Education and mountaineering are in so many ways connected … both lead to a more peaceful way of life , more understanding and self awareness , and both have their own share of hurdles , challenges and summits to be reached , both are addictive , both are explorative.…
The Rotary Club has taken a huge and gigantic step towards its mission to eradicate illiteracy in South Asia, one of its Major project TEACH which stands for ‘Teacher empowerment, E-Learning, Adult-Literacy, Child Development and Happy school’ , is an initiative to eradicate Illiteracy from the face of South Asia.
Iquest Outdoor leadership and Adventure consultants one of the leading mountaineering Organizations took up this cause to spread awareness through the Annapurna Circuit Trekking expedition .
Below is an account on our trek which is rightly counted among the top 10 treks in the world.
Some circuits are complete only when there is a soul flowing in it . and when complete it creates a sense of enlightenment …
Such is the Annapurna circuit trek ……..
The mighty Himalayas offers life in all its forms , every aspect , every element is so positive , vibrant with diverse cultures , rituals , values ,
This circuit had been evading me for quite some time and we were in two minds on selecting the major trail for this season , until… I remember on a casual talk with Hemant that we decided that Annapurna circuit trek it is .
And with it started the preparations,
Hemant , Sabina and Yogita already having experienced in High altitude Himalayan expeditions were more then ready and eager for this expedition , For Varun it had been a dream to Trek in the Himalayas although an ardent nature lover he was always instrumental in promoting outdoors from his college days itself. It was to make a decision based on his work availability etc , Varun convinced Sri also residing in Dubai for whom too it was a not so difficult decision to make inspite ofholding major responsibilities at work
All the participants were leaders in their own respective professions,
Being a leader of this trekking expedition was a special occasion for me for many reasons . Hemant was the deputy Leader as he too had a lot of mountain experience .
An air of excitement at Iquest adventures as this was the first time we were organizing an expedition to the Annapurna region , Although Nepal is not new to us having organized many expeditions to the Everest Base camp since 2007…
Kathmandu the meeting point I would say the melting point as most tourists land here and disperse into thin air for some Himalayan indulgence ….
With Varun and Sri arriving from Dubai and Hemant , Yogita and Sabina arriving from Bangalore and Mumbai via delhi , and their flights separated by just about less then an hour , It became easy for me to receive them at the Airport with traditional garlands.
As is a norm with me to reach the base city a day or two in advance and look into some prior arrangements , this time too I was in Kathmandu 2 days before others arrived .
Thamel — about 20 minutes drive from the Airport , always hustling with activities , shops selling everything a tourist would need both services and goods , this tourist ghetto is most popular for expedition teams to stay and so did we ,
With so many restaurant options, cafes, most places offering free wi-fi , different variety of food to try from , one doesn’t take long for some global indulgence or local experience…
We take one day off before the trek starts so we can do final purchases required for the trek , and this involves running up and down the streets of thamel , bargaining , choosing the right material , ofcourse taking permits is also the important task for the day ,
With many restaurants playing live music we decided to choose one randomly for the dinner and we decide to hit the bed after our final packing and separating the dump kit that would remain in Kathmandu,
An early morning awaits us to start our journey , we head to Bishishahar from where we plan to take a local jeep to reach our first village sachi , it takes us a whole 8 hoiurs to reach this village , and we encounter some heavy rains , hail , during the jeep ride along the beautiful Marsyangdi River … we reach syange located at 1400 mtrs and stay there that’s the starting point of our trek ,
Chame to dharopani at an altitude of 1920 mtrs
At this point I would make a short mention on The LNT ( Leave No Traces ) principles
- 1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
2. 2 Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
4. Leave What You Find
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
6. Respect Wildlife
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Dharapani a beautiful village belongs to the Gandaki zone of Manang district.. it is the continuation of the trail that gradually climbs uphill…
Dharapani to Chame
We start this day with a gradual trek through forests and tree line towards chame
Chame is a unique village with distinct structures also the district head quarters of Manang .
