Tom Langan is a born adventurer and guides for Lost Earth Adventures in Nepal and in the UK. This is his trip report for our most recent October 2016 Annapurna Hike and Bike tour.
I was recently lucky enough to lead a diverse, fun and adventurous group around the Annapurna Circuit. This is often cited as one of the world’s best treks. We’ve added a twist to this classic route, by mountain biking down the western side. The route crosses several different climate zones, and takes in the Thorung La Pass at 5400 metres.
Drive to Jagat
Waterfalls and Bridges
Our intrepid and eager group headed out the following morning, quickly exposed to stunning views of tall waterfalls running into the valley. After the first suspension bridge the trail climbs up the valley above the Marsyangdi Nadi River. The forest is subtropical and the air humid. One final climb brings us through a gate marking that we are passing into the Manang District, and to Tal, a village set on the eastern bank of the river. Tal (Nepali for lake) sits on what once used to be a lake, in a wider and flatter part of the valley, but still with high imposing walls and cascading waterfalls.
Each guest house has an extensive food selection, and most share similar menus so it becomes easy to plan what you will eat at the next meal. Western foods such as pizza, chilly chips, omelettes and pasta are popular, as well as Nepali and Indian curries. One meal in particular is a staple for locals, dal bhat. This consists of steamed rice, curried vegetables, lentil soup, spicy pickled vegetables and poppadoms. It’s incredibly tasty and a well-balanced meal. The locals swear by it and will happily top up your plate if you are running low!
There are more culinary delights. Mars or Snicker pies are similar to the UK’s deep fried Mars bar, and a popular juice drink as we get closer to Manang appears on the menu. There are orange berries that grow in the are called Seabuckthorn. Seabuckthorn juice is often served with breakfast and has a peach like flavour.
Into the Wild West
We stay the night in Upper Pisang, and are awarded a chance to view the last ceremony before closing at the local Buddhist monastery. Upper Pisang and its monastery sits on the northern slope of the valley, which provides an incredible view to the Annapurnas and their glaciers reaching down towards our valley.
With the teahouse’s high balcony it makes for a great opportunity to watch the dawn rise and light up the mountains the following morning. We made our way out of the medieval village, passing walls of prayer wheels and Mani Walls. Mani Walls contain many rock tablets with beautifully carved mantras.
Manang, the last stop
Our trek has provided a gentle acclimatisation and for several days in the afternoon we have short walks to help our bodies adapt to the higher altitude. These provide great opportunities for photos and to take a peaceful moment or two to take in the majestic surroundings. One such place we visit is the glacial lake outside Manang.
Thorung La Pass
Our trek enters the valley to the north, and we start to climb higher, increasingly surrounded by white capped mountains. As we get closer to Thorung Pedi, passing by the settlement of Yak Kharka and stopping for the night in Ledar, we have some light snow in the evening air. We awoke the next day to blue skies and are warmed as the sun rises above our valley. We stopped for a tea break in Thorung Pedi and made the final ascent to High Camp.
The day has arrived that has been on all our minds. We set off for the pass at 4am. The night time conditions are perfect, the night sky lit up by countless stars. It’s possible to make out familiar constellations, Orion and The Plough. There is a light band running overhead, the Milky Way, and if you pause to stop and take in the sky it does not take long to witness meteors passing overhead.
We have a respite from the night, sipping lemon and ginger tea in a small sheltered tea house before continuing upwards. As dawn comes, prayer flags mark our arrival to the top of Thorung La Pass, over 5400 metres in altitude.
We are treated to a spectacular view of the valley to the west, to new mountains and plains that we will be crossing on bikes the very next day. We descend down to Muktinath for lunch, to rest and enjoy celebratory beers for our achievements!
The Downhill Descent
Staying in Tatopani on our second to last night, we treat our bodies to the nearby thermal hot springs and a beer. We are witness to a stunning view of the mountain Nilgri, perfectly framed by the valley walls and lit up pink in the waning sun.
Nothing can stop us now as we descend the final section to Beni. We make it, elated by our journey and travel on to Pohkara, a lakeside city, celebrating with an evening of great food and wine. Amazing effort team!
Want to join us? Our next departures for the Annapurna Hike and Bike tour are departing in 2017: 8th April, 7th October, 21st October, 4th November, 18th November.