Circuit Days 1 - 9, Besishahar to High Camp
Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
135Trip End Ongoing
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The hotel in Pokhara had free bag storage so we packed up the night before and left at about 5.30am with our little day packs and pulled into Besishahar at around 11am.
We had to sign in with the local authorities, produce our permits and then we were ready. A short walk to the end of the town to a flight of small stone steps led to the beginning of our trek through the Annapurnas. Exciting!
I'm not an experienced trekker and I don't do much exercise anymore, so I did have a few reservations, if I would be able to cope with the amount of walking, if I'd get altitude sickness, if I'd enjoy it.
The first few km's were not inspiring. Just a wide dirt road. You can actually catch a bus now to the first town of Khudi, but we thought we'd be hard and walk. We had to remove our boots to cross the first river and all the girls out doing their laundry laughed! I felt more like a trekker after we'd crossed the first old, wobbly suspension bridge.
The scenery was beautiful. Very rural at first, of course, with terraces of freshly harvested rice, wheat, maize and other various wheaty looking things reaching far up the steep slopes of the mountains. The first day was really hard towards the end as we'd stupidly had no lunch and the climb up to the hotel was a very, very steep killer but the shower was the best. I knew these would be few and very far between, so I made the most of it. The villages we passed through were lovely and although basic, very geared towards the tourist trekking trade with every second place being either a hotel, a shop or a restaurant. All the hotels are also very basic structures, with no heating in the bedrooms, a lot of the time no electrcity or hot water and all serving pretty much the same fare. So generally we were eating porridge for breakfast, fried potatoes with vegies or fried rice with vegies for lunch and chowmein, dal baht or potato curry for dinner. Everything they can't produce themselves has to be carried in as there is no vehicle access so anything out of the ordinary is a little more expensive. At least you know the vegies are home grown! We even watched our dinner being plucked from the ground in some places.
As soon as the sun went down everyday, around 3pm, it was freezing. I had to wear both thermal tops, my microfleece and fleece plus my thermal pants, trousers, beanie and gloves. That was one of the hardest things - the cold nights and mornings. It made getting out of bed VERY, VERY hard. All the water is solar heated too, so not inviting.
The higher we climbed, the colder the nights/mornings got (of course). But the days were gorgeous. Clear blue skies, warm sunshine and stunning landscapes. We stopped often to rest and just take it all in. Sometimes I just turned circles Wow-ing. The locals are a hardy bunch though. Their clothes didn't look half as warm as my pathetic efforts. The kids all ask for pens and chocolates. We didn't have any. All the information regarding the trek and signs on entering the circuit request visitors not to encourage begging. Everyone is pretty friendly though and we said plenty of 'namastes'. One major danger I found were the bloody pony trains carrying supplies up the mountains. If you're on the wrong side, they just push you right off the edge!! You don't want to get caught in the middle either. Our fear was getting shat or pissed on. Their farts are pretty deadly too and hang around for ages.
We were told to expect Maoists and that they were charging $15 per person to pass. We'd also heard conflicting stories about their level of tolerance to those who put up a fuss. Luckily we didn't encounter any but there were a few painted signs around confirming their existence and a couple of villages had painted notices devoted to Marxism, Leninism and Maoism. Even on a school wall!
There was day after day of beautiful mountains and countryside. We walked through all different terrains. Pine forests, rhodedendrum forests, jungle type bush, dust, dirt,mud, rocks then up to the harsh scrub at altitude. We even saw monkeys! Like I've said though,the hardest thing for me was the cold. Generally the dining rooms were not heated so we froze whilst waiting for dinner time and then froze whilst eating breakfast. Some dining rooms had wood stoves which they lit after sunset so we froze until then and we got little tins with hot coals under the tables in some places.
I had to wash clothes outside in the icy mountain water. It's the kind of cold that makes your hands ache. God knows how they wash their blankets and heavy stuff in the rivers!
In Manang we climbed a slippery snowy trail to see a glacier and ate yak burgers and yak cheese. In a place called Yak Karka we got to see the producers of these fine products - Yaks. Huge furry beasts with horns. They don't look too friendly.
The first few days we passed others tourists on the track or they passed us but we could walk for almost the whole day without seeing another trekker. But when we reached Manang on day 6 everyone seemed to have bunched together and soon there was a massive pack. Bit of a shame but from what we've heard, that was nothing compared to high season when you have to fight for accommodation.
I struggled on day 9 towards High Camp. I'd had a headache in the morning and the climb was quite difficult in a long and engergy sapping kind of way. There were a couple of nasty uphills that I practically crawled up. We stopped at Base Camp for lunch and a rest before climbing the very steep, gravely, switchbacks to High Camp. That was not a pleasant day.
High Camp was freezing. Everyone crowded into the sun spots and moved with it until it finally fell behind the peaks and then we all moved into the dining rooms hoping for some kind of warmth. They lit propane cylinders under the tables. Although we were all thinking about the actual safety aspects of having an exposed flame underneath a wooden table on a wooden floor in a wooden and stone building, we were all acceptionally grateful for our little exposed flame. When it went out everyone cleared off to bed and the warmth of sleeping bags and extra sherper blankets. I scored us two blankets each. Everyone else only got one.
We'd walked about 106 km by this stage. Only maybe another 120 km to go and we begin by walking over one of the highest passes in the world tomorrow.
Have I mentioned how disguisting the conditions were up there? Both squats were completely horrible, although the wooden one with a little nugget hanger was far better than the other slimy concrete one that stank and had used paper lining the rear. The wooden one was also preferable to the minefield outside. Plenty of trekkers before us had chosen to plop outside - EVERYWHERE! Behind everything, the chortens, the buildings, even out in the open, were piles of shit. It was bad.