Tropical weather, dusty roads, palm trees all around... what a different side to trekking in the Himalayas, must love the Annapurna region!

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April 7th 2013
Published: May 7th 2013
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D1 – Kathmandu to Bandipur

Just like on the Everest Base Camp trek my Annapurna Circuit trek started with an organisational meeting the day before. Again the majority of people in my group were Aussies – 5 out of 9, add to it an American, Chinese, German and a Pole (that would be me of course) and you get quite a mixture of nationalities and cultures. Looked like a nice bunch of people from the very beginning so was very happy with that especially that we would be stuck with each other for the next three weeks. 😉

No trekking on the first day, we just hopped on a bus and set off for Bandipur. On the way we stopped for lunch at an Intrepid rafting place on Trisuli river. I was glad I did my rafting on Bhote Kosi rather than Trisuli as the river looked veeeery calm. I was still trying to figure out our guide as he seemed to be a bit tense – definitely got a better vibe from Ashok on the Everest trek from the very beginning… Ah well… He did seem nice, was just a bit stiff, maybe he just needed a bit of time to warm up to our group? We would find out soon enough I guess…

We got to Bandipur and went for a short walk up the hill. Everybody was laughing at me as I was the only one walking in sandals. 😊 Well they did say that it was going to be only a short walk right? Besides there were plenty days ahead of me involving my ‘beloved’ hiking boots so it sure was good to let my feet rest for one more day. On the way up I saw a couple of people walking in sandals as well, so I guess I wasn’t the only weirdo around. 😉

Bandipur sure is a lovely little village. All around you see older men wearing traditional hats and women dressed up in typical Newari clothes. The pace of life seemed to be much slower in here as well. Since we had a bit of free time before dinner, I treated myself to some ice-cream and sitting in one of the cafes watched the people around me. Suddenly the street became full of kids of different nationalities. They were marching hand in hand in the middle of the street – I overheard they were all on a school trip from an international school in Kathmandu. They became quite a centre of attention as everybody passing them by just couldn’t help but stop and smile – so cute! And then the next moment some local kids started chasing one another and playing all sorts of games just in front of our guesthouse. There was one little girl that caught my attention though – she was sitting right at the doorstep of our guesthouse and was shyly looking at the other kids and smiling to herself once in a while as if trying to decide whether to join them or not. It was just heart-warming! Little cutie! Finally she got the courage and with a huge smile on her face ran up to the other kids to play with them as well. You could just sit there and watch the kids for a good while – so much laughter and happiness spreading all around them and no toys involved just each other’s company was more than enough for them to have some fun… Really sweet...

We had a choice of two places for dinner (both belonging to the same person of course) – buffet (650 rupees) or menu (400) – both quite pricey actually…. So eventually the group split in two - well that's what happens if you have too much choice on your hands, decisions, decisions... 😉. Our guide, Prem, joined us for a moment for a little chat… We asked him what would be his usual dinner and he said dhal baat of course but sometimes baat dhal as well. I didn’t catch the joke at the very beginning as was still getting used to his accent, but then looking at his grin it got to me after a while… I knew there was more to him then this tense guy we saw in the morning… It sure looked like the trip would only get better with time – we just needed to get to know each other a little bit more!

D2 – Bandipur to Ngadi Bazaar (930m)

Right after breakfast we set off by bus to Besi Sahar. At this point everybody was anxious to leave the bus and start trekking as that was the main reason behind this trip after all right? The journey went by very quickly though and soon enough we were putting on some sunscreen and about to start our trekking adventure. The trek started very differently to the Everest Base Camp one already – not only we were starting our walk at a much lower altitude but it was also much warmer in here (not to say it was pretty damn hot actually!). It was definitely over 25C and quite humid as well. Wasn’t really sure what was worse – walking in freezing temperatures or in tropics? Well I sure didn’t appreciate the sweating… Ah well… once it’s too cold you want it to be hot… or the other way around! Love hot weather though so a few drops (or maybe more like buckets!) of sweat wouldn’t be that bad… 😉 There is a new road that was built only a few years ago next to the trail, so many people skip the first few villages and start trekking a bit further. There is almost no traffic on the road though, so none of us minded walking on the road – it is a dirt road though, so even though only a few tractors and trucks passed us by that day, the colour of our skin changed a bit throughout the day taking on a lovely dusty shade of brown. 😊 We stopped for lunch in Khudi – crossing the suspension bridge to our lunch place was a bit of fun as the bridge was made of wooden planks rather than the usual metal ones, not to mention that many of them were very uneven, some loose, and quite a few even missing… A small adrenaline rush on the first day of trekking, so exciting! 😉

