For those who have ever considered lacing up their hiking boots to go trekking in Nepal, you may have heard of the Annapurna Circuit. It’s one of country’s most popular routes. It crosses a wide variety of terrain, it’s not too easy (nothing here is), it’s not too hard and it goes through a number of popular towns and villages where you could easily spend some time. You can take anywhere from eight to 25 days to complete this trek.
Part of this circuit and more awaited me as I left the small village of Khahare with a number of emotions. While I was excited to be back with Tim and ready for a change of scene and pace, it was a bitter sweet farewell with my Nepalese family of one month. I was also pretty nervous to start on a 35-day trek. Only once before have I hiked for more than six days and that was the 19 days of (mostly) pain, described only two blog posts ago in the Everest region.
This trek initially took us through the Manaslu area, which was the polar opposite to Everest. A scenery of rocks and snow was now one of lush tropical greenery. Tourism focused villages, accessible only by foot were replaced by small towns, with roads and lodges filled with locals going about their business. Multi-culturalism was no longer a ‘thing’ as the number of foreigners dived to just a handful, including ourselves. Most importantly, the altitude was much lower! If you thought that meant I could breathe more easily than last time though, think again. With monsoon season approaching, temperatures were starting to rapidly rise and the humidity level could only be described as suffocatingly ‘icky’. Day one of this trek was the actual day of my 32nd birthday. This was my worst birthday ever. Eight hours of walking in the heat meant my special day was a sweaty one. The only gifts were sculling cold fizzy drinks at every opportunity, stopping to rinse my head and face at every water pipe and the pack sores that later turned to blisters where my shoulder-straps cut in while I wore a singlet to desperately beat the heat. It was a true example of always thinking that the ‘grass is greener’ as now I couldn’t wait to climb higher to cooler temperatures.
I got my wish. We eventually headed right up to 5,135m, to Larke La, the first of three passes over 5,000m I would cross during this trek. By now I had pretty much regained my ‘trekking legs’ and I had certainly noted an improvement in my stamina and fitness from Everest. That was, of course, until I went up Larke La! Altitude sickness can strike in a number of ways. Often people associate it with more severe AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) or worse, however it can appear, as it did for me, in the form of a mild headache, nausea and just feeling pretty ‘pooped’. At the top, I quickly recovered while Andrew (my Father-in-Law) entertained us all by fulfilling a wish of his to take a high-altitude swim. After he had first broken the ice so he could get into the water!
Heading down the other side of the pass took us briefly onto the Annapurna circuit with slightly more tourists and my first hot shower in over a month. With more road access every year to the circuit, this was also our chance to stock up on cheaper chocolate bars and consume large amounts of Sprite. There is a lot of discussion in trekking circles about the road. While for many locals and their businesses it means ready and more affordable access to products and services, for those in the tourism industry it is more of a fatal blow. Many tourists don’t want to walk along a dusty road with noisy traffic and instead are choosing to bus between key locations, just about turning villages that were once bustling to ghost towns.
For us, almost as soon as we hit the circuit, we left, following a path down a narrow valley into the restricted and rarely visited Nar-Phu region. This magical place is sometimes described as now being more Tibetan than Tibet* and Tim has been curious to discover its secrets since he passed this valley six years ago when he first came to Nepal.
…SEE NEXT POST FOR MORE…
*Sorry, the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.
NOTE: For anyone reading who is interested in more technical climbing, or crazy big adventures. If you are curious about Saribung Pass, or any of Tim’s Great Himalaya Trail trek, you can see more and contact him through the Facebook page ‘Great Himalaya Trail 2017’.