Chame is at an altitude of 2630 Mtrs and this day we get stunning views of the Annapurna ranges , the snow clad peaks , the ridges give an extra pack of energy to move ahead .
Chame to Upper pisang – this day involves a relatively long trek of about 15 kms approx , gaining altitude gradually , Upper Pisang at an altitude of 3310 Mtrs has quaint old-school lodging and an active Tibetan Buddhist Monastery worth visiting for the Sunset and Sunrise chants. And an amazing spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and landscapes. Furthermore, the villages along the upper trail are full of character and the views along the trail are perhaps the best of the whole circuit , it takes a little extra effort to take this trail as there is an alternative trail to continue the trek , however I strongly recommend this trail and a visit to this place .. when there do try the Tibetan tea. .
Pisang to manang — at this point of the expedition we are getting into the High altitude zone which means managing acclimatization is the key, A few tips for proper acclimatization are as follows
- Hydrate properly
- Enough sleep during night and active during day
- Slow and gradual gain in altitude
- Enough rest and acclimatization days
- Checking health and look for symptoms in the initial stages itself .
- Good appetite, healthy food is very important.
- A very positive mental state is a must. Humor helps…
- Follow the basic rules ‘climb high sleep low ‘
The trek from Pisang to Manang is the continuation of the previous days trek similar terrain one can expect some snowfall or rain, so be prepared , the views change after every small distance
Manang is a lovely town and is well established to Himalayan standards, it has video parlors, Bakeries offering delightful bakery items ranging fro apple crumbles to pizzas, cakes and various english delights,
A place where the trekker gets a much needed break and gets ready for the second phase of the big expedition which is more tough and goes higher ,
Manang — this is a rest day and I recommend an acclimatization walk to the Lake and the high point we gain an altitude of about 100 mtrs and come back to our tea house , trekkers are adviced to drink lot of fluids , soups , etc . there is a health check up[ point , and the Himalayan association runs regular talks on High altitude awareness , one can alsop visit the museum there which showcases the local life style and a glimpse of its history and culture. .
Manang to Yak katka – Yak khatka is at 4200 mtrs a very tiny village and not a distant trail , it has only about 4 tea houses a few prayer wheels , but this could be an important stop considering acclimatization process and is advisable to stay over ….
Yak katka to torung phedi at this point we are on the snow line at 4500Mtrs thorung phedi which is the base camp for the final push to the pass , the short distance may take about 4 hours of trek , a narrow trail at places gets dangerous with falling stones and splinters , the trekkers are advised to be extra cautious during this trail , thorung phedi has a Helipad for emergency evac facilities . here we have an early lunch and followed by an early dinner and all move to our respective cabins to prepare for the early morning push the next day . a cold night awaits ….
Thorung la this is the longest and toughest day of this whole expedition , an extra layer of thermal wear , comes into play before sleep , and most warm gear are mainly for this days hike , head gear, gloves , wind stoppers , goretex, etc etc … the list is big …
We plan to wake up at 3 am get ready by 3:30 am have a cup of tea , pack cinnamon rolls and a few boiled eggs , fill the bottles with water, head-lamps light up our trail , and at 3:45 am we start our climb slowly and gradually a steep incline is negotiated and in about 3 hours we reach the high camp at 4850 mtrs … a small rest and we continue our trek landscape changes into a snow terrain , what looks like never ending sheet of snow laid of the mountains , sometime slippery , sometime shallow , sometime deep , many times funny and frustrating to many a hikers ….
Utmost care is to be taken while trekking in these terrains … with a focus on the highest point of thorung la we keep moving , slowly and steadily one step at a time , some trekkers complain of headaches , tiredness etc this is very common and the relief is after a while its just descend ,
The snow line remains for quite some time offering surreal views of the surrounding mountains , the formations , the clouds , everything falls in its own place very elegantly . although one is adviced to wear UV protection glasses to avoid over exposure to Glare from sunlight .
