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High Manaslu & Annapurna Trek
An inspiring 32 day trek; see our High Manaslu for the 25 day version.
See Our treks for our other treks.
Roads are slowly infringing on the once pristine Annapurna region, so we've put together an itinerary that takes in the best (and highest) parts of the Annapurna Circuit, the Manang and Lower Mustang regions, and skips the road-work ...
We've combined this classic Himalayan trek with another of THE best treks in Nepal, the Manaslu Circuit (we also take the higher route in, and connect with the Annapurna trek after the high pass) for an unbeatable circuit through the Nepal Himalaya.
Our journey begins with the High Manaslu Circuit, where we camp in our special Project Himalaya style. From the Hindu middle hills culture to the Tibetan high-country dwellers, the Manaslu Circuit trek in the heart of the Nepal Himalaya is a cultural trek par excellence, without a doubt one of the best treks in Nepal. Manaslu, 'The mountain of the spirit', is the eight highest peak in the world, and from upper Nubri must be one of the most beautiful ones; the spectacular mountain scenery has to be seen to be believed. We trek the classic high trek around Manaslu from the historic town of Gorkha, with its wonderful 'durbar', or palace, to Kutang in lower Manaslu and on to upper Nubri, where trade with Tibet continues as it has for hundreds of years. We experience incredible mountain panoramas after the first few days, and add extra days at the most beautiful villages before the Larkya La (pass). The diverse Tibetan culture, spectacular scenery and snow peaks of the Manaslu Himal Circuit make it one of the most interesting, as well as one of the most challenging, treks in Nepal.
Once over the Larkya La pass, we emerge onto the Annapurna Circuit in lower Manang, saying goodbye to our camping crew as we'll now stay in the famed Annapurna tea-houses. Accompanied by views of the Annapurna range, Manaslu, Macchapuchare, Tilicho, the Chulu Peaks and Dhaulagiri (to name just a few), we trek up the Marshyangdi river to the Buddhist region of (upper) Manang, where riding on horseback is the normal means of transport, and the villages are interlocked terraces perched below old, Buddhist gompas. Manang is a destination in itself, with ice-lakes, cliff-side monasteries and old villages to explore, not to mention the spectacular sunrise and sunset views. After crossing the 5400 meter Thorung La (pass), we descend steeply down to the sacred Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage destination, Muktinath, and on Kagbeni, the entrance to Upper Mustang, and Jomsom, the administrative seat of Lower Mustang.
From Jomsom, we fly to Pokhara and Kathmandu, where our Himalayan journey ends ...
Don't miss it!
*Note that although we try to follow the itinerary below, at times local trail or weather conditions may make slight changes necessary. The trekking itinerary may also vary slightly depending on our trekkers' acclimatization rates.
Providing you have sent us your arrival details, you will be met at the airport by a representative from the Kathmandu Guest House (look for their sign - they will be looking for you) and escorted to the guest house. Kim will book the extra nights for you, so your room will be ready.
Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu 1340m
You'll be met at the airport by a representative from the Kathmandu Guest House, so look out for a Kathmandu guest house sign when you leave the airport. They will bring you back to the Kathmandu Guest House, where your rooms are booked.
Kim will meet you at the guest house and introduce you to Thamel, the main tourist area of Kathmandu. Thamel is a myriad of banners, signs, music shops, bakeries, internet cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, shops of all imaginable varieties and eccentrically clad backpackers. Over dinner we check your insurance details (please have a copy of your travel medical insurance policy with you), go over gear and get to know each other over a beer at New Orleans cafe ...
