Tips From An Unqualified Pleb: Nepal

General Recommendations

  • Don’t go on an organised tour group and don’t bother paying the mark up to use a Western travel agency. Get a recommendation for a local agency/guide from someone you know and use that. Trust me. For teahouse treks, a guide is less about actual ‘guiding’ and more about sorting out little things e.g. picking lodges and giving you the menu at lodges
  • Bring as many powerbanks as you can. Get a SIM card if you want internet – it will only maybe work at low altitudes though.
  • You really don’t need that much stuff – there are a lot of suggested packing lists online but essentially one set of walking clothes and one set of lodge clothes should suffice a trek of any length. Layering is key.

Which Trek Should I Do?

Everest Region

  • Everest Base Camp: you have a burning desire to ‘reach’ this point. No jaw-dropping views from there and you’ll go back down the same way you came up which means a lot of traffic on the trail. The lodges are all well run and probably the best in Nepal. Not a difficult trek provided you acclimatise well
  • 3 Passes Trek: you want a challenge. I don’t think there’s another trek in the world you could do teahouse style and stay at high altitude for that long

The good thing about the Everest Region is that it’s unlikely a road will be built through it as there is so much tourism. The starting point at Lukla is 2800m, definitely fly at least one of it to experience the joy/adrenaline of the flight and if it’s your only trek and you have time, you could consider walking the other way (I didn’t do it but apparently it is harder than it looks, common with a lot of trekking in the lower-middle Himalayas, but would also be good preparation and acclimatisation for later on)

Annapurna Region

  • Poon Hill: controversial but I just don’t think this trek is worth it. I would suggest Khopra Ridge or ABC/Mardi Himal as an alternative. There are now roads that make the latter 2 doable in a week or less.
  • Manaslu Circuit: what the Annapurna Circuit would have been like 20 years ago, but I personally think the views are better on the Annapurna Circuit. If being a little bit more remote/rustic and less ‘touristy’ is important to you, then it’s a good option. More challening than Annapurna, Larke La is definitely harder than Thorung La. Note that road is also eating away at this trail (and apparently the Tsum Valley add on) and the road to the trailhead at Soti Khola isn’t fantastic
  • Annapurna Circuit: if you don’t think you can hack the 3 passes, this is a great option. Lots of side day trips, huge variety in scenergy, great lodges along the way which means the only truly challening day is the Thorung La day. Pretty much everyone is going in an anticlockwise direction so the trail itself feels less busy as there’s no 2 way traffic. Yes, there is road eating away at the trail, especially the Lower Mustang side, which is a downside.
  • Khopra Ride: an alternative to Poon Hill. Lots of different options in how to get there with some great initiatvies in the form of community (albeit more simple than Poon Hill) lodges. Really great views at Khopra
  • Annapurna Base Camp: amazing views at ABC itself, probably the best ones you could get on a short trek but extremely busy due to lodge size limits and the two way traffic. Also, the ascent up there is not that inspiring with quite a lot of ascents/descents. Have heard Mardi Himal is the new ABC but also faces some of the same problems

The treks on either side of the Annapurnas and below them are the most popular trekking region in Nepal and for good reason. Relatively easy to access from Pokhara and standardised lodging throughout. Cheaper than Everest if you’re on a tight budget and it’s cheaper as well (often free) to get access to comforts like electricity and WiFi. It’s not uncommon to get free accomodation on the Annapurna Circuit trail out of peak season (bar the lodges at Thorung Phedi/High Camp and Tilicho Base Camp) provided you eat your meals there – there’s that much competition.


  • Kathmandu Valley: you have a short amount of time in Nepal. No close up mountain views but nice vistas, low elevation, comfortable lodges and easy and really quick to get transport to/from the trailhead

Accomodation Recommendations

  • Yakety Yak Hostel in Kathmandu. By far the best shower of anywhere I stayed in Nepal. After I returned from the 3 Passes/Everest region, this hostel became my hub and I stayed there on at least 4-5 separate occasions

Tips From An Unqualified Pleb: Europe

As I mostly just zipped through capitals (joys of maxing out my rail pass!), here are my top recommendations from my time in Europe, rather than breaking it down into individual countries


I prebought a three month continuous rail pass for about 860 Euros (they have ‘sales’ every European autumn – winter I believe). In hindsight, I’m still happy with this purchase but I definitely coudl’ve travelled cheaper/less comfrotably on buses with probably similar flexibility. The rail pass is definitely the more deluxe choice! The Seat61 website and RailPlanner app are both useful resources should you have a pass.

The Seat61 website has more information, but essentially for some countries you have to ‘reserve’ a seat even if you have a rail pass, which can add on an extra layer of hassle. So the pass is VERY GOOD for German/Austria/Switzerland/Netherlands/Belgium/Denmark, VERY GOOD for Central/Eastern Europe – but rail tickets tend to be cheaper the more east you go anyway and NOT GREAT for Greece/Italy/France/Spain/Portugal.

If you’re planning to do stuff like hiking and being in remote areas or staying in a place for a while, a continuous pass is definitely not worth it and a flexi pass may only be worth it if (a) you really want to travel on trains and (b) you don’t have a fixed itinerary. The continuous pass is deal if you’re doing the kind of trip I did – it requires you to move constantly to make it worth it.

