Chronicles of Annapurna circuit trek

Written by Donovan July 4, 2016 Category: Asia, Nepal Tags: , , , , , Comments
Day 1

From Kathmandu we took the morning bus to Besi Sahar which is the starting point of the trek. We had to carry our backpacks on our laps as the bus got more crowded and it was uncomfortable for us. We were not sure when the bus reached Besi Sahar as it was supposed to be the terminal, so we followed the bus until it reached near Bhulbule as there were also other foreigners in the bus. We realised it was difficult to get a jeep to Manang from Bhulbule, so we started trekking along the river and reached Bahundanda for the night. The owner of the guesthouse shared with us his experience of working in Johor Bahru, Malaysia for three years in an ice factory. He could even speak some Malay! He offered to let us sleep for free and we just needed to pay for the food. It was raining at night and the electricity got cut off, plus there were random insects flying around to my dislike. Despite the presence of a mosquito net, I still got bitten by mosquitoes.

 

Day 2

Our seach for the jeep continued. We had to walk down to Syange, past some corn fields before reaching the main road again. Due to our desperateness to get a jeep, we got one from Syange to Chamje which was quite a short distance but we were overcharged. The next jeep was from Chamje to Tal, but there was some landslide and the driver told us to walk until the next jeep terminus. The last ride was from Tal to Chame which took about 3 hours. Chame (2710m) is the headquarters of the Manang district. At the entrance to the village there is a large mani wall adorned with prayer wheels. There are also fine views of Annapurna II. I liked Chame and feel for its charms. We tried yak curry for the first time and a noodle soup called “thinduk”. It was delicious and since it was getting cold at night, the soup warmed us up.

 

 

