Occasionally I’m asked how in the world I packed in enough food for three weeks on the Annapurna Circuit and I have to burst their bubble that I’m not so hard core and that I actually ate three meals a day at tea houses along the route. The most effort I put in food-wise was to open a Snickers bar in one hand while holding trekking poles in the other. Also, since it was the start of monsoon season, I didn’t even pack a sleeping bag, just a sleep sac. If I was cold, the empty tea houses had plenty of blankets to share. Not quite glamping, but not backcountry remote either. Here are a few tidbits from the Annapurna Circuit that might make the picture slightly clearer for those curious or maybe interested in this trek one day.
What I bought in Kathmandu: Permits ($20 TIMS, $20 ACAP); trekking poles, long johns, sun hat, fleece hat, gloves, fleece-lined booties (luxury), 2 pairs socks, medicine, water bottle, hand sanitizer, Snickers, toilet paper. Minus the permits, all that other stuff was under $30. Besides perhaps shoes (I have giant feet), it’s possible to roll up into Kathmandu or Pohkara and purchase everything you’d need for this hike from a backpack to underwear…especially if you dig knock-offs. Sidenote, it was necessary to carry hundreds of dollars on me as ATM stops could be over a week apart (I didn’t even bother). 1 USD is nearly 100 Nepalese Rupee – I imagine this will be the only time in my life where I could justify rolling cash like this!
Rest Days: Four days ended up being rest days throughout the three week trek: Manang to acclimatize (eat lots of bakery good and watch a movie – $3 -includes tea and popcorn!); Kagbeni (hike to Tibetan town of Tiri); Tatopani (hot springs, relax before the 6k’ day to come); Ghorepani (rain day! no interest in hiking in the downpour; no luck for a Poon Hill view). As you can see, it’s possible to bust out longer days or never rest to shorten the duration. It’s also possible to do side hikes – I recommend a day hike to Ice Lake out of Braga!
Food: Generally standard set AC menus with anything from pasta to oatmeal to dal baht (local dish with rice, vegetable curry and lentils). This trek is known as the apple-pie trek by many and it’s easy to see why. The bigger villages had bakeries loaded with cakes, pies and the all important cinnamon rolls. I did not go hungry. Ever.
Tea Houses: Ranged from free to $2 a night (low season). Solar showers meant cold showers, generally. Gas heated showers were the jackpot. Squat toilets were common; western toilets found more along the western side of the circuit. Bring toilet paper (though you can buy it along the way too). As you can see from these pictures, the views from the tea houses were just terrible.
Weather: We were late in the season. High season is around November and December. To get an idea, the health clinic in Manang offers daily free high altitude talks closed until the fall the day before we showed up. For 3 weeks out there, the only days with rain were at the end as monsoon season arrived and we were out of the rain shadow north of the range. It seemed like the perfect time to hike this route – it’s possible we were just very lucky too!
A note about the road. Part of what I love about hiking is putting in the effort to reach a place I couldn’t get to otherwise. The road has taken that away – it seems common now to take a jeep up the eastern valley and down the western valley, making the hike around a week instead of three. Which is great if you don’t have much time to spend on the circuit. There are stretches where alternative trails haven’t been rebuilt yet and getting caught in a cloud of dust by a bus or jeep gets old quick. The road has improved the quality of life for the folks living in this area, but it’s also affecting their tourism livelihood as more people are passing up on those initial/end stops or the new trails fall on the other side of the river, creating new stops and bypassing old ones. I’m curious to see how the development continues as more people are gravitating towards other treks in Nepal without roads. Maybe at some point you won’t have to be on the road at all!
Those are the tidbits I came up with to help paint the picture. Did I leave something out? Ask away!