While sipping coffee on a crisp March morning in Nepal, I made a decision to set out on a solo trek. It would be my first ever trekking experience. Something I figured I had to try while visiting this beautiful country set amidst the Himalayas. A country home to eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including Mount Everest. My trek would be to Annapurna Base Camp, or ABC for short.
Two days later I was on rickety local bus barreling down the bumpy dirt roads towards the village of Nayapul. After three shadeless, sweaty hours of walking I arrived in the village of Hille. Sitting back and relaxing at the guest house was Manuel and his guide Sital. Sital had just returned from ABC, and when he proclaimed that much of the route still had snow, my jaw dropped.
In a hasty last minute decision I left my hiking boots behind, assuming that I would be more comfortable in my running shoes. Adding to that, my jacket was little more than an overcoat, with minimal lining and certainly not waterproof. I began to panic, but Sital assured me that I could still have an enjoyable experience. We went through my map and he pointed out all of his favourite spots. I would remain in the villages at lower altitudes, thus avoiding the snow-covered trails. This meant that my trek would become notably shorter, 7 days instead of 11. However my feet would stay dry and I would still experience breathtaking views.
The following morning we were preparing to head out and Sital asked if I would like to join them. Although my intention was to try this trek completely alone, I was quite enjoying their company. After confirming with Manuel that he didn’t mind my tagging along, we became a threesome for the next two days.
Manuel taking a selfie with the local children
Except two days became four when Manuel made an adjustment to his route as well. Putting in some extra hours on his last day meant that he could stop at the hot springs in Jhinu.
I highly recommend a dip in the hot springs followed by a splash in the ice cold river- So refreshing!
Even with the added days, our goodbye felt abrupt. It wouldn’t be the last time we would see one another though, making plans to meet in Pokhara upon my return. I was my own again but it wouldn’t last long. A few hours later I recognized a lovely Italian couple who I met on the third night. I accompanied them for lunch and shortly after we were approached by a London native who joined the conversation. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening regaling one another with stories from our individual experiences with the trek. It was with these conversations that my decision to have gone on this trek solo was solidified.
All of the trekkers that I met, with the exception of one, had enlisted the assistance of a guide. Many complained of feeling pressured to stop at certain places for rest breaks and lunch. Even their nightly accommodations were pre-selected for them. Any request to alter their route was often met with resistance. The worst was an insurance scam involving a guide suggesting (quite firmly) that a couple trek to ABC but then claim to be sick and call a helicopter to transport them back to Kathmandu. For going along with this the couple would receive a complimentary trip to Chitwan National Park.
Of course there are experienced, friendly, adaptable, and just all around beautiful human beings like Sital who exist. Guides who are extremely passionate about their roles and will constantly go the extra mile to ensure their customers are happy. Unfortunately it just does not seem to be the norm. Every person or group that I told I was on my own, expressed their desire to have done the same. Solo trekking does not mean you are always alone. You pass other trekkers along the roads and trails. There are local villagers who will smile kindly and point you in the right direction if you look lost. And it’s certainly easy enough to select your accommodation so that will have at least one other person to pass away the time with in the evenings.
I strongly believe that the choice to trek solo in Nepal has benefits that far outweigh the inherent risks. The ability to change and adapt your route as you please. To meet and tag along with other trekkers for as long a period as suits you. Not having to worry about the compromises that will undoubtedly come with being part of a group. Enjoying the beauty of the nature that surrounds you in absolute peace and quiet. I could go on. But unparalleled to all of these reasons, is the empowering feeling that accompanies the accomplishment of doing something you have never done before, and doing it on your own. So when the opportunity to head back to Nepal and try another trek arises, I will definitely go solo again.
Best view of my trek, Australian camp, a place that I accidentally stumbled upon