Nearly a week later we found ourselves in Pokhara still without the slightest clue on what we were doing. On the penultimate day, we frantically organised trekking permits, a bicycle for Dicko and finally got a map for the Annapurna Circuit. The following day involved a four hour bus ride to Besisahar (the trail head). Surprisingly, the bus wasn’t dangerously overcrowded and I’d been seated next to two beautiful Nepalese girls. Within five minutes of driving, the twelve seater bus had 23 people and the conductor managed to squeeze a bony young boy between the girls and I.
On the first day of cycling we rode out of town wide-eyed and filled with anticipation. I’m sure Dicko was a bit nervous, as he had just flown from South Australia- a state where the highest mountain is 1,432m (the height of Kathmandu) and was now surrounded by some truly intimidating scenery. I was a little nervous as my biggest responsibility until now was keeping my jocks clean and showering regularly. Even that had been a struggle. I was now responsible for another human being cycling up to Thorung La (5,416m) with insufficient gear and more than a hint of unpreparedness. Within the first kilometre Reece’s rear pannier fell off and we sat by the road making repairs. Only 4,000 plus vertical metres to go….
The Annapurna Circuit is one of the most trekked trails in Nepal, having an influx of 120,000 plus tourists throughout the year. The attraction lies not only with the views, but the lack of technical climbing, abundance of teahouses and constant Wi-Fi. With frequent visitors, the notorious aspects of tourism were always bound to be prevalent. We were constantly bombarded with demands for ‘'Pen” and “Chocolate” from little children. One even threw a rock at Dicko, much to my amusement. In one instance, six children walking from the opposite direction linked arms and made a barricade in an attempt to stop us. I showed a great deal of compassion and barrelled straight through them.
After the first day on the bike we took rest in a seven house village where the room cost 100 Rupees ($1.20). The house resembled some sort of animal farm, with goats walking through the kitchen, a cockroach under my pillow and a cat that snuck out from under the floorboards to meow right next to my ear. The first night’s dinner would see us eating the Nepalese staple of dhal baht; a combination of rice, dhal, vegetable curry and potatoes. Not only is dhal baht all you can eat, it also a precursor for some of the most lethal farts known to mankind. As all good friends would do, I rode in front of Dicko and dropped stink bombs all day, reaffirming that I am the most immature 26 year old in the world.
As we climbed higher and higher, the mountain views becoming clearer, we were able to draw motivation from the soaring peaks and forget about our tired bodies. The conditions of the trail/road made it nearly impossible to cycle and we would often resort to pushing our bikes. Unfortunately, soaring prices were also becoming more noticeable. With such difficulty in getting supplies to villages, food becomes the major profit earner for teahouse owners. It wasn’t uncommon for us to get a free room as long as we ate dinner from the kitchen.