THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT IN NEPAL
REVIEWED by KATHLEEN WATERS
October 15, 2013
kathy at backpackgeartest dot com
Canon City, Colorado, USA
5' 4" (1.60 m)
125 lb (56.70 kg)
Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 71-acre/29-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado.
Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley.
My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.
|Author: Bill Walker|
Year of Publishing: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: http://skywalker-pct.com/
MSRP: US $10.95 paperback/$4.95 Kindle
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.9 x 8.9 inches (1.3 x 15 x 22.6 cm)
Shipping Weight of Paperback Version: 12.6 ounces (357 g)
File Size: 944 KB (Digital Version)
Version Reviewed: Digital
|Picture courtesy of publisher|
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bill Walker was raised in Macon, Georgia and attended the University of Georgia, where he earned a bachelor's and master's degree in Accounting. He was a trader on various domestic and international exchanges for 14 years before he turned to teaching English as a second language in Central and South American. He currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina.
Bill started hiking later in life and in 2005 he thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (2180 mil/3510 km) from Georgia to Maine in eastern United States. The very next year, he hiked the Long Trail (272 mi/438), which covers the length of Vermont, from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border. Then, in 2009, he tackled the Pacific Crest Trail (2,663 mi /4,286 km), from the United States' border with Mexico to the United States' border with Canada. Next on his list was the famous European pilgrimage, the El Camino de Santiago, which crosses the northern portion of Spain and varies in length depending on the route but must be at least 62 mi/100 km to qualify for the certificate of completion.
After these journeys, he wrote books about his adventures, including," Skywalker-Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail" (2008), " Skywalker-Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail" (2010) and "The Best Way: El Camino de Santiago" (2012). "Getting High" was published in March of 2013 after Bill's completion of the Annapurna Circuit in 2012.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE BOOK
Imagine a library. The row labeled "Travel" is roped off. A half dozen people are sitting on wooden chairs in a semi-circle. A Freudian-bearded young man with wire-rimmed glasses stands and says "Welcome to AAAA." A hush comes over the room as I nervously shuffle to my feet and say:
"Hi. My name is Kathy and I'm an Armchair Adventurer Adrenaline junkie! I've tried to stop but whenever I have an opportunity to score a good adventure read, I'm sure to plunk down the cash, call in sick and curl up on my bed, not to be seen again until my cravings are satisfied. I just can't help myself!"
Simply stated, I love non-fiction adventure stories and my bookshelves are lined with books about Everest, K2, Antarctica, the Amazon, etc. My contemporary heroes are Conrad Anker, Eric Larsen, Lynne Cox, Martin Strel and others in that daring class of elite athletes who conquer dreams I wouldn't have ever even dreamed of. And as anyone who knows me will testify, I'll stand in line to shake the hand of Apa Sherpa or have my picture taken with Trevor Thomas (aka Zero/Zero - the Blind Hiker). So, when offered a chance to read a review copy of "Getting High: The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal", I didn't hesitate.
Minutes after my decision, I decided to order the digital version of the book - I couldn't wait for the hard copy! (Gotta love the instant gratification of digital books!) Five minutes after that, I was deep in the Himalayas with the author, Bill Walker. Several hours later, I flicked the last page over and sighed with pleasure. "I wanna go to Nepal and see it for myself!"
The first of 24 chapters of "Getting High" is titled "The Wall" and begins with the sentence: "Will you carry my backpack?" and the instant I read that sentence, I knew this was going to be a book unlike most of my other adventure books. It wasn't going to be a how-to tome written by professional mountaineers, nor a tale of athletic prowess I could only marvel at. This was going to be about a trekker I could maybe identify with, an adventure I might even be able to make my own. Wow!
By the end of the first chapter, I also faced the fact that this book was not really about the Annapurna Circuit so much as about Walker's own unique experiences while the Circuit provided simply a backdrop. By that I mean, rather than mostly descriptive prose about the trail, the scenery, and the actual hiking, "Getting High" focuses on Bill and the people he encounters on his trip. So, "Getting High" is not a guide book, not a trail map, or a how-to book. It's more like a personal trail diary.
Once I got over my initial disappointment with that fact, I was able to enjoy the easy storytelling style Bill employs. His manner of writing is more like a conversation than a lecture and it worked well in this book.
The bulk of "Getting High" seems to be about the people and Bill's interaction (or lack of) with those people and Bill's reaction to various people and events. It's very personal - as I said above, like a diary. I came away from my reading of the book with the sense that it's the people that Bill focuses on while trekking rather than the trek itself. And since he would often encounter the same people as they leap-frogged up the trail, Bill is able to paint entertaining word-portraits of the various characters.
This is novel to me as I personally am the total opposite - I prefer to backpack and hike in silence with very few companions. Unless someone is particularly obnoxious on the trail, I don't really notice him or her. And most of my other "adventure" books lean heavily on the journey, not the participants.
In fact, it is Bill's relationship with his porter, Shankar Aryal, that is (logically) most explored. To say that it is contentious is to be kind. At least that is my take on it and I admire Bill for his good-natured acceptance of the situation. I'm an "off with their heads" sort of person and the first time Shankar ignored my needs would have been the last. No, I mean, I would have fired him! It wasn't long into this book for me to dislike Shankar and for me to root for Bill to triumph!
And triumph he does, over too-small beds, hanging bridges at dizzying heights, bone-chilling cold nights and migraines! Not only does he complete the Annapurna Circuit, but he continue on to attempt the Annapurna Base Camp trek, coming within 1000 ft/300 m of the camp before turning back. I felt my greatest sense of empathy with Bill at that point, having myself made decisions to turn back even when a destination was oh-so-close! As Bill says "it's in the journey, not the destination."
Despite this not being a how-to book, "Getting High" actually did teach me a few things. Most importantly, if I ever attempt the Annapurna Circuit, I will, counter to my usual method of travel, arrange the major details, such as guide/porter/reservations, etc. from the calm and unhurried location of my home with a reputable organization. I suspect a good bit of what I perceive to be Bill's biggest irritants, could have been avoided that way.
I also would make sure I had a good supply of migraine meds!
1,) Conversational, easy to read style of writing
2.) Fascinating narrative about a unique trek
3.) Came away with a few practical tips for planning my own trek!
1.) Would really have loved more pictures. Lots more pictures!
2.) Digital version would benefit from a once-over by a copy editor.
"Getting High: The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal" is a fun, light-hearted read! I enjoyed Bill Walker's narrative from start to finish. With some books, I sometimes find myself getting bored and I start skimming through the remaining pages just to get to the end. Not so with this one. I was hooked by the title which promised entertainment and while the narrative delivered on that promise, I finished the final page still enchanted and wanting to know more about this amazing trek. I sure wouldn't mind doing the Annapurna Circuit myself! And, I would definitely pay to see this book-turned-film in a theater. It would make a stunning documentary!
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.
Need a 60-something female to play one of the trekkers? I'm sure I could clear my calendar!
Kathleen (Kathy) Waters
PS: I was tossed out of AAAA when it was discovered I just ordered Bill Walker's "The Best Way: El Camino de Santiago".
Oh well. Now where is my iPad?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the book "Getting High" for free from Skywalker Publications as coordinated by Deep Creek PR an Outdoor Retailer Public Relations Company in consideration for review publication.
Read more gear reviews by Kathleen Waters