Mar 10, 2007 – Annapurnna Circuit (by Torin)

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Day 1-

The day before today was the day we were supposed to go but because of the regular strikes in Nepal we had to wait an extra day for the buses to get running again. But we were all very exited to hear that the buses were running again today and we could take the bus to Besi Sahar, the starting point of the Annapurna circuit trek.

The day started out with a chiyaa and a 7 hour bus ride with an hour Daal Bhat break in the middle. There were no tourist buses going to Besi Sahar so we were crammed onto a small, hot local bus with all the locals. But today was also a very special holiday for all the Nepali people, today was the Shiva Rati festival, the only day of the year where Marjuanna is Legal. The funny thing is is that about every corner the bus went around there were some kids standing with a rope blocking the road and they wouldn’t let the bus through unless they got some money to help buy some things to celebrate the Shiva Rati festival. So each time the bus driver would give 2-10 Rs.

I think it was around 5:30 p.m. when we got to Besi Sahar and about half an hour after we got there it started pouring rain. We were all praying really hard that wouldn’t rain tommorrow and the days ahead of us. Then the owner of our hotel said if we were on Throng la now we wouldn’t be able to pass cause of snow.

So while the whole town was partying with there Marjuanna we went to sleep hoping for better weather.

Day 2-

Today we were very exited to wake up to crystal blue sky with the Himalayas shining in the back. After breakfast we were all pumped to start hiking and make our way to our first destination, Bahundanda.

I think we must have been about an hour into our trek when we met a person who had turned back at Chame, 5 days into the trek. He said to us that there was an incredible amount of snow and that lots of other people had turned back to. So from that day till we crossed the pass we were praying for nice weather.

After a few hours of trekking we stopped for lunch on the out skirts of Ngadi. Out skirts meaning a little restaurant with 1 room that you could stay in, out in the middle of the rice fields with no one around exept the donkeys. So we had what my mom called “A romantic lunch”. It really was quite nice just to sit in the sun and enjoy some tea and Daal Bhat. It was also a real treat to have some fresh fish, caught from the nearby river, to accomponany our Daal Bhat.

After lunch we continued a few more, hours this time we started to climb a bit more. It really got steep near the end of the day because Bahundanda is kind of in the saddle between two mountains. We were all very tired at the end of today (exept our guide and porter)and happpy to find out that the hotel where we stayed had hot showers. So we all changed, had showers and relaxed for the rest of the day.

Sadly that night it actually started raining pretty hard and that kind of got us a bit down. We went to sleep listening to the rain patter on the roof.

Day 3-

Day 2’s afteroon was kind of cloudy but the name of our hotel is Mountain view but we couldn’t see any mountains, so this morning we woke up to see some mountains and see why they called the hotel mountain view hotel.

We got started walking at about 8:30 a.m. and imediately we started decending to the valley floor, it was actually a bit hard on the knees. Today was another clear, baking hot day. Also today we waited too long to have lunch, 1:30 p.m. we got to Jagat, our lunch spot. Jagat is actually a village made up of Tibetan immigrants and just so happened that today was the tibetan new year. As soon as we got there we stopped a little tibetan hotel and the owner came right out and gave us a plate full of doughnuts, chips, rice crispies etc…to satisfy our hunger until we got our Daal Bhat. While we were eating she came out and said to our guide that she was going to bless us. The first thing she did was give us some millet flour that we had to eat, then she put yak cheese in our and rubbed it in while saying some prayer, the last thing she did was throw flour on our right cheek and shoulder.

After we were blessed we got our Daal Bhat, ate it and continued walking a couple more hours until we hit Chamje at around 4:00 p.m. We spent the rest of the day hangin out, exploring chamje and watching Jannu’s(our porter)card tricks.

Day 4-

We got started around the same time today but instead of going down we went up. I think we were about an hour into the trek when we met some spanish people who had turned around before Chame and they said that there was “ALOT” of snow. So then they showed us a picture on their camera and there was a few patches of snow here and there. We said that that wasn’t really that much snow and we thought later “I guess canadians have another definition for lots of snow.

Our guide Ramani said we should have lunch in a place called Tal but by the time we got there it was only 10:30 a.m. so we opted to go to another village an hour down the path. The funny thing is is that when we got to the village we wanted to have lunch at all the restaurants and hotels were closed and we had no choice but to go on and ignore our hunger until the next village. We eventually got to our lunch spot in the village of Karte after crossing one of the logest suspension bridges yet.

