The guidebook said it would be easy. It wasn’t.
We went to Nepal and did a fab three day trek from Pokhara to Panchase peak and here are my top tips!
1. Pick the right route… And the right map!
As with many Himalayan treks, there were so many routes up to Panchase to choose from that we could tailor it (to an extent) to meet our needs. By this, I mean we chose a route that would ensure a cafe stop on the first day (priorities) and that wouldn’t involve too much walking uphill on the final day. We chose the Panchase trek in the first place because it is one of the few treks in the Annapurna region that doesn’t require a permit (budget queen 👑) and still boasts incred views without the need to rent down jackets.
We bought a cheap map, which was only ever really going to be useful for scrapbooking material, but teamed this with GPS maps on our phone. I would say this was essential because the map wasn’t detailed enough to show all the random minor trails that led to deepest, darkest forest.
2. Equip yo self
‘Respect the mountain’, synonymous with ‘don’t wear Vans’. Running trainers were fine for our route, but if we’d gone any higher, walking boots would have been needed for the snow. At this time of year, the days are hot but by sundown, you need to be wrapped up in a jumper, hat, gloves, the works (you do get lots of warm blankets in the tea houses too!) I bought all this cheaply in Pokhara before our trek – really just an excuse to buy more rainbow-themed knitwear than I’ll ever need.
My top tip would be to buy a filter bottle as it allows you to carry less water around and reduces the worry of when you’re next going to be able to buy some (also bear in mind here that food and drink, including water, gets more expensive the higher into the mountains you go!) Running stream water is now your friend. Ours are Water Well, but you can pick up similar products in sports shops and airports – I haven’t seen any for sale in Nepal, though. They’ve been great for our travel in general with the added bonus that they’re kind to the environment – go us.
Footnote: avoid bringing unnecessary items (I’m looking at you Mr Guitar Man – chill vibes vs. sore shoulders).
3. Find a trekking buddy
On certain treks, like the Annapurna circuit, the trails are so well trodden and teeming with walkers during peak season that going solo could be an option. Our trek, though, was surprisingly less popular and on one day, the only other person we saw was a man searching for his lost ox (#mountainproblems). A trekking buddy is not only a good idea practically (injuring yourself whilst trekking solo here can quickly turn into a survival situation), but also someone to chat to, moan to about how it feels like someone shot your knee caps and for taking candid Instagram snaps of you 💁
We didn’t hire a guide and know of people that didn’t need one for the bigger Annapurna treks either. This can be a good option for those travelling alone, though, or you can use forums like Trekking Partners to find a buddy for free.
4. Know when you’re next going to be eating
On day two of our trek, there were no villages to stop for food or drink on the way, which would have been a bit of a problem if we hadn’t have packed some trusty cornflakes and rusk. We met one guy who resorted to eating some questionable (read pretty poisonous) red berries off the floor and that, unsurprisingly, did not do wonders for his throat. Go figure.
After a long day trekking, reaching a tea house is rather blissful. They serve (you guessed it) tea, made with sweet buffalo milk, and traditional Nepali and Tibetan food, such as dal bhat (rice, dal and veg), thukpa (noodle soup) and Tibetan bread.
5. Ask around and don’t arrive super late
Arriving at your overnight destination before it gets dark is a good idea. This way, you have time to check out a few tea houses and negotiate a price that both parties are happy with. On our first night, we arrived late in the evening and had little option when the owner charged us over the odds. Staying in a village that has more than one guesthouse is also a bonus for this reason too – more bang for your rupee.