Before we even set foot in Nepal, our goal was to trek for several days. Like many, we had heard about the special atmosphere, beautiful landscapes, etc. In short, we couldn't wait for it.
Once there, our choice was soon the trek of the Annapurna (Everest it will be when we will have mounted in skills and equipment).
The Annapurna trek is one of the best known and one of the most popular in Nepal. Considered one of the most beautiful in the world, it is located in the center of the Himalayas. It requires much less training and equipment than the rise of Everest making it accessible to almost everyone. But beware, it requires a lot of effort and will !
The trek is 200 km long and climbs up to 5416m with the famous passage that characterizes it : Thorung la Pass. We can't say that it is nothing, and we are very proud to have succeeded !
We wanted to do it with a small sporting challenge, to understand how to make good days of walking and especially by carrying our bags ourselves. We also did it without a guide.
Through this article, we share with you the stages of our trek, namely that they do not act as absolute truth, because they change according to each, your pace, your desires, etc.
For complete trekking advice, be it organization, equipment, budget, security, etc. We advise you to read the other article that we made :
Read also : How to organize a trek in Nepal ?
The stages of the Annapurna trek :
Day 1 Pokhara - Bhulbhule (840m) :
We leave Pokhara in the middle of the day, like many, we spend this first day in transport. After a few hours, thrown on all sides, we arrive in Besi Sahar, where some begin the trekking, as the night has already fallen, we continue to Bhulbhule a few kilometers away to get a good start the next day and especially, this will prevent us from walking on the side of the road.
We are less than a thousand meters above sea level, and already, we feel the nocturnal freshness of the mountains. All wrapped in our vests, we spend our first night in a lodge to discuss with the Nepalese family that makes us taste the roxy - local artisanal alcohol. We don't go to bed too late, because tomorrow the trek starts with it, a day of walking.
Day 2, Bhulbhule (840m) - Jagat (1300m), 7 hours of walking :
After a light breakfast, we leave for our first day of walking with the goal of walking 16 km. Each step brings us ever higher, and we already see the changed landscape. The vegetation is dense, and we pass our 1st suspended bridges. We are not going to lie, this first day is hard , especially for me, I find it difficult to harmonize with my backpack and my walking shoes (I'm a go barefoot, the shoes disturb me haha). And then, it climbs a lot ! But what a pleasure after a climb to arrive in an isolated village, as timeless.
We end up arriving at the Nepali Kitchen lodge which catches our attention, besides it is a few meters from hot springs ! We therefore set our sights on this lodge where we spend the night. We taste our first Dal Bhaat, and it's so good ! This meal veg or not, is full of small dishes in a large plate : rice, potato / chicken curry, vegetables ... It's good and it's hot, nothing better. We have just discovered a typical meal from Nepal that will come back long during our trekking.
We can only advise you to stop at Nepali Kitchen, the couple of owners is lovely, the food and the place just perfect, and the husband made us discover local plants : to cook, to heal, etc. They live with their surroundings, and that's something Nils and I love. We regret not staying a few more days to enjoy their teaching. In addition, the location is beautiful, next to a river and a waterfall.
Day 3, Jagat (1300m) - Dharapani (1860m), 8h of walking :
We start the day at dawn with the hot springs, magic for the legs still sore from the day before.
Watch out for your jewels that can change color with sulfur ! I had a little scare with mine, but a good passage to the clear water removed that oily-rainbow color.
This day is only climb ! We don't see the end, but fortunately, we make some tea breaks, very comforting, with what we brought with us (we took a small stove, but know that there are also tea houses on the road).
Dogs accompany us on bits of roads, we cross horses and buffaloes in complete freedom who follow us eyes, used to the passage. We improvise even shepherds a few minutes time to help a Nepalese with his goats. We cross Tal, a small village at the edge of a river, the landscapes are linked together and begin to change gradually as we go up. We find familiar faces that we will cross several times during the trek.