After quite a while we got our Daal Bhat and satisfied our hunger enough for us to continue up to Bagarchhap where we saw the first patches of snow. On our way up we met a group of Australians, some came back from Manang and there was a few who came back from Thorong Phedi, which is the last village you stay in before crossing the pass. It was quite because they said up at Thorong Phedi it was -50 C, which we really didn’t believe. Anyways they actually said to us that we could probably make it over since the weather has been so good.

Bagarchhap was kind of a mess in a way. Since it was kind of in between it didn’t get alot of snow but it didn’t have no snow. Bagarchhap was just really muddy and slushy. We stayed in another Tibetan place and played cards in their cozy dining room for the rest of the day.

Day 5-

This morning we woke up to nice clear weather but it was cold. It was nice to start the day early because the ground was all frozen so we didn’t have to worry about mud for about an hour or so. Almost as soon as we got out of Bagarchhap we started climbing these snowy, icy switchbacks. We now had to get our head around that we would be hikin in the snow for the next while and had to get used to our feet being wet.

The night before we had made a plan that we would go up to Chame and see if there was too much snow or not. If there was too much snow and we had to turn around we would go back down and do Annapurna Base camp. But if we went on and didn’t turn around at Chame we’d either go up and over or head back to kathmandu.

Today was all hiking in wet snow and when we stopped for lunch at around 1:00 p.m. in the village of Thanchok. It was great because your boots and socks were sopping wet and you would take out your flip-flops and set your boots and socks in the sun to dry. After our fill up on Daal bhat we walked another hour and a half or so till we arrived in Chame. On the way we got our first glimpse of Annapurna 2.

There’s one thing we have to tell you, our guides definition of mountains and hills is a bit different then ours. Anything above 6000 metres and has a name is a mountain, and anything below 6000 metres and doesn’t have a name is a hill.

Chame is actually quite a nice little town with all the basic needs and even the trekking needs. We spent the night in a little hotel overlooking Mt. Manaslu.

And now since we’ve started hiking in snow we no longer spend the afternoon and evening playing cards, we spend it drying our boots and socks. Even just before I went to bed my boots were still kind of wet so the owner took them into the kitchen and where they slept becasue they had a stronger fire there and they slept there so it was nice and warm in there. So he said that he could keep them there for the night and they should be dry by the next day.

Day 6-

I awoke to clear weather and dry boots which made me happy. It is very frustrating because it is freezing cold when you start walking but after maybe 10 mins your sweating and you got to stop and take all your warm clothes off. Thats what happened today, before we were walking I had my wind proof pants, two jackets, touque and gloves and after 10 mins I was wearing a pair of light pants and a t-shirt.

The first part of the day was pretty easy, it was just like a gradual uphill and flat until we got to Bhratang. On part of that section the people who made the trail actually had to blow out a trail right into the side of the cliff with dynamite. So you were walking right under this huge overhang, it was kind of neat.

When we got to Bhratang it was only like 11:00 a.m. and we were tempted to go on to the next village to have lunch but our guide said that we should have lunch here becasue the next village is like 2-3 hours from Bhratang. Thank goodness we agreed with him cause the next stretch was pertty difficult and I don’t think we would have made it without food.

The difficult thing about this part is that alot of it is through the forest and you just never know when its going to end. But it was quite funny cause right when you think the forest is never going to end Buildings appear then a village just comes out of no where.

So after looooooong day of trekking we finally reached lower Pisang and almost immediately started the boot party of drying boots. We did that for the rest of the day.

Day 7-

You know it was really neat because it felt like each day brought something new and each day you got more into the trek the views just kept getting better.

Anyways, before we even left Pisang we started climbing. We climbed for a while until we reached this view point where we had an amazing view of the Manang valley. It was also really nice to see where we were going, we couldn’t see Manang but we could see where it is.

From the view point we started decending towards the valley bottom. At about 11:30 a.m. we stopped in Humde to have lunch by the airport.

After lunch we walked another couple hours before we reached Manang. We actually stayed in Manang an extra day so we could acclimatize. In that case our guide took us to a bit of a nicer place. This place was really nice because it had super hot showers, a great menu and ensuite toilets.

Cool fact time!! Manang actually has less snow then the villages below. Because Annapurna’s height it has the capability of changing weather causing Manang to have less snow. Neat?

