trekking nepal, annapurna circuit

Trekking Nepal – Annapurna Circuit – Himalayas – Kathmandu – Pokhara

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Trekking Nepal

In 2012, I spent the month of October in Nepal. I trekked the Annapurna Circuit over 17 days with my cousin – Stephen (YYW), who I regard as being a life-long friend, as well as a cousin.

The Annapurna Circuit trek takes you right into the heart of the mountains and up to an elevation of 5416m (almost 18,000 feet, and 51% oxygen) as you cross the Thorong La Pass (where, in October 2013 – the same month that we had been there only the previous year – a freak blizzard blew in and killed 39 trekkers, porters, and guides).

Despite the dangers of the Annapurna Circuit, I loved the trek. Every time you turn your head in Nepal you are confronted with another spectacular photo opportunity. And the people are amazing. Most hardly have a pot to piss in but their generosity knows no bounds and they welcome you into their humble homes for food and refreshments and smile with their eyes.

I had been to Nepal before, back in 1999, and knew what to expect. For a first-timer (Stephen) to Nepal, the Capital City – Kathmandu, looks like a dirty, grey, apocalyptic nightmare with its crumbling and decaying infrastructure. I can see Stephen is totally overwhelmed by it as he stares from the taxi window, a bit shell-shocked after being pounced upon by a pack of screaming Hyenas (taxi drivers) as we exited the airport. ‘It looks like a f#cking war zone FFS, or the epicenter of an earthquake or something,’ he comments, as the driver negotiates potholes and sacred-Hindu cows lying in the middle of the road.

The air pollution in Kathmandu is the worst I have ever experienced anywhere in the world – you can taste the unregulated exhaust fumes – they hang heavy in the air and burn your eyes. And the driving is nuts -a load of old ‘scrappers’ jostling for space on crowded roads as they pump out black smoke and noise pollution – organised chaos at best.

But Kathmandu is a ‘must-visit destination’.

In Thamel, the backpacker/trekker/hippie section, the streets are narrow and are designed mainly for walking, although bicycles and rickshaws rattle down the cobbled streets, as do taxis and small cars and vans (beware). Thamel is full of mountain-gear shops, too (owned by proficient hustlers who are experts in relieving from you  ‘good money’, in return for ‘low-quality, counterfeit goods’ – although there are some bargains to be had if you look hard enough and know how to barter).

We stay in Thamel for a couple of days at the Hotel Buddha checking out the sights (the Monkey Temple – Buddhist; and Pashupatinath – Hindu), and then we stock up on supplies before catching a bus to Pokhara (6 – 8 hr away) to organise our trekking permits for the circuit.
Mount Kailash Resort, Pokhara

The Annapurna Circuit begins at Besi Sahar (a two-and-a-half-hour backtracking, taxi-cab journey towards Kathmandu from Pokhara) and ends approximately 150 miles away at Nayapul, The Circuit goes counter-clockwise, back towards the direction of Pokhara.

Within a couple of days we’re in the heart of the mountains. I love the simple mountain living, an opportunity for escaping the ‘rat race’ and quietening my frenetic, internal chatter – no TV, no phones, no internet, no distractions – chill time; wood-burning stoves, and solar showers; no cars, no buses – hoofing it – always, on foot, and a good book to bunk down with at the end of the day, reading by headtorch.

It’s an uphill journey all the way to the Thorong La Pass. After walking for a week, we kick back in Manang (3,510m) for a few days to acclimatise before going any higher. It snows as we head off in the dark at 4.00am for the Thorong  La Pass; a kilometre or so beyond the high camp we come across a French group – one of their group is suffering from altitude sickness and a rescue helicopter is called in (a reminder for me on how important it is to have High Altitude Travel Insurance). We continue on to the Thorong La Pass, and then it’s downhill all the way to Nayapul (except for the Trek back up to Ghorepani, and Poonhill), and then downhill again from there.