Misc Recommendations

  • In heaps of cities, shops/supermarkets are shut on Sundays. Make sure you’re stocked up on Saturday
  • Do Auschwitz without a tour – get there early
  • Some stand-out food places:
    • D16 coffee shop in Split. Really nice coffee and owners
    • Contigo coffee in Croatia.
    • Bar Bambino in Warsaw
    • My blog list for everywhere in France

Hostel Recommendations

  • Hostel Mundo Krakow
  • DREAM Hostel Warsaw – this is a chain with the best dorm room design I have experienced, but the location of the Warsaw is really good
  • Hostel Emanuel in Split
  • Kva Hostel in Ljubljana
  • Cesky Krumlov House in Cesky Krumlov
  • Villa Sonnenhof in Interlaken
  • Hello I’m Local…. in Haarlem (an alternative to staying in Amsterdam)
  • Adveniat Hostel in Paris (0 atmosphere but you’ll never find a place for this price at such a great central location)

Tips From An Unqualified Pleb: Guatemala & Mexico

Honestly, I didn’t really get to see either country as comprehensively as I would’ve liked. Central America is definitely a region where even though the distances LOOK short, the road quality will mean the time take to get to your destination is anything but short….On the other hand, the Mexican roads are pretty good.


  • Be careful on chicken buses, especially on those routes frequented by tourists e.g. Antigua to ANYWHERE. In hindsight, I heard that Chimaltenango is actually a pretty unsafe town – Antigua to Chimal is where my bag got cut. Although don’t get too paranoid – I know plenty of people who have travelled by chicken bus and had 0 problems.
  • Acatenango hike is definitely worth it. Pacaya on the other hand is skippable! Tajumulco only if weather is good but Xela to Atitlan is worth it no matter what
  • In hindsight, Xela is ok if you want to experience ‘real’ Guatemala without the massive purported dangers of Guatemala City, but it is no the most scenic of places. Consider Antigua instead
  • Hostel Recommendations: Barbara’s Boutique Hostel in Antigua, my AirBnb at Lake Atitlan if you’re happy to be in the middle of nowhere/understand it will be difficult to travel around.


  • If you go to Mexico and DON’T eat tacos al pastor, you are a waste of oxygen
  • Flights and long distance buses are usually around the same price so do some research first
  • Makes more sense/is almost the same price to do a tour to Palenque rather than take the bus to town and visit the ruins yourself
  • Hostel Recommendations: La Abuelita Hostel in San Cristobal de Las Cases, Casa Pepe in Mexico City

Tips from An Unqualified Pleb: South America

Here’s my top tips if you ask me for advice…by continent/region. First up, SOUTH AMERICA.

Note my hostel recommendations are based on the criteria important to me: cleanliness/newness, location (central or close to main train station), good wifi, nice staff, types of people that it attracts. Never party hostels and I’m willing to sacrifice on the common areas if it means that the dorms are more comfortable. The ones I’ve listed are near perfect according to my criteria.

In General…

  • Learn a little bit of Spanish before you go or have some Spanish lessons once there. At the very least, download the Google translate Spanish dictionary. Latin America in general isn’t like South East Asia, people and infrastructure generally expect you to know a little bit of Spanish and it makes a HUGE difference in feeling secure and comfortable going around.
  • If you’re Australia, sign up for the ING Orange Everyday card (wish I got some sort of kickback for this, but I don’t). At the time of writing this, it’s the only free card I know of that offers the following features (1) rebated ATM fees – this is key as in Argentina it’s nearly 10USD to withdraw a maximum amount of around 200USD (2) no international transaction fees (3) VISA – more commonly accepted than MasterCard. There are some conditions that you have to meet in order to get these benefits, but they’re pretty straightforward.
  • Distances are either FAR or the roads are windy and in poor condition so factor heaps of time in for travelling between places and expect delays. Good luck if you are prone to travel sickness.
  • The terrain (particularly along the main backpacker route) varies heaps and hence so does the climate. Summer can mean rainy season and in the Andes it’s always a little bit chilly. So pack some cold and wet weather clothes with you. Similarly, research the weather for any ‘must do’ activity or ‘must see’ place on your list – panorama views from the tops of mountains during rainy season are rare.
  • For smaller towns/cities that don’t have super developed infrastructure/tourism/internet, it’ll be cheaper and easier to just get accomodation once you arrive. I can’t think of a single place where it was cheaper to book online, but the peace of mind of knowing where I was going (especially if arriving super late/early to a city) was worth the extra little bit for me in most cases.
  • Safety wise: I try only to withdraw from ATMs during weekdays at business hours in case anything goes wrong. Ideally, at ATMs located in shopping centres/inside a bank branch and NOT just on the road as I’ve heard and read many stories about people getting their card skimmed. If I ever feel a bit uncomfortable talking to someone, I don’t reveal I’m travelling alone and instead say that I’m meeting my friend/sibling/partner at my next destination and that they’re ‘sick’ currently hence not out with me.


