Regardless of all the hype, the Annapurnas somehow still managed to exceed both Katherine and my expectations. Our 29 days of trekking proved to be nothing short of spectacular. Despite recent road building, the Annapurna Circuit remains one of the world’s greatest treks: a truly epic hiking destination surrounded by innumerable snow-capped peaks. A plethora of ‘tea houses’ in the villages en route offer decent food and hot showers ensuring that this is anything but hardship trekking!
After departing Bhubhule we soon left the road behind and slowly climbed up the Marsyangdi River towards Pisang and some of the best views on the entire circuit. We fell in love with the quaint Buddhist village of Braga and ended up staying at the New Yak tea house for three nights before finally rousing ourselves to move on! After passing through Manang (where Katherine visited the Himalayan Rescue Association doctors to get some medicine for her cold and hacking cough) we ploughed through a snow storm to reach Thorung Phedi Camp at 4500m. After a cold night we were greeted by idyllic conditions and a picture-perfect day for the long climb over Thorong La and down to Muktinath. It was hard work slogging over the 5400m pass, but the views were incredible and well worth the effort.
After detouring to Kagbeni at the entrance to the restricted Upper Mustang Valley, we slowly descended along the Kali Gandaki River taking numerous detours along the way to avoid the Jomsom road and visit hilltop gompas (monasteries). We spent a rest day in the apple-growing village of Marpha where we celebrated the one-year anniversary of our South African wedding celebration before making our way to Tatopani and climbing up an exhausting 1900m in 24 hours to reach the famous view point atop Poon Hill. We then met up with family in Gandruk for the week-long ABC trek into the Annapurna Sanctuary. Annapurna Base Camp, surrounded by an amphitheatre of high snowy mountains, is difficult to describe and words fail to do justice to this special area … it’s an incredible place with views to die for stretching up towards the heavens on every side!
After 29 days of trekking we descended (narrowly avoiding a monstrous hailstorm) to Pokhara where we could enjoy some well-deserved steaks and cold beer. We learned that on our lengthy walk our cumulative ascent was equivalent to climbing Everest from sea level – twice! No wonder we felt a little tired and like we had really earned our first beers in over a month!
Next on the itinerary is a white-water expedition down the Karnali River in Nepal’s wild west, followed by four days of luxury at Tiger Tops lodge where we go in search of rhinos and tigers before returning to Kathmandu and moving northeast to Everest. We can’t wait for May and the chance to get stuck into the next exciting chapter of our Nepal adventure!