Annapurna circuit, first impressions

We are finally trekking in the Himalayas! Today is day 2 of hiking and we arrived at our tea house twenty minutes before the rain. It started sprinkling on us when we were 1.5 km away, so we picked up the pace in fear of a downpour.

It has been an adventure just getting to the trailhead.

It took us 26 hours to get from Cappadocia to Kathmandu with layovers in Istanbul and Dubai. We arrived at our hotel near midnight and were on our way to the bus stop at 6:30 the next morning. Our seats were a bench in the bus drivers cabin that faced the driver. Usually that would fit two Americans, but we fit us and an Australian man decently. It seemed like an interesting way to ride with great views out the windshield. The bus seats filled up and three new people joined the cabin. They sat on a platform above the transmission shift box and intertwined their legs with ours. This was going to be a long trip.

An hour into the journey, we stop for more passengers and the ticket seller opens the cabin and asks if there is room for one more and tells the three of us on the bench to scooch together. We unanimously yelled “No!” and refused to budge. We were shoulder to shoulder already and there was no room for another. Seconds later a new man joins the cabin and also sits on the transmission pushing one girl into the windshield and adding another set of legs to our laps. Now we are miserable and angry because we paid for tickets and they are clearly overstuffing the bus. Passenger 7 gets off an hour later and we feel so roomy now with only six. We got to know our cabinmates and the journey started to feel pleasant with harrowing bursts when we overtook other vehicles on the road.

A few hours later we stop again and a mother and her 12 year-old son get on. The boy joined the cabin against our vocal protestations and then his mom crammed in too! We now had knees in our faces and feet on our laps. I would have taken a picture, but I couldn’t move my elbows.

Thankfully they got off after 45 minutes, but the spacious feeling didn’t return. We were still crowded and grumpy and ready for the bus ride to be over. After 9 hours to travel 120 bumpy miles, eventually we reached Pokhara.

We stayed two nights in Pokhara to recover from travel and handle our trekking permits. We had to visit 5 ATMs to get the cash required to pay the permit fees, but the rest of the process was painless.

The trailhead for Annapurna begins 60 miles from Pokhara in Besisahar. We took a bus with tickets assigned to seats 16-17. We were relieved to have assigned numbers and not the cabin crowd, but our relief evaporated when the seats ended at 15. The ticket seller told us to just sit in the back, and then a fifth person joined the bench seat because her seat up front had been double-booked. Once again we were on a bench seat this time with five sets of overlapping shoulders and thighs pressed together. The bus fills to capacity and then some, and then we stop to take on more passengers. The ticket taker pushes a man to the back and tells our row to make room for one more. We say “no” and he says “yes” then we yell “NO” and he has the man sit in the aisle. The aisle continues to fill as we stop for more and more passengers. We rode for four very scary hours to cover 60 miles as we bumped along and tried not to get carsick.

Hopefully we won’t be on another bus for at least two weeks. Time to start hiking!

Most people take a Jeep or bus to Bhubhule from Besisahar, but we wanted to stretch our legs and get our adventure started. It was also important to us to be hiking on Aaron’s 30th birthday.

Unfortunately, the trail is infrequently used and many sections are unmarked. We got lost three times and added 5 Km of unnecessary climbing and decent. Two of the times friendly locals helped us find our way, and one of the times some back-tracking and intensive GPS and map study helped us pick a route that would then send us in the direction of the city and hopefully reconnect us to the trail. I fell in the river while crossing, but we found the marked trail shortly thereafter and I dried off quickly in the hot sunshine.

Dad, I know you are getting concerned reading this, but we have a much better map and guidebook that covers the rest of the circuit. The mapmakers assume nobody will hike the first leg so it wasn’t included. We didn’t take a single wrong turn on day two!

We dined and slept in Bhulbhule then trekked to Jagat today. The vistas are incredible with terraced rice patties in the foreground and the Himalayas in the background. We zigzagged across the river on suspension bridges and climbed up and down mountain passes. We saw herds of goats and even some adorable baby goats. I am adding those to my future alpaca farm. Children would run up to us and say “Namaste. Give me sweets. Give me money!” We returned the Namaste, but I am not sharing my hiking chocolate.

2 thoughts on “Annapurna circuit, first impressions

  1. Barry Calfee

    That bus ride sounds like a major adventure you will never forget. I forwarded this on to my friend Ted who did a similar route a couple years ago, with my friend Wayne.
    Here is a good link that was just shared today by Ted our training director for the ski patrol
    Taking care of your feet while camping is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
    Here you’ll find advice from the pros—NOLS instructors, employees, even our wilderness medicine curriculum director Tod Schimelpfenig—on how to take care of your feet when they get cold.


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