In Manang there was quite a few more tourists, especially in the hotel we were staying in. Even though there are lots of westeners in Manang it is a town where you feel like your out in the wild west with horses has pedestrians and all these stone buildings. We spent the evening sitting around the heater, talking and enjoying the garlic soup. This is the day where we first met up with three swiss guys. The swiss guys were quite the characters, they had two strong porters carrying 2 humungus bags, they were carrying like a guitar, a computer, a cd burner, ipod speakers etc…. So everybody was kind of laughing at them for bringing so much stuff.

So we just hung out the rest of the day talking and doing hanging out stuff.

Day 8-

Today we got to sleep in a bit which was a nice break, it was also a nice break not having to pack my bag. So we got up, had a nice leisurly breakfast. After breakfast we set off for a little hike. The purpose of an aclimatisation day is to hike to a higher altitude then come back down to make it easier the next day. So we started hiking up a ridge just off of Gangapurna lake. I think we were about half way to this tea shop that was out in the middle of no where when it got too steep and snowy for my dad and I so we turned back.

We arrived back in Manang in time to have some lunch which we ate. After lunch went out on another hike up to this old monastery where a 91 year old monk lives. The only way he makes a living is by tourists who come and see him and he blesses them and wishes them luck on passing Thorong La pass. So we hiked up there, his monastery is at 4000 metres so it was quite a hike to get up there seeing that Manang is only at 3540 metres. When we got up there my mom was the only one who wanted to get blessed so thats what she did while sat outside and took in the stunning views. The funny thing about the monk is that he charges 100 Rs. but he only accepts 100 rupee bills.

So after my mom got blessed we hiked back down to Manang to have some dinner and relax by the heater.

Day 9-

Today was actually the first day where there were clouds in the sky and not a pitch blue sky. From now until we cross the pass it was going to be some pretty tough trekking because we were getting into higher alltitude.

Our guide, Ramani, said now that we are going into higher altitude we needed to walk slower so we don’t get alltitude sickness. So at around 8:30 a.m. we slowly made our way out of Manang with each step getting closer to the highest pass in the world.

Today the scenery was also really nice but it just felt like it was the same all day. At about 12:30 or 1:00 p.m. we stopped for lunch in the village of Yak Kharka. I seem to have a bit of a bad habbit while trekking in Nepal. When we stop for lunch I like to have Daal Bhat because they always give you two helpings, two BIG helpings in my case. The bad habbit is that I eat too much Daal Bhat then I have troubles walking after lunch, thats what happened today and I didn’t think I would be able to walk all the way to Letdar, our day’s destination.

We did make it to Letdar luckily it was only 45 mins from our lunch spot. But just as we arrived in Letdar the snow started pouring out of the clouds and Letdar became totally socked in. So we all sat by the fire praying yet again for nice weather. Our guide made a plan if it snowed all night and was snowing in the morning we would hang out in Letdar and try and wait it out, but if it stopped snowing during the night and the weather was ok in the morning we’d keep going and break trail. I mean Letdar really wasn’t the greatest place to kind of hang out cause the only buildings in the town were 2 hotels and only one of them were open.

So we sat around the heater with the swiss guys (who we were sharing the hotel with) and our wet boots.

Day 10-

We awoke to cloudy skys and stories that it had stopped snowing last night and that we would be moving onto high camp. We were all very happy to know that we did n’t have to hang out in Letdar. We got started with the swiss guys and their porters and guide in front breaking trail. We were now above 4000 metres so the air was getting thinner and thinner.

About an hour or two into the day it started snowing again and Sushil, the swiss guys’s guide, said that maybe we should cross the pass today because if it keeps snowing we may not be able to cross tomorrow. We asked about how much longer it would take to get to Muktinath, the next town on the other side of the pass. Well he said it would only take another 10-12 hours. I think everybody thought he was crazy. We said that we are going to stay the night in high camp and if it is snowing the next day and we are stuck in high camp for a few days, thats the way it is.

So we continued on and stopped for lunch in Thorong Phedi and believe me it wasn’t -50 C. We sent about an hour in Thorong Phedi and met up with a group traveling without a guide, the group consisting of two canadians, an american couple and an Irish girl. They were actually wondering if they ccould join us while crossing the pass because they kind of wanted to cross the pass with someone who had done it before. We said yes so in the end we had like a group of 17 people to cross the pass.

High camp was only an hour up from Throng Phedi but it felt like it was straight up. We got to High camp at around 4ish. High camp was at like 4900 metres so the weather was pretty chilly. We also had to pay 50 Rs. to have this gas stove under the table to warm us up and dry our boots. So we sat around the table getting ready for the big day ahead of us.

