Thursday, January 3, 2013

Day 1 Annapurna Circuit

Our first day of tramping was all about getting to the trail head, (previous post) but we wanted to arrive early enough so we could hike at least to the next town, to stretch our legs and make some progress. Since we only had 14 days to do the Annapurna Circuit, we knew progress every day was important.  Most guided tours recommend three to four weeks.

Annapurna Circuit
When we arrived in Kumbra, we immediately got hustled off the streets and into a taxi.    It wasn't our intent, but it just happened and we made it to Besishahar in record time. As it turns out, the taxi wasn't that expensive but getting hustled ended up costing us almost 3 times more.  The taxi driver himself got hustled, or so he said, and most of our money went to the hustlers so we ended up giving the taxi driver more money to be fair.

Yessi in front of one of the local taxis.
Always in Nepal, and especially if you don't know what you are doing or where you're going, take a deep breath, relax and forego any offer for anything until you've got your bearing.  Lost and helpless tourists are easy prey and taking a few minutes to gather your thoughts is all it takes to avoid problems.  Go to the bathroom, have a cup of tea and then ask someone for help.  You will get it if you ask, but if the hustlers approach you, without your asking, best to walk away.

Annapurna I, of which there are five named peaks
photo thanks to Google image search.
We had read that Besishahar wasn't so nice and we'd be better off hiking to Khudi, the first real village along the way.  Thus, our early departure from Kathmandu and a private taxi allowed us to begin our hike at 4:00 pm for a nice stroll along a dusty road.

A bridge being constructed near Khudi
One of the best sources I found for concise helpful written material on the Annapurna Circuit was Wikitravel, providing great general information initially then town-to-town information with brief descriptions.  It really helped us initially until we felt knowledgeable and comfortable enough to start making our own informed decisions.  I saved this data to my phone using GoodReader again.

One of the many suspension bridges connecting villages across the Marsyandi river.
I recommend taking a jeep taxi up to Khudi or even a couple towns further if one is short of time.  This section was my least favorite part of the trip.  Roads have been build along much of the Annapurna Circuit and though they are very rough 4 wheel drive roads, they have replaced many of the trails and displaced much of the culture including the donkeys which were needed to carry goods between the towns.

Simple shelters along the way,  probably for animals and farm supplies rather than people.
Typically though, there is a trail on one side of the river and a road on the other side and most towns have suspension bridges.  It's definitely worth paying attention to which side of the river is less developed and walking over there.

And finally we're on our way, walking the Annapurna Circuit starting at Besishahar
Get off the roads and you get away from the less skilled, guided trekkers, the jeeps and the dust and you get on trails with old women carrying baskets of wood and produce; donkeys carrying people and goods; and old hand built trails that are not as direct, usually much steeper and so much more fun to walk.

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