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Manaslu High & Nar Phu trek
We combine two spectacular treks into one unbeatable journey into 'old Tibet'. Experience the diverse Tibetan culture, spectacular scenery and snow peaks of the Manaslu Himal Circuit and the remote, glacial valleys and timeless villages of Nar and Phu in the upper Manang region.
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 eighth 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 Gorhka, 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 Nar Phu valleys, regions of ethnically-Tibetan inhabitants, grace us with similarly towering snow-peaks and unique culture. The trek up to Nar and Phu combines high peaks and passes, glaciers, remote villages, narrow canyons, lovely forests, amazing rock formations, yaks, gompas and unique Himalayan cultures. Two long days of walking from the border of Tibet, this region was first explored by Tilman in the 1950s. Closed to trekkers until late 2002, very few westerners have explored these virtually untouched villages or climbed the many 7000m peaks surrounding it. Along with spending plenty of time at these colorful and timeless villages, we explore the high alpine valleys above Phu (including Himlung Base Camp for those who want to), and then from Nar cross the Kang La to Ngawal on the upper Pisang route leading back into the Annapurna circuit.
After such a wonderful trek, and now that we are fully acclimatized, why not continue around the Annapurna Circuit via the Thorung La pass to Lower Mustang? We fly out of Jomsom to Pokhara, and then continue on to Kathmandu, truly an unforgettable journey through Nepal
Don't miss this journey around Manaslu and into remote Nar-Phu!
There is also a detailed itinerary lower in the page.
"It was a pleasure trekking with you, Lhakpa and the rest of the crew. You've all made it very special and very memorable. We had a wonderful team and everyone got along beautifully. Thank you for taking the time to give us background info/history on the different villages, villagers/cultures, religions, mountains, carpet patterns, jewelry, food ... You gave so much of yourself throughout the trek. I can't tell you how much I appreciated it all."
Ornella C, Manaslu High & Nar Phu, 2006
Starting in the middle hills of Nepal, passing though magnificent gorges, pristine forests and long, wooded valleys, stopping at Tibetan gompas in remote villages and finishing with a high pass crossing to the Annapurna Circuit, this trek really has it all! We start the trek from ancient Gorkha, visiting the old 'durbar' or palace, before setting off on the spectacular high route to Korlebesi. From here, we begin following the trade route along the Buri Gandaki, en route passing through a unique region known as Nubri, where Tibetans settled centuries ago and continue to live in their traditional dwellings. The mountainous border of Tibet is just a few hours trek away, and we can climb up to a pass looking out into Tibet, passing Tibetan traders traveling along more ancient trade routes. We have our trademark extra time for acclimatization in these wonderful high altitude villages. To finish the Manaslu Circuit, we must cross the Larkya La (pass) at 5100m, crossing from Nubri into Manang, where we enter the Annapurna Circuit near the check post at Koto, where the next phase of the trek begins.
After the Kang La, we enter into the Annapurna Conservation Area (the Annapurna Circuit) for a day before heading northeast to Nar Phu. We venture into this remote region of upper Manang, camping along the way at the winter settlement of Nar and Phu, and visit some of the most unvisited and most interesting villages in the Tibetan Buddhist world. Buddhist pilgrims from around Nepal might accompany us up to Phu to visit the renowned Tashi Lhakhang Gompa and receive a blessing from Lama Karma Sonam Rimpoche. Again, we have plenty of days to explore the timeless villages in the Nar and Phu valleys before returning back to the Annapurna Circuit via another 5300 meter pass, the Kang La. We continue to head up, towards the Thorung La (our third pass over 5000 meters on the trek), and descend down to lower Mustang, spending a day at Kagbeni before flying out of Jomsom to Pokhara and Kathmandu. This trek is truly 'off-the-beaten-track', and a real adventure!
Note: The Lonely Planet guide book describes the Manaslu trek as tougher than most, but this is now wrong. There have been new trails put in that significantly reduce the climbing involved and reduce the exposure. The trails are now wide and good unlike in Tilman's time (1950) where in one part the trail was a few narrow planks resting on branches that had been hammered into cracks in the rock!
Providing you have sent us your arrival details, you should be met at the airport and escorted to the guest house. A representative from the Kathmandu Guest House will met you there if you have sent your arrival details. Kim will book the rooms for you, just let her know.
