Annapurna Circuit : a journey from inside out

 Photo: Cristina Podocea

Photo: Cristina Podocea

How it all started...

Most adventures start either with a dream or a disillusion. Mine started when I closed the door of a hotel room behind me, running away from my love, our life and the dreams that I thought we shared together...

Where would I go? I had no idea!

All I knew was that I wanted to go into the mountains. The mountains are “where you lose yourself and then.. you find yourself” 
Nature has always been my refuge, a place that I can always count on to draw my energy and optimism from.

 Photo: Cristina Podocea

Photo: Cristina Podocea

From all the treks that I had researched, the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal was rated one of the most beautiful in the world. It is also a strenuous 14 to 21 days high altitude trek, which gets to up to 5400m. The thought of losing myself in the Himalayas was as exciting to me as it was terrifying. It was monsoon season and the forecasted copious amounts of rain concerned me. I worried about traveling as a lone female. I also wondered, 'will I get altitude sickness and will I be able to handle it?' Despite all the worries, every time I wanted to bail, an overriding and strong voice in my heart said: “you want to do this and you can do it! It is going to be amazing.”

 Photo: Cristina Podocea

Photo: Cristina Podocea

Dealing with my fears

I took each concern I had and dealt with it.

After doing some research, I discovered that part of the Annapurna Circuit is conveniently (for hikers) in a “rain shadow” which means that, at higher altitudes, the rain clouds couldn't pass beyond the mountain range. Ideal! (Despite my exciting new discovery, for my some extra peace of mind, I did make sure I packed proper waterproof equipment)

Another concern was trekking solo, as a woman, in low season. I researched and found that other women had in the past done the trek solo, which boosted my confidence. And when raising my concerns with the people I met at the hostel, they eased my mind and said that there are always enough trekkers on the way that it would be unlikely I would be alone during much of my journey.

 Photo: Cristina Podocea

Photo: Cristina Podocea

Experiencing the beauty of the trail

As soon as I started the trail I knew all my fears were not justified in the slightest!

Every day I woke up with tremendous energy. I was curious to see what the trail would show me that day. I was in awe with every step that I took. At every turn the mountains would show me different angles that would make me gasp. I would often cry out loud. A shout of utmost joy and gratitude for what I was seeing and feeling. I felt more alive than I have ever felt in my life.

 Photo: Cristina Podocea

Photo: Cristina Podocea

The best moment?

The best moment was when I reached Tilicho Lake, at 5000m altitude, after a strenuous uphill of 900m. Seeing the glacier up-close and the turquoise lake at its foot was humbling. It was one of those feelings for which you cannot find the right words to describe it.

Many people are willing to get off the mountain by the end of the trek. I would have started it all over again! I walked some 180km with at least 6500m cumulated altitude gain.

However, somehow, I was not tired.

I saw the most beautiful scenery I've yet seen in my life (I get it now, first hand, why this is considered one of the most beautiful treks in the world!).

The most important thing: I was never alone. Even when I walked by myself, the mountains were my best companion. I also met lovely people, beautiful souls, trekkers with whom I walked part of the Circuit and with whom I remained friends. Because nature brought us closer together.

 Photo: Cristina Podocea

Photo: Cristina Podocea

My happy ending

Fear often paralyses us and stop us from doing the things which would bring us the most joy. Don’t let it stop you from your greatest adventure. Take those fears one by one and deal with them. Listen to the little voice in your heart which will push you towards accomplishing your wildest dreams!

A little side note: A real concern should be altitude sickness. An excellent lesson I learned on this trek was to adopt a “slow but steady” pace. On previous hikes I would have rushed up and have my head throbbing with headache. The “secret” is to keep hydrated and keep my breath even. Not going slower or faster than my breath allowed me. Also, know your body well and watch for the signs.

 Photo: Cristina Podocea

Photo: Cristina Podocea

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