Day 11-

Here it was, the big day. And guess what, the weather coudn’t have been better, clear, blue, sunny skys. Well it wasn’t sunny when we woke up at 4:00 a.m. to have breakfast but it sure was stary. I think it was around 6:00 a.m. when we left high camp. As soon as we left high camp my hands and feet were absolutely frozen. My feet were mostly really cold because I woke up to frozen boots. But when we started my hands were the coldest so mydad said to start shaking them to get the blood circulating again. As soon as I did that I got that awful thawing feeling.

Because my hands were so cold one of the canadian guys had an extra pair of mits so he gave them to me, they helped alot.

We got to the top of the pass at around 10:30 a.m. and the wind was howling like crazy up there.We got to the top of the pass at around 10:30 a.m. and the wind was howling like crazy up there with snow blowing everywhere. Sadly but truly we didn’t get any pictures from up on top. All in all I think we spent max. 5 mins up on top rearranging our gear then started heading down. I’m serious, up on top my feet immovable they were so cold it wasn’t till we were heading down did they start to thaw.

Once we were out of the wind on the other side we stopped to have some cookies and chocolate. It was funny because on the way up my head was fine but as soon as we started down I got this major headache. At this point I was really tired and I felt like just falling asleep. It was a long way down but finally at around 3:00 we arrived in Muktinath ready to collapse into bed which I did after putting my boots in the sun to dry. We spent the rest of the day hangin out and decided since we were so tired and we had an extra day that we would spend it on a rest day in Muktinath.

Day 12-

Today we slept in had a leisurly breakfast and looked out for the canadian guy because I still had his mits and they arrived in Muktinath later then us and we didn’t know where they were staying.

Oh yeah, HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!!!!!! And what a place to spend a birthday, lookin out on the upper mustang(the restricted area, costs 700$ to go there for a week). So we just spent the day relaxing and shopping for some gifts for dad. We also saw the canadian guy later in the afternoon and they were taking a rest day to.

Mostly because the Irish girl got severe frostbite on her 2 big toes so she couldn’t walk and they were just trying to to decide what to do. We left them the next day but we heard that she got a helicopter out of Muktinath back to kathmandu.

In the evening we celebrated my dads birthday with a special dinner and some gift giving. And that day we all got cleansed by putting water on our heads from the 108 taps at the holy temple of Muktinath.

Day 13-

Today it was cloudy but we were all really ready to hike again from the day of rest in Muktinath. We left Muktinath at 8:30 a.m. but instead of going up we were going down. Today was actually a really short day, we only walked like 2 and a half hours before arriving in Kagbeni, the gateway to the Upper Mustang. The Upper Mustang also known as The Last Forbiden Kingdom!!

Once we got to Kagbeni the weather turned in and the wind was really blowing and I think it snowed too, so we spent the afternoon and evening drinking tea. Sound fun?

Day 14-

We woke up to snowy weather and while we were having breakfast it started snowing even harder. But we still needed to keep going so we strapped on the rain covers and left the warmth of our hotel and walked into the blowing snow. It was kind of nice though because the snow was dry enough that when it hit you it just bounced off so you didn’t even get wet.

After a couple hours of walking over what my mom called Peruvial plains we arrived in Jomsom, our lunch spot. Jomsom is actually quite a big center with an airport, a hospital(not a great one), etc… It really felt big mostly because it took us half an hour to get from the entrance to Jomsom to our lunch spot and our lunch spot wasn’t even on the edge of town.

After lunch it was still another hour till Marpha where we would spend the night. At the moment it looked like it was going to clear up but as soon as we left Jomsom the picked up, I mean it really picked up, it was enough blow you over. Whats worse is that what I thought came next was freezing rain, or at least thats what it felt like.

I had my neckwarmer pulled right just enough for me to see the ground. We made it to Marpha at really around 12:00 p.m. It was quite funny cause on the sign that said Welcome to Marpha it also said the Delightful Apple Capital of Nepal.

So we really spent half the day sitting around a table with a little pale of hot coals underneath while sitting in a cold room. I mean we played the odd card game but it was too miserable to go outside and explore the village of Marpha wich was too bad because it looked like a nice town. Oh well next time.

Day 15-

It cleared in the night and it was a nice day for us to move on. We continued over more Peruvial plains. After a few hours of walking we stopped for lunch in Larjung. We couple more hours after that before arriving in Lete.

This day is short mostly because it was kind of a boring day and not much to see.

