The Annapurna Circuit is an easy but variegated trek that circumvents the Annapurna massif. This region of the Himalayas is home to Annapurna I (the tenth highest mountain at 8091 m) and the other Annapurnas (II to IV). When trekking around the massif there are good views of Manaslu (8156 m) in the Mansiri Himal to the east and the superb snowscapes of Dhaulaghiri (8167 m) to the west.
In October 2014, around 40 people got killed in an unexpected snowstorm, and so it was with a little trepidation that I kept to my original plan to hike solo, i.e. without a guide. In Pokhara I spent several days shopping for some warm clothing: thermal underware, a down jacket and a sleeping bag. This, together with some underware, shirts, rain jacket and toiletries, fitted nicely in my 40 litre backpack. Next I bought a 1:100,000 map of the Annapurna region and several strips of water purification tablets. A trekker I met in my hostel gave me a dented water bottle, some trekking poles and a beanie. The poles, my flip flops and the water bottle I strapped on the outside of my backpack. All my gear together weighed roughly eight kilograms.
The shoes I had brought with me to Nepal were low shoes and not waterproof. According to the manufacturer they were suitable for good paths, parks and daily walks... Eventually I decided against buying trekking boots because most of those for sale in Nepal are cheap counterfeits and they had to be broken in as well. Neither did I buy gloves: good ones are really expensive and the cheap ones are bulky woollen things that would make up too much room in my tiny backpack. If I would encounter cold weather I would put some spare socks on my hands…. Annapurna was famously first climbed by Maurice Herzog who lost his gloves near the summit and subsequently lost all his fingers as well because of frostbite. He also lost most of his toes, although exact numbers of lost digits by Herzog are hard to come by on the internet… Then again: Herzog summited the mountain whereas I was merely going to walk around it.
The Annapurna Circuit is a so called Tea House trek which means that all along the route there is lodging available, obviating the need to carry a tent and food.
Day 1: From Pokhara I took an early morning bus to Besi Sahar where I started walking to Ngadi along the road.
Day 2: Ngadi to Jagat
During the day I passed vistas of medieval argriculture. Men were threshing sheaves of rice in the fields and women were winnowing the grain in clouds of chaff, it was nearly the end of the harvest season. A small boy with a reed was dancing around three cows that stoically turned around a pivot, threshing the … whatever they were threshing. I am no scholar in medieval agriculture.
Day 3: Jagat to Bagarchap
Day 4: Bagarchap to Chame
Fine views of Manaslu in the east, the eighth highest peak in the world.
Day 5: Chame to Upper Pisang
Upper Pisang looked utterly Tibetan and it seemed to signify the change of predominant Hindu to Tibetan Buddhism culture. This change goes together with a a marked change in the climate which seems to be much dryer. The fields were dusty and arid. Towards the evening boys were herding droves of goats back to the the village. I had a look at the village gompa, but I found it closed.
Day 6: Upper Pisang to Manang
This day started with a steep ascent to Ghyaru where a scruffy gang of pilgrims was circumambulating a chorten. I drank milk tea and bought some lovely yak cheese and watched the religious fervour. After I had finished my tea the pilgrims were still walking around the chorten and I left them at their devote task.
To be continued…