Part 2: Prepping for the Annapurna Circuit

For questions related to finances, what to pack and other possibly important queries, see PART 1.

This post covers additional information that may or may not be important, depending on yer opine.

Helpful insights
Dos and Donts
Links to other blogs about the Annapurnas

Bits of wisdom we picked up along the way:

“Little bit up, little bit down.” Though locals are happy to point you in the right direction, their estimates are Nepali and only applies to Nepalis. Remember, they were born on the mountains and had heavy loads strapped to their foreheads by the time they could walk. Take the estimates well salted and ask for second opinions.

As a rule of thumb, the walking trails are never too easy for long. There are a lot of ups and downs but really steep climbs are few and far in between. Do watch your step, as tiny obstacles on the trail suddenly turn into big ones when the scenery is awesome. The roads are easy, sure, but who came all the way to the Circuit to do it by road?

Walk early; rest early. Get up at the crack of dawn, walk off the chill and enjoy the mountain views while the sky is clear. Clouds usually come in a bit after 12, and the sun disappears behind the hills by 4:30 or 5. Call it a day by 3:30 and do some laundry. If the clothes are quick dry you’ll have no problem getting it dry by morning. Thick socks can be dried by the dining room’s heater, though you might have to nudge a few other socks around to make room for yours.

Try negotiating free lodging in exchange for dine-in meals. (Seems to only apply to lodges before the pass.) Xiker managed to get us free rooms for most of the trek up to Thorong-La by agreeing to eat dinner and breakfast only at the lodge’s restaurant. They usually make most of their money from meals, anyway, as prices for meals are far more expensive than the room rates. This arrangement does make sense in many villages, where there aren’t any restaurants other than the ones attached to teahouse lodges. However, you may be expected to eat only at the lodge even if you pay for the room. Clarify before agreeing on a price and setting down your backpack!

Rooms and lodges and showers are not all created equal. 10 years ago they may have been mostly similar due to the limitations, but with the advent of the new roads, fancy hotels have sprung up beside spartan but staunch lodges. Some hotels may be new but shoddily made; some rooms are clean, many are not. If you can, check around before choosing one. The deciding factor for us was usually the shower.

If you’re the kind that really appreciates a hot shower, there are several factors to consider when you’re looking for one. How far is it from your room? It can be very chilly walking back. Are there any cracks in the walls (many showers are outhouses) or broken windows? And most importantly, what kind of shower is it? Solar or geyser or gas? (You want gas) The most eco-friendly option would be solar. Just make sure there’s sun.

Teahouse menus in a given region are often the exact same menu with mostly similar prices (capitalism is catching on, up there). Sometimes there’s no difference, and other times there are hotels with prices cheaper than others. Follow your nose.

Always, always keep in mind that though the menus all offer the exact same dishes, the cooks are never the same. What you saw someone get last night may not be whats placed in front of you. Apple pies are never the same by way of size, tastiness and amount of apples stuffed within.

As for the world famous Nepali dal bhaat– it is often one of the highest-priced meals on the menu. All ingredients come straight from the garden, so it’s actually the most eco-friendly thing on the menu in addition to the most nutritious. But whether its worth the rupees or not is debatable. Seconds are implied, thirds have to be asked for. When everyone else is having dal bhaat, there may not be much left for seconds. Xiker swears by it and says if you are starving, order the dal bhaat.

And finally, if you’re someone who doesn’t believe in the religious act of ordering dal bhaat for every meal (like me) it may be well worth waiting a few extra minutes before ordering. At least until you see what other non-dal-bhaat-eaters are getting. Too many of my hot vegetable soups became lukewarm bowls of lettuce after seeing another trekker dig in a steaming plate of cheesy, meaty macaroni.

Last but not least: HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE! Drink no less than 4 to 5 liters a day. At high altitudes your body dehydrates faster, and since you are trekking for several hours each day your body is losing much more water than usual. (I suffered through a few dehydration headaches and they were not pleasant, I tell you.)

Dos and Donts

Do inform yourself, before beginning your trek, of current weather conditions and what kind of sufficient clothing you would need.