Day 2 - Kathmandu
Explore the Kathmandu valley a bit with Kim. Options: Climb the many steps to Swayambhunath (the monkey temple), with its commanding views of Kathmandu (at 1420 m), its whitewashed stupas and its unique synthesis of Buddhism and Hinduism. The striking Buddha eyes of Boudhanath Stupa watch over a lively and colorful Tibetan community and attract pilgrims from all over the Himalayan Buddhist realm. In the midst of traditional gompas, and hung with long strings of multi-colored prayer flags, Boudhanath attracts Sherpas, Tibetans and tourists alike for daily circumambulations (koras) of the stupa. Durbar Square, one of the old capitals of the Kathmandu valley, is a synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist temples, stupas and statues, and is often the site of festivals, marriages and other ceremonies. Hindu Pashupatinath and its sacred temple complex on the banks of the holy Bagmati river. Here, monkeys run up and down the steps of the burning ghats, and trident-bearing saddhus draped in burnt-orange and saffron sit serenely meditating - when they’re not posing for photos-for-rupees.
We'll have time for a bit of gear shopping in Thamel for anyone who needs to do this, and in the evening will head out for dinner of wood-oven pizza at the Roadhouse Cafe.
Day 3 - Drive to Gorkha. Trek to camp above Gorkha Fort 1060m
We're up early for our scenic six-hour drive from Kathmandu to the historic town of Gorkha, once the capital of a massive Kingdom which included parts of lower Tibet, with it's old 'durbar', or King's palace, a mix of Buddhist and Hindu deities, perched high up in the surrounding hillsides and reached by worn stone steps. After organizing the gear and loads with the porters, we head up to our first night's campsite above the Gorkha Fort, stopping en route to visit this well-maintained site, home of the powerful Gorhka royalty until about a century ago. We can see the crew setting up camp from the top of the fort; once at camp, we will introduce you to our 'Kamzang Style' dining tent and your personal Big Agnes or Marmot tents.
Day 4 - Trek to Arkole 570m
The middle hills of Nepal are timeless, and we trek for the first two days through classic middle hills scenery; rolling, forested hills, snaking rivers with rounded rock strewn on the beaches, local fishermen casting their nets, iridescent rice fields, papaya, lemon and orange trees, water buffalos, thatched huts and local 'battis' (Nepali tea-houses) along the trail for a quick dal bhaat or cup of chai. We camp along the beach at a lovely campsite just below the small village of Arkole, and enjoy our first mountain sunset over the adjacent river. Jump in! The village kids with surely be by to see what's happening, perhaps carry a basket of beer. Take advantage while we're still low in altitude!
Day 5 - Trek to Kalibote 800m
A continuation of yesterday's lovely scenery, we trek though bustling Gurung villages, over several swaying suspension bridges spanning the river, and we reach our camp at Kalibote in the early afternoon. Tomorrow we have a steep climb ahead of us, and this is the last campsite before the (large) hill. You can head down to the river and perch yourselves on the smooth river rocks for a wash after our hot day if you like, and afterwards chilled beers are available from an enterprising little tea-house next to camp. The staff might even pick up some small fish for dinner ...
Day 6 - Trek to Barpak 1915m
Have a big breakfast this morning; we head off early to avoid the afternoon sun for our steep, long climb up to the wonderful village of Barpak, situated perfectly on a green ridge overlooking the misty valley below. Barpak is a large Gurung village, extremely clean, with a weekly market, wide alleys between the houses, grain and vegetables drying outside on the patios, several shops, viewpoints and flowers planted along the decks of these Gurung houses. We arrive in time for lunch, and have the afternoon to wander the narrow streets of the village, a photographers paradise. The villagers often organize 'cultural shows', the proceeds of which go to improving the village, so we might be treated to one in the early evening.
Day 7 - Trek to Laprak 2200m
Another early start and another climb; after a few hours, we reach the ridge, officially a pass, which separates Laprak and Barpak, and are rewarded with panoramic mountain views (along with herds of sheep grazing on the grassy hillsides) from the peak. Bring a wind jacket as the clouds often move quickly up to this ridge, and it gets cold quickly. Another hour or two brings us down to another large Gurung village, Laprak, perhaps not quite as scenic as Barpak but just as interesting. The Maoists often stay in this village, and we might be paid a visit for some friendly indoctrination. Again, we have the afternoon free to explore the village; take a look into some of the houses, all with symbolic murals on the mud-brick walls.