Monday 17 October - Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu 1350m
You'll be met at the airport by Kim and/or a representative from the Kathmandu Guest House, so look out for a Project Himalaya or a Kathmandu guest house sign. They will have your name and be looking for you. If, for some reason, you have any problems at the airport, either contact us or take a taxi (we will reimburse you) to the Kathmandu Guest House in Thamel, every taxi driver knows it.
If Kim wasn't able to come to the airport, she 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 collect your passports, 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 1350m
Today we explore the Kathmandu valley with Kim. Options (we usually have time to do three of these): 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 yellow 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 then for dinner wood-oven pizza at the Roadhouse Cafe.
Day 3 - Drive to Gorhka, trek to camp above Gorkha
We're up early for our scenic six-hour drive to the historic town of Gorkha, 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 palace, stopping en route to visit this well-maintained historic (but fortified) site.
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 'bhattis' (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.
Day 5 - Trek to Kalibote 800m
A continuation of yesterday's scenery, we trek though 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.
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.
Day 7 - Trek to Laprak 2200m
Another early start and another climb; after a few hours, we reach the ridge 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. Another hour or two brings us down to another large Gurung village, Laprak, perhaps not quite as scenic as the last. The Maoists often stay in this village, and we might be paid a visit for some friendly indoctrination.
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.
Day 9 - Trek to Jagat 1370m
After 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 Conservation Area. It is worth wandering around this beautiful, paved village, where proud villagers have recorded how much they contributed to these paving schemes; Jagat people love their village! 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 Philim and its Japanese sponsored school. We will either camp here or at a campsite an hour further, Eklai Bhatti.
Day 11 - Deng 1540m
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 (on even more sketchy bridges, Nepali style) to avoid the difficult valley sides, and then leave the gorge, climbing at one point on steps cut into tree trunks, 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. 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
The valley is still steep-sided and impressive; we cross to the village of Lana, and start to see mani stones (prayers etched onto wayside rocks), a sure sign that we are entering another of the tiny Tibetan footholds that mark the high Himalayan places. After about three hours, 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 there.
Day 13 - Trek to Lho 3180m
Today is a wonderful trekking day; after passing through the seemingly deserted 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 to Namrung, at 2540 meters, where we will stop for a cup of chai. A few hours later, we reach the village of Lihi at 2840 meters, a substantial altitude gain. The air is pleasantly cool, and we stop for a breather before heading on the Sho, which we can see on the ridge ahead, for lunch on the deck of a local house. Look for the bear claw on the upper deck of the house. 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!
Day 14 - Trek to Sama Goan (Ro) 3525m
We gain altitude to take us into alpine territory and increasing mountain views. There are more mani walls and three more crossings of the Buri Gandaki on our route to Namrung, a great place for morning chai in the Manaslu lodge, run by friendly Tibetan family; check out their prayer area and masks! Above this village the valley opens out and there are extensive pastures. 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. We may camp at Shyala, or push on to Sama Gaon; from either there are incredible views of Manaslu.
Sama Gaon, or Ro, as the locals call it, sits in a bowl at the foot of the pastures leading to the high peaks. The people settled here from Tibet over 500 years ago, and there are two gompas dating from this time with unique architecture, built of wood. The Tibetan villages here have entrance gates which are very distinctive from Ladakh and Tibet, and they maintain an active trade with their coreligionists 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.
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 ...
Day 16 - Trek to Samdo 3690m
Another day, another kingdom in the sky. Hard to keep stopping, but we do to look back at the incredible mountain views on the walk up to Samdo, an easy three hours. You can spot the entrance chorten high on a bluff an hour out of Ro. The village is a collection of houses and lodges at 3690m, high enough to feel it now, and most trekkers miss the heat of a week ago as we huddle around the lodge stove and a wind from Tibet batters the windowpanes. As Eric Newby, the doyen of travel writers said, 'you wanted Central Asia, and you got it!'. But the dining tent is warm and cozy, and so are our tents.
Day 17 - Samdo
On our rest day here why not a day trip to Old Tibet; no passport required. It takes five hours walking to do just that, and then take in the views and ruminate on the border markers at the top; 'China, 1962.' 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. Kim will inveigle you into some of the local houses for Chang, salt butter tea and carpets!
Day 18 - Trek to Dharamsala/Larkya Phedi 4460m
We leave on the trade route to old Tibet and climb through the ruins of Larkya bazaar, one of the trade markets that flourished years back. After two hours of climbing with increasingly incredible views, we come to the campsite at Dharamsala, where we have lunch and a feast of views.
