Mark JohnstonQUICK FACTS — THE ANNAPURNA TREKS Britnee Johnston December 20 Nepal, Travel 3 Comments If you’re looking to trek in the Himalayan mountains, we highly recommend the Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp. Although they’re the only treks each of us has done, the both provided a great experience for regular hikers/backpackers like ourselves. Here is information on where we stayed in Nepal and quick facts about both the treks to give you an idea of what to expect. LODGING IN KATHMANDU & POKHARA HOME BASE: Elbrus Home in Kathmandu – Elbrus Home stored our extra belongings that we didn’t want to carry on the treks, free of charge. This place served a free hearty breakfast with eggs, toast, banana porridge, juice and coffee/tea, and provided free drinking water. The staff is super friendly and helpful, but almost everyone we met in Nepal was the same! RECOVERY BASE: Butterfly Lodge in Pokhara – We stayed in Butterfly Lodge in-between the two treks and while recovering from giardia. This place is quiet, had amazing high-pressure, hot showers and a variety of English channels on TV. A great place to rest and recuperate. ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT Our No. of Days: 20 Distance Hiked: 113 miles Highest Elevation Reached: 17,769 feet at Thorung La Pass Itinerary: Besi Sahar – Bhulbhule – Ghermu – Tal – Timang – Chame – Upper Pisang – Manang – Ledtar – Thorung Phedi Base Camp- Muktinath – Kagbeni – Marpha – Chame – Larjung – Tatopani (extra rest days spent in Upper Pisang, Manang, Muktinath, and Tatopani) What We Would’ve Done Different: Instead of staying at Thorung Phedi Base Camp, we would’ve hiked an hour longer to Thorung Phedi High Camp. It would’ve cut an hour of steep climbing off the day of the Thorung La Pass crossing. Power Breakfast: Britnee-apple porridge and lemon tea. Mark-banana pancake, two hard boiled eggs, and lemon tea. Teahouse Cost: Varied. We could get a private room for two for free if we promised to order breakfast and dinner at the teahouse. On average the cost was 300 rupees ($3 USD) for a double room (cheaper for a single). Avg. Cost of a Snickers Bar: 100 rupees ($1 USD) Pros: Experience mountain village life, see two 8,000+ meter peaks (Manaslu and Dhaulagiri) and plenty of dramatic 7,000+ meter peaks, and get a taste of Tibet in Lower Mustang. Power outlets are common and usually free. Cons: Trail often follows the new road where frequent jeeps and motorbikes kick up dust. Bad weather could cause dangerous conditions and close Thorung La Pass to trekkers, forcing them to turn around. ATM: One ATM in Jomsom. Be sure to bring enough cash before starting the trek. Toilet: Mostly squatters. We celebrated every time we happened to find a western toilet! Hot Showers: Solar and gas showers were available in teahouses. The gas showers had better chances of providing hot water. After Manang, hot showers are non-existent until Muktinath. Thing We’re Glad We Packed: SteriPEN to kill parasites in our drinking water. And extra batteries for the SteriPEN as the first set of batteries died halfway through the trek. Things We Wished We’d Packed: Yaktrax! Trail conditions at the pass may vary and we faced slippery snow and ice on the climb and descent. While we were both happy with our choice of lighter footwear throughout the trek, the added traction from Yaktrax would have made the pass day a whole lot easier. How We Got to the Trailhead: Took a private van arranged through Elbrus Home from Kathmandu to Besi Sahar for a total of 13,000 rupees ($130). We shared the van with another couple staying at our guesthouse who we split the cost with. How We Left the Circuit: Local bus from Tatopani to Beni for 240 rupees, transfer from Beni to Pokhara on another local bus for 300 rupees. **NOT RECOMMENDED! LOCAL BUSES ARE CRAZY!