We reach Dharapani at the end of the afternoon, and we choose the guesthouse : Manaslu Hotel & Restaurant for the night. It's not the best we've done, but you can take a warm shower and a hot meal ! So we will not complain.
Day 4, Dharapani (1860m)- Timang (2750m), 7h30 of walking :
A rather quiet day where we took our time to marvel at the landscapes. We have the right to a few showers, but nothing very bad. The villages are even more beautiful, isolated from everything, out of nowhere.
The faces of the inhabitants change at the same time as the landscapes, their features become more and more typical Tibetan, we feel that gradually, we approach the North..
The last part of the trip is almost a bit of climbing (we chose the passage harder for some challenge !), But it's worth it, we arrive at a very nice point of view, where we stop for a few minutes to enjoy it. We continue our journey to Timang, initially, we wanted to stop at Thanchowk, but the weather began to change and we followed the advice of locals who told us it was better to stop. Well, they were not wrong, because shortly after the rain falls sharply, bringing with it a mist that prevents us from seeing the mountains that surround our Oasis guesthouse.
Day 5, Timang (2750m) - Chame (2670m), 2h of walking :
In the early morning, the view is completely clear and we can admire the mountains all around us, it's beautiful. The time to have our breakfast and the weather changes, giving way to rain. It will accompany us all day. Nils had insisted that we buy waterproof pants to slip over our hiking pants to keep walking in bad weather. Well, he had done well to insist, because it has been used all day, so when we arrive at Chame, we are dry ! Well done, Nils.
Chame is the place we liked least of all the trekking, it looks like a mini city, not very nice on top of that. This is a very "must go", however, we could withdraw money : some stores have enough to pay in credit card, you pay for it, and you get cash .
If ever, you smoke a little cannabis (you will see that although normally forbidden there are shenanigans that make it tolerable), it's better to avoid in Chame. This is the only place where even the locals avoid, because the police won't be nice and in addition people denounce for a certain financial reward.
Day 6, Chame (2670m) - Lower Pisang (3200), 5h of walking :
The night was cold ! We still enjoy a good and warm breakfast before heading back to the road. Objective : Upper Pisang or Lower Pisang.
At first, the path is not the most beautiful, but we finally arrived under the cover of the trees of a beautiful forest, where we are doubled by a few riders on their frames prepared with shimmering colors. In the middle of the forest, we come across small shops out of nowhere that sell handicrafts, mainly jewelery. I fall for a bracelet in turquoise and Nils on two carved necklaces. Everyone offers each other the crush of the other.
Don't fall for the first shop you'll see, there's more behind.
After nibbling some dried fruits with horses and yaks, we continue our journey by taking the road to Lower Pisang (far, Upper Pisang seemed less beautiful than Lower Pisang, at least the road to go anyway). It's 2 p.m when we arrive, we could have continued a little, but the place is very nice, and we met a group of French that we often meet. We stay at the Moonlight lodge.
From this point on, it is best not to cover too far to allow the body to get used to altitude.
Day 7, Lower Pissang (3200) - Manang (3540m), 5h of walking :
Mounted in Upper Pisang, saves the trouble of starting the day with a (very) steep climb of at least 30 min. But hey, it's the game so we climb !
The green forests give way to a mountainous and dry landscape. The snowy peaks are becoming more and more visible, our goal is slowly approaching, but surely.
To go to Manang, there are two paths, a saying easier and shorter in the sense that there is no violent rise or detour that takes about 5 hours, and another more difficult where it is necessary to count well 7am walk, but that seems to offer a beautiful point of view. If at first we were more than motivated for the latter, the weather covered with a promise of rain to the key, we calmed a little. So we take the path "easier". Great plains with horses in freedom are our places of breaks. We make a small detour to Braga, where there are old houses and a monastery. Everything seems in ruins and subscribers, there are even bones strewing the ground, yet, we see traces of life, proving that the place is inhabited.
On the straight line to Manang, troglodyte caves are dug into the steep cliffs that surround us. The landscape seems to have changed suddenly, we can't find any more trees is much more arid. We arrive in Manang around 1.30pm, and we stop at Nilgiri guesthouse, a little crush and the only one who was kind enough to respect what we have done from the beginning : the free room in exchange for eating on the spot .
