover from the 16-hour day prior. We also didn’t want to overexert ourselves since tomorrow would be the start of our 8-day king trek through the Himalayan Mountains on the Annapurna Circuit Trek.
Today was spent repacking everything we’d need into our smaller bags and storing our large ones, resting, and eating.
We enjoyed a wonderful lakeside lunch at an Italian themed restaurant where Lawrence was able to score some gluten-free pasta!
We chose to do the Annapurna Circuit because it’s considered one of the easiest in Nepal. Made up of marked paths and purposely placed stones for stairs, it is a bit easier to make out where you are meant to walk. We would soon find out that in Nepal things like “easy,” “flat,” and “short” had very different meanings than in the U.S.
Day 6: Pokhara to Start of Annapurna Trek, Nepal
June 11, 2023
The first day of our trek! Our guide met us at our hostel at 7:30 a.m. Before starting, we took a car ride about an hour up into the nearby mountains.
What’s the difference between a hike and a trek? The answer is super simple. A hike is a one-day walk, typically through mountainous or natural terrain and lasting a few hours. A trek is exactly the same as a hike, only instead of one day it lasts multiple days!
The first half of the day was spent walking through local villages. The beginning of the trekking path has recently been widened to allow cars to navigate the terrain as well.
Near Annapurna is the sacred mountain Machapuchare, summiting its peak is strictly prohibited by the Nepalese people. It’s surrounding peaks Annapurna II, Annapurna III, and Annapurna South are open to climb from the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC).
The sun was hot and bright. We were feeling the burn by lunchtime! We stopped in the local village Ghorepani, where the original path leading from India to Tibet, China ran through Nepal.
After lunch the trek got much more difficult. We had to climb what seemed like an endless number of steep stairs. Even our guide admitted to the stairs being “Nepal Steep,” meaning they were considered a hard climb even for local people.
Three hours of feeling like I was about to die later, we arrived at our first tea house. These homestays are numerous along the Annapurna Circuit and offer a room to sleep in, hot shower, hot food, and bottled or filtered water.
The further into the mountains you go the more expensive the products. And rightly so, it’s very difficult to get supplies up the winding, car-prohibited, paths high in the Himalayas. Everything must be carried by hand or by mule and the walk can take days even by the highly experienced porters.
I was so beat from the mountain of stairs that after dinner I went to bed at 8:00 p.m., and Lawrence wasn’t very far behind me.
Distance Walked: 8.94 miles
Steps Taken: 19,152
Day 7: Second Annapurna Trek Day to Poon Hill, Nepal
June 12, 2023
Today we were headed to my favorite stop so far, Poon Hill. After some breakfast and fending off a rogue leech that also wanted some breakfast in the form of Lawrence’s ankle, we started the 7.5 mile journey further into the mountains.
We had more stairs to climb, but not nearly as many as the day prior. I’m convinced the stones were stuck in place with yak droppings. Oh my god I have never seen so much animal poop on a single path. I had to stare at my shoes to avoid a giant pile every few feet. It was disgusting.
We had lunch at a nice halfway point. One of the best dishes you can find while trekking is the Dal Bhat. It usually consists of rice, a lentil dal (kind of like a soup), vegetables, spices, a cracker, and greens. And the best part: it is all refillable! You can eat as much as you like.
Finally, we arrived later in the day at Poon Hill where we stayed at the nicest tea house of our trek. We had a private room and bathroom with a balcony that overlooked the mountains. The clouds even cleared to reveal a stunning view of Annapurna. And on the first floor we had a delicious dinner by the cozy fire. We even treated ourselves to some apple pie and custard for dessert.
Feeling cozy, warm, and comfortable we went to bed at 7:30 p.m. in preparation for our next morning’s 4:00 a.m. start time.
Distance Walked: 7.56 miles
Steps Taken: 16,317
Our trek continues! Next article featuring the trekking finale coming soon. In the meantime checkout some more of our Travel articles now!