Today was our second full day in Nepal’s capital city. Kathmandu itself is noisy, colorful and crowded. It’s a bit overwhelming at first – there are so many signs and shops and sounds and smells and people – very different from anywhere we’ve been so far.
Shoot, Zhou already said all that. I suppose then today it’s best to talk about what lies ahead and what we’ve been spending our time getting ready for: the Annapurna Circuit Trek (“ACT,” since I’m a lazy typer).
Where is it? The ACT is located in the Himalayan mountains, specifically the Annapurna Conservation Area (“ACA”). As far as I can tell, this area is highlighted by five main peaks, the tallest of which stands over 8,000 meters. The ACA is the largest protected area of Nepal, and since it is protected all menus and prices in the area will be set by a tourism sub-committee. This is especially good for me since there is no need to negotiate, and I still have no ability to do so.
What is it? The ACT is a 4.6 kilometer trek… vertically. That’s almost three miles of climbing, and that doesn’t even take into account all the intermediate up and down we’ll be doing. The highest point of the trek is 5,416 meters above sea level, or about the height of a 1,650 story building. The ACT takes approximately 16 – 20 days and covers 140 miles. Over 40,000 tourists attempt the trek each year, and Americans are the sixth most popular nationality to get permits.
How is it done? Despite the best advice of every single Nepalese person we’ve met this far, we are not hiring a guide or porter to help us through the trek. There are two main reasons for this: money and it’s our honeymoon. A porter costs approximately $15 per day, and I don’t want some paid joker carrying my wife’s bag when I can do it myself. (Just to be clear, I don’t think lowly of the Nepalese, but needed to call them “jokers” for effect. Actually not one person here has played a joke on us yet. They’ve all been very nice, and I expect other people’s guides and porters to be nice as well.)
How much is it? Usually costs are a private matter, but I like you so I’ll divulge this juicy tidbit. We’re budgeting $25 per day. For both of us combined. This includes all food, water, lodging and whatever other costs we’ll incur along the way. The problem is, now that we’re here we believe that this budget is so two years ago. Prices seem to be a bit higher in Kathmandu than we’ve expected, and this will likely continue onto the trek. I’d guess $30 – $35 per day would be a better guess, but it still beats New York City.
What are you taking? Remember how we’re carrying on all our belongings when we fly? For the next three weeks, we’re leaving my bag (the biggest one we have) at our hostel here in Kathmandu and just taking Zhou’s 40 liter-backpacker’s pack and our two personal items (Zhou’s camera bag and my day pack). Obviously we needed to make some sacrifices to pack so light, so the first thing to go was our extraneous clothing. We’ll both have the clothes we’re wearing, I’ll have one extra shirt and we’ll both have some extra underwear, hats and jackets for the cold. That’s pretty much it. I’m guessing you’re glad you won’t be the first ones to greet us when we finish the trek. (Also, unfortunately our Travel Scrabble did not make the cut – it was the last thing on the chopping block. We hope to make up for it by playing more games in Southeast Asia in December.)
Why are you doing this? Because you’ll like us more if we do.
Picture of the Day: This is pretty much how the entire city is wired. I’d hate to be the poor guy who has to figure out which wire to cut in case of emergency.