So there we were…making our way over Throng La Pass on our tenth day of trekking. A string of prayer flags blowing in the wind greeted us at the highest point on the hike at 17,870 ft.
Most people come to Nepal to see the biggest mountains in the world and trek through them, we were no different. With so many trails to choose from, picking a trek was difficult. In the end we chose the Annapurna Circuit for the diversity of scenery and culture, not having to backtrack as it is a big loop, and because the trail will be going through some negative changes in the near future. Everest Base Camp will have to wait until our next visit! The Annapurna Circuit, also know as the apple pie trail because of the abundance of apples trees along the route, is understandably the most popular walk in Nepal, passing through picturesque Buddhist villages with magnificent mountain views. Hiking everyday, it takes three full weeks to walk the entire path. The trail snakes through valleys and over mountain passes into the heart of the Nepali countryside.
Most of the small villages in the mountains are inaccessible by road and the trail is full of men grazing or moving goats/yaks and porters carrying heavy loads of supplies to villages. We spent 17 days on the trail tea-house trekking, as it is called, hiking to a new village and guesthouse each night. We were always welcomed with lots of smiles and a warm cup of tea.
Hiking with no guide or porter, we both carried in all our own gear and bags. Being our first long distance trek, we both packed recklessly and learned our lesson within the first few hours of the hike. Bunking up at our first guesthouse, we immediately met some people also just beginning the trek without a guide. A small group quickly formed and many of us hiked almost the entire trail together. It was wonderful to meet such great people and share the experience together.
The first few days we walked through thick lowland jungle following a raging river with dozens of magnificent, tall waterfalls streaming down the hillsides. In the distance you could see the tips of the white capped peaks, but they seemed out of reach. Winding deep back into the valley, it took us almost five days to uncover the first of our mountain views. Taking the more challenging upper route on the trail instead of the lower, we climbed steep switchbacks up to a small village overlooking the most amazing mountains we have ever seen. Walking along the ridge was one of the best views we got on the entire trip. We continued on for several more days before reaching Throng La pass, the highest point on the trek. Lucky for us, the pass stayed dry and the snow held off for us to cross on our tenth day.
Unfortunately, this trek will be changing over the next few years with the construction of a new road which will knock out several parts of the trail. Of course, this is a good thing for the people in many ways, but it is a shame in many others. Part of this road is already built and we chose to chop off three days of our hike and took a bus to avoid breathing the dust from buses and motorbikes. The conservation area plans on building new trails to offset the road, which we hope succeeds so one of the world’s classic walks isn’t destroyed.
All in all we walked roughly 130 miles and gained around 35,000 feet in elevation with ups and downs, which was not as easy as apple pie. The trek was bitterly cold at times and really tested our endurance, but it was by far one of the most amazing things we have done so far on this trip. Words really can’t describe hiking deep into the Himalayas to experience the Nepali culture first hand. The scenery is obviously why travelers come to Nepal, but the people are the reason they return.
- The great group of friends we met along the hike: Derrick and Aubrey from Texas, Sophie and Duncan from England, Ilan from Australia and Helan from Belgium
- Staying in all the small mountain villages where you really soak up the culture
- Watching the sunrise from Poon Hill – an amazing panoramic vista that gives sweeping views of the Annapurna Range
- Seeing three of the ten largest peaks in the world up close – Annapurna 1, Dhaulagiri and Manaslu
- Feeling fit from drinking no coffee or alcohol (except for a celebratory night after completing the pass) and eating no meat (except Jason’s Yak steak)
- Packing WAY to much stuff (almost 25 lbs each) that we had to carry on our backs – did Becky really need all those clothes and did Jason really think it was a good idea to bring War and Peace, the largest novel ever written?
- All the never ending stairs on our final two days of hiking, thousands going up and then thousands going down – our calves hurt for days
- The variety of food on the trek – the menu is nearly the same at each lodge (although the consistency never was, it was always interesting to see what would come out!) along the entire hike. We might have given up if we had to eat veg chowmein or dahl bat one more time