Day 19 - Cross Larkya La (4930m) to Bimtang 3590n
After a short climb above the lodge, we reach the ablation valley on the North side of the Larkya Glaciers. There are views of Cho Danda and then of Larkya Peak. Finally, we walk across the moraines of the glacier, making a gradual ascent which becomes steeper only in the last section to the pass. 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. Bob Rosenbaum, one of our returning trekkers, did a 'Bob Special' excursion, and saw large human like bare footprints here.
The top of the pass is truly unbelievable. From the pass, where we dive into lunch, is a steep ankle straining drop to a trail following the glacial moraine. Be warned, stop to admire the view, or you may fall. It is a longer day then usual to Bimtang, but to walk into these low pastures with the evening mist coming in and Manaslu; it's an experience not to be missed. And of course 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
Let Kim have her coffee this morning before you say Hello; she is no fan of cold, and the campsite at Bimtang is FRIGID in the morning. 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. The gorge ahead marks apple pie and hot shower land - the Annapurna circuit.
Day 21 - Trek to Koto Qupar 2565m
We climb through terraced fields to the Karche La (pass) and can see ahead a green and heavily forested valley, dropping down to the distant Marshyangdi river. At Thonje village is our final restricted area check post, and part of the old Annapurna trekking route. There is a lovely old gompa in the village, worth a look, before we cross the suspension bridge over the Marsyangdi river to the main Annapurna route just above Dharapani. We continue north through forests of pine and oak, we pass through Danagyu before coming to a 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. An hour away is the wonderful Gurung village of Timang, 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! Koto Qupar; the villagers are mostly from Nar and Phu and this is the gateway to their region. And here we finally have a night in a lodge, a room, some 'sukuti', or fried dried meat, cold beers and a (short) rest before heading back up the next valley to Nar Phu.
Day 22 - Trek to Meta 3560m
This morning we head out early, as we have a long and somewhat difficult day before us. Just past the check post, we cross the river leading to the Nar Phu valleys, and hike up through beautiful woods above the Phu Khola (river). The route takes us through some beautiful woods and past several small cave shelters and a dharmasala, or pilgrims' rest house. As we emerge out of a narrow canyon, the trail actually passes under a wide waterfall just before the dharmasala, from which point the woods become thinner and the vistas wider. A stunning start for the Nar Phu trek!
We might camp at Dharamsala, but will most likely continue on and make the steep climb up the valley along a small, scenic trail to the high pastures. This is the kharka of Meta, 3560m, the non-permanent winter settlement of Nar, and we will definitely share the campsite with a few yaks. Another chilly night, so we'll try to get a fire going to warm up!
Day 23 - Trek to Kayang 3880m
This morning is one of the loveliest walks in the Himalayas. The landscape is similar to the Sierra Nevada; white rocks, low shrub and juniper, scattered evergreens, delicate brick-red and orange leafed bushes, crumbling shelves of flat slate, white, sandy trails and knarled trees. The mountains around us are utterly spectacular, and the Phu Kosi shadows the trail far below. An hour past Meta, Junam is the second semi-permanent settlement, one where "khampas" from Tibet sometimes sheltered. Above the kharka to the right looms a massive glacier, which falls jaggedly down to the high pastures above us. It's all truly amazing scenery. Across the river, the cliffs contort in swirls and waves, similar to Ladakhi landscapes. The next semi-permanent settlement is Chako, formerly a Khampa settlement, where grass lies tied in bunches to dry on all the rooftops and prayer flags flutter in the breeze. Last year we saw a massive yak caravan from Phu pass by at Chako on their way down to Manang to re-supply. A scene from old Tibet! Many more ups and downs take us to tonight's campsite at Kyang, the extensive winter settlement of Phu, on a plateau high above the river.
Day 24 - Trek to Phu 4050m
Dropping steeply down to the river, we trek for a while along the river bank and past the "submarine" rock, passing some small possible campsites along the way. Today, we really start to see some of the unique, colorful chortens for which Nar and Phu are justly famous. We have to rock-hop carefully across a small glacial stream before reaching a larger one with a bridge only half covered with large slabs of slate. Some large steps do the trick!
