Trekking The Great Annapurna Circuit, Nepal Part I

The Annapurna Circuit Trek is one of the greatest hikes in the world with amazing views of the Himalaya’s Annapurna Massif, the opportunity to trek in two different river valleys of Nepal, the Marshyangdi and Kali Gandaki.

Experiencing different climates from sub tropical to literally touching the Tibetan Plateau, topping it off with an ascent of the highest point of the trek, the Thorung La Pass at 5416 meters. As well, seeing and interacting with the people of several different cultures and villages that dot the valleys.

Our timing for the trek was perfect starting on the biggest day of the country’s most important festival of the year Dasai, usually falling sometime in October. The festival celebrates the God Durga with the theme of good conquering evil and culminating with almost every family sacrificing an animal, in most cases a goat, as part of the celebration. Rituals and prayers take place before the final sacrifice but we didn’t stick around to watch.

Another tradition of the Hindu festival is constructing a swing in the village for children that’s used only during the celebration.

Along the path we came across a small herd of lucky goats that appeared to have dashed the sacrifices for this year’s festival.

Our first stop was lunch in Bhulbhule, a small village with a population of just over 3000 that sits below views of Mansalu, the 8th highest mountain in the world at 8163 meters. These days many trekkers take a bus all the way to Bhulbhule to make this town their starting point of the Annapurna Circuit. It’s still very warm during the day at 840 meters elevation so we could enjoy the scenery and lunch in short sleeves next to the Marshyangdi River.

Shortly after leaving the village we were hit with a huge downpour of rain so we stopped over in a little hut to avoid a drenching.

When we finally got moving again we came across a giant new dam funded by the Chinese government. A construction flag marking the spot as a Chinese project was visible from the trail.

An investment of this size is very helpful to local residents with steady work for many but it is definitely changing the landscape of the Annapurna Circuit Trek. Less and less of the original trail exists, replaced by roads that now take people and goods all the way to Manang, the last big village before crossing the Thorung La Pass.

This region is considered subtropical and there’s lots of scenery to enjoy from beautiful terraced rice paddies to traditional villages.

One highlight of trekking Annapurna are the frequency of villages allowing for plenty of comfortable stops for tea breaks and more opportunity to gaze at beautiful rice terraces and fruit trees.

To get from one village to another most of the people of the area walk so it’s not uncommon to run into villagers especially along the old trail. One of the reasons why I insisted we stayed on this route as much as possible.

On a good portion of the trail there’s plenty of company from the Marshyangdi River. And lots of village life to observe. Like some local villagers involved in a traditional Nepali gambling game. Hari my guide pronounces the name for me.

We continued on our way to Chamche where we’d spend the night. Still more little villages along the way with dramatic waterfalls made the long day of trekking seem like a short hike.

Finally we arrived in Chamche, where the village was preparing for their final night of celebrating Dashai, with dancing and singing performances.

The next morning we were ready to go by 8am with a new plan of just a 2-3 hour trek to the village of Thal. I had come down with a cold so we decided it was best to try to rest while we were at a relatively low altitude before trekking into the higher villages of the region in Manang District. Still sticking with the old trail as much as possible to keep the trek as close to the original route.

After walking for a couple of hours we reached the gate that marks the entrance to Manang District.

Thal is a wonderful little village and we had the pleasure of staying in a perfect guesthouse, with super clean rooms, attached bathrooms and great food. I spoke with the owner Guru about the tragic trekking accident that happened on the Annapurna Circuit around the same time the previous year and how such disasters can be avoided. As well, Guru gave us some background on the village.

After chatting with Guru we started back on the trail with a little stop to enjoy another waterfall just outside of the village. The next few moments were terrifying and proof that accidents happen quickly and without notice.

Join me next time on Far East Adventure Travel for more of trekking Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit.

About the Author John Saboe

I am a broadcaster, photographer, writer and videographer with a passion for travel throughout Asia. I love making connections and engaging with people. I am spiritual and seek adventure wherever I go.

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