Nepal is an unforgettable destination and that’s why we’re planning another trip – the Everest Base Camp Trek (EBC Trek) – for October this year, 2017…

The following pictures are from the 2012 trip

More info to come on Nepal soon…

See here for Pokhara post

Trekking Nepal

Trekking Nepal

Budget Trekking in Nepal - Annapurna Circuit
Budget Trekking in Nepal – Annapurna Circuit

The first Part of my book/novel (novella – approx. 25,000 words in Part 1) is available for download at Amazon in Kindle format.
Only Raising Dust On The Road

Only Raising Dust On The Road
By Raymond Carroll
A novel set in Thailand

Part 1 – ‘Buckfast, Lager, & Fags’

‘Only Raising Dust On The Road’ is a novel set in Thailand. The book has been serialised into 4 novella length books.

Part 1 – Buckfast, Lager & Fags (approx. 26,000 words), follows a group of friends from around the globe as they embark on a money-making enterprise to Thailand.

Micky, is a heavy-drinking, drug-using Scotsman who has been hired by his friend ‘Slim’ to manage a bar on a tropical island on Thailand’s eastern gulf coast. Slim’s business partners: Sanjit – a South African-born Indian, and Connie – a white, Afrikaner Durbanite and Sanjit’s girlfriend, have recruited Winston (Sanjit’s South African Indian – ‘hood-rat’ – cousin) to be bartender. Can the mismatched motley-crew make this venture work? Nothing in Thailand is ever as it seems and dangers abound along the way.

The story is told from a multiple character first person point of view and takes place in the late 1990’s.

‘Only Raising Dust On The Road’ is a work of fiction.

Lots of profanity throughout. 18+

Part 2 – ‘Same-Same But Different’ on sale at Amazon

Buy Part 1 of Only Raising Dust On The Road on Kindle and paperback at Amazon

‘In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.’

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Copyright © 2016 Raymond Carroll

42 thoughts on “Trekking Nepal – Annapurna Circuit – Himalayas – Kathmandu – Pokhara”

  1. Nepal is on my bucket list, but I guess I always pictured it as clean and fresh air… not polluted! And I’ve never heard of the Annapurna Circuit before reading your post. Your photos are gorgeous and I’m definitely going to look into it before I book a trip!

    1. Kathmandu, with its problems, is like a grim glimpse into an uncertain future; my cousin said Kathmandu looked like the ‘End of the World’, and so it does – in many ways. But it’s an excellent city to go and visit. You’ll love it, Brittany. And once you are in the mountains it will be fresh and clean, as you had always pictured it. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Amazing pictures!! Those mountains are beyond spectacular. Sounds like such an awesome trip. Nepal is always somewhere I’ve really wanted to visit so this is majorly inspiring!

  3. Such a great post. Makes me really want to explore the himalayas. Although I must say, Katmandu did not sound that great. Lol. I dunno, i think i’ll skip the war zone.

    1. Go to Kathmandu, Kelly – you’ll love it. If you can See past the poverty and the pollution, and the lepers, and the child beggars, then you’ll see that these people have nothing yet they’re happy, with big smiling eyes and faces. Richness of life isn’t always measured in the thickness of your wallet. Thanks for commenting, Kelly. Good luck with everything!

  4. I had heard of the Annapurna trek recently from a friend who moved to Nepal, so it was cool to read your firsthand account. I appreciated the facts you added about the mountain and the region — it provided helpful context since I’ve never been there. And your photos are awesome. Looking forward to more of your posts!

  5. I’m a huge fan of mountaineering so this post was a delight to read. Nepal truly has some amazing scenery and the Himalayas are incredibly scenic.

    I also agree with your statement about mountain living, the feeling of escaping everyday life and just enjoy the wonders of nature.

    Question: do you think this trek would be possible to perform if one is partially disabled? Or is it extremely strenuous?

    1. I found this trek quite easy – I was 42 at the time, but I am fit; there were two guys in their 60’s with their wives (also in their 60’s) doing it. You have to be reasonably fit to do this trek I’d say but you certainly don’t need to be an athlete. You only walk for a few hours a day as you ultimately head for the Thorong La Pass (5416m), ascend too quick and you could end up with altitude sickness. It is best to spend a few days in Manang (3500m) to acclimatise to the altitude before climbing any higher. Thanks for commenting, Geo. Good man!