  • If you pay for your bus ticket in cash at some bus stations, you’ll usually save 20% of the advertised ticket price
  • Before booking buses, looking at FlyBondi. It’s a cheap domestic airline that started in 2018, the first in Argentina, and flights are the same price/slightly cheaper than a cama bus ticket. Try to plan your schedule around their flights if possible as they usually only do a 2/week to destinations.
  • Hostel Recommendations: Penthouse 1004 in Bariloche (email at least a week in advance to book during peak season)


  • If you go to San Pedro de Atacama, prepare to spend a lot more money than you think. And bring pesos in to avoid long ATM queues or the risk that they run out of money.


  • Sucre is the cheapest place to learn Spanish in the continent. I went to Continental Spanish School and paid around 5USD (35 Bolivianos) an hour for lessons and can recommend it, particularly after talking to a couple of other people at different schools there. Whilst in Sucre, eat at Condor Cafe and look into their treks – I regret not having the time to go on one.
  • Go with a private guide up Huayna Potosi, regardless of which agency you go with. Bring panadol and ondansetron. It’s hard but not impossible!
  • Popular Cocinar in La Paz – really nice restaurant which changes their menu every Monday. Get there by 12:30pm latest as it’s becoming popular
  • Rurrenabaque is probably the cheapest spot to go to the Amazon but DO NOT go on a jungle survivor tour unless you want to punish yourself. If you fly, TAM has the cheaper flight but prices would be similar if you booked ahead more. You are almost guaranteed that said flight will be delayed. COVER AS MUCH SKIN AS YOU CAN, even if you’re sweating your bodyweight it will be worth it to prevent weeks of hell from sandfly. I also much later heard that covering yourself in baby oil can stop them but didn’t try this method. In hindsight, I think going to the Amazon would be better – more sustainable practises and I heard that the river there has a pH which isn’t conducive to mosquitos.
  • If you buy a SIM, buy it from the actual phone shop as you need to register it with your passport (it can be done online but it’s more of a hassle)


  • Same thing as Bolivia re SIM cards
  • If you want to do the Inca Jungle Trek, pretty much all of the travel agencies are selling the same tour. Stay an extra night in Aguas Caliente (5d/4n) or pay the (heaps) extra for the train back to Cusco otherwise you’ll have to leave Machu Picchu by 11am and walk for at leat 3 hours before a 6.5 hour bus ride – all on a day that you get up at 3:30am. Alternatively, get them to give you a discount (usually 10USD) to not include the bus ride back to Cusco and make your own way back slowly visiting other Incan ruins in the Sacred Valley – my top suggestion.
  • Visiting Pisac ruins on your own? Online, they mention only 3 options of getting there: walk up from town (STEEP), taxi (25sol monopoly by the drivers for like a 10 minute ride) or take a tour (limited time at the site and you get to see all of it). But, there’s an alternate! For 2 sols, you can take a collectivo on the main road at the bend towards the market, ask the driver to let you off at the entrance to the ruins. From there, you have to walk uphill for about 10 minutes to get your ticket checked and then then another 20 to the starting point – all in all, much easier than walking up from town and you can easily walk down instead.
  • You can book quite a few of the VIP long distance bus tickets online and it’s the same price as going in person
  • I did the Colca Canyon with a tour (as I missed my public bus due to food poisoning) but it is a very simple track and you can definitely DIY
  • Santa Cruz trek in Huaraz with EcoIce – they have amazing reviews online for a reason. It probably is more expensive than other options (I couldn’t be bothered researching) but the trek was really well run and a highlight of my time in South America
  • Hostel Recommendations: La B’Om in Cusco, Limbo Jump Hostel in Arequipa, El Jacal Backpacker in Huaraz


  • Definitely underrated as a destination. I think Ecuador has a false image of being expensive; in reality, city public transport (0.25cents a trip) and intercity buses (1.50USD/hr) are cheap and i spent less money than I thought I would there
  • Don’t be scared by what you read online about it being impossible to change 100USD notes. I easily changed them to smaller change at ANY bank. Also, I always tried to pay with a slightly larger note to have a supply of change
  • The Quilotoa Loop is easy to organise. Consider staying an extra night in Isinlivi, actually staying in Quilotoa overnight or doing a longer loop than the classic one. Accomodation is great all around and it’s definitely not as cold as you read online – a hoodie in the evenings will suffice.
  • I stayed in the northern part of Quito but in hindsight think the best place to stay is in the historical centre
  • Hostel Recommendations: Pepe’s House Cuenca (just be aware that they only their doors between 7:30am-9pm so if you arrive outside of those hours, you’re screwed. Once you’re checked in, you get a key to the front door)


  • Flying can be not much more expensive than taking buses as there’s a few budget domestic airlines
  • Everyone loves Medellin – plan time there accordingly
  • Credit card is accepted at quite a lot of places – more than Peru/Ecuador/Bolivia
  • Places I wish I had gone to that are on the tourist trail but not the MAIN tourist trail – Buenavisa/another coffee town that isn’t Salento, Providencia, Guatape, ?San Augustin (the extra road journey sounds like a pain)
  • Participating in the Ciclovia in Bogota is super fun – try to plan it so you’re there on a Sunday
  • I guess it depends on the time of the year but honestly the beaches/Carribeean coast were overall a bit underwhelming for me. Never use Uber in that region
  • Hostel Reccomendations: Arche Noah Guesthouse in Bogota

