Last November, in what feels like a world ago, I hiked the Annapurna Circuit - a 21 day route through the mountain ranges of Central Nepal.
Starting in the lush green villages of the Himalayan foothills, the trek takes you across incredible scenery, through colourful villages, and over the 5416m Thorong La Pass.
NAME: Kira Ollmann
WHAT YOU DO: Photographer/ Videographer
STAR SIGN: Gemini
LOCATION: The Annapurna Circuit, Nepal Himalaya
On life on the trail… Known as the teahouse trek, the Annapurna circuit takes you from teahouse to teahouse.
It may not be a plump mattress; but you’ll always have a bed to sleep on (except for that one time we slept on the dining tables), and delicious Nepalese food awaiting you: think Momos (Nepalese dumplings), lots of veg curries, and the infamous Dal Bhat (“Dal Bhat power, 24 hour”).
On what to pack…
I’ve never been a light packer- but in this scenario it was a case of bringing only what you need.
Nepalese porters will carry a maximum of 10kg for you- but they will be carrying multiple 10kg bags at once, and you do not want to make their Herculean task any harder. You will be wearing the same two outfits on rotation for three weeks- better to embrace it right away! Avoid cotton, make sure you’ve got a good quality down jacket, and Mum said it best… Pack layers!!
On altitude… Altitude is not to be messed with, or taken lightly. Having lived in Australia- and thus at sea level- for most of my life, the effect of high altitude was shocking.
Never again will I take a full breath of oxygen for granted. The higher you go the shorter your breaths are, and the slower you walk - and I cannot underestimate how slow this is!
Slow and steady always wins the race: the goal is to avoid getting out of breath, and it doesn’t matter how many stops you make- the view is killer at every turn. But take any symptom of altitude sickness seriously, and ensure your insurance covers medical evacuation from any altitude, take altitude sickness medication, eat lots of garlic, have warm liquids rather than cold ones (they’re easier to digest at altitude) and drink 1L of water per 1km of altitude- meaning the day you cross Thorong La Pass you’ll be downing a least 5.5L of water!
Nothing like three weeks of hiking to make you grateful for your own bathroom. We were fortunate to have a few hot showers and real toilets along the way- but this certainly isn’t the standard.
Expect some freezing cold showers (one in full view of a staring field of cows) and many, many drop toilets (better than any leg workout back home!). On the plus side, nothing brings a group of strangers together more than shared commissary over a-side-of-the-path mountain shit. Yep, I said it.
On the Nepali people…
The Annapurna Circuit is known as one of the best cultural hikes; taking you through countless colourful villages and giving you a great insight into the Nepali people. And- there is no other word for it - they are joyful!
Smiles, encouragement, laughter and jokes will surround you every step of the way- and you will be forever grateful for your guides, and your porters- not just for their help in carrying your bags- but because their positivity will get you over some literal mountains.
Indeed, the day we crossed the Thorong La Pass (a 3am rise before 8 hours of hiking to reach the 5416m summit) not only did our porters carry 2 of our 10kg bags on their backs each, but upon reaching the summit, turned around to return to us, offering assistance with our backpacks- smiles and encouragement all the way.
Nothing will prepare you for their selflessness, and their capacity for joy and humour in some incredibly physically and mentally tough times.
On the scenery…
You will see the most incredible scenery you have ever seen in your entire life: I say this definitively. We spent three weeks under a blue sky, crossing past waterfalls and gushing creeks, terraces of rice paddies further than the eye can see, jagged peaks, snow capped mountains, glaciers, orange tinted sunrises and hot pink sunsets.
You will walk to a soundtrack of chirping birds, the bells of distant donkeys, the occasional Yak- and sometimes, pure silence. You will feel smaller than you have ever felt in your entire life, dwarfed by mountains that took millions of years to create- one little human, amidst the worlds largest mountain range. And for me, that’s the best feeling in the world.