Friday, 31 October 2008

Annapurna Circuit and Base Camp

Here's some pictures and comments on our last 30 days of trekking.

We've grouped the photos to make them easier to navigate. We hope you enjoy them.

Tilicho Lake

At 4,919m, Tilicho Lake is the highest lake in the world. The path to the lake was also very interesting. Luckily there were no rock falls otherwise we would have been in trouble.

Colours on the walk out from the lake.

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The Road to Manang

The scenery changed a lot in a short distance. First it was lush tropical jungle in a wide valley. The valley soon narrowed into a gorge, before opening up again into pine forests around Pisang. The high mountain is Annapurna II. Other highlights included the Swargadwari Danda – a sweeping smooth cliff face five kilometres long, and over 1.5 kilometres high.

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Reaching Thorung La pass

At 5,416m, Thorung La pass was the highest point on the trek and one of the highest trekking passes in the world. As we'd been to Tilicho Lake we were well acclimatised by this time. It was still a tough day though, with over 1,000m of ascent and 1,500m of descent.

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Places we stayed at

Along the way, we stayed in Tea Houses which offered basic accommodation, hearty meals and solar hot showers (wherever it was sunny enough to heat them). Shown here are Tilicho Base Camp Hotel, New Tibet Hotel in Chame, Andy resting in Lower Pisang and the Old Kamala in Tatapani ( apparently kamala means awful in Finnish).

We met some Croatians in Lower Pisang who were celebrating NOT getting up the trekking peak, Pisang Peak. They were then going to try the far more serious Annapurna II and IV. Judging by their lack of success, we thought they were 'Pisang in the wind.'

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People along the way

Laxmi ran a great, traditional style guesthouse in Khangsar. Her tuna, egg, cheese, veg fried rice was legendary. She was very welcoming and we were eating bread around the fire in her kitchen within two minutes of meeting her.

We trekked with Howard, Sue and Arran for over two weeks. They were great company and we look forward to catching up with them in Australia. Arran is busy enjoying his Yak Donalds burger meal.

Mangal was the guide for a couple of German guys – Ackhim and Gunter – who we kept bumping into. They had walked around Manaslu before joining the Annapurna circuit. Ackhim and Gunter had had a disagreement one day with Ackhim walking past us and glumly saying “communication is down”. They sorted things out soon after.

We met the 92-year old Lama in Manang who wished us well for our crossing of Thorung La pass. The oil was supposed to be applied over the head but we accidentally drank it. He also gave us a string necklace each. The going rate was 100 rupees per person. Andy, seeing a pile of 100 rupee notes, thought he'd get change back from a 500 rupee note. The Lama just smiled serenely. This generous donation gave us good luck for a long time.

We met Jeff at Annapurna Base Camp. Here, we indulging in some Mustang Coffee – a special blend of Nescafe and Bagpiper rum. It was very tasty. Jeff had a much nicer camera than us and he kindly donated the Diwali pictures and this one.

Whilst walking, we sometimes had a Tibetan Mastif accompany us for a while. This one didn't seem to suffer from ticks or a funny eye. At night Tibetan Mastifs are rumoured to turn into the 'Hounds of the Baskervilles', biting trekkers approaching villages in the dark. We never went out after 7pm.

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Dal bhat is the local fuel and this kept us walking for hours. Locals eat this lentil soup and curried vegetables twice a day but with much more rice.

Planes to Jomoson fly over the pass at Ghorepani. They fly so low that you can take photos like this without a zoom lens.

These resting places are conveniently located wherever you need one – typically at the top of a hill in the shade of a big tree. You can use them without even having to take your rucksack off and are a trekker's best friend.

Below 2500 meters, plentiful crops of sweetcorn, rice and buckwheat were being harvested. One picture shows sweetcorn drying high up to prevent mice getting to them. Most lodges also offered a plate of popcorn as a snack for tired trekkers. Jen thought she was in paradise as she'd had a craving for popcorn since we left Finland in May!

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Kagbeni and Surroundings

Kagebeni was the northern most town on the circuit, just 20km from the Tibetan border. During our two 'rest days' , we climbed Golden Hill to the east of the town, ate at Yak Donalds and drank the local firewater with Sue, Howard and Arran. Kagbeni is a very dry and dusty place with a strong afternoon wind.

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