The Highest point at 5400 mtrs looks like a big relief there is a mark where one can pose for photographs tie Tibetan prayer flags take some rest it seems like the toughest part is over … but hang on. the descend is not yet over … the trek must go on … usually descend is more risky when compared to asends and more accidents happen while descends , my team descend slowly care is taken at the snow filled terrain as we do not use crampons and ice axe which is not needed here.
The descend is to an altitude of 3800 mtrs to Mukthinath a spiritual town which has the famous Muktinath temple considered as one of the holy pilgrimage by Hindus,
The town has many street vendors who sell Tibetan hand made jewelry , souvenirs , wollen shawls and warm clothes , Saligram a sacred black stone , apart from a couple of fancy restaurants which offer even free wifi facilities.
The temple visit is almost a must as this simple shrine holds major importance to Hindus it houses Vishnus deity , the 108 taps from which water falls around the temple is also considered sacred to take bath in .
Mukthinath to Tathopaani taking a vehicle ride is recommended for this stretch we go from Mukthinath to Jomsum by jeep , , take a bus to Ghasa and thereon change to another bus to Thatopaani , this bus ride was one of the most Bumpiest ride ever , and add to it heavy rainfall , we had a stone fall from the cliff and smash the windscreen of our bus , , the bus passes through some very scenic terrain we get to see the Annapurna ranges in all its glory , and the river below is always flowing along the narrow bus trail …
Thatopaani at 1200 Mtrs is famous for its Hot springs , tourists stay their for an extra day to enjoy a bath in the hot spring , we are in the Mastang district now ,
One of the holy Temples right after crossing the Thorung la
One of the most Bumpiest bus rides ever
Tathopani to Ghorepani a long day this covers a rich beautiful trail a steadily inclined path leads through various small villages , with children playing , fields , Huts and small tea houses offering refreshments , the stunning views are worth mentioning , a photographers paradise , a dreamers heaven ,
This trail passes through Ghara , Shika , Chitre among some of the prominent villages .
One gets to see a typical Mountain village life ,
If one has more days this trail can be broken down into two days as well .
Almost a 9 hours trek we reach Gorepani at al altitude of 2800 Mtrs … again to be received by a magnificent view of the Daulagiri ranges
Poon hill is a must visit High point in this trail , an early morning climb of 400 Mtrs from Gore pani , offers spectacle so enchanting that one gets into a deep mesmerism, the rising sun makes the mountain ranges very beautiful , the clear skies, the mix of Dusk shades on the distant ranges is worth a visit , the photographers love it ….
The beautiful terrain and the river that flows by almost thropughout the trail
Grorepani to Helay to Nayapul to Pokhara – The last day of the expedition is all about descending , there are steps , and at times it gets taxing on the knees, advisable to use walking sticks or hiking poles … as usual of this region the views are never ending it simply amazes one as we hike down hill through those many villages , the different shades of green , blues , the flowers , Fauna, birds , everything seems to have come together in a perfect synch .
We trek upto Helay and take a jeep to Nayapul and from there ride to Pokhara .
Pokhara is a silent city also called the adventure capital of Nepal , perfect to spend post trek days chilling out at its many restaurants , indulging in adventure activities , or just doing nothing and staring at the distant mountains over a cuppa hot tea.
During this trail we see many facets of Himalayan life , their culture , children, schools , some new schools coming up , newer hospitals and health care centers , the people who have lived there for generations and the visitors and trekkers like me and my team .
There is always some inner strength that drives a trekker to move ahead , this time it was the strong urge and desire from our group to raise awareness towards Rotary’s project on Literacy , lot of help is needed to make this dream come true … lot of hands must join together in driving many initiatives to make this region completely literate .
Mountaineering is a very indulging activity, and It becomes a big responsibility for every trekker or visitor to the mountains to be as responsible as possible and come back with nothing but only memories … one must remember that we have borrowed this from our future generations.
For people wanting to go on a trek in this trail they can contact sunand sampath at 9448476683 email firstname.lastname@example.org
A Travelogue by
Expedition Leader Rotarian Sunand Sampath