January 2015 I flew to Nepal for 3 weeks. When I had booked my flights, I looked up the things I would like to do and see in Nepal. I was just considering a 10 day Vipassana course, but when I told my boyfriend, he said, you don't want to go all the way to Nepal to sit all day in a room staring at a white wall!
He told me to go trekking in the Himalayas, and well, it did sound like a fab idea! Until my colleague at work said that January is the worst time to go trekking in the Himalayas! Most likely I would have to cancel those plans due to high snow.
But a German determined soul like mine can't be stopped so I went and bought trekking equipment, and flew to Nepal with the goal to reach the Annapurna Basement Camp at 4000 m.
The plane arrived in Kathmandu early in the morning and I woke up very early seeing from the plane the sun rising over the majestic Himalayas. I had tears in my eyes.
I had found a lovely airbnb in Kathmandu with a sweet family who immediately adopted me. The mother showed me her little temple where she prayed every morning.
I loved Kathmandu. It was crowded, dirty and dusty, and the traffic a nightmare but I have always felt safe during my stay. The narrow streets, the super old buildings, the temples and stupas, old book shops with maps from the Everest.... for my generation there are not many adventures left to do but I can only imagine the magic it must have been here in the 50's or 60's.
I also got me a beautiful tattoo from an artist I had found before I came here.
After a few days I took the public bus to Pokhara from where the trekking tours start. The landscape was stunning. Pokhara is a sweet one-main-street-town, with many trekking guide shops. I asked around for tour guides to the Annapurna Base Camp, and some refused to take me due to the risk of snow. Finally the guy from my hostel told me they had a guide, and I could even rent a sleeping bag from them.
Deal done, the next day I was getting up super early, with my backpack of only the most necessary items, and met my guide. I had been a bit worried how it would be spending 8 days closely together with a guy I had never met before. More than the fear of getting raped and robbed was my introverted soul worrying about lacking topics for conversation. But I was lucky and got the best guide possible. Not only was he was very handsome and only 28 years old, but he was also the sweetest soul on Earth. He told me a lot about his country, and the problems. That he had "adopted" two orphan kids from the town, and his goal was to build an orphanage one day. He was a vegan, too. He simply was the kindest and purest being I had ever met.
The trekking was extremely challenging for me. Walking for up to 8 hours a day with a 8-10 kg backpack, and mostly uphill (or ridiculous never-ending stairs of high stones) was taking it's toll on me. At the end of each day I wolfed down whatever food Raju got from the hostel we stayed at, and just sat without moving much.
The real beauty was meeting the people that were living along the trekking routes. Those sweet families who made their living with hosting the trekkers. On our first evening we got invited to celebrate the child's birthday with the family. There were balloons and cake (rare items up here). It was so innocent to watch.
With every day the air got thinner, and it got colder. The good part about trekking in January is that the hostels are pretty empty :) So I always had my own room. But it got seriously cold. Before the last day Raju gave me a pill that was supposed to help adapting to the altitude, and we were drinking garlic soup like there was no tomorrow (supposed to help with the altitude too). Still I was a bit worried since on our last day we were climbing up another 1000 m in just one day (not recommended generally but I trusted Raju).
As hard as it all was, I loved being up there. The atmosphere in the huts where the trekkers unite to warm themselves up with a cup of tea, all simple and rustic life, the majestic nature around us, with the mountains always in the background...
We reached the snow zone and slowly slowly made our way the last kilometres to the Annapurna Base Camp. By now Raju was carrying my backpack, too, since the air had become really thin for me.
And then we were there, and I was sitting at the Annapurna Base Camp with a group of other people and I couldn't believe I had made it!! I was out of breath just sitting there with my mug of garlic tea. I wasn't hungry at all. We played some card games, and chatted along. I almost slipped on the iced squatting toilet outside. It felt amazing.
I hardly slept that night, due to the cold and the altitude, so I got up super early and saw the sun rising above the Himalayas at over 4000 m. It was so beautiful. And so cold. And so beautiful.
After breakfast I was ready to get down though. Going all the way back down was almost harder than up. My legs were trembling at times, and a few times we both slipped on the ice. Raju always knew the right route to take, and one time we heard an avalanche going down in the distance.
Before we headed back to civilisation we made a stop at a warm spring where we could soak our sorry bones in the heavenly warm waters (the first shower in a week).
The last day Raju took me on an extra long hike (I thought he would never stop) and we arrived after around 9 hours at a lovely homestay of a family he knew. They served us white sweet potatoes and millet pancakes with their own honey. Best.food.ever!
On our way back to Pokhara the busses were on strike again, so we had to walk all the way back, but by now I was so used to walking I didn't mind at all.
Back in my hostel, I spend 30 minutes under the hot shower, ate a whole package of cookies on my bed and then - kinda missed Raju, so I went out on the street walking again! So funny.
I had wonderful last days in Pokhara, sat at the lake, hiked to the Peace Stupa, and enjoyed good food. I also met Raju and his "adopted" kids, and gave him a generous tip for all his services. He is such a great guy.
Then I took the bus back to Kathmandu, got another tattoo (because they were really good there), got invited to a little street concert, visited the old city, the Boudhanath Stupa and the Monkey Temple, and just enjoyed this strange place.
I dearly fell in love with Nepal, and would love to come back one day.