Reflections from 360+ Days on The Road

Well I’m currently on my way (back) up to Thailand, just under 3 weeks after returning home from the trip of a lifetime. I actually have written a few ‘advice’ posts – mostly so that when people ask for advice in the future about what to do and where to stay, I have something to offer. Also, to contribute to the barrage of online blogs/forums that have rendered Lonely Planet and other travel guide books essentially redundant. I’ll slowly upload them 🙂


  • The world is not as scary as CNN would want you to think. Granted, I didn’t go to extremely intrepid destinations, with most places having a pretty strong backpacker community, but I never truly felt that my life was in danger provided I remained sensible.
  • You can adjust to nearly anything after a while. Unpacking and packing my bag never became that big of an issue after a few weeks. Ditto to throwing out toilet paper instead of washing it. Also consistently requiring to navigate!
  • You’re not that special. There is a huge amount of people doing the same thing as you. In this way, (1) you’ll never actually be ‘lonely’ and (2) stop trying to say you’re ‘getting off the tourist trail’ – tourist spots are tourist spots for a reason. But it is true that the best stuff comes from pushing yourself just a little bit out from what’s comfortable.
  • There’s no one right way to travel. Low budget to no budget, camping to 5 star hotel, no plans to an hourly timetable. Do what you want. You will never feel like you’ve ‘fully’ seen a place.
  • After a while of constantly meeting new people, you stop caring about the general things you normally do when you get know someone. I’ve talked to people for hours, never knowing their name/age/occupation. 
  • Actually, you just stop caring about a lot of stuff after a while. Dressed a bit weird? Who cares, you’ll never see them again. 
  • Nothing like travelling with a backpack to make you realise just how little stuff you need to survive. And how precious each item is. Plus that repairing stuff is so much easier than replacing; and probably better from a sustainable POV as well.
  • You WILL have a quasi-existential crisis at least once. ‘Why am I doing this?’ ‘What’s the point?’ ‘Where has all the time GONE?’
  • Sunset and sunrise are never worth the cold and dark conditions. Just enjoy the view are proper sunshine hours!
  • Everyone loves soccer/football. Nothing brings people together more than the combination of sport + food + alcohol

If I Could Do It Again….


  • I would research weather better and go to the regions at different times. As I’ve told many, Europe (at least Western/Central and probably Southern) during Summer is absolute mayhem; shoulder season is the way to go. Similarly, South and Central America following rainy season can lead to disappointing views (see every hike I did in search of panoramic views). Same thing with Nepal – sure, October and early November have historically the best weather but also the BIGGEST crowds. I truly didn’t realise until I got there that lots of treks are possible essentially year round.

Thank You!

This is probably the last post on the blog aside from the advice posts. So just want to say a big THANK YOU to all the people who’ve read along with this blog. At the end of the day, you travel just for yourself and not to talk about it but it’s nice when others are interested in where you’re at. Being alone can sometimes be lonely, but it was nice to know people were waiting for me back at home.

If you happen to be thinking about doing a long trip/break from your normal life – DO IT! There will never be a perfect time and there is no time like the present 🙂

Week 52: All Good Things….

My state of mind can be summed up by the weeping face emoji right now. It’s over 😥


I continued on last weekend’s food and shopping odyssey in Bangkok this week. There’s not much more to add really, I got mistaken for a local literally everywhere I went – even got stopped for directions. It can get tiring having to constantly explain you’re not local, so I use the method of not saying anything in the hopes that what people are saying isn’t vital information. I also ate lots of Japanese food, more than Thai in fact!



Friday just after midnight, I flew back home. There were some tears shed on the plane, related to my eyes getting dry from the circulated air.

Mistake of the Week

– Not getting a full Thai massage. Luckily I’m going back in a few weeks

– Not quitting my regular job forever (mistake of the year)…..

What’s Next…

Well, with a blink I’m back to my regular life. I’ve got just over 2 weeks to relax at home before my 2019 job contract starts…but I’ve been allocated annual leave first!

So, I’ll be heading off shortly for a month in North Thailand staying at a Muay Thai place. Catch me around if you’re in the area 🙂

Memories of One Year On The Road

No Thank You….

– Dorms with snorers and loud plastic bag packers, the latter of whom specialise in packing their bag at 5am

– Constantly getting the “where are you FROM from?!” question (the Nepali special being an incredulous “but you look Nepali!”)

– The constant need to go out for food – even on the extremely rare occasion that I cooked, you don’t really do a weekly shop like in your normal life

– Packing and repacking the backpack; becoming weirdly protective about every item in it, no matter now unvaluable it is (I got annoyed when I lose earplugs)

– Numerous conversations about the same topic: what’s your job, where are you from, what’s your trip, where’s your favourite place that you’ve been to….

Until Next Time….

– No responsibilities

– Giving up learning people’s names – I’ll never see you again anyway!

– Sleep ins

– Non stop things to explore and see and do

– Selfishly doing whatever I want, whenever I want

Week 51: Eating Dahl Baht to Spending Thai Baht

Please appreciate this week’s witty post title, I certainly get a little chuckle everytime I read it. I hope it makes up for the lack of photos, as, well there wasn’t really much new to me this week. (My *gulp* last full week of the trip – but I’ll remain in denial about that for now)

Pokhara & Kathmandu

Monday was spent planning the day around eating in Pokhara as well as a final quick run around the lake. On Tuesday, I headed back to Kathmandu (genuinely lost count of how many times I’ve gone back and forth…). It was just as terrible as I remembered it. Fortunately I had a few errands to run and some books ready to read. So I managed to donate pretty much all the trekking gear I bought in Kathmandu and sell back the more expensive stuff. There was no goodbye sadness at saying farewell to my sleeping bag, that’s for sure. Also no farewell to Nepalese cuisine as my last momos and dahl baht were whilst trekking.