Day 8 - Trek to Korlebesi 875m
A classic Nepali trekking day; it's an extremely steep decent to the river, and after crossing a very rickety suspension bridge, we climb equally steeply back up, past terraced fields of pink sorghum and rice. We contour around several hillsides on a narrow trail, barely visible at times, up to a small chorten just below the village of Singla. From here, the going is easy, and we enjoy the views of the Manaslu Himal, Kutang Himal and Sringi Himal to the north as we walk down through more terraced fields and papaya trees, through the Gurung village of Korla, and then down along a narrow, winding trail to Korlebesi on the Buri Gandaki river. Look out for the local women weaving straw mats in the village. We cross a long suspension bridge to reach our campsite just below the village, next to a small tributary stream. We will probably get a visit in the evening from this village's cultural ambassadors, and perhaps have another show ...
Day 9 - Trek to Jagat 1370m
A few hours of walking by tobacco and buckwheat fields, past rocks washed smooth by the river, we reach the hot springs in the centre of the small, terraced village of Tatopani, where we have plenty of time to soak our grungy bodies in the gushing hot water, and then perhaps go for a swim in the icy river below, drying off on the wonderful river-side beach. A gentle climb through the woods past some spectacular waterfalls, across another suspension bridge and through a short section of forest path and we reach Dobhan, where we stop for lunch. Above Dobhan, the Buri Gandaki descends in an impressive series of steep rapids. Here, our trail climbs high above the river to descend through what appears to be a huge gateway into some secret place; in front the valley widens, the river calms, and we splash through streams before coming into our camp below Jagat, the entrance to the Manaslu park. It is worth wandering around this beautiful, paved village, where proud villagers have recorded how much they contributed to these paving schemes. Our campsite is impressively clean and grassy, with cold beers available at the shop next door.
Day 10 - Trek to Phillim 1570m
After descending a long series of stone steps to the river, we climb a terraced hill to Saguleri, from where we can see the impressive Sringi Himal, 7187m. We pass through the charming, paved village of Sirdibas, where the local children might be selling oranges. Crossing the river again via a long suspension bridge at Gata Khola, the path splits, with the right-hand branch heading off towards the Ganesh Himal. Our route continues upstream, and again we have a steep climb to reach Phillim and its Japanese sponsored school. It's a shorter day today, only about three hours, so we have the afternoon free to explore the interesting upper village, or sit and enjoy the afternoon at camp.
Day 11 - Deng 1865m
At the start of our four to five hour day, we pass through Eklai Bhatti, and then on through a narrow, dramatic gorge section with towering walls, and past a thundering waterfall just above us on the right of the trail. We cross the river three more times in the next two hours (often small, badly maintained bridges, Nepali style) to avoid the difficult valley sides; the first bridge, a new one, is at the intersection to Tsum valley, a remote valley leading to Tibet. After trekking through dense woods for over an hour, we pass the cold campsite of Pewa on the river, and after another hour we leave the gorge and climb briefly to the small village of Deng. This is the start of the lower Nubri region called Kutang, where the people are ethnically Tibetan but speak a different dialect than the people of upper Nubri where the people are pure Tibetans. The Kutang dialect, called 'kukay', is a mix of Tibeto-Burman and Gurung. We have views of Lumbo Himal to the rear, as well as Lapuchen and Dwijen Himals. We camp just below the village, and get fresh greens from the family that owns the land. It's worth a visit to the upper floor of their house above us, perhaps for a glass of local 'chang', or Tibetan beer, and for a chat around the hearth. It starts to feel like a piece of old Tibet at last.
