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  • 10

    MANASLU CIRCUIT

    This was to be my third trip to the Himalayas, the last being the Annapurna Circuit in 2006 (before road building started on the circuit).  I was looking for something different this time, a remote camping based trek off the beaten track and away from the relatively crowded paths and overstretched teahouses of Annapurna and Everest Base Camp.  Manalsu more than met my expectations.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were too many to recall! Those that spring to mind include: The nerve wreking bus trip over mountainous tracks to Arughat Bazar Walking between rice paddies on beautiful sunny and warm mornings on the lower reaches of the Budni Gandaki Nadi river valley; the exotic sights and smells of the local farming communities Reaching Jagat, the first truely Tibetan village we were to meet on a cold windswept evening after walking with goat herds on a narrow track in a steep sided river gorge Early on a sunny morning, the first glimpse of the snow covered Manaslu peak breaking above the clouds from the campsite above the monastory in Lhogaon Breakfast in the sunshine after a bitterly cold night in Samdo seeing the footprints of our tents in the snow as they were being packed away and watching the yak herds being driven out to the early spring pastures. Trekking up to Larke Phedi in the bright sunshine between snow covered peaks towering above as far as the eye could see; enroute sighting the rare and protected "blue sheep" high above our path  Reaching the prayer flags at Larke La after trekking for six hours up snow and ice covered scree and then facing the steep descent in a full-on blizzard; arriving in Bimtang to a hot bowl of noodle soup six hours later. Sheltering from the blizzard and huddled around a juniper fire with Pasang and his sherpas after dinner in one of the few small stone-built tea houses in Bimtang; awaking to a snow covered campsite on the following sundrenched morning. Walking down through the snow covered conifer forests towards Karche on a sunny morning under the ever present Manaslu towering above with occasional views of early flowering rhododendrums. Washing under village hose pipes or the occasional waterfall when the opportunity arose; the waterfall at Tal was very memorable although very cold! The amazing sights of the destructive force of nature in the two main river valleys; the Budni Gandaki in the east and the Marsyangdi in the west; very deep, steep sided and scoured gorges, recent landslips hundreds of meters high and wide and the massive amounts of natural debris including whole trees and huge rocks stranded in the river beds.  The constant noise of rushing water. Cooking was inspirational and every meal was greatly anticipated and appreciated: lids were whipped off aluminium pots from which emerged an amazing choice of well prepared and tasty food including porridge, omlettes, home-made bread, various hot and spicy soups, yak stew and curried yak, tuna, fried spam, lentels, greens, cauliflower (the best we had ever tasted), dumplings, pancakes, curried potatotes and chips, cinnamon cake...........the list goes on. The evening at the last campsite in Bhulbhule where we all realised how lucky we were to have been in the company of Pasang and his team of sherpas, cooks and porters for such a challenging and magic sixteen days.  The mutual support and enjoyment of my four trekking companions where very fortunately we all appreciated and undertook the trek in the same spirit.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Pasang, a very experienced trekker and mountaineer was a truely gifted leader.  Apparantly Manaslu, unlike Annapurna to the west is known for having unstable and unpredictable weather.  On the days leading up to crossing the pass, the weather started to deteriorate as the wind picked up and although we had many sunny mornings, the cloud brought snow flurries at dusk. Pasang correctly assessed the weather and the ability of our small trekking group and decided to dispense with the normal rest day at Samdo and keep heading for the pass in order not to be caught by the impending bad weather.  The crossing was very arduous taking twelve hours instead of the normal eight or nine caused chielfly by recently fallen snow and ice underfoot.  It was only when we got to Bimtang that we realised how well Pasang had read the weather conditions, assessed our team and lead us safely with a minimum of fuss over the pass.  In 10 years of crossing Larke La, these were the worst conditions he had encountered; the pass was virtually closed to all except for a couple of mountaineering groups for the best part of a week afterwards.  He constantly and quietly encouraged our group and his own team through long and tough days with great humour, anecdotes and authority always ensuring we were comfortable, not over-stretched, well rested and most importantly well fed. I think we were very lucky to have him as our guide.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    When it comes to what equipment you should take, you should follow the Exodus advice closely.  For example two of our group did not have the recommended trekking pole arrangements and I think they may suffered for it. I did not bring a spare memory card or battery for my camera thinking I would be OK; I wasn't so as a result I was unable to take photos on the last four days of the trek. I now understand that extreme cold drains older batteries down quite quickly. Exodus arranges occasional evening meetings in London where a famous wildlife photographer gives great advice and tips for amateurs like myself.  Sadly I didn't go (not knowing about it) but two of my fellow trekkers went and greatly benefitted. If you are travelling on our own, you might consider going "solo", i.e. having your own tent.  Luckily I was the odd man out and had a tent to myself.  Being somewhat awkward in confined spaces and valuing my own privacy, I don't think I could have managed sharing a tent with anybody else for sixteen days.  Follow the Exodus advice for getting fit and preparing for this challenging trek if you want to get the maximum pleasure from it.  I am in my sixties and knew before going that I was older than my four travelling companions and didn't want to let anybody down so I made an extra effort to get fit (it helps when you are retired!) and it paid off. If you are in any way interested, it might be wortwhile before you travel reading up on the various cultural groups you will encounter enroute and the flora, fauna and geology of the Himalayas; it certainly adds to the enjoyment of the trek.  Also bring a small pair of binoculars (fortunately we had a pair between us).