I also managed to try a few other restaurants (nothing worse than when all the waiters remember you “WELCOME BACK!”) and attempted to out with a group, some of whom I knew from trekking. I say attempted because I lasted until about 11pm. Which in trekking time is approximately 3:30am at least.



On Friday, I left Kathmandu for the LAST time EVER!!! In classic Nepal style, the airport was the usual chaotic scene with about 3x more unnecessary patdowns than needed. I arrived in Bangkok and promptly sweated non stop, the temperature difference and humidity level was more than I could ever imagine. Genuinely 2 ends of the spectrum when you consider last week I was walking through snow and sleeping in a -15 deg sleeping bag to now cranking the AC in my studio to 16 – the lowest it goes – and cursing it for not going any lower.

I’ve rented a studio in the north of the city and it is heaven. Having visited approximately once every 2 years for the last 6+ years, I kind of know my way around (I found my usual ATM in a giant shopping mall just based off muscle memory!), don’t need to go to all the usual tourist hotspots and am just relaxing and restocking my wardrobe as I’m down to basically running clothes and thermals.


I spent the weekend hanging out at Chatuchak Market, which I believe is Asia’s largest weekend market. It’s honestly massive and though this is my 4th time visiting, I still lost my bearings several times. In between sweating non-stop, I snacked non-stop and walked around. Getting to Pokhara and Kathmandu after trekking was like going to a food buffet, so the amount of options in Bangkok was even better. I went to the 7-11 around the corner to my studio once I settled in and was overwhelmed by all the options.


On Sunday night, I went out to a night market – Talat Rot Foi. The food range here was pretty impressive however I was absolutely stuffed so had to make do with getting little bits of snacks.


Mistake of the Week

– Underestimating how HOT and HUMID it is in Bangkok. I’m staying quite close to a big park so had a fantasy of running around it. No way that’s happening, I would melt.

Week 50: Manaslu/Annapurna Trekking Part V – My 2019 New Year’s Resolution: No More Trekking

Happy 2019! I know New Years is always the most overhyped and underperforming public holiday but this year in particular was especially unexciting….I spent it asleep.

Day 28: Annapurna Base Camp 4130m to Lower Sinuwa 2110m

What better way to spent the last day of 2018 than by walking out of the sanctuary and back down to Sinuwa. Most people were getting up for sunrise at the viewpoint I had been the day before, but if I’ve learnt anything from trekking, it’s that (for me) sunrise and sunset are never worth the freezing cold and that mountains look just as good, if not better, in full light when you’re warmer and it’s less busy. So I lay in bed instead 🙂 As expected, it was a fairly uninspiring walk especially over ground that I had already covered. So I just plugged my earphone in (yes it’s just one, it’s my running ones as my other ones broke months and months ago) and jammed out to tunes.

The trek basically felt over by the time I was back in Sinuwa and I spent the evening chatting to people heading up as well as commiserating with the people that had headed down who arrived significantly later than me due to having knee problems (imagine hours of downhill stairs if you’ve got bad knees…..) Those heading up were tired from their climb and those heading down were tired and had sore knees so everyone was in bed by 9pm. And that was how we spent New Years Eve!!!

Day 29: Lower Sinuwa 2110m to Landruk 1565m

It’s technically possible (and more popular now) to walk from Lower Sinuwa to a point where you get on a jeep and head back to Pokhara in 1 day, but I wanted to avoid those windier roads and don’t mind walking, so extended out the descent. Walked past Jhinu, which has another hot spring that I’d been warned was more lukewarm so skipped, and across a super long less than 6 month old suspension bridge before lunch in the aptly named village of New Bridge (where I had a very fresh mint tea – saw the restaurant lady pick it right off the plant!). Landruk itself is another Gurung village, a little like Ghandruk (which is on the other side of the valley) but smaller.

Day 30: Landruk 1565m to Phedi 1130m and Pokhara 850m

Last day! It was a pretty easy walk mostly downhill through warm middle-lower Himalayas. The views of Annapurna/Hinchuli/Fishtail were very cloud covered, making me grateful we weren’t up in ABC then like the original plan.

We walked out basically onto a highway with the plan to grab a taxi and head the short distance back to Lakeside. Sadly, as the road is under construction, there wasn’t a taxi in sight so I had to walk down the very dusty highway for a while before grabbing a local bus to town and then getting a taxi…

It was a relief to finally get to my hotel in Pokhara, where I was reunited with CLEAN clothes I had left behind the last time I was there with Izzy. After a shower (washed my hair with double the amount of shampoo!) and dropping 3kg of dirty laundry off, I headed out for a very late Japanese lunch and then snack run. Ate so much junk food I couldn’t eat dinner….