Despite the humid weather, it was a nice, gentle trek that day. We were passing by small Newari villages and fields along the way. Just before we were about to reach our destination that day, a little girl ran to me, grabbed my hand and started saying something in Nepalese – she seemed to have appeared out of nowhere as there were no houses or people around. Then looking at me with her big eyes, she started repeating: ‘Sweet? Chocolate?’. I felt really bad for not having anything with me to give her as she sure did look like she needed more than sweets – all dirty and her clothes have seen better days as well, way too small and torn a bit here and there… I felt really sorry for this kid, but then if I did have some sweet with me and gave it to her, wouldn’t that make things only worse? Aren’t the tourists contributing to children learning to beg for food this way? I say everybody has a different opinion on this matter and I definitely don’t want to create more trouble for the people around here, but seeing the conditions some people live in around here and passing by all these kids asking you for sweets it sure is difficult to say no to them… That’s actually another big difference about trekking Annapurna and Everest as on the latter one I never really heard any of the kids asking for anything and they were gladly posing for photos just to be able to see their faces on the camera screens, while in Annapurna region from far away you hear kids screaming for sweets and chocolates, I even heard a few asking for rupees! But then since they keep asking for it, they must be getting it from somewhere… Really sad…

This night we stayed in a lodge just at the entrance to Ngadi. It had a nice garden and was set just next to the river. Pretty basic rooms (with walls made possibly of paper as they were so thin 😉) and bathroom, but still a very charming place. This time dinner altogether. 😊

D3 – Ngadi Bazaar to Bahun Danda (1,310m)

Even though it was going to be a short walk that day we had an early breakfast and set off just before 9am, mostly to avoid the heat! It proved to be impossible task as it was pretty hot since 8am already, the sun fully on! And it was quite humid again as well… Even though we had clear blue skies and some beautiful landscapes all around, no mountains visible at this point yet… I was surprised to see the trail was marked with ‘Polish flags’ along the way – every now and then on the stones, trees, fences or electricity poles you could see white-and-red marks totally resembling my flag, I was laughing that at least I wouldn’t get lost on the trail as my flag would surely show me the way! 😉 But then I believe in general it could be difficult to get lost around here as we passed quite a few signs directing us to Manang along the way.

Again it was a very pleasant walk through the fields and little villages. This time we were passing by different ethnic group – Gurung people, meaning other types of traditional costumes. I just loved one older couple that we walked next to along the way, especially the granny – she had a huge dark pink scarf wrapped unusually around her head and a matching long dress to go with it, a big gold piercing in her nostrils and a lovely necklace to finish it off. And her face was so wrinkled that it sure was telling a story of its own… As easy as it is to make photos of kids around here, it’s not the same with adults though. I definitely don’t want to offend or disrespect anyone and since the lady didn’t seem to be too interested in our group I just didn’t dare to ask if I could make a picture. Ah well… I sure still see her face in my head though… One of a kind!

When we arrived at our lodge I almost looked as I just took a shower – so not used to this heat! It wasn’t even noon when we got there so it sure was going to be a long day – lots of reading, quick laundry, reading again and then… some more reading, yep! A very diverse afternoon! Almost forgot! I also had a chance to taste my first apple pie here. It was basically Tibetan bread filled with apples, cinnamon and some chocolaty paste – I say not a bad start! 😊 In the afternoon it became very dark and cloudy quite suddenly actually. There were even a few lightenings and thunders as well. It sure looked like a storm was coming. It rained only for a moment though but soon after the visibility got a bit better and we were actually able to see the first snowy peaks! They just seemed to have appeared out of nowhere! We asked Chandra, one of the assistants, how high these mountains were, he only said: ‘These hills? They are only just above 4,000m!’ Alrighty… Hills then… I wondered whether our mighty European Mont Blanc would be considered a hill than as well? 😉

Even though it seemed like a long day – as can’t really remember just sitting around and doing nothing but reading half a day, it sure was good to have one of these easy days though as from now on we would be trekking 6h per day (at least!). But then it was time to see some proper mountains, not 'hills' only, so we were all looking forward to trekking the next few days!

D4 – Bahun Danda to Chamche (1,430m)

The lodge we were staying at that night was full of people, so we knew it would be an early morning for everyone and we sure were right as at 5.30 it was pretty loud all around (and somehow the paper walls didn’t stop the noise 😉). So no more sleeping since then, but then I guess 8 hours of sleeping should be enough right? 😉

We left Bahun Danda straight after breakfast. You could see some people working on the fields at this time already. I’m just amazed how some of the women dress around here. It seems as if they were wearing their best outfits while running daily errands – whether they were carrying some heavy loads, working the fields, taking care of their households, they always wore beautiful, colourful dresses and even some jewellery to go with it as well! I can see myself already hoovering in my best outfit, haha! Again we passed quite a few kids asking for sweets that day, some even demanding it – ‘Give me sweet!‘ sure doesn’t sound like a polite request… Ah well… All you can do is smile and pass them by… makes you feel pretty sad though…

It wasn’t as humid that day as the previous ones, so definitely it was more pleasant to walk. We were walking through a beautiful countryside again, passing by wheat and rice fields along the way as well as few waterfalls here and there. Once we crossed the river we were back on the main road again. Except one crazy jeep that we heard approaching before we could even see it, no cars at all. Not sure why people are complaining about this road… Well, I guess you can't satisfy everyone at the same time… We stopped for lunch in Jagat, just in time it would seem, as the moment we got to the restaurant It started raining. I had a bit of a dilemma whether to eat apple pie again, but decided to leave it for later. Decisions, decisions again... 😉 It sure was best to build up in strength and eat some proper food first, besides there is always time to build up on calories right? 😉

Thankfully it stopped raining when we were leaving Jagat, so we continued our walk through the beautiful Marsyangdi gorge. Then a short climb through a tropical-like forest (well as long as there are palms and bamboos around, it sure does look tropical to me!) and soon after a huge waterfall appeared right in front of our eyes and it looked like we were staying at a lodge right in front of it. Lovely spot! Again we made it here just before the rain or more like a downpour! As it was lashing like crazy and it didn’t look like it was going to stop anytime soon, so we were just wondering what we were going to wake up to in the morning…

D5 – Chamche to Dharapani (1,860m)

So there it was! I just couldn’t resist and ordered an apple pie for breakfast – with chocolate for that matter (it just had to happen sooner or later!)! 😊 Honestly not sure where this craving came from, I sure do like cakes and all, but this was becoming quite an obsession! Hmmmm… Everybody was laughing at me of course, but I say they were just jealous about my order. 😉 The pie was pretty nice, even though it seemed to be more of a chocolate with apple pie rather than the other way around, I’m convinced there could’ve been half a jar of nutella-like chocolate on that pie, anyhow… sure was good! 😊

With the extra sugar in my body, I was more than ready for another day of trekking! And the skies were clear again, just perfect! We walked through a narrow trail next to the river passing by some waterfalls on the way again – a small rainbow appeared on one of them, what a beautiful sight that was! The trail wasn’t that flat anymore as much of it was ascending throughout the day, but the landscape seemed to be changing the further up we went, so no complains at all… and only a few short breaths along the way… 😉 Once we entered Manang district it definitely felt as we were crossing into another place as the surroundings were just stunning! Starting with the first village on the way – Tal with some very unusually colourful buildings (I say some combinations of colours simply shouldn’t be put together, but somehow they seemed to be working well together around here). Also I have to say that I had one of the bets meals in Nepal in this little town – pumpkin/potato/veg curry with corn bread. Absolutely delicious! While we were waiting for our meal Chandra found a guitar somewhere and played a song for us. Moment after Eric and Scott took over and it turned out we had a pretty talented people in our group as they both played the guitar and sang very well indeed! And what a pleasure it was to sit around the table with a bunch of lovely people and listen to some music while waiting for your meal. At some point I felt I was getting a bit emotional, not really sure why, I guess the music, surroundings and the people around me just made me look back at the previous months again. Cause in the end you really don’t need much to be happy, just need to open your eyes a bit, enjoy the moment and grab the chances that actually might be laying in front of you. But then I guess my upcoming birthday might have had something to do with that as well – this strange feeling again… you’re getting older and still no clarity as to where you are going or what you want to do with your life… Ah well… Thankfully the food came soon so had a chance to concentrate on eating instead. 😊