The one interesting thing that we learned today was that when we got to Lete the was cloudy but it was clearing up. Then our hotel owner told us that they’ve had miserable weather for 18 days straight and when we got there it cleared up. Same with electricity, they hadn’t had electricity for like 18 days and when we got there they got electricity. Crazy huh?

That night we also got our first view of Annapurna 1 which was really cool. So we did the usual for the rest of the day sat by the heater and learned card tricks.

Day 16-

Today was clear and it was also the day where we hit the deepest part of the deepest valley in the world. So as soon as we left Lete we started going down. Today we actually walked quite a long ways and it was all down hill. We were also walking on the donkey highway during rush hour and had to wait our turn to cross the bridge. We had a quick 45 min lunch break in Rukkse charara before continuing onto Tattopani. We arrived Tattopani around 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. and went to check out the hotsprings. Tattopani in Nepali actually means hot water which is why Tattopani is known for it’s hotsprings.

So when we got there we pretty much dropped our bags, got our swimsuits on and went to check it out. When we got there we were pretty disapointed to see that it was one small pool that filled side to side with white people and Nepali people(because it was a Nepali holiday), and my dad went to look in the pool and he said it was really slimy so me and my dad decided to head back to the hotel to have a shower and my mom still wanted to go in so she did.

It was nice, since we were in lower climate we didn’t need to sit by the heater. Instead we sat at the table and played cards.

Back in Muktinath we decided we wanted to have an extra day in Muktinath and an extra day in tattopani at the hotsprings our guide said we could but the next day we would have to go straight up to Ghorepani instead of splitting it into 2 days. Which meant the day up to Ghorepani would be 7 hour day uphill. But now that we were in Tattopani and the hotsprings didn’t look that great we decided to leave the next and split the trek up to Ghorepani.

Day 17-

We wanted to or actually more like my mom wanted to get a later start today so we did. We got started at around 9:30 and we started climbing to Ghorepani. Once we passed this gateway into the other valley our guide said that we were walking pretty fast and that if we wanted to we could make it up to Ghorepani no problem. I guess we were feeling energetic cause we said we’d like to do that.

We stopped for lunch in Shika where we were going to spend the night then we moved on another 3 hours to Ghorepani. It was alot colder in Ghorepani then down below so a really hot shower felt awesome. So it was back to the heater tonight but we were all pretty tired from the long day’s trek so we went to bed early.

Day 18-

The main reason why we trekked all the way up to Ghorepani is because we wanted to go up to poon hill. Poon hill has supposedly the best views on the Annapurna circuit. So this morning we got up at 5:00 a.m. to walk up to the top with hords of other tourists. There were alot more tourists here because people can do like a 5 day trek from kathmandu to poon hill and it was beginning in the busy season. Anyways we got some incrwedible views and some really nice pictures as you saw or will see on the site.

When we got back to the hotel we were faced with a bit of a decision. First off there 2 ways to get back to Pokhara, one takes 2 days and the other 3. Our original plan was to take the three day way but my mom was talking to some english people who had come from the three day and they said that it was really slippery and that a group of 30 Singaporeans had to turn back because of the slipperyness. In the end we decided to take our original way and if it was to slippery we would turn back.

So we started out and the first part kind of up and down but after a while we really started dropping. But I’d have to say that today was one of my favorite days because you hikeing in snow so when you went down I started making up for the ski season we missed. The poles helped alot.

We had lunch in the middle of no where, or at least thats what it felt like. But when we arrived in Tadapani where we were supposed to spend the night, well when we got there we found out that every hotel in Tadapani was full and that we had walk 30 mins down the road to the next village. We did that and when we got there there was nobody but the locals and we had a nice relaxing evening.

Day 19-

Today we were supposed to go to Gandruk for the night but it only took us 1 1/2 hours to get there. Our guide said that if we walk another 2 hours and we get Birethanti it’s only a 15 min walk to Naya Pul where we get a taxi to Pokhara. We liked that idea so we continued on. From Gandruk we were going down really fast till we hit the Syauli Bazzar where we had a quick lunch. From the Syauli Bazzar it only like an hour and a half to Birethanti.

We arrived in Birethanti and it was really warm we were actually sitting outside in the night playing cards and doin our thing.

Day 20-

We got up, had breakfast and walked our 15 mins to Naya Pul. We got a taxi and squeezed in, it was about an hour ride to Pokhara and while in the car we just couldn’t get over how fast its gone and how we just finished walking 300 km.

I’ll just tell you what happens the next few days. We hung out in Pokhara for a few days, met Carole and took a bus back to Kathmandu.