We go out quickly to explore Manang which we have heard so much, especially as a place where we can find good pastries. And that's right ! There are several bakeries everywhere, and even if it's not worth our good French pastries (I know the sentence is cliche, but it's true !), they are still very good. Some places also offer movies with popcorn for those who have a cinematographic desire.
We quickly fall for the food that surrounds us including yak cheese, (after a quick analysis it seemed more than fresh), and do not hang around, because it goes quickly. This is also an opportunity for us to take a shower, once again almost warm, but it feels good (if you don’t hang out to get dressed after), in addition to feeling clean is priceless !
Day 8, acclimatization in Manang :
Like many, we spend a whole day in Manang in order to acclimatize to the altitude.
Altitude sickness can begin to be severely felt at this point. Don’t hesitate to come back down if it doesn’t go away.
Nils and I are exploring outside the center, and this allows us to live a mystical moment that will leave us a memory forever.
As we wander between old houses, which have seen on the lake in the beautiful ice blue colors below, we are attracted by the passage of a monk coming out of an old building with past paintings, but still legible. At the top of the entrance, we can read "Here is the book written by Buddha", more than curious, we pass the head to see a courtyard leading to the temple, we are kindly invited to come inside, and after having admired the Jātakas, illustrated episodes of the many previous lives of the Buddha, we take a look inside where a religious ceremony is going, men and women are sitting in front of monks. Respectful, we move a little, but we are spotted, and we are invited to come in. We don’t hesitate, and immediately, we are guided on small pillow, surrounded by locals who smile at us and look at us curiously between two prayers.
We have the impression of being in another world, the building seems so old, old parchments, surely prayers, are rolled up and stored in shelves, tarnished peeling paints completely cover the walls. Nils and I are amazed, even more when we are offered a hot tea Chai. We are not treated differently, we are welcomed so warmly that emotion is strong. We take advantage of the atmosphere to relax and be impregnated by everything around us. The slow, almost whispered songs mingle with the instruments-especially percussion-plunging us into a kind of gentle torpor. We don’t understand everything, but there must be a key moment, because suddenly everything becomes stronger and rhythmic, all seem almost possessed and pray/sing with the same voice, leaving us just amazed by all the feelings that emerge from this moment. And then suddenly everything stops, people start talking to each other and some go away, little by little the room is empty. Nils and I exchange a knowing glance, we realize how lucky we were to share that. After having a little chat with two little grannies, we go out, both full of energy, but calm.
Without consulting each other, we chose to take neither photos nor video of this moment. It's hard to explain, but it was something unique, that we wanted to live fully, and also out of respect for those people who invited us in one of their moments.
We discuss with a monk, and some inhabitants, who invite us to watch an archery competition. The arches are beautiful, and handmade. We feel the pride of the competitors and we mingle with the crowd to encourage them.
After that, we reach the center of Manang, completely refreshed.
Day 9, Manang (3540m) - Ledar (4200m), 3h of walking :
We enjoy one last time pastries Manang, and it's the departure. The higher we go, the more we can see rescue helicopters coming down from those with altitude sickness.
Our goal for the day is Yak Karka, but we walk the road in just 1.5 hours, half the average time. So, we decided to continue our journey to Ledar, we don’t really respect the 500 meters of acclimatization per day advised, but we’re listening to our body. After a last good climb, we arrive at the village, which consists only of some scattered buildings, we choose the lodge the furthest : Churilattar Hotel (it's always that road less the next day), accompanied as often in this trek by dogs making the way with us.
As soon as the sun disappears, the cold settles, and we multiply layers of clothes, the snowy mountains surround us, and our goal is getting closer !
Day 10, Ledar (4200m) - Thorung Pedi(4525m), 2h30 of walking :
Nils had a tough night, his lungs of smokers suffer a bit of altitude, so today the day will be relax to see if we should come back down later, but for now, the tiger balm, relieves him.
