Take a moment to observe the huge black slippery side of the mountain on your right which you will pass on the second or third day of your trek. This is treacherous and you should not try and climb it.
I came across some very small woolly sheep in a clearing just before arriving at Pisang. They couldn't have been more than 16 inches tall. LOOK out for them in that area as i never saw them elsewhere.
I stayed a night in Pisang, a village clinging to the hillside to the east of the trail . Actually it is kind of like two villages as it is divided in to Lower and Upper Pisang. Fortunately there was an archery competition taking place as i found out as i rounded a corner and an arrow flew by my head. Archery here is the local sport and most of the children have bows and are busy firing arrows with sharp points at wooden targets. I then spent a the afternoon watching the locals compete, and i tell you that these guys really were skilful. So just check if there is a competition when you are passing by, it's interesting.
Tukuche is just is just 6kms from the picturesque village of Marpha and worth spending a couple of hours here just to visit the distillery which has been here for decades. Tukuche brandy is made from apricots and apples, and is pretty potent stuff. Tukuche sits on the west side of the river which is very wide here, but the village was a major trading village where caravans stopped and were taxed on their goods which were traded and even stored here. The village was one of the richest in the area, particularly during the salt trade, but relies mainly on tourism now.
At Ghandrung we were lucky enough to catch a village festival which seemed to be organised by the women who danced and performed a mini play. I believe this was held in May but not sure if it is an annual event.
Tal, a village at 1700m is worth staying a night, There is a waterfall on the right hand side at the end of the village but it is extremely cold to take a quick shower. Tal means lake so there was originally a lake here before it was filled in by landslides caused it to silt up.
Best to Cross the Thorang La from Phedi as you only have to ascend 1000m compared to 1600m from Muktinath. Some people manage it from Muktinath but this is very dangerous as you may get disorientated with altitude sickness, and even die. If you start from Phedi you would have a couple of days in Manang to acclimatise, then an early morning trek to Phedi where yu can spend a further night before the attempt of the Thorang La in the morning. We had an early breakfast at 4 am so we could leave with our flashlights at 4.30. The trail was easy to follow as it winds its way above phedi and it took us 2 hard hours to reach the pass. We were very fit as we had just come from a 30 day trek at Everest, so most people take a little longer than this. We had a wonderful view at the top ( a rocky desolate place) where we spent an hour before continuing down to Muktinath. Later in the morning it can become very windy (over 100km p h), and covered by clouds, so that is the reason to reach the top early.It was real tough on the knees coming down 1600m, so be careful not to fall. March, april, October and November there should be fewer problems crossing the pass but even then be prepared to spend extra nights in Phedi if there are unexpected snow falls. The rest of the year the pass would be very difficult to cross and it would be closed for the worst months.
While trekking around Annapurna schedule a stop in Marpha, which will remind you of villages on the Greek Islands as all the buildings have been white-washed. There is a narrow lane leading through the village where the locals will pass by with their herds of sheep/goats. The village is famous for apple pies and it is reputed that the best apples in the whole of Nepal come from this area. There are many quality guest houses in the village and two monasteries to visit. There is a trail leading up the mountain to the west, climb it to see a wonderful view.
No doubt you will spend a day acclimatising in Manang, there are many day walks you can do:
- Walk back to Bhraga which is a stunning village and go to the Lake (4hours) from here
- Glacier walk fro Manang on Northern side
- Monastery visit (the 1000 rupee Lama) via the Praken Gompa
Of course you can easily relax in the town, there are a reasonable number of good eateries and bars in lodges. The valley is a stunning setting and views you get from climbing up to the Monastery are well worth the effort.
Chame is a bigger village and the district headquarters for the Manang district.
The trip from Dharapani to Chame has some quite steep pieces but great views. On the way into Chame you get great views of Annapurna II weather permitting.
Chame has a heap of lodges, internet cafes, trek-gear shops and other amenities.
A good village for a stop. The village has quite a few teahouses and numerous places to eat and drink that are part of the teahouses.
This was the first night on the trail having started at Bhulbhule having bused from Kathmandu. Jagat is a good alternative to the many who stay at Ghermu.
All the villages are fine, so walk and stop when you feel tired.
If you ever wanted to poke into the corners of a local house, here’s your chance. The culture museum’s collection of common local tools, utensils, and clothes, are displayed in a traditional Manang house. It’s a pretty quick visit – a few rooms, but full of things. Most of the items are in the upper story (the lower story is a courtyard for livestock), which you get to via ladder.
If there’s someone at the counter, you can buy a guide book, which strays a bit off topic, but has some interesting related information and suggestions for local places to visit.
Since you have to stay an extra day in Manang to acclimatize, a movie at the High Vision Hall is a welcome break from hours of carom or cards. The theatre is exactly as big as it looks, and when I was there the screen was a TV and the chairs were benches, but it does have a fireplace. The odd power cut just means you get to meet new friends, and maybe a cliff hanger for the movie to give you something to ponder for the next week. With a good yak steak somewhere nearby, it's a pleasant evening after a hard day’s trek.
Trekking in the Annapurna Circuit requires endurance and patience. Most travellers that trek the area are experienced therefore they know exactly what to pack in their backpacks before heading out into the mighty Himalaya. If you are a rookie that is going for a 3 to 4 day trek to Pun Hill etc then you can buy most of your gear in Kathmandu or Pokhara for really cheap. If you plan on going the whole nine yards and doing the Annapurna 21 day trek etc then consult a expat or professional before you venture out. Annapurna is demanding and some passes exceed 4500 M making it one of the most challenging in the country.
If doing the Annapurna Sanctuary trek you will no doubt sample the hot springs at Jhinu, either on the way to or from Chomrong. They are a perfect way to ease your aching muscles from all of the steps you have just climbed!