Govt. Regd. #: 2617/075

The Annapurna Circuit: Awesome Trek

12 May 2019 whd

Annapurna Circuit

Somewhere between the baby goats who gingerly sniffed my hand before allowing me to pet them (like puppies do!), the baby cow which did the same, the little snorting yaks, village kids who put their hands together to say “Namaste” (hello), the amazingly beautiful mountains that framed every moment, and the daily chai masala teas, it hit me.

Day 01: Traveling took most of the days and allowed us to fit in about 8km to Ghermu as the sun was setting, where a young girl handed us sea buckhorn berries when we walked into the town.  Everyone there was so friendly, saying “Namaste” to us as we passed by.  The guesthouse we chose also happened to brew roxi, a local spirit. This resulted in a few colorful characters stopping by, giving us a laugh and making dinner all that much more interesting.  It was a great way to start what would become a wonderful two weeks.  Ghermu, I love you. The people and the place it can’t be described it words. The word which I wanna say to this place is just “wow”.

Day 02: We learned to ask for breakfast a half hour before we actually wanted to eat it when it arrived a half hour late the next morning. The earlier one starts trekking in the morning, the better, as at the lower altitudes it can still be boiling hot outside. We walked the 16km to Karte, which is one town just beyond where most people stop in Tal. Unfortunately much of this trail is along a road that is shared with Jeeps, which churn up a lot of dust.

Day 03: This was a long one. We walked 30 km to Dhukur Pokhani after arriving at Bhratrang at 6 pm and finding only two more beds (there were three in our group) at the only tea house in town.  Ellen and I walked an additional hour to the next town just as the sun was setting, which had a good six tea houses to choose from, and plenty of beds! Most people on this day would have stopped in Chame, but it was only 3 pm when we arrived there, so we kept going. I’ll always remember this as the first day I ever pet a cow. I recall how a friend of mine wanted so badly to pet one in the rural area of a few months before and how I’d laughed at him, sure he would get kicked or bitten. When the calf sniffed his hand and then dipped his head as if to say, “Go ahead”, I was shocked. This time it was Ellen who worked up the bravery to pet the baby calf first, who reacted the same way. I followed suit this time, surprised by how soft and sweet it was.

Day 04: There’s a choice of taking the upper or lower Pisang trail on this day. Lower runs along the road and is much easier, while upper involves a steep 600 meter gain but is good for acclimating and is the more beautiful trek by far, offering magnificent views of the Annapurna peaks. Naturally, we took the Upper Pisang trail ending in Manang, in the middle of a snowstorm no less, for a total of 20km walking that day.

Day 05: This was a rest day in Manang to acclimate to the altitude.  This is highly recommended as many people really start to feel the altitude by this point.  Most people take a side trek but I had walked so much the previous days, I didn’t see the need.

Day 06: We walked the 10km to Ledar, taking a leisure day and waking up at the ripe hour of 7:30am.  At this point in the trek, even if one can physically keep walking, ascending more than 500 meters per day can result in altitude sickness. Even this gain of 660 meters was somewhat ill advised, but we felt alright with it. The night was spent at over 4000 meters.

Day 07: We walked the 11 km to High Camp, taking another leisure day and leaving around 8 am from Ledtar. The walk to high camp is a steep one and something I preferred doing in the daylight hours, as many people wake up at 3 am to make the trek up from high camp all the way through the pass. Spending the night at high camp was interesting. We luckily arrived early enough (around 12 noon) to get a space in a shared 3-bedroom with ice on the walls from the cold. Ellen and I shared a bed while everyone who arrived after we had to sleep in the common room and those who arrived after 3 pm were turned away.

Day 08: We walked 14km over Thorung Pass to Muktinath.  No lies; today was difficult.  For me, it wasn’t the incline — I’d had plenty of that — it was the altitude.  Thorung La Pass sits at 5,416 meters (over 17,700 feet), and it didn’t matter how much acclimatization I had done, I was feeling it. I felt like my head might explode and each step I took felt as though I was walking on air.  When Ellen came down with similar symptoms after we had already descended quite a bit in the following days, I realized I had been ill that day as well.  That’s a lot to add on top of the difficulty of ascending that much. But when I finally reached the pass, adrenaline took over and I was on cloud nine. Next came a very steep descent. I’ve always been better with uphills than downhills.  

Day 09: Today was a semi-but-not-really-rest-day on the incredibly bumpy and dusty bus from Muktinath to Tatopani (no walking).  It is actually possible to get a bus or Jeep from this part of the trek all the way back to Pokhara, but I didn’t go quite that far. I cut out this part of the trek because I did not want to walk along the road, inhaling dust from buses and jeeps.  I had found it unpleasant during the first days of the trek and didn’t want to experience it anymore. Instead, the plan was to tack on the Annapurna Base Camp/Sanctuary trek since it had taken a much shorter time than anticipated to knock out the circuit. I had read it takes anywhere from 16-21 days, but, at our pace and by eliminating 2-3 by bus at the end, we only took nine! We also added three awesome guys to our group whom we had run into a few times over the course of the circuit trek.

Day 10: In order to see Poon Hill, we did the trek from Tatopani to Ghorepani, a steep gain of 1600 meters over 18km.  There were very few flats, downhills (thankfully for my knees), and anything other than steep inclining stone steps. The occasional friendly goat got me through the sweaty, hot day.  It was so endearing to hold my hand under their noses, feel them sniff, then dip their head to let me stroke them.  I vowed to one day have a pet goat

Day 11: The Poon Hill trek is done in the early morning in order to catch the sunrise, with most people leaving around 4am. The trek takes 40 minutes to an hour up even more stone steps. Usually the vista is quite impressive, but we had a hazy day so not much was visible I would complain, but I’ve had unbelievably amazing weather during my travels and still got to see the same mountains from different views, so I sucked it up and kept going.

Day 12: This was the final day.  We walked 12 km to just beyond Tikhedhunga where we caught a bus back to Pokhara.  One can continue onwards another few hours or so to finish the trek, but we’d had about enough after 12 days.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *