We're planning an Annapurna trek for November 2008 and would like advice from travellers about hiring guides, what to take, what conditions to expect and any other useful advice they are willing to impart. (NOTE: At this stage we're looking for travellers experiences only please - we don't want to hear from people touting for business).
If anyone has had good experiences with particular trekking companies, guides or guesthouses or has experience with preparing for such a trek (what sort of sleeping bags, jackets, etc. should we take?), then we'd love to hear from you.
Bob & Vik.
Sleeping Bags depend upon which trek are you going on. If you go for Annapurna Base camp, round Annapurna, you need a real good one down to - 20 for November. You can even buy or rent one in Nepal but the low quality one. Some agency include it in their service.
Trekking in Nepal involves lots of ups and downs. So pre exercises helps a lot. Cycling, hiking, jogging etc.
While planning Annapurna Trek, include atleast a day for excurtion in Pokhara. If you are travelling to Pokhara by road, you can even include a day or two's rafting trip. You can even plan Chitwan Jungle safari at t he end of your trek.
first, do not hire a guide. you totally don't need one. theres no way you can possibly get lost on the trek, and theres just no reason to hire one. on top of that, you will have to hang out with your guide the entire day and night. you can pick up advice from locals along the way if you have any questions. if anything, hire a porter.
as for teahouses, each village has a few, so pick the one you like. they're all pretty similar. and their cheap. but the food gets more expensive as you get more remote. bring a warm sleeping bag. it gets really cold at night.
the most important thing you should bring besides a sleeping bag is a headlamp.
you will be in shorts and t shirt the majority of the time except for four or five days. and those days will be cold. we brought zip off pants/shorts, long underwear, fleece pants and shirt, hat, gloves, raincoat and snowpants which we only wore one day but would have died without. a few people died when we were on the trek from altitude sickness. but it is completely avoidable.
anything you need you can buy in pokhara and kathmandu. there are tons of trekking shops.
I may be mistaken but I heard you are now REQUIRED to hire a guide. I may be wrong. In any case, it's a good idea to have a porter/guide as it will make your trek much more enjoyable... that is if you like your porter/guide. I did the circuit in spring 2006 and had a porter who helped carry some of my gear while I carried the other half + all my photo gear. Your porter can also act as your guide (or vice versa), but they will charge a little more. It's worth it. Hire a guide from a legitimate trekking company - NOT a freelance guy on the street. This is for your own protection and I HIGHLY recommend it. Photography was really much better when you are not carrying so much. Rent a nice cozy sleeping bag in Kathmandu or Pokhara, wherever you are starting from. Buy hiking poles/other gear there as well, including North Face knock-off gear. DO bring your own boots: You don't want to be breaking in boots on the trek! DON'T Buy sunglasses there unless you KNOW they are real. I saw a few people with sunburned eyes after going over the pass because they had fake sunglasses. Don't skimp on gear for your eyes, feet, or knees, and you will be ok. You WILL WANT trekking poles. It's a steep decent after the pass and your knees with thank you. I also brought my own jacket from home but got a fake North Face down vest in KMD and it was great. Used big garbage bags for rain gear and it was fine. Be Prepared for snow from Yak Karka all the way to Kalopani. Stay at Red House in Kokbeni and take a horse from Kokbeni to Jomson! It's a great experience and that portion of the trek is very flat and windy anyway.
BTW do NOT hire a porter named Shakti, or his friend Mala (AKA Sandeep). They are thieves and are wanted by the Nepali police.
Bob and Vik,
You will need to appreciate that what I am about say is somewhat out of date, and from the perspective of someone who - with my family - lived and worked in Nepal for over 7 years. I would always take a guide/porter with me. When we did the Annapurne Circuit in 1999 (with 2 daughters aged 12 and 14) our guide/porter was able to take us off the beaten track at points where the track had been destroyed by landslides, etc. It also meant that, apart from myself, we didn't all have to carry heavy loads - which made for far more enjoyable travel. They will also have a pretty good idea of which are the best lodges to use - these can range in quality and price. We were fortunate in that we spoke Nepali fairly well, so were treated 'better' than the run of the mill tourist trekers, so learning a bit of the language may help. You can get a fairly good 'Teach Yourself Nepali' course from Amazon for £20/25 ($40/50). Shops in Thamel have an astonishing range of equipment, as most expeditions sell their old gear on before leaving. Pokhara doesn't have the same range of gear and, as a result of the political unrest that has plagued the country for the past 6 or 7 years, Pokhara is no longer the centre for this kind of tourist it used to be.
Be prepared for large fluctuations in temperature. By day, you may well be walking in shorts and t-shirts; by night, you may be wearing your whole set of clothes!! By all means make sure that you have good walking boots/shoes, but be aware that the paths are oiften just that - well-worn paths rather than complex walking routes. In fact, I did almost the whole circuit in sturdy trainers - only wore my boots on the day we crossed the Thorung La pass.
Hope this is helpful. If necessary, I could probably put you in touch with some folk I know out there who might be able to give you some more up-to-date info.
By the way, which Annapurna trek are you planning on - Circuit, Base Camp, Jomson to Pokhara, ... ?
hi vik and bob
i was living in nepal for 6 months in 2003 and did all the annapurna treks. it is not nessecary to take any guide or porter but if you want to take at least a guide i can give you an email address from a very nice guide i met during trekking and became a frend of me. he is living in pokhara and do not hesitate to ask him about some remote treks. his name is Iman Sing Ghale,
may it helps