Day 12 - Trek to Ghap 2165n
Another five hour day. The valley is still steep-sided and impressive; after twenty minutes, we cross the bridge and switchback up to the village of Lana and then Bihi Phedi (where there is a good shop and views of Kutang Himal), and start to see mani stones (prayers etched onto wayside rocks, particularly mani stones with pictures of gods and goddesses), a sure sign that we are entering another of the tiny Tibetan footholds that mark the high Himalayan places. We have about four hours of trekking ahead of us, twice crossing the large Buri Gandaki and twice over smaller tributary streams, staying mostly high with many ascents and descents as we walk through the gorge, all the time enjoying spectacular views. Eventually we reach Ghap, where we set up camp for the night at the house of some wonderful villagers. The egg-shells strung above their 'tea-house' door prevent the evil spirits from entering the house. The sun goes down early here, so we will cross the small bridge spanning the Buri Gandaki and trek steeply up for 45 minutes to the village of Chaak, where the son of the tea-house owner lives with his family. There is a small, deserted gompa, carved mani stones (the style here is distinctly different that most other Tibetan Buddhist regions), and some Tibetans from Samdo who graze their yaks here. In the village, they will be drying their maize to grind into flour, and then trade with the people of upper Nubri, and we might be invited into the son's house for some Tibetan salt-butter tea and roasted maize on the cob. Look out across the river for views of the village of Prok perched on the plateau jutting over the river below us. From Chaak, you can trek further to Kwak, and there is a trail up to Shringi Himal base camp. A fire recently destroyed the gompa at Kwak.
Day 13 - Trek to Lho 3180m
Today is a wonderful trekking day; after passing through the seemingly deserted seasonal village of Nambachhe, planted with fields of barley and lined with mani walls, we ascend through a dense, cool forest for an half an hour, crossing the Buri Gandaki once on a wooden bridge, to Namrung, at 2540 meters, where we will stop for a cup of chai at a lodge run by a Tibetan family. As we gain altitude, we reach alpine territory and are treated to increasing mountain views. Namrung village is the start of Nubri, the region of purely Tibetan inhabitants speaking a dialect of western Tibet. Above this village the valley opens out and there are extensive pastures. A few hours later, we reach the village of Lihi at 2840 meters, a substantial altitude gain. We are climbing climb gently now, cross a large stream flowing down from the Lidanda Glaciers, and reach the picturesque Tibetan village of Sho at 3000m, where we stop for lunch. Look for the bear claw on the upper deck of the house, and across the river to the ruins of an old Tibetan fort. From Sho, the views of Ngadi Chuli are spectacular, and further on, towards Lho, we are finally treated to views of Manaslu itself; quite an impressive afternoon! We set up camp in Lho, a lively village adorned with many prayer flags, in the yard of a small lodge. Sunset and sunrise from the campsite are wonderful, and the small gompa just below our campsite worth a visit.
Day 14 - Trek to Sama Gaon (Ro) 3525m
Walking through the upper reaches of Lho, with the snowy peaks of Manaslu ahead of us in the distance, we pass the new gompa and then ascend through light forests next to a small river to reach the Tibetan settlement of Shyla, where the villagers are often out in the fields. Another few hours of trekking through classic alpine scenery leads us past Tibet grazing settlements, the train to Pung Gyan Gompa, and then Sama Gaon, or Ro, as the locals call it. Sama Gaon sits in a bowl at the foot of the pastures leading to the high peaks, with mani walls, a small gompa and tightly packed rows of houses at the lower reaches of village, and the large gompa at the upper reaches. The people settled here from Tibet over 500 years ago, and the two gompas date from this time, both having unique architecture and built of wood. The Tibetan villages here have entrance gates which are very distinctive from the Tibetan ones, and they maintain an active trade with their co-religionists in Tibet (notice the Chinese brandy and beer on sale). If the weather is good, you will see the village women weaving wool (baal) from Tibet into gowns - which are then traded back to Tibet. Taxes were actually paid to the Dzongka Dzong (fortress) at the border of Tibet, a few days walk from Sama Gaon, as late as the 1940's until it was taken over by the Gorkas in the late 19th century. Later, after 1959, the region was home to Tibetan guerillas, and thus closed to trekking until 1992.
