Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

November 2004 - The Annapurna Circuit - Introduction and Day 1

The Annapurna Circuit
November 2004

The Annapurna Circuit is one of the world's classic walks. It offers stunning views of some of the highest mountains in the world, and insights into the lives of the Nepali people. Our thanks go to Sanjeev Chhetri (Awesome Travel - no longer trading as such as the domain is up for sale) who made our experience unforgettable.

The 125-mile route passes through a variety of Himalayan environments, beginning in the lush Marsyangdi Valley, home of Hindu farming families, then entering the dry, arid region of Manang inhabited by Buddhist Manangis with their Tibetan origins. Higher, there are spectacular views of mountains such as Annapurna II (7937m), Gangapurna (7485m) and Tilicho Peak (7134m). The crux of the trek is crossing the Thorong La at 5414m where you enter a barren snowy world. There is a long descent to the world's deepest gorge, the 'Kali Gandaki', which splits the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna massifs towering 6000m above. 

Here's the route: 

It is possible to do the trek self-supported, staying in the numerous tea-houses along the route, but we chose to do a 'full service' trek. Our guide, sherpas, kitchen staff and porters looked after all our needs, even down to supplying hot water bottles for the cold nights under canvas at higher altitudes!

I'll report on this trip, some 17 years later, by way of daily entries from the diary we kept at the time. Since then there have been significant changes in the area, and I suspect the current version of the circuit is rather different to ours. I hope these postings provide good memories for those on the trip, and maybe some amusement to casual readers. 

I'm looking forward to transcribing the diary entries. Here goes:

First view of the Himalayas

[Diarist: Martin] The trip started on Sunday 31st October 2004 on an autumny claggy day in Manchester. My daughter Kate accepted lunch in return for a ride to the airport. 

The journey to Kathmandu was as uneventful as they get: 16:50 from T3 Manchester to T1 Heathrow on BMI - bags checked through to Kathmandu (KTM). Three hour wait at Heathrow, passed quickly. 

Andrew had joined Sue and me in Manchester. Mark, Lindy and Mary joined at Heathrow. 9:15pm to Doha - 7am, after pushing clocks forward 3 hours. Benign weather. Sue went to sleep. I watched 'Terminal' with Tom Hanks, about a man who lives at Gate 67 at a New York airport (bizarre plot), then 'Around the World in Eighty Days', with Steve Coogan as Phileus Fogg - Bizarre. 

Andrew is in Business Class. Then, after jealously watching him lazing in luxury from our sitting positions on a hard airport floor, we embarked on the 4 ½ hour flight from Doha to KTM. Sue sleeps again, I try to. 

Fantastic mountain views as we pass the main Himalayan peaks. 9am to 4:10pm, after clocks push on a further 2 ¾ hours. Andrew has his business class, the other three stretch out on empty seats, and Sue and I soldier on in our cramped (but window) seats. 

Visa documents are approved and we enter Nepal at Kathmandu. Bags all arrive and out we go to be greeted by the Awesome Travel sign. It's a lovely day, with views towards high peaks. We are thrown by the porters' desire to help and their subsequent need for a tip. Between us we throw £25 at them for a 2 minute job we could have done ourselves. Inexperience! Having wasted a fiver, I find some dollar bills to cope with further similar incidents. (There were none.) 

The Awesome Travel bus takes us to Hotel Radisson where Sanjeev meets us. After more form filling he goes off with our return air tickets and passports, to copy them. We return to our ubiquitously styled hotel rooms and ready ourselves for an evening out by 7pm. Plenty of space in the rooms. Huge bed. Lindy visits the gym. Sue and I pass the pool on the way to reception. We mustn't drink the water. Bottled water is provided. 

Then off in the bus to Sanjeev's house.

At Sanjeev's house, with Sanjeev and Sherishe

Sanjeev is our Sirdar - Andrew knows him well, and it is great that he is leading our trek. He tells us that three out of four Awesome Travel treks this year have been cancelled due to Maoist concerns. (Unfounded.) Ours is the only one running! He has given us some huge 'duffle' bags - much bigger than our pink Himalayan Kingdom bags. The meal is excellent, cooked by our trek chef, and not excessive. 

The evening passes quickly, with Andrew, Mary and me chatting with Sanjeev, the others with his wife Sherishe. His son, Sidart (3) has gone to bed at 8pm. Gin, beer, wine, port - and it's a good job we brought lots of wine - Sanjeev has a bit to learn regarding drinks, eg gin and tonic is an aperitif, not a drink to be topped up like wine, and port is for after the meal, not a wine substitute. Or do they really do it differently here? 

Anyway, by 10:30pm we are all tired, though it's only 5:30pm in England, so we adjourn to the Radisson in the bus allocated to us, enabling everyone to get to bed and recover from their tiring day.

Next Day


bowlandclimber said...

Looking forward to this Martin. Will get my diaries out,I was there in 1989 and reckon it was 150 miles. Happy memories. Will be much shorter now with new roads and infrastructure. Would be interesting to see how things have changed.

Phreerunner said...

Our planned route was 125 miles. I'll be interested to see what our stats add up to when I get to the end of this series of postings.
The route has changed. I may research that as well - there must be some current trips - I have a feeling that alternatives have been devised passing through what used to be remote villages but which are now armed with tea shops and camping spots.