Some background. This is what we packed for our trip. For the entire two week trip, mind you, for four people. There are two proper hiking backpacks, one for Jeff and one for me. There are additionally two small backpacks, one for Tom and one for Hope. The thinking was that if we were going to be schlepping all of our crap along on the trek, we were going to schlep as little as possible.
What's inside the bags looks something like this: khaki + zippers. Yeah, we finally broke down and bought those stupid touristy Zip On! Zip Off! trouser/short combos. The thinking was that the temperatures would vary quite a bit, and that there might be some comfort in having short and long pants without actually carrying both. Plus, this stuff is all easy wash/easy dry fabric. Since we all had two trousers, three pairs of knickers and three shirts, washing and drying quickly was an important consideration.
An added consideration is that both Indian and Nepalese people are modest: men don't really wear shorts, and women properly don't parade around in anything that shows much in the way of knees or collar bones. So, no shorts or tank tops for me. It's a bit more lax for children, so they were able to wear more conventional length clothing for the weather. Which, was mostly quite warm and comfortable, until we were at 3200 meters, then it was freezing, and until we got to India, when it was hotter than hot.
Really, this is about all we brought (for three people; Jeff doesn't photograph his stuff before he packs it, because, hello, normal person, every crowd has one). Those stupid backpacks weren't even full.
We thought long and hard about what footwear to bring, too. The children don't like to wear shoes. Honestly, they would go to school barefoot through the city streets if they could, and as I was the same way as a child, I get it. Jeff and I discussed getting them proper hiking boots, but decided that the break-in period would be horrible (for us, as the children threw themselves on the ground and wailed about their feet being encased in concrete), so we went with (a) crocs and (b) already broken-in sneakers.
Me? I lost the plot somewhere. I skipped off and got a mani/pedi for this trip. I know. Cray. OPI "Blue My Mind," if you are curious. Did you know I have a precious side? This is it in its entirety, so admire my preciousness and move on.
When we met our guide, Genesh, he took one look at my sparkling toes and my Tevas and said, "Well, you have hiking boots, right?" My, "Ah, no, these are just going to have to do," did not give him the warm fuzzies, let me tell you. Particularly given that this conversation happened while he was packing up the down sleeping bags and down jackets that were included as part of our trek. You might ask yourself why someone who knew there were "down" things involved in a trek would think that sandals would be appropriate footwear. Listen, what it comes down to is that I am just not very detail oriented.
On the upside, Others of Us were a little more thoughtful. Someone thought to purchase metal water bottles and bring along iodine pills in order to use local water sources for our drinking water instead of buying plastic water bottles as we went. Someone also insisted on buying rain ponchos when others of us thought that they would be a waste of money. I can cut the tension right here: they were not a waste of money.
Here's the other key detail that I missed: our tour price included our own porter. I had packed with the idea that we would spend five days trekking carrying our own bags. I thought wrong. Or rather, I read the itinerary wrong, because, let me tell you, I saw over the course of almost a week, exactly one tourist dude carrying his own backpack. Our porter would carry our bags. Porters are a pretty integral part of the trekking gig, because, if most people had to carry their own crap, tourists would not hike in Nepal.
Plus, and this is a more important consideration than you might think initially, there is the income generated by being a porter. Jobs are scarce in Nepal; remember the Gurkhas? So, it's an important to consider the economy when you are thinking, "Wait, so why am I paying someone to carry my bag, when I should really do it myself?" If you are not paying a porter, you are taking a job away from someone who probably really needs it. That sounds incredibly lame when I type it, particularly when you actually meet our porter who was most decidedly not one of the young whippersnappers you see pictured here.
No, this was our porter: not a young man (I'll come up with a better photo later on, this was the best I could do quickly).
So suddenly, packing took on a whole new dimension: while I was initially worried about what I would be carrying, suddenly, I realized, I needed to actually worry about what some poor other (older!) human being was going to be carrying. Which plunged me into guilt mode like you would not believe. We stripped down to half of what you see in the initial packing photos above, and left it back at the hotel.
Stripped down to our definition of the bare essentials, which still included more i-devices than the average family owns, I think, we drove about an hour outside of Pokhara to begin trekking for the first day. The schedule was about an three or four hour hike, from the river bed with very little elevation: it was a Flat Hike, which in Nepal is defined as "a little bit up! a little bit down!" Only, a "little bit" is one of those things that is kind of relative.
Things got off to a rocky start as we were all of ten minutes into it when Hope reminded us that we had failed to pack her any snacks (!!) and, we realized we had no water. Seriously, our planning was all kind of there esoterically, but not really appropriate focused in the moment. We were still in a town, so I called a halt, bought some water and Snicker bars, refreshed the troops, and we started off again.
Genesh was giving us the serious hairy eyeball that this point. We had the shoeless one, two medium sized children who seemingly melted down all of ten minutes into it, to be revived with the application of bottled water and Snickers, and a lack of thoughtfulness around water that was disconcerting at best. But, Genesh is a Nepalese trekking guide, which makes him quite stoic, one can only imagine the sorts of things he has seen. He smiled, lead us across the bridge, registered us for the five day trek around the Annapurna small loop, and we were off, right and proper.
Next: Day 1, We Manage Just Fine