Take the afternoon to hike up to the gompa above town, and to wander the streets of the fascinating Sama Gaon village.
Day 15 - Sama Gaon
We have two nights here, a full day to explore the village and gompas; a little piece of old Tibet! This is also an extra day in case anyone is having trouble acclimatizing ...
Another option is a long day-hike up to Pung Gyen Gompa, at 3870 meters, a stunning walk up an often icy and slippery trail along the Numla Khola and the Pung Gyen glacier past Tibetan 'kharkas' or seasonal herding settlements, with unbeatable views of Manaslu near the gompa. The gompa was mostly destroyed by an avalanche in 1953, and recently rebuilt. The complex includes a cave gompa as well, which affords even better views of the valley.
Day 16 - Trek to Samdo 3850m
Another day of incredible mountain views during the walk up to Samdo, an easy three hours away. En route we pas the long mani walls at Kermo Kharka, after which we spot the entrance chorten of Samdo high on a bluff. We descend back to the Bhudi Gandaki and cross a small bridge before another short climb to the 'kane' entrance of Samdo; look back down valley for great views. The villagers of Samdo came across the border from the village of Riu after 1959 and built their new village here, at their old herding settlement (see below). Samdo village is a collection of houses and lodges at 3850 meters, and most trekkers miss the heat of a week ago as we huddle around the stove and a wind from Tibet batters the windowpanes. Get out and take a walk around the village, where the inhabitants live an essentially Tibetan lifestyle, herding their yaks, sheep and goats, training their horses and planting barley. There is a small home gompa in a house mid-village which we visited during our last village, a puja being held by several of the reincarnated lamas living in the Samdo.
Day 17 - Samdo
On our rest day here why not a day trip to the border of Tibet; no passport required. It takes five hours walking to the Gya La ('large pass') to do just that, and then take in the views and ruminate on the border markers at the top: 'China, 1962.' We will probably share the trail with groups of Samdo residents, carrying timbers over the border to Tibet. True High Asia!
Like the people of Ro, Samdo inhabitants are Tibetan, and were ceded the land by the king of Jumla over 500 years ago; but, unlike the Ro people, they only claimed their land after the Chinese takeover in the early 1950s. Since then they have established a trade with China and India, marketing among other things, the aphrodisiac root that grows in the region. We'll try to get into some of the local houses for chang (Tibetan barley beer), salt butter tea and perhaps a few carpets to buy!
Day 18 - Trek to Dharamsala/Larkya Phedi 4460m
We leave on the trade route to Tibet and climb through the ruins of Larkya bazaar, one of the trade markets that flourished years back. After two hours of climbing past glaciers, with increasingly awe-inspiring panoramas, we come to the campsite at Dharamsala, where we have lunch and gaze out at the views. You'll really feel the altitude and the cold here, so enjoy a more leisurely afternoon and keep warm. We'll have an early dinner in preparation for our pass crossing tomorrow ...
Day 19 - Cross Larkya La (4930m) to Bimtang 3590m
After a short climb above the campsite, we reach the ablation valley on the North side of the Larkya Glaciers where we have views of Cho Danda and then of Larkya Peak. We continue across the moraines of the glacier, making a gradual ascent which becomes steeper only in the last section to the pass, which should take us about three hours to crest. From the pass, there are outstanding views of Himlung Himal, Cheo Himal, Kangguru and the huge Annapurna II. If there is fresh snow, we may see Snow Leopard prints from the evening before; it's also blue sheep (Bharal) and Tibetan Snow Cock territory.
The views from the top of the pass are truly unbelievable. After hanging our Tibetan prayer flags, and yelling 'Ki ki so so lha gyalo' (may the Gods be victorious), get ready for a steep, ankle straining drop to a trail following the glacial moraine, very slippery if covered in snow so have your 'Yak tracks' ready if you've brought them, and definitely use trekking poles. It is a longer day then usual to our campsite at Bimtang, but to walk into these low pastures with the evening mist coming in and Manaslu; it's an experience not to be missed. A boulder-strewn descent brings us, finally, to Bimtang, where the three sisters of the 'Three Sisters Hotel' are on hand with Himalayan chilled beer. Does life get any better?
