Annapurna Circuit Trek – Snow, snow, snow

Day 10 of our trek and just decided to descend to Besi Sahar. Continue to Highcamp is not an option and the weather forecast does not look very promising. Under the bright blue sky and the joy of a large pot of hot steamy tea, we try repair our equipment that has been challenged the past few days. By midnight we are on our way towards Humde.

Since the cleared snow track does not follow the original route, there is regular climbing work to be done in order to descend. The track is sometimes more than a meter deep and no wider than 30 centimetres, so our trousers keep getting tangled in our crampons. In addition, we sink knee-deep in the snow at about every tenth step. No less than seven hours later we are sitting warm and dry at a small stove in a teahouse in Humde. Because of the snow we seem to move in slow motion, because two hours are planned for the distance covered under regular conditions. There are still some tough days ahead of us!

Tough days, but with breath-taking views. The clouds and fog that obstructed the view of the Annapurna and Manaslu mountains during the first days of the trek have disappeared and impressive peaks with a huge amount of snow appear. As we descend further towards Chame, the roaring thunder of avalanches breaks the peace and quietness of the Himalayas. We walk on the safe side of the valley so we can watch several impressive avalanches soaring down steep slopes. Later that day we cross the path of an avalanche that left a trail of destruction one day earlier. Thick trees and a number of electricity poles seem to have snapped like matchsticks.

After leaving the village of Chame on day 12, we also leave the snow. In the next two days we would walk 66 km and descend 2000 meters, our knees took a real beating. Nadieh has taken over the backpack from our guide, which apparently also underestimated the length of the planned stages. While we are having lunch in Ngadi, an Englishman we met in a teahouse eight days earlier came down from the mountain trail. In lively detail we exchange the experiences of the past week and continue the last and least beautiful part of the route. A large Chinese energy supplier decided to turn the valley upside down to build a huge hydroelectric power plant. The electricity is exported to China and for Nepal only the chaos and mess of a large construction site remains.

Arriving in Besi Sahar we make plans for the upcoming days. Carefully examining the map and with tips from a number of locals, we map out a route to Begnas Tal in the Pokhara valley. A trip that we would take another three days. To Nadieh’s great shock, we immediately climbed from 760 to 2029 meters on the first day, a climb that would – by the way, deprive all three of use. There are no teahouses in the villages we pass as we were used to from the more famous trekking routes. We rely on homestay-like spots and spent the first night in a small, low shed with four beds in the village of Kapurgaon. We seem to be the happening of the day, tourists hardly visit this part of the region and the available beds are mainly used by locals who rest on their long trips to visit family or the doctor here. The food in the remotest places is the tastiest  and is proven again when we get the usual portion of Dal Baaht in the evening.

The last two days we walk through a spectacular landscape and villages where the clock stopped ticking a 100 years ago. Their houses carefully constructed huts made of wood and bamboo with roofs of straw and clay. There is hardly any electricity except for a small solar panel every now and then. When we pass groups of locals, a lot of laughs and giggles meet us and after checking with Nagendra, the local people are thrilled to find that the white people have found their way to their village instead of just following the standard trekking routes .

After sixteen great days and a last night in Gilung under the watchful eye of a fat rat who kept us company all night, the bus takes us back to Pokhara. As usual, the bus is cramped: 32 seats means that 50 people can sit there, there are at least 25 standing in the pathway and some 15 or so on the roof. At checkpoints it is not allowed to be on the roof of the bus. It does not seem to be an issue, just cram and they also stand, hang, lie or sit in the bus.

After a bumpy ride of 5 hours, we plunge into the lake in Pokhara and treat ourselves to a delicious cold beer, happy hour! Relax for a few days, wash clothes, write reports and then continue. Meanwhile, we decided to head to Bardia National Park with a stopover in Nepalgunj.