The Annapurna circuit is a famous hiking route. The view’s beautiful and the high-altitude experience is like no other. I recently returned from a 20-day hike there. I had it planned since December last year, and it felt like such a coincidence when I discovered the Kayuhan Altitud Tinggi Circuit Annapurna program by Majlis Rekreasi Malaysia early this year. Long story short, I was finally selected (read how it happened here).

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Some of those selected. I’m on the top left!

Before I left to hike the same track, trainings had already begun for the high-altitude cycling. This is a completely different ball game. We would have to work our way up an a team, representing Malaysia. Hopefully, reach the top with the Malaysian flag on our backs. Most of us have never been to Nepal — some are not even cyclists. But that’s the whole point. We were selected because we are all just normal people. None of us did this full-time nor professionally. So surely it will prove to be a challenge, but that’s what makes the success sweeter.

The chairman of Majlis Rekreasi Malaysia, King Archilis, took on the role as our trainer. He would prepare us with solid training over three months, helping us visualise the conditions all the way up there and bringing our bodies up to speed in terms of fitness.

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The training schedule is pretty intense, and it has to be. For a peak that most would call tough to hike, attempting to bike there is a considerably crazy feat.

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To prepare ourselves, we had to cycle five days a week, clocking in a distance of 100km a day.

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Weekends consists of carrying the mountain bike in a run that goes on for 20km — that’s a half-marathon, except we have to lug our 13kg bicycles while doing it! The later part of the training will also see us carrying the bicycle up inclined planes (stairs, hills, etc.) so we can get used to scaling steep paths.

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As the mountain’s terrains are not all suitable for cycling, a chunk of the journey will involve us carrying our bicycles to get past obstacles.

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At the same time, we are constantly challenging ourselves to train harder because of something called AMS, Acute Mountain Sickness. Ascending any land higher than 2400 metres above sea level puts you at risk of this altitude sickness and symptoms include dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath. The highest peak along the Annapurna circuit is Thorong La, at 5416 metres. We better be well prepared!

What I’m most excited about, is that we will do this as a team. Cycling alone is therapeutic and I must say it is one of my favourite things to do. But cycling as a team is amazing in its own rights. When one tires, the others will inspire with strength and endurance. You will keep going, because everyone is going — with or without you. Motivation at its best!

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Keep an eye out on my Facebook page as I will soon be sharing my hiking experience at Annapurna.