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Trekking in Nepal in August - Chapter 4, Annapurna Trek in August

And here we are, a week later, in Kathmandu, in the (slightly ugly) premises of the travel agent, who gives us details on this trek “fairly easy” trek. The first day will be “a little hard”: “after four hours of walking, you will have to climb 2 000 steps. But the hardest part will be the third day, because of the altitude and the up-and-down type of walk. Oh and by the way, do you all have hiking shoes?” Of course not, my father, self-proclaimed expert es-hiking had claimed that trek sandals were good for any kind of path, and they were very handy during the rain. Quite accurate in theory, but it did not take into account a non-negligible parameter: leeches! And the very slippery state of the ground. You should have seen everyone’s face: flabbergasted! And I began to wonder what on earth had pushed me to lead everybody in this ‘adventure’...

After a night in the capital in a hotel full of charm, despite the insistence of the owner that we recommend his property on Tripadvisor, we took the road to the airport and after a 30-minute flight we were in Pokhara, the second city of the country.

We spent the night on a hill, in a basic guest-house very welcoming, despite the insistence of the owner that we recommend his property on Tripadvisor. There was a great view of the Lake and the chain of the Annapurnas in the background. Unfortunately, because of the fog we couldnt see a thing... And it took less than half an hour of walking in the rain (a training before the D-day, and the opportunity to see a stupa), for the soles of the (very fake) hiking shoes bought from a friend of the guesthouse owner’s to come off... This trek was promising to be full of surprises!

We finally got started on the trek. And here let me tell you, “fairly easy” in Nepali English translates in “rather difficult” in normal English (especially if one has weak knees and the other one a baby in the making).

The 2 000 steps were bit was a joke. In fact 80% of the entire path were made of steps! And you go up and down and you slide! And up and down and you slide!

What about the rain? Well you do get at least two hours of heavy rain every day. You may want to avoid the umbrella ‘I love Berlin’(a souvenir): it is not waterproof on the long term. Not more than the Petit Bateau raincoat by the way. Other than that, walking under the rain is not so bad, it even adds a certain charm!

We had also been cautioned against the cold but we did not experience it, just needing a sweater from time to time. But also we did not climb any summit nor did we cross the altitude of 3 200 meters. We rather got very hot when it wasn’t raining. And what humidity! How much you sweat! Actually, whether you are under the rain or the sun, you end up equally wet there...

As for leeches, one should know, there are everywhere. Nothing too bad but for a city dweller, it may be surprising...

The tea guest-houses are okay, you don’t need to bring a sleeping bag, just maybe a bedsheet. And it is really appreciable to not sleep in a tent in this season! Just dont expect more than vaguely lukewarm showers.

And the mountains? Well we didn’t seem them very often... The fog was there most of the time. That said it makes the view of the Annapurna and its neighbouring peaks when it emerges quite exceptional!

You don’t really need a guide. The presence of an alcoholic puffy Nepalese with no intent to give explanations and a very limited vocabulary can even be irritating. But it is also reassuring in a way. Hire a porter it's nice, and it creates jobs. It also allows you to carry enough dry t-shirts. The Agency had certified to me there would be a porter to help carry the babies but its weight calculations will remain a mystery: six adults with 20 kilos each, and three porters carrying each 20 kilos plus their own stuff, who was left to carry the 12 kilo babies? The great husbands! In fact twenty kilos were divided between two porters and my brothers and the husbands got a little help...

As for my Baby Samurai, he loved it! He saw lots of animals, which was fortunate as he was in his period ‘sounds of the farm’. He also liked to share our food (even if he lost weight) and sleep between his two parents and jump on the shoulders of his ‘mamus’ (uncles in Mauritius slang). He stayed quietly in his carrier 6 hours per day hardly complaining – but when he did it was quite painful!

The flight? Since we were going from the first to the second biggest city of the country, I figured that we wouldn't have 6 seaters and indeed our Buddha airline planes carried about 60 passengers. No turbulence, it was quite a pleasant 30-minute ride. Blessed be the Nepalese who took pity on Baby Samurai and gave us their hand-fan as it was super hot...

And as for my pregnant friend, she did well! In silence most of the time, because she needed a lot of energy to put one foot in front of the other. And apart from a somewhat painful morning where she felt like vomiting, nausea left her alone! The hardest part was almost for her to take care, in the evening, of her toddler full of energy after staying without moving all day... And when a mother can barely keep her eyes open, it’s not easy to manage! Because she needs them open, her eyes, to avoid spectacular falls and other mishaps.

In short, it was not easy-easy but very nice, and quite unique. The BIG advantage of trekking in this season is that not many people go. From the number of guest-houses we saw, we can easily guess that in the high season the trek must be packed with people.


Trekking in Nepal in August - Chapter 3, where to trek in Nepal in August?