  6. I did half the Annapurna circuit when I was there in 2008, I would love to go back though and do the whole circuit. It is such a beautiful part of the world. I would stop and take pictures every 100m, just to get a different angle on a mountain!!

  7. It would be interesting to hear your point of view if you went back now. See what has changed with all the issues in the country. It’s on of those places that I have been on my list for a long time!

    1. I know someone who is married to a Nepali, they live in Inverness, Scotland, but they go back once or twice a year. We’re maybe meeting up with them in October. They’ll keep us right. You should try and get there Jean. Amazing!

  8. I did a four days trekking before in Papua (Baliem Valley), although it is not high but the challenges are there – no electricity and really back to nature (bath in the river, etc). And like what you said, I enjoyed those four days because of no phone, no tv and all those things that make days really ‘busy’. I enjoyed the simple life in that few days, gazing at the stars at night and chit chat with the locals and friends – real conversation.

    I think, such simple break is luxury for us who stay in a big city. 🙂

    1. Totally agree, Tracy – we’re all so busy with everything, multi-tasking and striving to get by. It’s good to just chill out sometimes, kick-back with the feet up and say ‘F@ck em!’ Be lucky! Safe Travels.

  9. I’ve always been curious about Nepal! However, thank you for your honest opinion about your experience. It is eye-opening and I’m sure is a great way to prepare themselves for those who are looking to trek it!

  10. It is so humbling to meet people who have so little in possessions but so much generosity. The mountains look incredible. I would love to hike this one day and look forward to reading about your hike to Everest Base Camp!

  11. Sounds like you had a memorable time in Nepal! It has such beautiful scenery and friendly people. I wish I could make a trip there in the near future. Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

  12. This sounds like such an epic adventure! I have done hikes but nothing of this scale. I friend did basecamp and said it was such an amazing experience so I am sure you would love that! 🙂

  13. 17 days long trek!!! Wow!!! That’s a serious dedication and love for adventure and adrenaline… The max I’ve been was a 2 day trek! Best wishes for the Everest Base Camp trek!! 🙂

  14. 150 miles is a serious hike! I know a couple of people who have done it, and loved it – although they said it was one of the hardest things they had ever done! Its great you had someone to share the experience with and I’m sure it really cemented your friendship.
    Good look for the base camp trek – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

  15. This is a great and informative post, thanks so much for sharing Raymond. Hiking and volunteering in Nepal are on my 2018 to-do list. I hope I’ll be fit enough to face it ! 🙂 I didn’t know Kathmandu was so polluted, I expected to be much cleaner than other Asian cities.

    1. Hi Sabrina, Kathmandu is in one of the worst places in the world in terms of air pollution ‘(the statistics fluctuate but usually Kathmandu is right up there – top 5). It’s a great place to visit though, and if you are going trekking you’ll escape the air pollution when you get out of Kathmandu. I hope you get to go there in 2018, and you don’t need to be an athlete to trek in Nepal, although you do need a reasonable level of fitness. Thanks for commenting and good luck on your travels!

  16. So, Nepal is on my list – the Annapurna circuit just looks incredible I’d love to go to base camp. I was wondering if there was any way to train for altitude hiking or is it more to do with how your body can cope with it?

    1. Hi Kate – the best advice for high altitude hiking and trekking is to take it easy. If you’re fit, then resist the the urge to walk further than what’s recommended just because you can. If you take it easy up to about 3500m and then stop for two or three days at that elevation before climbing higher, you should be fine. Hope you get to Nepal sooner rather than later – it’s an amazing country. Hope this helps – thanks for commenting!

  17. I feel the peace even from reading about this trek and seeing all these natural wonders on your pics. And people, as you mention, look so friendly and happy. Here in Europe, we work hard to be able to afford everything we want – and it always amazes me how little might be needed to actually “enjoy” our lives to the fullest. The photos of the mountain views are simply stunning!I guess this is when you forget about all the poverty and pollution and pretty much everything else you´ve seen in Nepal or everywhere else. Such a dream trip for me!

    1. Hi Anna, you should try and visit Nepal – it sounds from your comment like its maybe your kind of place. The scenery and the people and the mountains and the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu – all make for a memorable trip. Hope you get to realise your dreams. Good luck and take care!

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