** ANNAPURNA SANCTUARY (ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP) Our No. of Days: 7 Distance Hiked: 41 miles Highest Elevation Reached: 13,550 feet at Annapurna Base Camp Number of Stairs: 1,475,890 (ok, we don’t really know the exact amount, but it felt like a lot) Itinerary: Kande – Landruk – Chhomrong – Himalaya – Annapurna Base Camp – Sinuwa – Australia Camp – Kande Best Kept Secret: Australia Camp has an amazing panoramic view of the Annapurna Himalaya Range. Skip the crowds at Poon Hill and visit the less crowded Australia Camp instead. Also, skip the common starting point in Phedi and start your trek in Kande! It will shave off at least two hours and conserve some much-needed energy for later in the trek. Teahouse Cost: Varied. Unlike the Annapurna Circuit, the Sanctuary is more crowded and therefore harder to bargain for cheaper accommodation. On average the cost was 300 rupees ($3 USD) for a room. Avg. Cost of a Snickers Bar: 200 rupees ($2 USD)! Pros: Up-close views of the 8,000+ meter Annapurna I and famous Fish Tail, visit a base camp where mountaineers set off to summit Annapurna I, and admire sunrise in a dramatic amphitheater of snow-capped mountains. Cons: Steep stairs the whole way up and down! Pricier menus than on the Annapurna Circuit. Teahouses tended to charge for wifi, power outlets, and showers. No power outlets at base camp so make sure your cameras are charged before then! ATM: None. Be sure to bring enough cash with you for the entire trek. Toilet: Mostly western toilets. Only time we had the squatter was at Annapurna Base Camp. Hot Showers: We only took one shower during the trek! Thankfully it was a hot one that we took in Chhomrong. Thing We’re Glad We Packed: Trekking poles definitely saved our knees on the stairs. How We Got to the Trailhead: Taxi from Pokhara to Kande for 1,500 rupees ($15 USD). How We Left the Trailhead: Taxi from Kande to Pokhara for 1,000 rupees ($10 USD). OUR GUIDE After much debate we chose not to travel with a guide on either trek and were glad with our decision. This gave us more freedom to move at our own pace, acclimatize well, sleep where we wanted and saved us money. Instead we traveled with the Lonely Planet Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya, a great guide book that provided us with tons of useful info: tips on pre-planning in Kathmandu, transport to and from the treks, day-to-day recommended itineraries (including tea houses), and descriptions of lesser known sights to see along the way. 3 Responses Kiera Connelly September 27 Your trek sounds amazing! I plan on hiking the ABC trek this December and I was just wondering how far you hiked on a daily basis. For example, how long did it take you to hike from the Himalaya village to the Annapurna Base camp in one day? Please let me know, thanks! Mark Johnston October 2 Hi Kiera. I can’t recall the exact mileage without pulling out a string and measuring our map, but here was our schedule — Day 1: Caught a taxi from Pokhara to Kande (which saved a lot of time and effort rather than starting lower on the highway in Phedi), and hiked up to Australia Camp for a beautiful breakfast with great view of the mountains. Hiked to Tolka by early evening. Day 2: Beautiful but strenuous on the steep climb to Chomrong. Day 3: We felt fit and pushed all the way to Himalaya, which I don’t recall being particularly hard compared to the previous day. Our weather was cloudy and damp and we were in the zone. Day 4: Clear skies and beautiful, which motivated us to get to Base Camp that day. Finished at ABC in early afternoon and enjoyed amazing views with tea, then sunset and dinner. Day 5: Early start for sunrise then cruised all the way back down to Sinuwa (just above Chomrong), which was quite a long day. Going down that steep trail sometimes felt as hard as going up. Day 6: Longest, most strenuous day when we pushed all the way out to Australia Camp and spend our last night there with an amazing view of the Himal. I don’t think you have to push it that far and could enjoy stops at hot springs along the way, however, after so much trekking in the past two months, we were being lured back to Pokhara with dreams of delicious food and a comfortable hotel. 😉 Hope this helps, have a blast, and don’t forget your trekking poles!