Our mental image of people who trek the Himalayas were these super athletic dudes, no older than thirty years who sprint up a mountain without a drop of sweat. So when we were considering a trek, it was people who posted on the internet that everyone can do it, who gave us courage. And what a decision it was!
First of all, in Nepal there are treks for all fitness levels, there are a multitude of trekking agencies, some more legit than others and nearly every foreigner you meet in Nepal is either terrified at the thought of the trek they are about to embark on or proud of their achievement after a great trek.
The mainstream regions for trekking in Nepal are, Everest Region (Solu Khumbu) and Annapurna region. There are other places off the beaten path where trekking is more hard core and experiences more authentic. Since these tend to be camping treks and quite expensive (example Mustang and Upper Dolpo), we opted to go for more teahouse style treks.
When we arrived in Kathmandu, we visited Nepal Connection Restaurant. This restaurant is a place where people meet to discuss their trekking requirements. We were greeted by Hupen Pun who is very passionate about the cause and the trek. With him we discussed how we were planning to take our trek forward. At that point in time we had decided not to opt for the services of a guide and porters, because we wanted it to be an authentic adventure and because we were not comfortable with having people carry our bags. Talking to Hupen, we understood how authentic this experience is and already started getting a feel of what the Pun Magar community really means.
We carried out a lot of research online, and finally decided on two treks, one in the Solu Khumbu Region, from Phaplu to Namche Bazaar and fly down from Lukla, and the other one in the Annapurna region. The trek in the Solu Khumbu region never materialised because of a cancelled flight, whilst the trek in Annapurna region was very thoroughly researched and successful. We opted for the Annapurna-Dhaulagiri Community Trail and the reasons for choosing this trek were very important for us; firstly support for local community and secondly it is off main Annapurna Circuit trail.
We took our time to think about it. Following Kathmandu we visited Sauraha and then travelled to Pokhara. One thing which really struck home was something that Hupen said, that if we do not opt for guides and porters, then these people will not have a job for the coming days. So, yes it felt awkward that someone was going to carry our bags but it just felt right to give these people a job. By the time we arrived in Kathmandu, we discussed our requirements with Hupen by email and he introduced us to Lukesh Tilija Pun who was going to be our guide for the trek. We sent photos of our passports to Lukesh and he arranged our trekking permits and TIMS cards. Lukesh met us at our hotel a couple of days before, so that we get acquainted, paid our trekking fees and made all necessary arrangements. On the day Lukesh together with a driver from the community picked us up by taxi to take us all the way to Galeshwor to start our adventure in the Annapurna-Dhaulagiri Community Trail.