Hiking the Himalayas: Annapurna Circuit

This is my personal diary of how my hike through the Annapurna Circuit went. By the time I went hiking, Thorong-La Pass was closed after heavy snowstorm and a series of avalanches two weeks prior. I knew I only had as far as Manang to go to and had to hike back the same way but I was up for seeing a glimpse of the circuit as most of the people I met recommended this to be the most scenic and diverse. The hike starts in Besishahar so I took a local bus from Pokhara. The direct buses leave only once a day at 7 am and I found this to be too hectic so I opted to take a local bus to Dumre and then transfer to another local bus up to Besishahar where I stayed for the night. The whole ride took about 5 hours so this meant I could leave late in the morning.

On the first day, I took a jeep from Besishahar to the furthest they can take me, which was Danakyu. I initially wanted to start in Chame (the town after} but locals said the road was closed there due to snow. Didn’t really sink in what they said but just went for it anyway. I was going to spend the night there before the official hike begins the next day.

However… Locals from my jeep all went down and started hiking from Danakyu. I asked where to and they said to Chame. I thought, okay, I guess I can do that, too. I was actually feeling quite pressured to go… So I did.

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Starting point in Danakyu to go to Manang

Bad idea. I hadn’t eaten anything for the day since I didn’t expect to hike and it slipped my mind to think about the elevation. So I rushed to climb several flights of stairs and not even halfway through I feel dizzy and my vision was foggy so I took a minute, got a granola bar out and took a moment to take it all in.

I noticed a local lady wait for me just a little ahead of me. She seemed so concerned. I told her to go ahead cause I know I’ll be slow. She brushed off what I said and started to walk slowly, with the rest of the locals walking like the speed of light and quickly disappeared from sight.

I was actually happy she was there because she kept me sane.

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Basang of Naar
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Not long after, I started seeing snow! Oh how exciting it was for me. Lifted my spirits instantly. This was my first time to be up close to it and to touch it. Now, I had to hike it 😂All worth it. When I reached Timang it was snow everywhere and was so close to the snow capped mountains. Magical! 

Eventually, Basang, the local lady hiking with me, started to walk faster saying there was no time. It was getting dark and we weren’t even halfway to Chame yet. We were just closing in on Thanchok. We decided to sleep in the next house we could find that wasn’t empty. Since it’s low season, a lot of the guesthouses are closed.

It was surrounded by snow and it was unbelievably cold. The coldest I’ve ever experienced thus far. I knew it would only get worse from here so I kept at my best to manage it.

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I thought the homestay would be exciting but the family running it was clearly not in a good situation. They were arguing while making dinner and we were next to them keeping warm next to a bucket of coal. They didn’t have a proper fireplace and there was no electricity and no wifi. Needless to say, this place was not warm, literally and figuratively.

The next morning, Basang was frantically leaving and said I should just go on my own from here. So I ventured out to Chame on my own, passing through plenty of road blocks and iced roads.

Expectedly, especially without crampons, I slipped a few times. Good thing my sleeping bag hangs just behind my butt so it helped cushion the impact. Would not be good to hurt my back like this.

When I reached Chame, it was a ghost town. It was also bitterly cold even at 11 am. There was also no sunlight in the area and I definitely didn’t feel like I wanted to stay there, even if a guesthouse or two was open so I decided to walk 2 kilometers back to Koto where the people were warm and the town was also sunny.

Guess who I found there! Basang! She walked passed my guesthouse and she told me she had to walk back to Timang somehow and now she’s back on the road. We spent the afternoon sitting in the sun. In the evening, I watched TV with the family (I didn’t understand anything but there were funny telenovela-like shows on) and played football with their 6 year old daughter. It was a better experience than the first night!

On Day 3, I thought long and hard whether to continue up to Pisang, which was my original last stop since surely Manang is too snowy. After the not-so-pleasant experience in hiking through icy trails, I decided I should just head back. Besides, I’m already really happy with my experience so far! And I can always come back! Moving up to Pisang sounded like it would be a lot colder and more difficult to hike through so I figured it was smarter to head back. So I did. I made my way back to Danaky and this time stayed for the night.

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Rovi – the man behind the most delicious potato curry of my life!!!
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I normally eat my packed food and order one meal per town as the food prices up there would shoot up 500 to 800 NPR per meal (normally 150 – 300). It saves me a lot.

But Rovi was too kind and I felt bad he was forced by family to open the guesthouse in low season. He hasn’t made money in days so I ordered dinner as well, even though I was far from even just a little peckish, especially after him spoiling my dhal bhat refill to mountains of food on my plate during lunch.

On my fourth day of hiking, I had developed a ton of blisters already and was struggling to carry on but I did my usual 4 – 5 hours of hiking per day. I reach Tal Village, see a family on the grass and under the sun doing their own thing – dad making a basket, mom going through the vegetable harvest, and the son fixing an extension cord. It looked warm and felt tranquil so I sat there with them and had lunch. We mostly kept to ourselves and enjoyed the sun. Occasionally, we’d talk and get to know each other.

It was indeed tranquil. Perfect break after my hike.

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Tal Village

On Day 5, I pushed myself despite the blisters and irritated eyes and hiked slowly down to Chamje, which took me a few hours. Once I reached town, I ate my final expensive ass dhal bat and took a jeep back to Besishahar within the same day. I was happy to stop hiking. I definitely wasn’t mentally prepared for all this but now that I’ve done this, I know how to prepare myself better for when I do the full circuit in the future.

If I’m being completely honest, the views between Besishahar and Chamje were not all that fantastic so if you want to save time, hire a jeep to Chamje and do a stop in Tal before going to Danakyu!

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My favorite photo
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