Call Your Closest Clinic, Australia-Wide
Call Your Closest Clinic, Australia-Wide

Are you contemplating a trip to Nepal?

Namaste! Are you contemplating a trip to Nepal?

I travelled there recently with my husband and 2 teen daughters (in December), to trek up to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC), and we have fallen in love with the place! Having previously enjoyed family multi-day hiking trips in New Zealand and Tasmania, we decided trekking in Nepal would foster some interesting new challenges and cultural aspects for our next adventure.

These were especially tantalising after the covid travel-bans! For the girls, this would be their first time climbing to high altitude and meeting people who lead a very different way of life.

After looking at maps, reading other people’s travel blogs, and talking to friends who had already been there….we booked our flights and stepped up the training. Quite literally. Stair climbs, hill reps, trail running and mountain-biking would prepare us for what was to come.

Sunrise from Poon Hill

As I work at a Travel Clinic, my family guessed there would probably be a few vaccinations involved in the preparation too……and they were right! Hepatitis A and Typhoid boosters, a course of Rabies shots each and 2 doses of some medicine which can reduce the risk of traveller’s diarrhoea. We also packed our own medical kit. This included simple first aid items, treatment for gastro, dressings for blisters etc and some Acetazolamide in case anyone needed help with acclimatising to altitude.

For anyone who is interested in the detail, there are some excellent guidelines produced by the Wilderness Medical Society* about the prevention and treatment of altitude illness which you can find at this link:

After much anticipation, it was finally time to set off for Nepal!  We spent our first 3 days exploring the bustling, vibrant streets of Kathmandu. Durbar Square was a more peaceful sanctuary in the old town, accommodating the Royal Palace, ancient temples and a rich history dating back to the 16th century. 
The sparkling Phewa Lake, Pokhara

Next stop, the picturesque lakeside town of Pokhara. We had a day there to organise our backpacks and stock up on snacks (and toilet roll!) for the trek which would begin the following morning.

We also made an impromptu visit to the CIWEC travel medicine clinic in the centre of town and met the delightful doctor on duty who kindly showed us around the facility. It is a modern, well-resourced compact hospital where the team have the capacity to treat patients with altitude illness, trauma and infectious diseases amongst other things. Thankfully, we did not need to return for any medical assistance during our visit but we would have felt in safe hands if the need had arisen.

In the evening, we met our guides for the trek- Raj and Dhan. Their team-leader, Kabi, welcomed us into his family home and told us all about the Himalayan region, the history, religious practices and traditions of the Nepalese people. They filled us up with home-cooked, home-grown dal bhat and hand-milked buffalo ghee, and then we were ready for the 10 day trek that lay ahead!

Machapuchare, known as Fish Tail (6993m)

We woke up early and squeezed ourselves into a little jeep, strapped our backpacks to the roof, and held on tightly to some ceiling straps as the vehicle juddered and bounced its way up the rough, gravel road to our starting point at Birethanti. In the unforgettable days which followed, we fell into a wonderfully simple, natural rhythm framed by the rising and setting of the sun each day. Towering 6000+m snow-capped peaks soared into the blue sky all around us.  Machapuchare (“FishTail”), Hiunchuli, Gangapurna and the enormous 8091m silhouette of Annapurna 1 consistently watched over us.

There were no interruptions or intrusions from noisy modern-day technology, apart from the occasional chopper flying high overhead! We discovered that nearly every tea-house had WiFi available in exchange for a few rupees for anyone suffering from withdrawal!! However, our main source of entertainment came from one pack of cards and our 2 happy companions, Raj and Dhan. We had so much fun drinking black-tea together and playing their favourite game “Dumbal”.

Annapurna Base Camp-here we come!

As we steadily made our ascent towards Base Camp, we climbed literally thousands of stone stairs, hand-built into the mountainside. We crossed swaying suspension bridges and passed by strings of colourful prayer-flags fluttering in the breeze. Each tiny hamlet had its own character, welcoming villagers and panoramic views. Our favourites included Ghorepani, Tadapani, Chomrong, Sinuwa, Dobhan and Deurali.

The winding trail was punctuated with sections of beautiful rhododendron forest, and there were burbling glacial streams and cascading waterfalls along the way too. We caught a glimpse here and there of shy mountain monkeys hiding in the trees, and every day we found ourselves accompanied by at least one friendly stray dog looking for company, even up at ABC!! We had no bites or scratches but were glad we’d had our rabies vaccinations!! We exchanged waves and stories with many other friendly trekkers on the route, and in the teahouses at night, but given the quieter time of year the trail was often empty and peaceful.

Made it to Annapurna Base Camp!

The final stretch of ascent from Machapuchare Base Camp to ABC (4130m) was spectacular. Thankfully, there were no ill-effects from the altitude, and we were all able to drink in the magnificent views of the sharp, imposing summits which surrounded us.

The following morning, we tumbled out of our sleeping bags in the dark, pulled on all our layers and ventured outside to witness the sunrise. It was a little chilly at minus 10 degrees Celsius! Within just a few minutes we forgot about the cold though, as the inky blackness melted away to unveil the pink, orange and lilac palette of daybreak lighting up Annapurna South. Incredible! It gave us goose-bumps (on top of goose-bumps)!!


Now, as I reflect on our many special memories from Nepal, I am reminded of the infamous words of naturalist John Muir- “The mountains are calling and I must go”!

Time to plan another visit to the Himalaya…

* Wilderness & Environmental Medicine 2019; 30(4S): S3-S18

by Dr Catriona Caddell, Travel Doctor, Dr Deb the Travel Doctor, Brisbane 4001