Day 20 - Trek to Tilje 2300m
The campsite at Bimtang is frigid in the morning, so get to the dining tent quickly for a cup of fresh coffee! Porters pour hot water over tent pegs to get them out. Pee bottles freeze. No option if you want to get warm, move down valley into the sun, through forested hillsides to Tilje, at the end of our lost world. Here the inhabitants are a mix of Manangis (of Tibetan descent) and Chettris (Hindus), so eat a mix of dal bhaat, buckwheat dhiro, tsampa and Tibetan tea. The gorge ahead marks the land of apple pie, cold beers and hot showers - the Annapurna Circuit. Our last day of camping!
Day 21 - Trek to Dharapani 1860m
This morning we've got an easy trek following the Dudh Khola through bamboo forests down to Dharapani, an atmospheric Tibetan village with prayer flags fluttering in the wind, stopping en route at the gompa in Thongje on the old Annapurna trail. It's our last night with the Manaslu group, so we'll get together for a few beers and a celebration with the porters that are heading down with the Manaslu group tomorrow.
*** From here, the full High Manaslu & Annapurnas trek continues over the Thorung La with Kim and Lhakpa, and the Manaslu group heads back to Kathmandu with Kiran ***
Day 22 - Trek to Chame 2710m
Continuing to climb through forests of pine and oak, we pass through the long, cobbled village of Danagyu before coming to a small bridge and thundering waterfall, where we turn left and head up the high trail to Koto. After an hour of lovely, open forests, we reach a clearing at the top of the trail and a charming Tibetan teahouse where we will stop for a break. Pausing for breath, we can look back for views of Manaslu and Peak 29. An hour away is the wonderful Gurung village of Thanchuk, 2615m, where the villagers might be harvesting their crops of buckwheat or stuffing local sausages. Heading back down to the village of Koto Qupar, our base for the trek up to Nar Phu, we can look straight up at nearby Annapurna II - a stunning sight convincing us that we are deep in the Himalayan mountains! Many of the villagers are the from Nar Phu valley; this is the gateway to their region. Less than an hour brings us to Chame, the local administrative center of Manang, and a large village packed with small shops and tea-houses, an army post and a large school. We bed down here for the evening at the New Tibet Lodge at the far end of town, across the river. In the morning, we'll have early morning sun and great views of Lamjung Himal.
Day 23 - Trek to Pisang 3240m
It's a beautiful walk of six to seven hours from Chame to Pisang, through woods with some small ascents, and wonderful views of the peaks soaring above us. We reach the small hamlet of Taleku with its one, old lodge after half and hour, and then an hour later reach the decked, wooden tea-houses of Bhratang where we'll stop for a sunny tea-break, and perhaps search for some apples, grown locally in this region. Continuing through a lovely forest of pines, firs and spruce along the river bank, we eventually climb up to a bridge on a scenic trail peppered with large boulders, and get our first view of the 'Rock of Pisang' soaring majestically overhead to the right, a piece of the ancient sea-bed thrust upwards millions of years ago. More open woods, always accompanied by views, leads us to a group of Tibetan souvenir stalls and a tiny tea-stall, and soon after the woods open up to a high plateau, where we stop for lunch at the sunny group of decked lodges called Dhukure Pokari. Half an hour further along the river along a flat, easy trail to the train of lodges at Pisang, where we stay at Maya's Guest House. We'll have the afternoon in Pisang to explore the village, with it's Tibetan mani stones and gompa, perhaps taking a walk up to Upper Pisang for amazing views of Annapurna II and Annapurna III.
Pisang is the first village of upper Manang, called Nyesyang, much higher and dryer than the lower village of Gyasumdo below and much more Tibetan in character.