So all in all, trek completed! It was about 5 days quicker than anticipated even though I covered more ground than I thought I would as (1) I didn’t need extra rest days (2) I didn’t wait around in the case of bad weather (3) The Manaslu portion of the trip was shorter than anticipated due to the weather situation


So the next few days were another relaxing set in Pokhara, adjusting back to the joys of having some modern-day comforts…

– Electricity

– Internet

– Shops, the availability of chocolate

– Plenty of dining options without an obligation to eat at a lodge every day

Order 1 sandwich, end up with 2…

– Pillows and clean bedsheets and towels and NO SLEEPING BAG THAT NEEDS TO BE REPACKED EVERYDAY

– Western toilet with a toilet paper holder that contains toilet paper

– Daily hot shower…heck, running water!

Honestly, I didn’t get up to much. Bought a new book and slowly read through it, ate out non-stop, went on a couple of runs and lamented how slow I’ve become (just because you can walk uphill easier than other trekkers doesn’t mean you can run fast, I’ve discovered). Re-sort out my sleeping routine – you basically never get a full nights sleep when trekking. Just a truly relaxing time.

Mistake of the Week

– Got a bibimbap in Pokhara at the same Korean place Izzy and I had the fried chicken. Forgot that legitimate bibimbap is a spicy spicy dish (unlike the Australian version of it). As I was dining alone, there was no one I could swap dishes with and I didn’t want to look rude and not eat any of it. Cue my mouth on fire, me drinking a litre of water (became annoying very lactose sensitive so couldn’t get a milk based drink), trying not to cry and hiding some of the food in the big bowl of soup (also spicy) that accompanied the dish.

– Got my haircut. Luckily I’m older and less fussed about my appearance than when I was a teenager but I picked this hairdressing shop simply because it was the only one with female staff that I saw out of 12+. (This would turn out to be a crucial error in judgement). Requested my hair to be cut to about the same level as I got in Cusco, a pretty easy idiot-proof job I thought. TBH, I’m not sure if the girl had ever cut hair. She was trembling like a leaf and at one point even I could tell that it wasn’t straight (and I got my haircut once in Zambia where I don’t think they had ever cut Asian hair before and I came out looking like my hair had been runover by a lawnmower – they used primary school craft scissors – AND I thought that was straight until I later inspected it properly….) There was a small crowd forming of a couple of kids – in shock about how much hair was coming odd -, a couple of ladies and an older man. Eventually, this man took over. Luckily, he seemed to know what he was doing but obviously this came at the expense of having to cut MORE hair off to fix the unevenness. So now I have hair about an inch shorter than what I had requested….I had also asked for her to thread my eyebrows and as I was getting my haircut, became increasingly worried I was going to end up losing both of them. Thankfully the lady is much better with a piece of thread than with a pair of scissors!

Week 49: Manaslu/Annapurna Trekking Part IV – Who Needs A Gym When You’ve Got A Himalayan Stairmaster?!

I finished the Annapurna Circuit this week and headed to Annapurna Base Camp, taking the less common route via Khopra Ridge instead of the classic Poon Hill way. In these middle Himalayas, the up/down is often “paved” with stone steps to the point where the number of stairs I climbed this week is well…uncountable

Day 21: Kagbeni 2810m to Tatopani 1190m

What better way to celebrate Christmas Eve than with a hearty breakfast and a DRIVE down to Tatopani. The road on this end of the Annapurna Circuit has been around for quite a while, add to that it is a pretty dusty valley and so most (basically all) people no longer walk all the way down to the traditional trail end point.

For me, today’s walk was up to the road, where I hopped on a local bus to Jomsom, a big-ish town 45 minutes away that has an airport as well as a stack of shops selling apple related products (the fruit, not the electronics)

From there, I changed to a terrible bus down to Tatopani. We broke down twice. People hopped on with chickens in rice bags. Luckily, the road quality was actually better than the drive to Soti Khola (the start of the Manaslu trek).

Finally arriving in Tatopani mid-afternoon, I treated myself to some pringles and chocolate digestives before heading down to the hot springs – Tatopani means hot water. Not the best hot springs I’ve been to but worth the 2AUD entry. Also found myself a towel in town and had an amazing dinner of chicken schnitzel and chips (!!!) with a banana lassi (!!!). Such a treat.

Day 22: Tatopani 1190m to Paudwar 2000m

Christmas day! No turkey and ham for me this year, instead an uphill climb to Paudwar as I commenced on the Khopra Ridge portion of the trek.

Paudwar is a nice, quiet village and I was the only tourist there. My Christmas feast consisted of…dahl baht and then I spent the evening sorting out a huge jar of cards (fun for me, bizarre to my guide) into sets whilst watching the locals play volleyball in the local primary schoolyard.

Day 23: Paudwar 2000m to Khopra 3660m

An epic day of climbing was planned for the day – 1600m of ascent. Thankfully, the trail quality was fantastic with man-made stone steps and as it was relatively low altitude, I managed to climb it in just under 3.5 hours.

The views in Khopra were sensational, as was the long hours of sunlight. I spent the afternoon reading outside in the sun, looking out at these stellar views.

This book sucks btw

Day 24: Khopra 3660m to Dobato 3420m

The weather forecast turned out to be true today; it was cloudy, snowing and super windy when I woke up. The plan to trek up to 4600m+ to visit Khayer Lake (apparently not that impressive a lake, but good views on the way) was thrown out the window and I decided to head down to Dobato.