Another hour and a half of trekking through scenic canyon lands and gorges, and the "leaning tower of Pisa" monolith guards the steep trail up to the Phu gate, called Pupigyal Kwe. This ancient gate provides us with our first view of the three villages of Phu, as well as an old "dzong" and the remains of two forts, all now in ruins, but impressively situated atop the flatlands before Phu. Just before the bridge to Phu, a line of wonderful chortens color the landscape and lead the way to the main village of Phu, perched high up on a hill, amphitheater style. We will set up camp on the lower reaches of Phu, formerly called Gomdzong, and head up to the famous Tashi Lhakhang Gompa on a neighboring hillside to pay our respects to Lama Karma Sonam Rimpoche, a "trulku" who came to Nepal with His Holiness the Dalai Lama back in '59. He is also a renowned "amchi" or Tibetan doctor, as well as a thanka painter and father of several children (some "trulkus" as well as certain lamas are permitted to marry). Later, we might head up to the village to hunt down some chang.
Day 25 - Phu
Having spent quite a few days getting to Phu, we will spend an extra day in the area to enjoy it, meet the local Phu residents and perhaps do some exploring up the wide valley systems above us. Tibet is two long days away, so a bit far for a visit, but we might walk up the valley to the summer grazing settlement, or 'kharka' at Ngoru, a three hour's walk past the gompa. For those with lots of energy, a hike towards the east through a glacial valley leads to Himlung Himal base camp, a 7125m peak recently opened for climbing. There are often expeditions climbing this peak, as well as nearby Gyanji Kang. The mountain views are tremendous!
For others, a walk west up past Phu towards the chortens on the hillside provides some incredible vistas and views down over Phu and the surrounding fields, forts, valleys and peaks. Phu itself is an incredibly interesting village, and a day is well spent sitting with the villagers as they spin their yak and sheep wool and chat, pound mustard seeds into a paste for oil, or involve themselves in the countless activities that take up a day in Tibetan villages. For photographers, the light is spectacular, and the skies a deep blue, and we may even see some blue sheep on the surrounding hillsides. A wander through the village will probably involve an invitation into someone's home for some authentic Tibetan salt butter tea, or perhaps a small glass of local 'raksi', or rice/barley liquor.
Day 26 - Trek to Junam 3550m
Back through Phu gate, we descend to the river, and retrace our steps back to Junam kharka, a lovely spot as any for our campsite for the evening. In 2003 we camped with some Phu residents (all but one women) on their way back up to Phu with huge loads of planks from the nearby forests, and the evening was filled with Tibetan, or Manangi songs, smoky shelters and that unique Tibetan laughter.
Day 27 - Trek to Nar 4225m
Another classic Himalayan trekking day, as we trek down to the old bridge spanning a deep, contoured and narrow gorge (cameras out for this crossing), and then all the way back up again. It's a good thing the scenery is so stunning ... Below us sit Gyalbu Kumbu, built in 1650, and Satte gompa, both empty. We finally reach the Nar gates at the top of the hill, and pass by yet another line of wonderfully painted, bamboo-topped chortens and a large tiered chorten before turning the corner and being rewarded with sublime views of Nar, the undulating patterns of the surrounding barley and mustard fields, four old, colorful and traditional gompas and the snow-peaks looming overhead. We arrive early, so will have some lunch in the sun before doing some exploring.
Day 28 - Nar
Physically, Nar is not far from the main Annapurna trail, but it feels centuries away, is rarely visited by trekkers and is about as picturesque as they come. Nar is bit more social and lively than Phu, and the village 'square' is full of chatting women with their back-strap looms weaving wool fabric for rugs and blankets, pounding mustard seeds for oil, or spinning the ubiquitous wool while catching up on the news. The children in Nar seem to be always out in the streets, presumably preferring this life to the classroom! Each family in Nar seems to have at least one son or daughter in a gompa, and many live at home or visit frequently, so there is the resonating sound of cymbals, chanting and drums echoing throughout the village. Other Nar villagers may be printing prayer flags, doing some carpentry, collecting wood from the forest and carrying large loads with a head-strap back up to the house, harvesting the crops, tending the yaks, sheep and goats or spinning the prayer wheels in the center of town. Climb the prayer-flag festooned hill above Nar for wonderful views, or sit at our lovely guest house overlooking the whole scene in the sun, sheltered from the chilling and ever-present afternoon winds. It is a good day to try some local buckwheat pancakes or 'diro'.
Day 29 - Trek to Ngawal 3675m
The Kang La is not a difficult pass in GOOD conditions, but it can be a long and difficult day if there is snow on the pass or the altitude is taking it's toll. The Kang La, at 5240m, is an absolutely spectacular pass looking over Annapurna II, Gangapurna, Tilicho peak, the peaks surrounding Tilicho and the airport at Thongde. The trail down initially is steep; scree jumping seems to be the easiest option for the descent. After resting sore knees and shaky legs, we lunch on a plateau overlooking the peaks, and then continue to contour to the left towards Ngawal.
