In Jan’2019 I had quit my job AGAIN. Last time I did it in 2016 for a year and travelled across India. Once you taste that kind of freedom, you become unfit for that “2×2 cubicle”. So as the world entered the New Year 2019, I gave in my resignation with nothing more than some savings to fall back on. Now, this was huge for me and I wanted to redeem this moment. Do something more challenging than ever. Yeah and what’s better than doing a 15 days long high altitude trek – “Annapurna Circuit Trek”.
When I realized I am unfit as fuck
Reality dawned upon me very soon. My “unfit” self who hasn’t worked out in last two years laughed at me through the mirror. But, I still wanted to save the sunken ship. In the lame attempt to do so I searched for “crash courses” to become fit before the trek. My browsing history was filled with searches like “How to get fit for a trek in one month?”
Anyway, here is the good news for all those couch potatoes who love to Netflix, eat, chill and daydream to trek in the snow covered mountains. If I can do this so can you, it’s more important to work on that mind than the body. And I have rock solid mind when it comes to travel. Duhh! During the trek I met trekkers as young as 5 years old and as old as 60. So, if you have those abs – Good for you. And if you have those flabs just like me then also we are gonna rock it baby!
Read about the ultimate travel guide to Annapurna Circuit Trek
Day 1: When I over estimated my capabilities
I and my two trek mates (Dounia and Pankaj) decided to start the trek in Jagat (altitude) rather than Besishahar from where the trek actually starts. It was my first time all decked up in trekking gear. I was like a kid who gets too excited about new books and stationary on the first day of school oblivious to the massive curriculum and tests that are to come.
My trek mates (both of them more experienced hiker than me) made it look like a cake walk. On the other hand, my excitement faded off in first thirty minutes of hike. 9 kgs of bag felt like 90 kgs and soon came the time when I had to stop after every couple of steps. I felt like the shabbiest of all the hikers that ever set foot on that trail. My backpack had loosened straps, shoe laces kept falling off and my walking sticks went haywire.
Laugh at my sorry state as much as you want
You know what everyone says “View is worth the pain” but trust me in those few hours of hike I thought to myself “Fuck it! Why on earth did I leave the comfortable bed at home to go through this torture? I am smarter than this, then why did I choose this over dazzling casinos in Kathmandu?” I looked around and every mountain had a straight face as if telling me “No, WE DIDN’T CALL YOU. WHY ARE YOU HERE AGAIN?” I was miserable and I felt sorry for myself (Yea, you can laugh as much as you want. Wait till I write “Wow! That’s worth the pain”)
By now, both my trek mates became fully aware of my struggles. I tried to hide my misery behind fake smile but my pace as slow as that of a snail gave it away. Eventually, this self pity turned into anger and I really challenged myself to keep going.
Never ending stairs and Dounia’s kindness
After lot of steps, I saw Dounia waiting for me. She asked me in her cute French-ie accent English “You Okay?” I lied “Yeah”. She continued “I take your bag for this next stretch. It looks difficult. I worry about you”. I reluctantly looked ahead and damn it was difficult. Imagine one of those fantasy movie scenes where there are never ending stairs fading into the oblivion, it was something like that. Even though I humbly declined her proposal but this act of kindness forged our friendship that day. And we weren’t strangers anymore.
I reminded myself of the challenge I had just taken and kept going till we reached our lunch spot for the day – the beautiful village of Tal. Aah! sigh of relief.
Trekking alone? Find Trek Mates for yourself here
Beauty of Tal
Stunning waterfall, River stream, few colourful houses, farming lands and cute doggos – that’s how I would describe village of Tal. Having done the entire circuit now, I can say for sure that Tal is one of the most beautiful villages in the trail. Altitude hits the sweet spot here which makes Tal’s weather to be perfectly pleasing unlike the higher altitude barren and unbearably cold ones.
For us Tal was just a pit stop for lunch. We still had half way to go. Every bone and muscle in my body wanted me to stop and take rest in Tal only. I must tell you, longer breaks do more harm than good because longer the break higher the chances that you would give up on the idea of going any further. Chances are even bleaker after having lunch. It simply hurts the momentum and this is exactly what happened to me. Thanks to my slower pace, there was no way we would have made it to Dharapani (Our today’s destination) before sunset.
When my slow pace failed me and my trek mates
Dounia’s porter Christ came to my rescue. According to him, Tal was a beautiful village to spend the night and also it would help us take all the right stops (more beautiful ones) in the coming days. It was like fixing up the itinerary that we screwed by choosing a different starting point (Jagat). More than me, my sore limbs thanked Christ a million times that day.
As we got settled in the teahouse, it started drizzling. What a magical sight it was! Tal did its magic and I no longer felt the pain. However, later that evening I drowned myself in self pity again. I held myself responsible to have slowed down others. My “unfit” self laughed at me again and again.
When Dounia shared her hiking wisdom with me
This was the moment when I was about to give up, pack my bags and take a return bus. But, help comes to you when you most need it (Harry Potter fans say yeah!). This time it had Dounia’s face. She came in a shining armour and rescued me (Too dramatic ehh). She said “You can do this you know. I am not going to let you give up.” And then she shared all of her hiking wisdom with me. She showed me stretching exercises to prevent the cramps and how to perfectly adjust the straps of the backpack to support the body. She even gave me some ointments to relief the muscle.
Powerful words saved me from giving up
Many years ago I read one line in the book Alchemist “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” and today was the day when I believed in it. A long journey still lies ahead of me. This was only day one, how can I possibly keep up for next 10-12 days. But then several voices rang in my head, first was my husband’s “What worse could happen? You have to turn back, right? There is absolutely no shame in it. You are doing this for yourself. Plus, I am sure you are going to rock it.” Well, I wasn’t exactly rocking it but these words lifted me up. Next was of Dounia’s “We are in this together Tanishka. We are a team and we will do it”. I guess words were all that I needed and this was enough to let go off my fears.
What do you think happened next? Continues in next part.