Don’t be deceived by the little drop in altitude, it was quite a long descent down a valley and then back up to reach Dobato, where supposedly the views were good but it was hard to tell above the thick layer of fog everywhere. Luckily the dining room in Dobato was cosy and warm as the lodge owner kept the fire going from early afternoon onwards. It was pretty cold otherwise, with all taps frozen even at this altitude.

Day 25: Dobato 3420m to Lower Sinuwa/Bhanuwa 2110m

It was time to leave the relative quiet of the Khopra Ridge trail (actually, there’s not that many lodges on this trail but Khopra and Dobato are fairly popular stopping points on this section so they were both fairly full). The weather forecast had claimed that it would clear up today, so I woke up with the goal to climb up to the Muldai Viewpoint, which supposedly had better views than Poon Hill. Well, the forecast was wrong. Here was the view:

After heading back down and grabbing breakfast, I set off for the main Annapurna Base Camp route, which was a long day of mostly descent. We passed briefly through Tatopani and about an hour of trail I had previously covered with Izzy but it was mostly a never ending downhill, before a couple of short but steep climbs.

We walked through Chomrong, which is this trek’s Namche ie full of bakeries and nice guesthouses. The annoying thing about this trek compared to others though is that as it’s not a circuit, from Chomrong to ABC there’s a constant 2-way stream of traffic. I imagine in October it would be insanely busy, but there’s also another spike of trekkers here looking for a short trek over their Christmas/New Years break.

Anyway, Lower Sinuwa was a nice stop, relatively warm, with a lukewarm gas shower and phone signal. The lodge had a lovely concrete flat section with fantastic views over the lower Himalayas.

Day 26: Lower Sinuwa 2110m to Deorali 3200m

The difference with my trekking experience and acclimatisation was very obvious today during the mostly staircased longish climb up to Deorali. The weather had cleared up and I walked through basically rainforest, to bamboo forest, pine forest and then a little bit of icy stuff higher up. All in all, a pretty straightforward day for me but not with much panoramic mountain views as the trail is cut in a narrow valley.

It was definitely a less nice lodge up in Deorali where the specific regulations on this trail are obvious. There’s a limit on the number of lodges/rooms from Chomrong to ABC so I had to sleep in a “dorm” (luckily it was full of 3 Aussie guys and a pair of Malaysian friends and we all got on well) and as firewood is forbidden, there’s no stoves/heaters in the dining room, so it’s a bit more chilly (apparently if you pay, they’ll light a gas stove under your dining table but I’d rather not get carbon monoxide poisoning….)

Day 27: Deorali 3200m to Annapurna Base Camp 4130m

A steady climb up to ABC today. Great weather, but the previous snowfall from earlier on in the week was still melting off which meant the trail was slippery at some parts (still only really needed my spikes once but pulled them out a couple more times so I could walk on a frozen river 🙂 ). It was pretty hilarious seeing all these other trekkers in spikes for the whole length of the trek, no doubt with no clue that when they were using them on non-slippery sections, it was pretty useless and in fact blunted the spikes and was less stable to walk on.

Anyway, here is where the valley really opens up and you get into the heart of the “sanctuary” (this trek is also known as the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek). The views are sensational especially as you walk from Macchapuchare Base Camp (no one actually summits this mountain for religious reasons so it’s just a stack of lodges given this name) to Annapurna Base Camp.

I arrived at ABC before lunch and headed up straight to the viewpoints which were empty as people usually only go there for sunset and sunrise. So I had an hour to myself with this incredible 360 of Himalayas! Crazily enough, Tilicho is just behind one of them, so I was less than 20km away from where I stood looking out a week ago.

Headed back to the lodge and had my classic trekking comfort meal with a great view outside before retreating back in once the sun hid behind the mountains and spent the afternoon reading bundled up in a blanket.

Mistake of the Week

– Bishnu thought I got lost going to Paudwar and so called agency. In reality, I was 30 minutes ahead and walked on the trail and was walking around Paudwar.

– In Lower Sinuwa accidentally sat on a stick of incense, subsequently burnt a hole through my pants.

– Took a photo of what I thought was the scenery; my camera was on front facing mode….

Week 48: Manaslu/Annapurna Trekking Part III – 2 Lakes and A Pass

Spent this week fully on the classic Annapurna Circuit, tacking on an extra couple of nights in order to visit what is claimed to be the world’s highest lake.

Day 14: Rest Day – Day Trip from Manang 3540m to Ice Lake 4600m

From Manang, there are many short hikes around to various things (mostly monasteries). The only one I was interested in was the most “challenging” day trip up to Ice Lake. Some people do this in order to be better acclimatised but considering I had already done the Manaslu Circuit, I was in good stead to just crack on up.

It was a big elevation gain (as you initially drop down to around 3450m before heading up) but the route was not too steep and was very scenic. I not only had Bishnu accompanying me but three dog guides, who more or less ran up to the lake. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the lake, or as it would be better referred to “puddle”. It’s pretty small and obviously given it’s winter, frozen over and covered with ice. Oh well, a good walk nonetheless.

I was back in Manang by around 1:30pm and just relaxed in my great lodge and had a lukewarm shower watching the weather turn pretty cloudy.