It's only climbing in a semi-desert landscape, it's very arid, and since Manang, jeeps can’t reach so high anymore. We cross a lot of Sherpa who carries loads so heavy on the back : between 20-40 kg, they bring goods in height : food, objects, gas, ... And others carry one or more bags of tourists. We are impressed, and our bags seemed heavy !
We arrive under the blows of 11am, and decide to stop there to acclimatize. Tomorrow, the plan is to climb up to Thorung la Pass, and not to sleep at the High Camp to avoid sleeping at too high altitude.
The rest of the day is therefore quiet, we reserve our forces for tomorrow which promises to be tough, but we will finally reach the goal of the trek : Thorung the pass and its 5416m..
To acclimatize, some enjoy free time to start climbing to High Camp and back down.
Day 11, Thorung Pedi(4525m) - Thorung la Pass (5416m) - Muktinath (3760m), 10h of walking :
We follow the advice of a group of climbers and leave at 3:30 am from Thorun Pedi. It’s still completely dark, and very cold, but the starry sky is just beautiful. The goal is to reach High Camp for breakfast and continue the route. The climb is very steep and winds through the rocks, in addition some passages are frozen, so we are more than cautious.
At dawn we arrive at High Camp and have a hot breakfast not too heavy. We are completely surrounded by snow, and the sun rising on the mountain is just beautiful. We continue our journey, and we must cross a path on the edge of the frozen empty space. I'm not really comfortable, I already have trouble walking on the snow (I'm not really a regular in the mountains) so on the ice, it’s hard ! Fortunately, a nice Nepali all smiles and completely comfortable helps me to cross. I see he puts down the bags he was carrying to help other people.
The climb to Thorung the Pass seems endless, the impatience is surely due to the goal that is getting closer. And then suddenly, here we are : Thorung la Pass ! It's 5416 meters, it's just amazing ! We are very proud of ourselves. We find familiar faces, others burst into tears and hug each other. Nils and I are all smiles, we did it !
And then comes the time of the descent, and there is the horror for me that begins. It's harder to go down than climb ! It's full of pebbles, we slide, there is no hold, and then the arid landscape is not the most beautiful. I fall several times and it's Nils' turn to take care of me !
We decide to go down as much as possible, because the first logdes that we see do not please us too much and especially, because I don’t want to have to go down again the next day ! We end up arriving in Muktinath, which is the biggest village we've seen since ten days. We are happy with a hotel a little more expensive but where there is hot water (the only criterion we were looking for), we throw ourselves under and we stay there far too long to tell you how long. We are completely exhausted, but satisfied. After a meal where we half doze in the dishes, we go to bed for a well deserved rest !
Day 12 : Back to Pokhara :
Rather than continue walking for a while, we decided to take the bus directly to return to Pokhara. Indeed, the path is mostly road, and we like it moderately. In addition, the shower the day before seems to have marked a certain conclusion to the trek, and « we’re not anymore in it ». So we take a first bus to Jomsom, and then another interminable that brings us back to Pokhara. We have never been so shaken as in this bus ! We came out with aches and hematomas !
The landscapes become more and more green, it feels good to see vegetation again. After days spent at altitude, you get the impression that it is very easy to breathe lower. It does not require any effort, we understand why some athletes train like this. We join Pokhara in the evening, concluding the Annapurna trek.
The trek of the Annapurna deserves its reputation ! We took full eyes with these landscapes that change daily as we gain altitude. And above all, it is a very beautiful experience both physically and morally, because there are hard times, where fatigue is there, but requires us to surpass ourselves.
Also, we felt closer to the Nepalese, who live with only those around them, in harmony with their environment. Seeing them like this is a beautiful lesson of life. We also learn to enjoy the little things that seem banal in everyday life like a nice dinner.
You will understand that we fully recommend this trek during your stay in Nepal !
Read also : How to organize a trek in Nepal ?
So, want to be « dépayser » with Annapurna Circuit ?