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This was a truely rewarding experience for our small group of five trekkers.  Having stayed in teahouese on my two previous occasions in Nepal, camping for me is now the preferred way to go if at all possible.  We had a great Exodus team including our leader, two sherpas, a cook and four kitchen helpers and seven porters.  These guys made our trip memorable in way that a teahouse trip could not.  You soon get into the daily rhythm and routine of a camping trek, what is expected of you and what you expect of the others, both your co-trekkers and the Exodus team. The success of a trek depends on this mutality which I had not fully appreciated at the outset; Pasang's great skill was to ensure this mutality.

  • 8

    Manaslu Circuit Camping

    A great introduction to trekking in Nepal without the crowds on the Annapurna circuit. The Manaslu Circuit is certainly the path less well traveled - and by all accounts almost as dramatic as the Annapurna circuit, but as the circuit only opened up to trekkers a few years ago - there are virtually no lodges, so you get to enjoy camping every night!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The views of the glaciers as we got up to the northern part of the circuit were dramatic, along with the occassional crack as we heard chunks of ice breaking off. The views of the mountains along this part of the circuit were also fantastic, and made up for the few days we spent trekking through the valleys on the way up. Crossing the pass was also a key point to the trip - and it was good that the descent was fairly rapid - taking a lot less time than the climb up.  I enjoyed the fact that most of the time we had the trail to ourselves - which isn't the case on the Annapurna circuit these days. 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader was great fun - with a good sense of humour, and did a good job of communicating, getting us moving, trekking, and fed (almost over fed). 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't worry about the food - on this trip you get to travel with your own kitchen staff (including an egg man - there were plenty of eggs) - and they work hard to prepare wholesome food. We had some Dhal Bhat - but most of the food was more varied (and certainly more interesting). There was always more than enough - so don't worry about going hungry! A good hiking pole is recommended and can be purchased from Kathmandu before the trip if you don't have one in your luggage (although the big-brands can be hard to find). I'd also suggest taking something like the Kahtoola MICROspikes just in case the route down from the pass is icy (although I didn't need mine).  Being walking-fit before the trip will make your trip more enjoyable, however we did start-off pretty slowly - so don't expect a challenging walk from day one. The most challenging section was the cold as we left early to get to the pass, and the LONG descent after the pass itself. The descent was somewhat slippy due to gravel/scree on the path - so hiking poles were useful.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The worst bit was the coach travel into the start point with a long &  bumpy coach ride; however this unavoidable (unless the trip were extended with another week's walking). If you're tall - don't sit at the back of the bus. Take a look at my travel photos and a longer description of the trip on my website:- http://andy.bryant.name/blog/2011/1/23/manaslu-circuit-nepal.html 

Naar boven
 

Sawadee Reisevent
Zondag 26 november DeFabrique, Utrecht

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