Trekking the Himalayan Mountains

Story by: Marike Bredenhann     Date: 2 April 2021    Image by: Canva | Kapulya

6 minutes reading time Nepal

The vast beauty of the Himalayan Mountains has taken away countless breaths. When you stand at the peak of a mountain and you overlook the rolling hills with the frozen peaks, you start getting this tingle feeling all over your body, close to the feeling of shivers but that is not possible because you are huffing and puffing like a steam train. The hike itself is challenging but the scenery you see the entire trail is awe-inspiring. Throughout the mountains, and in the valleys, you will find these old secluded villages. Each village is ingrained with culture, from the simplistic build of the houses to the years’ old decorations of colored flags hanging from one side of the village to the next. These locals with their wide friendly smiles seem untouched by the outside world! They find peace in their lifestyle and are content with what the tourist bring to their little villages. Most of these villages see tourist visits twice a year and the money they bring in with the shops and the lodging is what will keep them alive until the next tourist season starts.

Work is limited in Nepal and poverty has long since overtaken the country. But when you look at the faces of the locals you will never see any unrest in their eyes. They are content with the life they live. Lodging and food are cheaper in the bigger towns and cities but in these completely remote villages, you can taste the authenticity in the food and feel the warmth of their hearts in the lodging. The trail is not only about the views and the landscapes but also about the locals and the culture they bring into their everyday lives.

In the Himalayan Mountains, there are two popular regions for trekking/hiking. Although none as harsh as The Everest Circuit, they are both daunting in some areas, and preparation beforehand is advisable.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

Annapurna Circuit

The Annapurna Circuit is found in the center of Nepal. This circuit or trail, has various starting points and also various ending points but it is advised to trek this circuit, anti-clockwise doesn’t matter where you start. The reason being, the daily altitude gain is slower when traveling anti-clockwise. The other reason is that there are very few teahouses in the last bit of the anti-clockwise trail but because there are more downhill paths, you can move a little bit easier and the walk is a bit easier.

The entire trek is 230 km, depending on where you choose to start it can range from 160 km to 230 km and can take you 10 – 20 days, again depending on your start and endpoints. The trek starts at Besisahar and finishes in Kali Gandaki Gorge. This is such a fast countryside and with the majority of Nepal consisting of mountain ranges, the only transportation is car or motorcycle. When you land in Kathmandu, you can take local transport or hire a car to get you to Besisahar, which will take around 7 hours.

As you can imagine, some seasons are best suited for hiking in the mountains. Nobody wants to get stuck 13000 ft above sea level in a snowstorm for days on end. It is gorgeous weather from Feb – April and from Oct – Dec. These are the months with the clear blue skies, the rolling clouds, and the warmer temperatures. Early mornings just before the sun comes up you can see the stars fading into the light, just before the sun starts peaking out from the mountain tops. A feeling of peace and tranquility washes over you as you realize where you are standing.

Along the route, you will find teahouses at most of the overnight stops, but you will have some nights where you will sleep in tents and have minimum sanitation available. The teahouses or better known to the rest of the world as lodgings are very primitive, the rooms are small and so are the beds, you will however find there are warm water and showers available, just make sure that you are first in the shower, especially when traveling with a group as the hot water is solar-powered with small geysers. The host will always have a hot meal ready, home-cooked with local produce. It might not be the food that you are used to but the food that is prepared will surely fill up a hungry stomach and provide plenty of energy for the day to come and the bed will give you a soft place to rest your tired bones.

There are no “easy” trails in the Himalayan Mountains, they are all strenuous, not only on your legs but especially your back. Preparation should be made beforehand, mentally and physically prepared is essential. You have to keep caution with the size and the weight of your backpack. Remember that it will be on your back for long hours on end. When you are traveling with a group and with a guide you will have rest time but it is minimal and you cannot fall behind because of a tired body. Only pack the essentials, there are many websites available that can guide you through your packing and preparation to ensure you have the best trip possible.

Ghorepani Poon Hill

Ghorepani Poon Hill

The Ghorepani Poon Hill trekking is a much shorter trek. Depending on the speed you are hiking, 2 – 3 days will be sufficient. Although much shorter than Annapurna Circuit, you still have the opportunity to experience Nepal and the Himalayan Mountains. This track is also known as the Annapurna Panorama Trek/Circuit because you can still see the wonders of the Annapurna Massif. If you are like me and don’t know what is a massif, a massif is mountains that are grouped by faults and curves. Mountains that keep their original structure but get moved around by shifts in the fault lines.

As I said before, the seasons that are best for trekking are from Feb – April, and Oct-Dec. In these periods, you have less snow and therefore can see more of the land itself but there is still snow on the peaks of the higher mountains. When trekking down in the valleys you will be surprised at the warm, humid temperatures. Be sure to pack short pants for days like these. Always remember your waterproof hiking boots, waterproof pants, and a waterproof jacket. Although you will find beautiful sunny days, the weather can change quite dramatically and you can be caught in a down pore before you know it. Pack as light as possible but still make sure to get all the essentials.

These are only two of the routes you can hike in the Himalayan Mountains. There are so many others around the Annapurna Mountain Ranges. The Himalayan Ranges are one of the wonders of the world and you will surely not be disappointed. The extreme weather and the rugged land have withstood so many natural disasters. As the land, so are the people living on that land. They have been through so much but they are still standing, standing with open arms and smiling faces. Do not hesitate to ask any of the locals for advice or directions. They are extremely proud of the land they call home and they can truly teach us a lesson or two in appreciation.

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