The Annapurna Circuit is a horseshoe-shaped trek that circles around the Annapurna mountain range. It is not for the faint-hearted but I do highly recommend it as a great introduction to trekking in Nepal.
Each day on the Annapurna Circuit is different – whilst I held the expectation of seeing snow-covered peaks soaring above me, this was not always the case. One day we may of been walking thru an arid, dusty and bare landscape as if we were on Mars.
The next day we would be walking through pine forests.
Then the next day we might have been walking through rainforests. I was expecting it to be quite chilly, but there was a fair bit of variability in the temperature depending upon what altitude we were climbing at. Given the physical activity of walking, I would sometimes be wearing only one layer, then on the day in which we were trekking up to our highest altitude – I wore 9 layers on my top half, and four layers on my bottom half!
There were also many spectacular waterfalls throughout the course of the trek – some of which were frozen over as we reached altitude. There were several crossings on suspension bridges across rivers. I would always attempt to be one of the first people to cross, as the more people in front of you, the more bouncy your crossing would be.
The highlight of the trek was climbing Thorung La pass. At 5416 metres, it was a tough climb we required a few days of acclimatisation. The day we climbed it required a 4 AM start, and we commenced the day climbing the mountain in very cold, very dark and very windy conditions. The driving wind was so intense that I really had to anchor myself into the ground sometimes so as not to fall over. But, it was all worth it once we reached the top!
Some of the others had their water supply freeze but I decided to wrap some socks around my bottles to prevent that from happening to me. Those socks came in handy (literally) at around the 5000 m mark for me when I decided to substitute them from bottle earners to gloves. So, my photos on top of the pass include me stylishly wearing socks as gloves. It was awesome to reach the top, but then followed a 1900 m descent down. I decided to invest in a walking stick (named Peggy) and she was well worth the 450 rupees I paid for her in that climb down alone.
Accommodation is in teahouses along the route, most of which had squat toilets and solar-powered showers. Therefore, if we were staying in a teahouse in a valley, and the sun had disappeared behind the mountains at 2 PM, the hot water supply was limited to perhaps the first 3 or 4 people in the shower queue having hot showers, with the rest forced to grit their teeth with cold water, or forgo a shower until the next day. Here is a teahouse aptly titled the Hotel Shangri-La!
The food and hospitality along the Annapurna Circuit was wonderful. The staple meal is dhal baht, a curry served on metal trays with rice. The menus had a wide variety of food including soups, fajitas, enchiladas, pizzas, vegetable fried noodles and on occasion deep-fried Mars and Snickers Bars. Naturally, tea is also available – my favourite tea was masala – a lovely, spiced tea quite similar to chai.