Posing with children that I met in Manang
Day 3
From Chame we could choose between Upper or Lower Pisang before getting to Manang. Due to time constriants, we went with Lower Pisang which was relatively flat and also passed by the disused airport at Humde. They used to have flights from here to Pokhara, but after the availability of jeeps, they cancelled the weekly flights. For those with more time, choose to go through Upper Pisang because it offers much nicer scenery. We trudged into Manang (3540m) in the late afternoon, after passing by the picturesque village of Bragha (3470m). Bragha is a quieter village than Manang, and it has a very relaxed atmosphere. I started to develop some acute mountain sickness (AMS) when I reached Manang. I could not keep up with my friend and had some breathlessness. We explored the nearby ice lake but due to the global warming, the glacier has retreated a lot and we could not see much of it. My friend told me that I was even wheezing at night. In Manang, we stayed in a lodge where the owner has been to Singapore and he happily recounted the places in Singapore, such as Bugis where he used to run his business.
saying goodbye to my travel buddy
Day 4
My friend and I parted ways as he had to go back to Kathmandu to catch his flight back to Singapore. So my friend took a jeep down to Besi Sahar while I continued the Annapurna trek on my own.
For me, I wanted to go to Lake Tilicho which is the world’s highest lake and that meant a detour of 2 days. Unfortunately no one at Manang guesthouse was keen to join me as they felt it was too dangerous or they did not have enough time.
I was following the blue trail and suddenly got lost. I had gone up a steep ascent to the Tibetan prayer flags and after that could not find the path again. My original plan was to stay in Khangsa, there was a sign pointing down to Khangsa but no sign of any village. As it was 630pm and getting dark, the clouds were moving in quickly, so I decided not to take the risk and get lost further. I took shelter under some rock in my sleeping bag and survived the cold night with light drizzles (Chile Torres del Paine trekking déjà vu). I always have to survive the elements in the mountains whenever I go trekking. It was cold at night even with my sleeping bag and Malaysia airlines blanket. I could not wait for the day to get bright so that I can move on.
woke up to this view after sleeping in the open
Day 5
I woke up at 6am as it was already bright. I backtracked my way to the last trail marker and followed the upper path. I passed Shree Kharka and saw many young boys transporting building materials like wooden planks using their forehead and leg muscles.  Here I am carrying a backpack that weighs around 10kg and complaining, yet these people are carrying even more weight and trekking up in slippers only. There was one part where there was a landslide area. I was literally on all fours trying to crawl across the slope to the next ledge. Stones from above pelted down on me and generated a mini landslide, I guess the smell of death made me quicken my pace and crawl over to safety. It was the most dangerous pass that I’ve done so far. I arrived at Tilicho base camp around noon and rested there the whole day. It felt so good to have a proper bed. The food at the guesthouse was horrible though.
Lake Tilicho (4920m)
Day 6
We ascended to Tilicho lake with some new friends. It took 3h because the ascent was very steep. I thought I could get some breakfast at the lake but the guesthouse was closed. Luckily my kind friends offered me some oats porridge for breakfast and we enjoyed the awesome view. It was advised that we should go down by 2pm as there would be strong winds, so I made my descent around 1230pm as it was getting cold as well. Again I chose the wrong dish for dinner and the fried noodles with vegetables was way too salty for my liking.
Day 7
We started to descend at 7am to go back to the main circuit. One if our friends was still not feeling well so we went down slowly. We stopped for breakfast at Swee Kharka. Apparently the route that I took up to Tilicho base camp is the shortcut back to the main route. So I had done much more ascending than the rest. The landslide area was not so dangerous today because the rain from yesterday had helped to harden the stones and make it more stable. Think of how we add water to sand to build sandcastles.
We reached the outskirts of Yak khaka and I bid farewell to my friends as I pushed on to Letdar which is the next village. I aim to cross the Thorung la pass the next day and this would involve at least 8h of walking. I am faster walking on my own though.
The highest point of my life and on this trek
Day 8
I left Letdar after breakfast because I wanted to make it to the pass and get down to the next camp before it gets dark. It is not advisable to start trekking before 6am because there would be risk of getting frostbite. I arrived at Thorung la high camp around 11am and it was raining so I had to seek shelter in some guesthouse. Then I trekked up the next 500m and wanted to get some food, but there were no stalls open.
It kept raining more heavily so again I had to seek shelter in a disused wooden cabin. There was human waste on the ground and lots of litter which is disgusting. Two other men came in from the opposite direction and took a short rest too. After the rain subsided to a drizzle, I continued to the pass. It was another half an hour of panting and cursing before I finally saw the flag which said I had reaches 5416m. It was one of the defining moments of my life. There was no one else that I could ask to help me take photos so I set up my Singapore flag and took selfies. I spent about half an hour at the pass before descending as it was 3.30pm and it would take about her 2 hours plus to get to Muktinath.
However the trail down was very foggy and I could not go fast due to the steep slopes. There were mysterious blue container houses with workers doing some work. I reached Charbabu around 5.30pm and it was getting dark, so I decided to stay there for the night. At 4200m, it is the same altitude as Letdar. The “Hotel Paradise” is such a scam because they did not even provide blankets nor a shower, unlike the comfortable one that I had stayed in Letdar.
sunset in the valley, view from Charbabu
Day 9
I descended quickly to Muktinath which is a holy pilgrimage site for Hindus. I saw many Indians riding horses up to the temple complex.  Since it is a religious site, trekkers can’t stay there and can only stay at Ranipuwa which is another 10 minutes down. I wished I had trekked down the extra 1 hour because Ranipuwa seems like a more happening village. Then I went down to Kagbeni which is a beautiful Tibetan village which is the closest to lo mantang that we can get. There is a nice Buddhist temple and even yakdonalds! I had lunch of vegetable momo here. Then I went down further to Jomsom. None of the shopkeepers allowed me to stay for free even though it’s not a very nice town, so I took the public bus down to Ghasa. It was a really bumpy ride of 4h and was crowded with locals at the beginning. At one point, all the passengers even had to disembark because the bridge was too weak to support the heavy busload. We then went back on the bus after the driver crossed the wooden bridge. I shared a room with two other Nepalese guys in Ghasa who helped me to bargain for a local price.
view of Kagbeni from above
Day 10
Due to the downpour the previous night, some landslides occurred and we had to walk to the next village to catch the bus down. We walked to Dana with a few other villagers who also had to go to Beni. We started at 530am and walked for 3 hours to the next town where the bus was waiting. Then from Dana the bus took us to Beni. From Beni there were several options to get to Pokhara. The three of us shared a taxi as it was faster. It took 2h instead of the usual 4h by public bus along the mountainous roads again. I was so relieved when I finally arrived in Pokhara, but it was raining and I found my way to lakeside after bidding my new friends goodbye.

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