For many Nepalis, Dasai is a time to return home, eat lots of mutton, receive and give tikka, and spend time with families. I, on the other hand, did my absolute favorite activity in the whole wide world and went trekking. Here are the highlights:
-My two trekking partners were Sophia and Christina, who are both Princeton in Asia fellows and are the brightest, toughest, loveliest pair of Americans who could have taken on the trails with me. Our destination was Annapurna Base Camp, better known as ABC.
-ABC is a teahouse trek, which means we ate/slept in little lodges along the way and didn’t have to carry tents, food, or cooking gear. This was helpful for several reasons, most obviously because we didn’t have to rent/borrow tents and cooking gear in Kathmandu, and also because campers smashing down vegetation to make space for tents and fire pits is bad for the ecosystem. In any case, all we had to bring was clothes, toiletries, and sleeping bags, which we carried ourselves instead of hiring porters. We did, however, hire a guide through a local trekking company. Our guide Bimal was experienced, efficient, fun, and somehow always knew when it was going to rain. Overall, he was amazing and I would recommend him to anyone interested in trekking in Nepal.
-Foreigners who speak Nepali (or at least a little Nepali) were a rare sight along the trail, and we made fast friends with guides and porters. During my entire time in Nepal, Nepali language skills were most valuable during the ABC trek. It was a major sign of respect for guides and porters.
-Speaking of porters: It would have felt uncomfortable for me, with my egalitarian American tendencies, to hire somebody to carry my stuff. But it is extremely common in Nepal, and for many porters it’s actually the first step to becoming a more well-paid guide. In my opinion, hiring a porter can be fine, if they 1) aren’t given too much weight; 2) have proper shoes, gear, and blankets for nighttime; 3) are treated with respect; and 4) are paid a fair wage and tipped generously. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many porters, and I was sad to see several people carrying ridiculously heavy bags in only flip flops.
-Our ten day timeline was a generous amount of time to complete ABC, so we only hiked about 4-6 hours a day. Usually we got going by 7:15 am and arrived at our next location by 12 or 1. The rest of the day we ate dhal bhaat, rested, chatted, and played raucous card games of B.S. and Go Fish with Bimal and the other guides and trekkers before hitting the sack at 8 pm.
-On day 3, we did a sunrise hike to Poon Hill for panoramic views of the Annapurna range. It was cloudy the night before, and we went to bed expecting disappointment. But when we stepped outside at 5 am the next morning, the sky was filled with the one of the most amazing blankets of stars I’ve ever seen. We turned on our headlamps and followed the train of trekkers for about 45 minutes up the hill just in time to see the pre-dawn Himalayas, and watched as sunlight slowly flooded the mountains. It also happened to be my 23rd birthday—one I will never forget.
-Our second sunrise hike was to Annapurna Base Camp itself. We spent the night at Machaapuchre (fishtail) Base Camp, about an hour and a half below ABC, and started off at 3:30 am. ABC is at 4,100 meters (13,451 feet), which isn’t high all that high for the Himalayas but definitely made me light headed. We started off so early the mountains were bathed in light from an almost-full moon. Once the moon set, we could see that awesome blanket of stars again—this time, complete with a meteor shower. And once we reached ABC, everybody cheered when the first ray of sunshine struck Annapurna 1—the tenth tallest mountain in the world at 8,091 meters (26,545 feet).
Meet Jessie Moravek
I am a 2018 Fulbright Scholar at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. Studying for an MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation. Click here to learn more about me!