I contacted a few agencies, to find out the feasibility of a trek in August, with two 20-month-old babies and a pregnant woman (I voluntarily did not mention the granny with her fucked-up knees). Two of them recommended me the Annapurna Panorama (Poon Hill) trek with the advantages of: a relatively low altitude (3,000 mt), short (on top of everything I only had one week off) and “fairly easy”, with a bonus: tea guest house to sleep in and not tents. Perfect, isn't it? However my father didn’t seem to think so and started asking around, worried about the rain in this season. Fortunately he found the blog of a French guy who said it was quite possible (and nice) to trek! I immediately booked the tickets.

My friend decided to do without the opinion of her doctor, but to get Dr Google’s. She looked at what other trekking women had to say on the subject on French forums and found out that pretty much everything in Nepal can be a problem for a pregnant woman: altitude, hygiene, access to medical care, the state of the roads.  

With tow super active babies and another one in the larvae state, the idea of a 7-hour bus ride to get to Pokhara on the Nepali road (which I had done once) was not particularly thrilling.

So I thought we could fly! A little reluctantly because my plane was once hit by thunder during a flight to Kathmandu and left me shit scared of flying in the storm (or in the rainy season)! And of course, I happened to talk about thi idea of flying to a friend who immediately warned me: “Be aware and do your homework: planes tend to crash in Nepal. And indeed, after two severe crashes at the beginning of the year, French tourist agencies in Nepal have stopped domestic flights.

In the end, what worried me the most about the trekking in Nepal option, were the turbulence on the plane and my friend’s nausea – as my pregnancy had been rather ruthless, where trekking from the living room to the bedroom was often beyond my strength the first months! Regarding the hygiene concern, I had made up my mind that living in India, she was a little bit accustomed, a step ahead if you want. You can also see the glass half full and say that after all the Himalayan Nepali women also have babies. Except that, the Himalayan Nepali woman who is a few weeks pregnant and who has never left her mountains, you immerse her in Gurgaon road madness, a miscarriage, if not a heart attack, is (almost) guaranteed!

And then, heavy rains, landslides and mudslides in Nepal made the headlines. And I gave up... At this stage, I asked my husband to take over. Too much is too much!


Trekking in the Nepal in August - Chapter 2, where to trek in India in August?

We had to find a place where we could baptize our bag... And that... is not easy. Because in August, it rains in India. Not all the time but enough to make any hike a bit tedious.

I know of two superb (and dry) trekking areas in India: Ladakh and Spiti Valley. But I had already explored these places (in August, and with no rain) but I was a bit reluctant to go there, mostly because of the altitude with my little one. For example, my mother had a bad mountain sickness in Spiti Valley.

I then explored Himachal Pradesh, with options around Manali (less far than Spiti Valley) but the prospect of a 15 hour bus journey to get there stopped me immediately. Which the local organiser found surprising and difficult to understand; and quite frankly I don’t know how Indians manage to do such trips with children...

I then went on the trail of Uttarakhand where I had had a very nice (and wet) experience in August in the region of Kumaon. But we were in a nice hotel, the rain sounded more romantic than if I had been in a tent. Yet many treks in this region (mostly pilgrimages) can ONLY be done during monsoon. So I guess it is possible to trek there in this season. A heavy rain put an end to my considerations, when I heard in the news about landslides – you should have seen the debacle in 2013, with some 5,700 people disappeared in these landslides.

So I ended up considering Kashmir and bought tickets before anyone could discourage me: I know the reputation of Kashmir but if you base your decision on reputation, you don't do anything anymore! As soon as I told my (Kashmiri) Pilates instructor she warned me: it's crazy (not to say stupid) to go there on August 15th (India independence day) when the insurgents who want secession are taking advantage of the summer snowmelt to come down and create some chaos in the capital. Oh well well, the tickets were booked, so let’s see! And there, BOOM!, barely a few days later, an rebel was killed, the conflict started all over again, 350 were injured, curfew was set up. Still I didn’t panic. I had one month left for things to calm down.

And to add to this, a few days later, I got to know that one of the girls in our group was pregnant! She asked her gynecologist for advice and the latter reacted in a very unambiguously way: “Trekking in Kashmir in August? But why? Are you telling me you want to go to Kashmir now? I am a Kashmiri and I tell you it is out of question right now with all that is happening!”. My friend asked her to make abstraction of the destination and to advice whether she could do a trek... And she was not overly enthusiastic: her concern was physical exercise, when it is recommended to take it easy during the first trimester. “Why do you want to get tired?” She gave up on explaining! Because it is true, when you think of it, why get tired?And here we were three weeks before departure, without any program. The situation was not abating in Kashmir, to the point that airlines and tourist agencies paying were fully reimbursing any booking. And to be honest I had starting wondering if this all not a sign of destiny: take it easy woman and go relax by the sea in some luxury resort... So I surfed the net, from the Andaman Islands to Koh Sa Mui. And during this trip, I came across an ad for Nepal. Nepal! How could I not think of it before??