The Annapurna Circuit: A Slideshow Treasure Hunt

Though we are not mountaineers, we have done our share of trekking. Then, just last week, we came off a 15-day trek in the Himalayas in Nepal that looked and felt something like a “best of” of our previous treks. We would like to think that’s saying something, what with journeys in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Burma and bits of the western United States under our hiking belts.

Sign to Thorong La - Manang, Nepal
The path to Thorong La Pass along the Annapurna Circuit.

Yet until very recently we’d barely heard of Nepal’s Annapurna mountain range or the legendary path cut within it called the Annapurna Circuit. But as soon as we approached the border between India and Nepal, recommendations and ringing endorsements of “the circuit” from other travelers and trekkers hit the airwaves. More followed in Pokhara, the jumping off point for a host of great mountain hikes in Nepal. Still others arrived by email. Our choice was clear: make time and do the Annapurna Circuit.

In an attempt to give you a quick feel for what we experienced on the circuit – the land, its people, their culture, the drama and the progression of it all – we bring you a photo slideshow from our 15 days on the trail. We’ll be writing more and posting photo essays later – from A Recipe for Himalayan Stew to How to Trek like a Supermodel – to give the trek its full due.

You might be asking:So where does the treasure hunt fit into all of this?

Here it is: How many of the following can you find in the video below? There may or may not be a prize from Nepal in the end…

1. Yaks grazing
2. Mule trains
3. Water buffalo herder
4. Naked kid saying “Namaste!” (Hello, or literally “I bow to you.”)
5. Tibetans and their amulets
6. Blue sheep
7. Buddhist prayer wheels
8. Bath time
9. Dan and Audrey

Note: Press the play button on the video below in order to view the slideshow.

Video – Do It Before You Die: Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit

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  1. says

    Ben: Thanks. We’re now in China, the land of reliable (if censored) internet. We’ll probably load this batch into our photo gallery over the weekend. There are others that we’ll organize into various sets this summer.

    Michael: OK, so not the best choreographed transition. I couldn’t resist plugging in a little Talking Heads.

  2. Sharandeep Brar says

    Nice Photographs guys! waiting for the bigger versions. and which software did you use to create the slideshow?

  3. says

    Sharan, we hope to get the bigger versions up this weekend (or early next week) – depends on when we’re able to get a train ticket to Kunming, China. We used iPhoto to create the slideshow and then exported it to a Quicktime (.mov) movie.

    Pete, when you recover fully, you should really consider doing this hike – it was amazing! Chengdu is a great place to re-enter China – people are really friendly, the food is delicious (and sometimes outrageously spicy) and it’s a nice, laid back city – kind of remarkable for a city with a population of 4 million people (close to 11 million with surrounding areas)!

  4. Damien O'Connor says

    Hi guys!! Damien here, I met you on the Trekk. Love the website!! Here is my take on “the circuit”…………..enjoy & do keep in touch……..

    Greetings from the roof of the world-Nepal. Four days into the Annapurna Trek and I feel on top of the world. However, the top of my world is set to rise and will kick in on day ten at the “Thurong La” pass. At an elevation of 5416 metres it holds the title as the “World’s Biggest Pass”.
    Presently in picturesque Chame (elevation 2400) nestled in a gorge with impressive and imposing mountains all around. My accomadation is a quaint purple and blue cottage which wouldn’t look out of place on the set of “The Sound of Music”. All for the meagre sum of 100 Rupees a night (AUD$1.70).
    It is seven in the morning and the sun is cutting a warm swathe through the valley. I am having a hearty breakfast-flask of milk tea 150Rp & bowl of wheat flour porridge 90Rp. Unfortunately the porridge has the consistency and flavour of home made glue, so it will be back to the standard oat porridge tomorrow.
    The trekking ranges from between ten to fifteen kilometres a day and the scenery is simply indescribable-soaring snow capped mountains ranges, roaring rivers, terraces fields, virgin forests and age old villages that time seems to have forgotten. But not here in Chame, where for the price of Micronesia’s annual GDP I can get on the internet for a nano second!! Well not quite, but it is 15Rp a minute (AUD $12 an hour). So on that note I will sign off as those “impressive” and “imposing” mountains are calling…………….

