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TR: Namaste! from Nepal, Manaslu Circuit

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Just back to Katmandu after a 20 day trek that tool us around the 8th tallest peak in the world and over a 16,000 foot pass in waist deep snow, shooting stars in the wee hours of the morning with the Himals outlining the ascent during the final 1500 foot approach. This climax was followed by a 4400 foot decent with some boot skiing and using ssh tips on moguls and steeps from his dog-earred book.
Hope all you bears are doing well and after another day in Katmandu, we'll be in Bangkok for a day and then back home and will post pics.

We're bummed about the Rockies at 0 & 3 & hope for a comeback and to catch a live game or two. Glad to see the Sox doing well, though....It was quite a scene forcing our porters and sherpas to watch a game 2 feed from Australia yesterday.......
post #2 of 12
I would like to see your photos. I did the Annapurna circuit trek back in 1982 over the Thorung La etc.. The Manaslu circuit was closed then although I imagine the two coincide in the approach up the Marsyandi valley. My trek began at Dumre on the highway and was done in December. Quite a novelty to have fresh just-picked oranges and bananas and be looking up at snow covered peaks. The upper Marsyandi Khola is quite beautiful with spectacular views across the valley of Manang at Annapurna. I imagine the Manaslu circuit is also quite lovely.
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
The Mananslu Circuit, opened in 1991, is like a walk back in time and full of contrasts with subsistent lifestyles intersecting with traveling foreigners with modern, high tech gear. The scale of everything has blown my sense of proportion and now the Rockies look almost flat by comparison. With 15,000 and higher Himals in full view is quite humbling and these pictures do not do them justice.

The people, especially the kids, were special and friendly and full of playfulness, despite their hard lives (and not having a quiver of skis ). The number and sizes of waterfalls were mind boggling and all in all a great trip and a great preseason tune-up.

At the northern most section we hiked to within several kilometers of the Tibetan....errr....China border above a Tibetan refuge camp which was a bit depressing, played football (soccer) with some Nepali boys, was spoiled by our guide, sherpas, porters & cook.....and Thai Airlines.....and still managed to lose 8 lbs hiking 20,000 vertical and about 130 miles.

In the first five minutes of reaching the Anapurna loop, we saw more foreigners than the entire Manaslu side. It was an 'interstate' by comparison with surprisingly large amounts of very 'out of shape' tea house trekkers.

I've dumped a bunch of random images onto a rudimentary web page. I expect that Rick LeGrand will eventually post some pro pics on his web site. He brought a large format camera, along with several lenses (requiring an additional porter.)

post #4 of 12
post #5 of 12
When I did the Annapurna circuit it had only been open for 2 or 3 years I think but was changing rapidly. The Jomosom side, which had been open for considerably longer, showed quite a bit of influence from tourism. My trek was very informal. I went alone, hired a Tibetan refugee guide in Pokhara, stayed mainly in Bhattis (tea houses) although I carried a mountain tent and stove. These tea houses varied but were mainly private houses. The villages also varied quite a bit, from towns with narrow streets, half timber and brick with a decidedly Elizabethan atmosphere to flat roofed stone houses with log ladders and enclosed courtyards stepping up the hillside. These latter were more like New Mexico pueblos in appearance. The roof of one house was the front yard of another. the landscape varied from rice paddies in steep walled valleys and terraced hillsides to the more arid terrain of Manang in the rain shadow off the Annapurna massif. Thorung La was snow covered 18,000 ft pass. Part of the approach to Manang was a narrow gorge with the trail carved out of a shelf on the cliff. The Tak Khola/ Kali Gandaki side is an historic pilgrimage route and ancient caravan route to Tibet via Mustang. The scenery in the upper portion and the landscape and architecture are reminiscent of Ladakh with ancient castles at strategic locations. Locals had recent memories of the CIA funded Tibetan resistance movement that had been run out of the upper valley. People I spoke to who were returning after a few years absence were very disturbed by the changes in Pokhara and Kathmandu. Long time western residents were amazed for example that I had flown to Kathmandu in 18 hours from Boston. travelling there just a few years earlier had been an arduous trip with difficult connections and land travel. Now I'm told there is bad air pollution in Kathmandu from the numerous automobiles so things have obviously changed a great deal. It wasn't that long ago that Kathmandu could not be reached by road at all. There is or was a sort of tramway that was the way goods were brought in over the mountains.

Your trek sounds pretty unspoiled. Did you go with an arranged trek? I know some of these routes have restricted trekking permits limited to commercial trekking groups in order to limit the effect of tourism.

Great photos.
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Sounds like Manaslu is a lot like how your trek was a while back. That is why we arranged it with a local guide and got trekking permits. (We also got 'extorted' out of $115 bucks by the Maosists, as did all 'foreigners').

