To start on the Annapurna Circuit trek, you take a minibus to Besi Sahar and go in a counter-clockwise circle around the Annapurna Mountain Range. We hopped into a minibus that was crammed 4 rows deep and 4 across for the 5 hour ride to Besi Sahar. The seats were so cramped and we kept picking up more and more people along the way, we looked like a clown car!
After we got to Besi Sahar, we opted not to walk along the jeep road and took a bus to Khudi. There was no room left in the bus, so Mike and I sat on top of the bus for the hour long ride. The dirt road is very rocky and uneven, so I spent the hour gripping the side rail for fear of falling off!
We got to the Khudi teahouse just in time before the rain started – little did we know it would rain almost every afternoon like clockwork on our trek! Most people on the Annapurna Circuit do teahouse trekking versus camping in tents as there are lots of teahouses to stay at and they are convenient and inexpensive. The rooms are usually just $2-3/night, but they make their money on your meals, which all have to be eaten at the teahouse. Most rooms come with 1 light bulb, but electricity is pretty spotty so we made good use of our headlamps. Everything runs on hydro-electric power.
The next day we went off the main trek route and headed up to a village called Siurung. 6 hours of uphill! We gained about 1000m that day. It was really beautiful walking up the hills covered in terraced fields.
There is water running everywhere from taps—crazy that there is so much water up here but it’s still a problem in Kathmandu. We brought iodine tablets with us to purify the running water up here, it’s much better than buying water as the plastic accumulation is a problem up here as well.
Siurung was my favorite stay of the trek because it was the closest we got to experience village life. There is one family who keeps a cabin for trekking guests and they cook you meals in their kitchen. We chanced upon their 13 year old daughter Dipa, who was on holiday from school in Kathmandu. She took us on a tour of the village and explained to us that her father helped built the school in the village and her mother is a teacher as well. Dipa’s been living in Kathmandu with her cousins since she was 3 and only gets to come back to the village twice a year.
Dinner was the usual daal bhat set which is what all the porters and guides eat for every meal. You get unlimited helpings of rice, daal (lentils), and usually a veg curry. Mike committed to eating daal bhat at least once a day until we crossed the pass since our guide Min told us daal bhat is “power for 24 hours.” Mike also had his first drink of rakshi here, which is the local homemade wine made out of millet. Kind of tastes like sake and it’s clear.
When we left the village, the family gave us tikka, which is a blessing for visitors. It was kind of a vinegar with rice on your forehead (sometimes it’s red) and an herb to put behind your ear.
From Siurung, we hiked to Chamje which was another 6 hour day. All along the path, you pass Nepalis walking from village to village and everyone greets each other with “Namaste!” The kids are especially fun.
Our days after the first 2 long days usually ranged from 3-5 hours of hiking a day depending on how much altitude we were gaining in a day. It’s amazing how all these villages are so high up on the hills! The hike was really pleasant and there are tons of white butterflies everywhere—kind of surreal and out of a movie (Tomb Raider specifically =)).
It’s quite warm and tropical before you gain altitude, which of course means I got demolished by mosquitoes. Not sure how many bites I accumulated over the course of the trek, but I’m sure it’s over 20.
Everything built up on the high villages was taken up the mountain by porter or donkey and it’s at least 5 hours down the mountain to get to the road.
From Chamje we went through Danakyu, then to Chame, which was the first bigger village we would come across.
In Chame, we decided to get some Diamox for altitude sickness from the health “stand” just in case. We had heard other trekkers who were worried about the altitude and knowing how I got sick in Quito before (Quito’s at 2,800 m), we decided to stock up. Diamox doesn’t cure altitude sickness, but it helps you acclimate faster. I had thought about getting it before our trip, but it required a prescription—no prescription needed here!
I also managed to sprain my foot a bit by the time we got to Chame as well, so we hunted around for an ankle brace. It was hurting to go uphill and I probably hurt it from the rocky paths. Luckily, after a few days of wearing the brace, I was fine.
Up until Chame, it’s relatively warm, and once you get to Chame, you’re at 2,670 m/8,759 ft. It gets pretty cold at night! But, alas, it would get colder still the higher up we went!