*** Note: we may stay in Upper Pisang as the lodges are increasingly nicer each year ***
Day 24 - Trek to Ngawal & Manang - the High Route 3510m
Today's trail is one of the most scenic along the Annapurna route, an alternative to the most trekked and shorter main trail with spectacular views of the Annapurnas. We start the morning with a steep ascent to Upper Pisang (3340m) and continue with another longer and steeper climb to Ghyaru, an old, atmospheric village with a lovely tea-house with alpine views. Here, trails above the village lead to the climbing peaks of Pisang, Chulu East and Chulu West. Another two or three hours brings us to the larger, equally atmospheric village of Ngawal, a wonderful, old village of cobbled streets, prayer wheels, decorative water-spouts and beautiful architecture, obviously a hub of religious activity in previous times. After lunch, we still have a few hours more to trek, first down and through forests of juniper to Braga village, an old Tibetan-style village of about 150 partially deserted houses with adjoining decks. We have time to explore the old village of Braga, with its large, old gompa perched colorfully above the stacked houses. The gompa has an elaborate collection of thankas and statues, and it is worth finding the key-keeper to open the assembly hall and ‘lha khangs’ for us. Braga also has an impressive collection of traditional architectural details, so keep your eyes open for beautifully carved wooden windows and doors. The prayer wheels and chorten at the foot of Braga are particularly brightly painted.
After a snack (or lunch if we didn't have it in Ngawal) at the New Yak Hotel (one of Kim’s favorite’s) it’s just a 20-minute walk past a series of unique and colorful chortens to Manang, at 3500m, a village of 500 or so flat-roofed houses, the headquarters for the region, and an interesting village packed with trekkers, bakeries and lodges. Manang is dominated by high peaks - Annapurna III and Gangapurna tower over it, and a dramatic icefall sits just across the river. There is an old gompa on the edge of town, many local teahouses, and some atmospheric, winding streets in the village leading out toward the Thorung La. Finally, guest houses, showers, cold beers! There is a 3 o'clock lecture on altitude by the Himalayan Rescue Association for anyone interested. We stay at our good friend Tashi and his wife, Angmo's Mountain View Lodge, absolutely the best in Manang if not the entire Annapurna region! Tashi is an accomplished and award-winning photographer who has led treks with us before, and is one of the only people to have photographed snow leopards in the wild.
Day 25 - Manang
Today is our 'rest' day, with lots of options; a long day-hike to the Ice Lake, a visit to the 'Hundred Rupee Lama' at the cave gompa above Manang (recommended for the views of Annapurna 2 and 4 if nothing else), an afternoon hike above Gangapurna Lake to the viewpoint (also recommended), a two-hour hike to Milarepa's cave across the river from Braga, the HRA talk or a tour of Manang's many bakeries. The guest house is wonderful, a sunny and warm place to gaze at the peaks in the afternoon.
Day 26 - Trek to Thorung Phedi High Camp 4700m
We have an easy two or three hour walk up to the Thorung La Base Camp Hotel at Thorung Phedi, and on to the High Camp just another hour above that. After passing Tengi, Gunsang and Yak Kharka, we'll have an early lunch at Letdar (see photo above), and afterwards its only another hour or so to hike up to the lodge at High Camp, where we will stay the night, getting to bed early for our early morning start for the Thorung La the next day. If anyone is having problems with altitude, we have the option of staying at Thorung Phedi Base Camp, where we had lunch, a nice spot to spend the afternoon with its glass windows.
Day 27 - Trek to Muktinath/Jharkot 3800m
Up early for the three or four hour switch backing trek to the top of the Thorung La at 5400m, stopping once for a longer break at the 'mid-way' teahouse, where we are treated with spectacular views over Mustang and the surrounding peaks. The descent is almost as demanding as the ascent to the top of the pass, so a cup of chai and a snack at the local tea house at Chabarbu, at the bottom of the descent, is a required stop. And on to lower Mustang, which we have actually reached just after the pass, and the serene temple complex of Muktinath.