Ngawal, on the upper Pisang route of the Annapurna circuit (off the main Annapurna circuit), can be reached in as little as two hours from the pass, but the walk down is so nice that we will take it easy and enjoy the views. Just before Ngawal is an unusual grouping of chortens and prayer flags, and marks a meditation cave far up in the hills.
Ngawal is a wonderful, old village of cobbled streets, prayer wheels and beautiful architecture, obviously a hub of religious activity in previous times. We're finished the camping section of the trek here, and head for a guest house for the night! Hydrate before grabbing a bottle of beer, please!
Day 30 - Trek to Manang 3510m
We start the day with a two hour walk through open forest to Braga, an old Tibetan-style village of about 150 partially deserted houses. 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 lunch 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 a very 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. There is a 3 o'clock lecture on altitude by the Himalayan Rescue Association for anyone interested. We stay at Tashi's lodge for the evening, a sort of Manangi art gallery, which also houses many of his photos of the region.
Day 31 - Trek to Thorung Phedi 4525m
We will undoubtedly be passed along the trail by galloping Manangi horses, saddled with wonderful (and expensive) Tibetan wool saddle blankets, and their jubilant Manangi riders, bells jingling as they gallop by. We climb past Tengi and Gunsang to Yak Karka, and then another 45 minutes arrive in Letdar where we will have lunch. An easy two hour walk up to the Thorung La Base Camp Hotel at Thorung Phedi, and a free afternoon to either hike up to the lodge at High Camp for some acclimatization, or an afternoon of reading and chatting with other trekkers in the sunny, all-glass dining area of the lodge.
Day 32 - Trek to Muktinath 3670m
Up early for the four hour walk to the top of the Thorung La at 5400m, 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. We stay just five minutes down the trail from Muktinath at Ranipauwa.
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 bed down for the night, finally, at the Royal Mustang Lodge, with a great dining area and hot showers.
Day 33 - Trek to Kagbeni 2850m
This morning we trek along a wonderful trail through more Mustangi villages, where we will feast on delicious apples and see the traditional back-loom weaving techniques being practiced by the local women. Half an hour down the trail, Jharkot is an old Mustangi village with a medieval feel to it, a Shakya gompa which is a traditional medicine center and incredibly photogenic whitewashed houses and streets. Further along the trail at Khingar, we might visit the local school. The scenery is truly wonderful - soft light, patchworks of fields, peaks overhead, villagers out plowing the fields, horses tethered next to the houses, apple trees providing texture to the landscape. 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. We stay at the Annapurna Lodge, a traditional guest house with wonderful rooms.
Day 34 - Trek to Jomsom 2710m
We might take an alternative route to Jomsom down the west side of the river depending on the conditions of the trail, and the attentiveness of the check post guards (this is also officially in upper Mustang, but not strictly enforced). There are groups of villages near the trail to visit; otherwise we will walk down the Kali Gandaki riverbed, looking for saligrams along the way, to Jomsom, the administrative center for the region. Some options for the afternoon are an easy half hour walk to the beautiful village of Syang or an hour's walk across the river to the gompa at Thini. We stay at the southern end of the village close to the airport in a traditional-styled guest house, the Trekkers Inn, after checking in at the check post.
* There is an option to leave the group here and continue trekking around the Annapurna circuit.
Day 35 - Fly to Pokhara and Kathmandu
If the weather is clear, which it should be at this time of year, we will catch a morning flight to Pokhara, and then continue on to Kathmandu the next day. The mountain views are tremendous en route. We have scheduled an extra day in Kathmandu, however, just in case we are delayed for a day in Jomsom.
If anyone is interested in spending some time more time in Pokhara, just let us know.
Day 36 - Kathmandu
Goodbyes back in Kathmandu over wood-oven pizza and chilled beers...
Day 37 - Depart
We take you to the airport for your flight home. It’s been a truly amazing trip into the remote valleys of Manaslu and Nar Phu. We hope you enjoyed the trek, and are sure you'll be back trekking somewhere in the Himalaya again; it's not good-bye just yet!
You are welcome to stay longer in Kathmandu and we can assist you with hotels, tours to Bhaktapur, Nagarkot, Pokhara or many other spots, Everest sightseeing flights, biking in the Kathmandu valley, rafting, etc.