Katmandu is manic where driving is insane as was the bus ride to the starting point. It was a game of near misses and playing chicken, honking horns while passing on blind corners and motorcycles flying in between. A bus that screamed by ours, got in a head-on a few minutes later and blocked the road. Due to the monsoons months ago and apparent corruption with 'NDOT', we had to hike an extra day to get to our starting point as the 'roads' were impassable by vehicles, though our driver sure tried :. There was a 5.o earthquake while we were there. We didn't feel it as we were en route from Baktupar. First since '89.

FWIW, here's mini shot of Everest:

post #7 of 12
The buses look positively luxurious compared to the run down Indian jitneys I rode. The buses were overloaded because corrupt operators rountinely oversold tickets and pocketed the extra. One of my buses broke a spring because of the overloading and the passengers threatened to beat up the driver and his pal. You can bet those guys were very nervous while they hastened to make impromptu repairs! The overcrowding was so bad that far and away the most pleasant place to ride was up on the roof but we had to get back inside everytime we approached a police checkpoint. No Maoists, though! Sounds like you had a fabulous time. I had a similar reaction to the experience inasmuch as it seemed like a trip back in time or back to several times, varying depending on the locale. I also had the good fortune to be on the left side of the plane on the flight from Delhi and was similarly treated to incredible views of the Himalayas. What a trip! I'd love to go back, not sure if I'm still physically able but curious as to the effects of time, Maoist insurrection etc.
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
I forgot to post our guides contact info & would highly recommend him to anyone:

Krishna Adhikari (trek guide Gov. No: 3505)
P.O.Box: 23044, Kahmandu, Nepal
guidenepal@gmail.com , ukkrishna@hotmail.com
Mobile phone: 00977-9841433205
post #9 of 12
Nice photos, great trip.

I think people are being a bit harsh on the Annapurna circuit here. I hiked it in the mid '90's and found it no more "ruined" by tourism than Switzerland. Touristy? yes spoiled? no. The only part I felt was suffering was the Tatopani area. What is it with hot springs that attracts dirtbags? I guess it didn't help that rats kept jumping on us at night.

Nepal has some magical spots, some more wild than others, but this spoiled vs unspoiled concept is a bit overdone. Tourism is the number one industry in Nepal, so it is a poor choice of a destination if you feel other tourists spoil it. I can show you villages all over Asia where the kids have never seen a westerner, and that is always interesting, but Nepal has other qualities that make it a favorite destination of mine.

The Annapurna circuit, particularly the Marshyiandi side was beautiful, and the proliferation of tea houses had some benefits. We decided we wouldn't eat lunch until we had an outdoor patio with a view of at least two waterfalls, and we managed to stick with that standard for five days in a row. No guides, tour group or schedule is needed, because there are plenty of places to stay or eat.

We hiked a couple of days with a couple from Jackson Hole who had just done the Manaslu circuit, and I've wanted to get back and go into that area for a long time. Thanks for the great pictures!
post #10 of 12
I'm happy to hear that time and tourism haven't damaged the area. When I was there the effects of tourism seemed relatively benign. The locals generally seemed to appreciate the infusion of tourist money. Only in areas like Manang where people were already well off did they not seem to welcome tourism. While the older tea houses were mainly private homes that were accepting a few trekkers, the new lodges being costructed were small scale affairs built simply and attractively out of local materials. Furthermore the government seemed to be concentrating foreign aid projects like water supply improvements (black plastic pipe) and bridge and trail improvements in those areas, perhaps anxious to put a better face on what foreign tourists are allowed to see. Its in the cities like Pokhara and Kathmandu that the rate of change has been dramatic, evidently. Thats where most of the money goes and most of it seems to stay there. I recently had a chance to chat with a cousin and her husband who lived in Kathmandu for eight years as foreign aid workers in the eighties. They stay in touch with people back there and seemed knowledgeable. Kathmandu is almost another world from the rest of the country. There is something strangely appealing about an undeveloped and traditional society that tends to mask a reality that is often a very difficult life. The remarkable thing about the Nepalis is their cheerfulness and strength in the face of the hardships they face. I'll never get over those terraces on the hillsides and the massive boulder retaining walls, all built by hand to gain a little arable land, that, and the smiling faces of the people I met everywhere.
post #11 of 12
Originally Posted by oisin View Post
The remarkable thing about the Nepalis is their cheerfulness and strength in the face of the hardships they face. I'll never get over those terraces on the hillsides and the massive boulder retaining walls, all built by hand to gain a little arable land, that, and the smiling faces of the people I met everywhere.
That sums them up beautifully. We were there for a blizzard, and they were all super, feeding stuck trekers, warming up a hypothermic Dutchman we found stumbling around. Nice people.
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Great people for sure, but the vibe, attitude and sheer numbers changed as we came from the Manaslu side after two weeks in our own little 'paradise'. Definitely a contrast, but still positive all in all, with awesome beauty. Many of the pictures were from the Anapurna side. On the Anapurna side we were going against the upward flow on the way out, versus with it on the Manaslu side which may have affect some of the perception.
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