Muktinath is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists and Hindus situated in a tranquil grove of trees, and contains a wall of 108 waterspouts in the shape of cows heads spouting sacred water, the Jwala Mai temple with a perpetual spouting flame and the pagoda-styled Vishnu Mandir, all of which make up the auspicious combination of earth, fire and water. We stay just five minutes down the trail from Muktinath at Ranipauwa. Or we might opt to continue to the older, less touristy village of Jharkot, reached by continuing along a wonderful trail through more Mustangi villages, where traditional back-loom weaving techniques are still being practiced by the local women. Half an hour from Ranipauwa, Jharkot is an older Mustangi village with a medieval feel, a Shakya gompa which is a traditional medicine center and incredibly photogenic whitewashed houses and streets.
Day 28 - Trek to Kagbeni 2800m
A beautiful, remote trekking day, and a look into old Mustang; the scenery is truly wonderful - soft light, patchworks of fields, peaks overhead, villagers out plowing the fields, horses tethered next to the houses, and apple trees providing texture to the landscape. Heading back up to Muktinath temple, we turn off the main trail towards Mukti village. After an hour of gentle walking, we reach Chhongar, and then the fortified village of Jhong, and finally half an hour later, Khingsar. En route, we'll stop at ancient gompas, look into walled courtyards where live continues as it has for centuries (except often with electricity). Finally, we return to the main trail before the Kagbeni intersection. After a steep descent, we reach the windy Kali Gandaki (called the Thak Khola by the locals) river valley where it intersects the Jhong Khola, and the last village in lower Mustang, the atmospheric oasis of Kagbeni. The mud-packed houses, prayer wheels, narrow, stone streets, covered alleyways, chortens and old brick-hued gompa dominating the village and guarding the river intersections are reminiscent of old Mustang, and those who wanted to venture further can wander across the river to the Mustangi villages officially "off limits" but easily accessible.
Day 29 - Trek to Jomsom 2760m
We have a nice morning's walk down the Kali Gandaki riverbed, looking for saligrams along the way, to Jomsom, the administrative center for the region. The Kali Gandaki valley gets incredibly windy in the early afternoon, so important to arrive before noon; we'll have lunch in Jomsom, and there is a bank if anyone needs to change money. We stay the night at the Trekkers Inn near the check-post, a nice lodge with good food and cold beers for our last night on the trek ...
*** There is an amazing, but much more difficult route from Eklai Batti, crossing the bridge to the village of Phakling, and then ascending another hour up to the larger village of Phalangar, a remote village of tight alleyways, often covered, craggy trees, an old gompa and quite lively. The trail then ascends to a relatively high pass, with great views, and descends again to the Kali Gandaki, and an hour later we reach the cobbled streets of Jomsom.
Day 30 - Fly Pokhara & Kathmandu
If the weather cooperates, we take off early for our mountain flights to Pokhara and then to Kathmandu. After checking into our rooms at the Kathmandu Guest House, we'll have plenty of time to wash off the grime of weeks of trekking in a long, hot shower. Later, we head out to dinner together to celebrate the trek.
Day 31 - Kathmandu
An extra day in Kathmandu; and in case our flight from Jomsom or Pokhara is cancelled. If not, everyone is free to enjoy our favorite Asian city, and we'll meet again for dinner and drinks, perhaps at the lively New Orleans.
Day 32 - Depart
Sadly, we send you to the airport for your flight home ...
* If you wish to stay longer, we can offer plenty of suggestions: mountain biking in the Kathmandu valley, an Everest sightseeing flight, a trip out to Bhaktapur or Patan, the Kathmandu valley's other historic cities, or a night at the Fort Hotel in Nagarkot for a bit of luxury and some expansive sunset and sunrise mountain panoramas. Kim can help to arrange any of these excursions for you.
Namaste and see you during your next trip to the Himalaya!