    Warm Gurkha Beers and Annapurna Circuit Cheers

    Presently in picturesque Lakeside Pokhara enjoying some well earned rest and relaxation. I conquered the Annapurna Circuit and Thurong La pass and have the blisters and infected leg to prove it!! Here is a quick recap………
    Day 7-Acclimatisation Day in Manang.At elevation 3570 metres, Manang is perched in a valley wedged between two humongous mountain ranges. The Himalayan giants-Annapurna 4, Gangapurna, Tarke Kang and Tilicho sit front and centre. Rising more than 7,000 metres they create a magnificent picture postcard backdrop. Along with this magnificent setting, Manang offers a few creature comforts including bakeries, cinemas and hot showers. The culinairy variety makes a nice change to the regular “Dal Baht” fair.
    Although this is a designated rest day, you are encouraged to walk high to help the acclimatisation process. I climb a range above the town and am rewarded with spectacular views of the Gangapurna Glacier. This massive river frozen in time and essence is simple awesome. On my way down, soaring vultures with incredible three metre wing spans led me to an ox carcass and a subsequent feeding frenzy. It was an amazing live “National Geographic” moment. I could nearly hear the dulcet tones of David Attenborough in my ear as these grizzly scavengers poked their long necks inside the Ox’s stomach.
    There is a mixed bag of Trekkers from all over the world. One of my fellow “Aussie” Trekkers is non other than the super model Gemma Ward. It is refreshing that she is actually here and how down to Earth she is.Her porter is carrying an eighty kilogram pack including guitar, chess set and books, but the Annapurna Circuit is a great leveler as there is no five star luxury out here. Speaking of porters, there are some guys in “flip flops” carrying up to one hundred kilograms precariously balanced on a strap around there forehead. The strength and stamina they display is incredible and makes me bite my tongue!!
    Day 9-Yak Kharka to Thurong Phedi. Had a scare today as some “blue sheep” dislodged some rocks above us. This caused a mini landslide and rocks the size of volleyballs could be heard whizzing past my head!! Arriving at Thurong Phedi (elevation 4450) my head has a dull ache. This ache turns into a throbbing headache as I head up to the high camp at elevation 4925. After a pot of milk tea and trying to come to terms my pounding head, I drop back down to Thurong Phedi to sleep the night.
    Day 10-This is the “World’s Biggest Pass” day. Up at four am with a nourishing breakfast of fried eggs on Tibetan bread and a pot of sweet milk tea before setting off into the clouds at five. The pass is a thousand vertical metres above me. The sun is just rising and I am wearing every piece of clothing that I posses-thermals, fleeces and gortex layered on like the “Michelin Man”. The air is thin and the going is very tough. I feel like I have entered an eerie moonscape where distance and time become irrelevent. Finally at fifteen minutes past eight I begin to shed a few tears of exhilaration as I round yet another bend and spot the plethora of prayer flags that signifies the pass. 5416 metres above sea level and it is time to crack the “Gorkha” beer that has been weighing me down all morning!!
    The exhilaration of reaching the pass soon turned to despair as the weather closed in and I had a seventeen hundred metre decent. This was compounded by a tiny cut on my right shin that unbeknown to me, had got infected. So I arrived at Muktinath thoroughly exhausted and totally spent.
    Day 11-With my right leg double the size of my left, I see a Doctor at Jomsom and am prescribed a course of anti-bio tics and anti-inflammatorys. With this problem resolved, it is time to push on. The scenery this side of the pass in the Kali Gandaki valley is totally different. At first we are in the dry rain shadow region of Mustang but this soon gives way to lush green forests and fertile fields. Unfortunately progress has scared this valley and a road has been carved out of the mountain. This detracts from the raw beauty of the place but tourism is a fraught double edged sword.
    Day 13-Finally arrive at Tatopani and the desperately longed for hot springs. No sooner have I checked in, I am stripping down to my boxers and heading for the hot springs. And they do not disappoint. Sitting there in the steaming bath, sipping a cold Gorkha Beer and taking in the scenery, I have time to reflect on my Annapurna adventure. Experiencing life in this brutally beautiful and timeless environment has had a great impact on me. Considering the day to day slog of simply living life in this harsh and remote place, the people’s sense of spirit and warmth is amazing. Nepal-the “Roof of the World” will take you, as it did me too new highs-both physically and emotionally.
    Today Nepal becomes a Reublic and the pro-Maoists parade through the streets in a eurphoric mass of chanting and red flag waving. I pay a visit to “Swayambhu”, more commonly known as the “Monkey Temple”. With the prayer flags fluttering and the Nepalese Eye looking down upon me, I spin the Tibetan prayer wheels as I walk clockwise around this imposing “Stupa”. There is something both reassuring and calming about this age old ritual and a fitting way to bid the “Roof of the World”-Nepal goodbye and good luck……………..

    Gorkha Beers and Completion of Annapurna Circuit Cheers

  5. says

    Great to hear from you. Excellent comment…sums up the physical and emotional suspense and drama of the trek, including what I call “Annapurna artifacts”. One less piece about that epic journey that we’ll have to write.

    You let the cat out of the bag about Gemma Ward! For the first few days of crossing paths and sharing bathrooms with her, we had no idea that she was a supermodel.

    Did you know who her male companion was (besides the porter and guitar-toting guide, both of whom were very nice)? Speculations included: Heath Ledger’s brother (even though he didn’t have a brother) or possibly Gemma’s hair stylist. After all, her hair was looking pretty spiffy every morning.

  6. Sirje Ehrenpreis says

    Audrey and Dan
    You two are just amazing, not speaking about money you must be richer than the richest.

  7. says

    Dan, thanks for turning us onto this new tool. It has some cool functionality combining photo slideshows and google maps. We’ll look into it next time we have a big trek we want to show visually (and geographically).

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