Day 15: Manang 3540m to Tilicho Base Camp 4150m

Somehow, the clouds cleared today as I headed up to Tilicho Base Camp. The walk was pretty straightforward with snow covered mountain views and the section that is notoriously scary (the Lonely Planet book has a warning about it) has been widened and really wasn’t an issue.

Day 16: Day Trip to from Base Camp 4150m to Tilicho Tal Viewpoint 5014m

A much more impressive (albeit still frozen) lake that was a decent climb up from Base Camp. Luckily the weather was nice and sunny but after an hour looking out at the great scenery of “The Great Barrier” it was freezing so we had to head back down.

Tilicho is supposedly one of the highest lakes (‘for it’s size’) in the world at 4919m but I’m almost 100% certain that there’s higher ones somewhere else in the Himalayas or Andes. It’s probably the easiest high lake to reach though.

It was a much harder descent as the snow was melting by this time from the sun and so the the first half of the trail was super slippery and steep.

I spent the rest of the day relaxing in the lodge’s “sun room” and reading a book about the failed 1996 Everest expedition…only slightly different to what I was doing, right?!

Day 17: Tilicho Base Camp 4150m to Yak Kharka 4050m

A really scenic walk today down to Yak Kharka aka back onto the main Annapurna Circuit trail, passing through the deserted settlement of Upper Khangsar (a literal ghost town). Definitely another of my favourite sections of trail to date. There were 2 frozen streams that I had to cross, where I really could have gotten by by going higher up and stepping on rocks, but instead pulled out my microspikes and ching-ching-chinged across, it was probably only 3 steps but I was sooo happy to get another 2 uses out of them

Amazingly, up to Yak Kharka on the main Annapurna trail, I was getting free WiFi and electricity.

Day 18: Yak Kharka 4050m to Thorung High Camp 4925m

An easy less than 3 hours uphill to high camp today. The last bit, from Thorung Phedi (where, at 4525m, people who aren’t acclimatised should probably spend the night before tackling the pass) was a fairly steep less than 1.5km, which I took as a challenge after Bishnu suggested I could do it in the less than 1 hour average time, given how acclimatised I was by this stage. Challenge accepted. With my running playlist on, I reached the top in 45 minutes. With enough energy to head straight up to a viewpoint from the lodge as well!

Not that there was that much waiting for me. Although High Camp was SIGNIFICANTLY better than Dharmasala, it wasn’t exactly paradise and the toilet was also of a standard whereby many people later admitted they didn’t use and instead relieved themselves behind the accommodation buildings.

Day 19: Thorung High Camp 4925m to Muktinath/Ranipauwa 3700m via Thorung La 5416m

The BIG awaited day. We set off at 6am after I had my classic pre-pass breakfast of chapati and eggs. I had refused to leave at 4am or 5am as Bishnu suggested, but compromised with 6, expecting that we’d get to the top of the pass by 9am.

The route itself was much easier than the Tilicho or even Larke Pass routes, with some flat sections. Thanks to my long trek and the extra high altitude trips I had done on the Annapurna Circuit, I was pretty acclimatised and basically overtook everyone on the trail…reaching the top at 7:45am. I was so surprised when I saw the top of the pass, as I thought I was about halfway, and attempted to “run” to the top. Firstly, my running speed was about the same speed you “run” out of the waves onto shore AKA basically a walk. Secondly, I couldn’t make the entire ~100m distance, had to walk the last 20m and then sit down to catch my breath…

Anyway, the views from Thorung La actually weren’t that spectacular, although on the way down they were pretty nice. There was a steepish section on the way down that I brought the microspikes out for again, but the last section was through grassland-ish type scenery and I played Kanye West on max volume as we walked down to Muktinath, reaching it by 10:45am

There is a road on this side of the trail as well and it has been around for longer than the road on the Manang side. Subsequently, this side of the trail is significantly more developed and I had my first proper hot shower since starting the trip. Words can’t describe how amazing it was. Subsequently spent the rest of the day enjoying the warmth and chatting to the Americans staying at the lodge.

Blissful balcony sunshine

Day 20: Muktinath/Ranipauwa 3700m to Kagbeni 2810m

After a sleep in and long breakfast (and tinkle on the lodge’s keyboard….told you it was great!), we set off on the easy gently downhill walk to Kagbeni. Kagbeni is the most “north” you can get (more or less) on this side of the valley without a restricted area permit…If you were to keep going north, you’d reach the town of Lo Manthang, where there’s a good road connection on to Tibet.

Anyway, this side of the trek has much more desert-like landscape compared to the Manang side of the pass, and I had great views looking out on Dhaulagiri, another 8000+m monster of a mountain.

Thorung La is between those 2 snow covered mountains

Mistake of the Week

– My water bottle which exploded on the way down from Manaslu Base Camp exploded again in the middle of the night in Manang whilst I was in bed (I use it as a morning tooth brushing water supply given taps are usually frozen so keep it in my bed overnight). Luckily there was 2 beds in my room so I just switched to the other. But I hate my fake Marmot metal water bottle.

– Thinking that Himalayan blue sheep are blue (in my mind, bright blue). Turns out they’re not….they’re dust coloured.

– Left my towel in Muktinath. Luckily it’s basically 6 years old and was purchased for about $2AUD when I was in Malaysia as an exchange student.