Do make sure to obtain all kinds of permits and licenses required to go trekking. The price doubles at the field post, and they do check up on that stuff.

Don’t carry into the Conservation Area a plastic bag full of unrecyclable materials and leave them. Carry out what you carry in (we didn’t always succeed but we tried…)

Don’t buy bottled water (or sodas or beer… yes, I just said don’t buy beer.) The piles of plastic and glass bottles aren’t going anywhere and they just keep getting larger.

Do acquaint yourself with the symptoms of altitude sickness and be very mindful of it as you and yours make the ascent.

Do NOT buy shoes in Nepal and wear them for the first time on your trek. Every hiker should know immediately that they should never, ever embark on a trek wearing brand new shoes. Buy these at home and break them in before you undertake a land-based odyssey.

Do acclimatize yourself whenever possible, and it doesn’t mean simply resting in Manang for a day. “Go high, sleep low,” is a common mountaineering saying which means hike to a higher altitude than where you plan to sleep for the night. This will help your body acclimatize properly.

Don’t bring sweets or gifts to the kids. It’s a nice thought but teaches them to beg, and some even expect to get something.

Don’t pick flowers, take photos instead.

Don’t bother with extra batteries unless you already have ’em. Bought and brought extra camera batteries but in the end didn’t need them. In any case, charging the batteries won’t go past 100rs per hour until Thorong Phedi, though you may have to wait your turn for the outlet.

Once over the pass, don’t walk on the road or take a jeep back to Pokhara. Find the alternate trail and take it all the way to Naya Pul, it is well worth the extra time and energy.


If you’re trekking on your own, where to spend the night

  • Tal–picturesque town beside the Marsyangdi river, nestled between steep hills, and blessed with several beautiful waterfalls in the area.
  • Timang and Thanchowk–lush farmlands and amazing valley views encircle these small villages, and the mountains seem tantalizingly close in the distance.
  • Upper Pisang–surreal stone houses, with Annapurna 4 and 2 towering just above.
  • Gharyu–built on the side of Kong-Lo, high above a beautiful, wooded valley gazing up at three Annapurna peaks and Gangapurna.
  • Ngawal–looks down on Humde’s airport strip and the valley heading to Manang, while the same peaks look down on her.
  • Yak Kharka–a group of lodges on a pasture high in the mountains, with different kinds of animals grazing on the hills: yaks, horned mountain goats, and musk deer.
  • Jhong–town opposite Muktinath, on the Upper Mustang trail, with stunning scenery (better than from the Muktinath side).
  • Kagbeni–brimming with life outside the trail, despite its significance on both the Annapurna Circuit and the Upper Mustang trek
  • Larjung–quiet, homely village on the riverbank of the Kali Gandaki.

Extra snacks worth carting along.

  • Granola bars. Besides the delicious taste, these energy bars never failed to revive me on long days.
  • Honey and/or peanut butter. Can be combined with plain toast, plain tibetan bread, plain chapati, plain everything (and then some). Honey goes into hot tea very nicely. Bread can be bought in bakeries, so a jar (or 2) of these things won’t go untouched. Restaurants always offer jam, butter or honey, but at an additional price.
  • Cookies and/or chocolate candy. I wouldn’t normally suggest this, but its amazing how much your body can crave sugar after a long day of ascending. For me it was as if my body was screaming to replace the sugar I spent the day sweating out. Ate a lot of snickers on the trail until we agreed to go plastic-free (apple pie was a very acceptable alternative so I graciously accepted the terms). In Manang and Jomsom prices for store bought snacks can be reasonable.
  • Crackers (particuarly if you’re not a candy/chocolate kinda person). Salty crackers will partly replace the sodium your body needs after a long, sweaty day, and they make for good snacks

Yummy donuts we found in a local restaurant in Tatopani. No chocolate frosting? No problem: peanut butter and honey to the rescue!
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Here are the links to some of the other blogs I appreciated perusing before (and after) our trek.
(far more comprehensive)
(they did it during the fall trekking season, but I enjoyed the read and the pics)
(nothing special but check out their pic of the pass– no snow!) (Number 5 is precisely why I never go first)

(pretty awesome experience but I’m biased)