After lunch, with full bellies, we set off for another 2 hour walk to Dharapani. Once again following the river we walked right into a deep canyon. Absolutely incredible surroundings! And it was only to get better the next few days… Really amazing part of the world we found ourselves trekking in! When we got to our lodge it was absolutely full, so straight away I thought – forget about the hot shower! But surprisingly the water was steaming hot – nice! Especially appreciated that as had a strange feeling that this might be the last hot shower before the pass… Ah well… nothing beats hygienic wipes right? 😉

D6 – Dharapani to Chame (2,670m)

What a strange feeling it was to wake up somewhere in the middle of the Himalayas on your birthday! No relatives, no close friends around… hmmm… Still I didn’t feel I was alone at all! As emotional as I was the previous day, these feelings seemed to be gone the moment I opened my eyes! I actually felt really happy! After all I had a lovely bunch of people around me, it looked like it was going to be a nice, sunny day, I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world, why on earth wouldn’t I feel happy? It sure was nice that everybody wished me happy birthday in the morning and on top of that Prem mentioned that there was going to be a cake in the evening as well, my smile couldn’t get any wider I’d say! 😉

The morning was pretty chilly but once the sun showed its face above the hills, we knew it was going to be another hot day. We walked along the river on the main road for a good while and then we were off to a narrow trail again ascending through the forest (we knew there was going to be a bit of climbing that day as after all we had to ascend 1,000m somewhere along the way!). Some beautiful views that day again! We saw Annapurna II for the first time as well and Manaslu! Just amazing, some 'proper' mountains finally!

When we got to Chame, which is Manang’s district headquarters (surprisingly as I would've expected it to be Manang itself?), everybody spread around to get some supplies for the next few days – the important stuff like Snickers bars and all that is… 😉 I also went in search for some wi-fi. There was one place with wi-fi but it turned out to be pretty expensive, ah well… it was my birthday after all, so decided to give it a try after all and check my emails at least… 😉

Later on had a pretty cold but at the same time adrenaline rushing shower – as while I was showering I saw a huge spider walking on the ceiling, just on top of my clothes, but the next minute it was gone, so it was lots of fun checking all my clothes later on, making sure there was no surprise waiting for me anywhere… yep! Not a big fun of spiders! And then it was dinner time already. We were told to wait a while after we ate our meals, hmmm… I wonder why… 😉 Soon after the lights in the dining area were turned off and all the guides and porters walked in with a cake singing ‘Happy Birthday’. Once I blew all the candles, each of the guys from our crew wished me happy birthday individually and put a scarf around my neck. The owner of the guesthouse (at least that’s who I think she was) also came to wish me happy birthday and also gave me a presie – a woolly hat! Got a lovely card from my buddies as well! I was really touched! People who barely knew me made such an effort for me… Really sweet! It sure was a great birthday! But it looked like it wasn’t the end of the day yet as soon after the boys put the music on and some serious Nepali dancing started – main performer: Chandra! The guy sure had a lot of energy. Soon I, Eric and Scott as well as other guides, porters and even two girls from the kitchen joined in and the party started. I say there was more laughing than dancing as we tried to follow Chandra’s moves which proved to be simply impossible, so started inventing our own ones. It sure was fun! With this positive accent we called it a night! I definitely can say that none of my other birthdays looked anything close to that one! Great day it was! Big thanks to all involved! You sure made my day! 😊

Additional photos below
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7th May 2013

Teaching the kids to beg
We agree with you that it is best not to keep this going. But, it is such a hard decision. You've proven those boots are made for hiking.
8th May 2013

It sure is very hard to see the kids like this... and as for the boots, they are on the way back home now, they did the job, but just can't really look at them anymore at this stage! ;) Thanks!

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