Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nepal Trek - Annapurna Circuit - Part 1- Basisahar to Manang

After a few attempted trips ( 1994, 2006) we finally made it. The idea of doing the indian trek before attacking the longer and more strenuous Annapurna circuit worked beautifully. So here is a long overdue account of that trip.  Since it is a 20 day long hike, I am doing it in two parts... This section includes the organising and the trip up to Manang at 3500 Mts. Part 2 , will detail the Torungla Pass and beyond.

The entire plan had been made and tickets booked before I realised that our date of landing in kathmandu is tech start of their Dashian and that everything will be shut over the next three to four days. Yep Dashian in 2010 was from October 15 to 17, with almost all travel agents and govt offices shut most days. fortunately, the permit office was open on 16th for the morning.
The organising of the trek was a bit more of an adventure than we had expected thanks to dashian. As planned we arrived on Oct 15th and Gina was expected to join us on 17th, to start the trek on 18th. However, when we tried meeting the two guys whom I had emailed before they turned out to be a bit of a disiater. One of them tried putting on too much airs, and the other had already gone home and was not interested.  So walked around Thamel and met a couple of agencies. One was http://www.adventureasiatrek.com/ , run by Dilip Lama and was new agency and hence very keen to help. The other was one of the bigger group, who said they can organise porters but only starting on Oct 19th.

Dilip promised that he would get us to meet the porter(s) on the following day. So accepted to see him at 11am, on Oct16th and wandered around. Then found out that the permit office is only open on Oct 16th till 1PM, and only re-opened on Oct19th.  So decided that we would get the permits done regardless of the group we go with, even though the agencies wanted t do it themselves. So on oct 16th walked all the way to the permit office and found out you need cash! Had to go ATM hunting ( there are heaps but only very few take international cards) got the necessary money and headed back to the office. The permits could only be got for yourselves and any family member who was not with you. So we became an international family with Gina being our sister In law :) This done went to meet Dilip and his porter/guide was not there, but he did manage to get him after lunch. So met him at about 2 pm. The bloke ..... claimed he had done this trip many times and spoke a few sentences in english, later we found that he could say a few words in english, but doubted if he could understand any. As regardless of what you asked you got the same answer :)At that stage he seemed OK, and after Dilip promised to get us to meet the young guy who would be our second ported on 17th, and set things up for the drive to Besisahar and a airport pickup for Gina for the next day went off to our hotel. The taxi diid not arrive as promised but Dilip found us another and it was very comfortable ride back from airport. On 17th met up with our guide number 2, ..... . On Oct 18th, we found the first impact for Dashian. We had both our porters turn up at the promised 6:30, however we had no vehicle, After a few frantic calls found out that the driver had drunk too much due to dashain and was not cmng. Dilip managed to get us the same vehicle that took us yesterday, and we were happy.  The ride was OK but he would not go any further than Besisahar. had lunch/ breakfast at a dhaba en route , and it was not too bad. Reached Besisahar around 2 pm.
The buses enroute to besishar 
Since had learnt that the walk up to bhulbule was on road ( or what passed for a road in nepal...read that as dirt track) tried finding out about the bus option. One look at it and we decided to walk the 10 KMs and it took 3hrs Bus apparently takes 2 :)

The bus from Besisahar to Bhulbhule...

Apparently that was the day( the day after vijayadashmi) that people visit their families for dashain hence the crowds.
The walk was actually quite pleasant, except to find that our lead porter had a bit of an attitude. This came out, when we found him trying to use the back pack straps to tie his bag on to the backpack and had no ropes etc , despite us asking him pervious day and him saying yes I will bring them... Should have seen the issue brewing, but that can wait. So on very first day, Gina's brand new rain cover had a tear, as he just plonked it close to a jagged rock, while the young fellow was a lot more careful.  The place in bhulbhule gave as a first glimpse of what to expect, squat toilets with a bucket to dip out water... and the views that make up.

The morning sun ( when we reached it was a bit cloudy so did not see anything) gave us the first view of what we can expect for rest of the trek. Yep the grand view of the magnificent mountains that was coming with us :)

Todays walk was along a few rivers and suspension bridges taking us from Bhulbule to Nardi with break fast at Hilton... the Nardi one

After a hearty break fast the walk continued through rice field and other amazing scenery to Germu our stop for the second night. 
Day three was a longish day, as we sated off from germu and after walking past Jagat to Tal. The walk was lovely with views along Marsyagudi river and the village of Tal was lovely. 

The accommodation (hotel Paradise) was also much better here, as we had hot water and could actually wash some clothes :) The sunrise views at Tal was lovely, and the walk to Darapani on day 4 was as beautiful as expected. The river ( marsayagudi) continued to weave its path and we followed it :) Breakfast stop was at Darapani where we had a lovely breakfast at this London returned entrepreneur... ( This lady went as a maid to London to ensure she made enough money to set up a cafe/tea house out here and educate her kids.) She has done that, and is now running this little tea house in darapani. The brekky was nice and the views are changing as we get further up into the hills as its becoming more Buddhist oriented.  The day was greta nd the walk with lots of steps and first views of the Annapurna range took us to Chame. The main guy Indra was not impressed and kept complaining about it being too long a distance to cover on one day. But it was worth it as the hotel Karma in Chame was very comfortable.
This one is the views in Chame as the sun was setting.
The next day was a walk to Pisang, and the day
did not start well. Indra our porter decide to  stop to buy some cakes or whatever and did not like it when we siad hurry up.. On top of it he was again showing too much attitude when we asked him to be careful with the bags. The result was we told him, taht we had had enough of him and will want to replace him once we get to the next big town... (which looked like Manang) he said he had had enough as well.... and started causing us a few issues, but we reached Pisang with a bit of drama and he refced to let us use his phone, in which we had put in crit ! Anyway, we managed to get in touch with Dilip to get the point across that we cant continue with this bloke and need a replacement. Were introduced to the commy Nepal, as the porters all tried ganging up on us and saying we had to keep Indra for our entire trip... Dilip had told him to go with us till Manang, where he was confidant of finding a replacement. After a stressful evening, fund that Indra left without saying anything next morning.

 Fortunately Tej stayed back. So, Day 6 of the trek, Paddy, had to be a semi porter :) He carried his bag ( except it was about 3 or so Kgs heavier at about 14Kgs) and the day pack( 3 or so Kgs), while I carried my bag (10 Kg) and decided to do the low route to Manang. Got there by about 1pm. AND gained the respect of the porter/guide group,  as we could do it our selves :) Today, they were all telling us how Indra can get drunk and be a bit rude and what not :)

At Manang we found a lovely hotel and good rooms. Also Dilip kept his word and managed to find Ram the gentlest of the porters for rest of our trip. More about the rest of the trip in next edition... or in tamil தொடரும் (English: Will Continue) 

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