Let’s get straight into it!
We left Chame at about 10:00am on the morning of Day Four. This was a very late start, but I had come down with a bout of something unpleasant, so had far less energy to climb hills than usual. Also, I had left my contact lens case back in Ghermu, so we were hoping that amongst one of the shops (especially the optometrist) there would be a contact lens case with solution. Unluckily, there wasn’t, so I had to do the rest of the hike in my glasses.
So after that, we set off for Upper Pisang from Chame. We decided to take the upper route because our Lonely Planet guide had recommended it if you want a slightly longer, more scenic route. It adds an extra couple of hours but apparently the Annapurna’s come into view along here. Turns out, it was true! It was here, in Upper Pisang, where we caught up with a new friend we had made – Tomas from The Netherlands! We met Tomas on the bus trip from Pokhara, but he had walked on ahead of us at Bhulbule. We had managed to catch up to him, and arranged to meet the next morning at 7:30am so we could walk to Manang together.
Naturally, we were late the next morning. Tomas started looking for us and we started looking for him at the same time. After an extra half hour of looking around, we were on the road to Manang on Day Six. This had a very, very tough climb about an hour in to the walk, which – due to reading the map incorrectly – we completed twice. So, as well as enjoying the beautiful Annapurna’s, we added in a bit of extra fitness! We eventually made it to Manang, at the end of an eight-hour day. We stayed at a lodge on the way in where two other hikers, Carl and Leanna from Canada, were staying as well. What luck!
Manang is a rest stop village, and Boy and I stayed here for three nights. We decided to add a side trip up to Ice Lake; this took an entire day so we had an additional rest day after this. While we stayed in Manang, we caught up on our laundry, read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and enjoyed the magnificent Annapurna’s towering over us. The lodge we stayed in also served Yak Steak - an additional treat for Boy! It was really good to have this time in Manang; it was almost like a little holiday in the middle of the hike.
On the morning of Day Nine, we got on the road to Tilicho Base Camp. This side trip took longer than anticipated, so we stayed in Shree Kharka for one night before reaching Tilicho. To reach Tilicho Tal from Manang, you have to walk through a literal avalanche zone. The ground falls away from under your feet as you walk, and the bottom of valley is hundreds of metres away, so tumbling to your death becomes an actual possibility. I have never been so terrified in my life; tears were shed. This could be why Lonely Planet recommends this side trip for Experienced Hikers Only…
We reached Tilicho Base Camp on Day 11, and stayed there for two nights. After the two-day side trip from Manang, and an additional six-hour up hill walk from the lodge, we finally arrived at Tilicho Tal on Day 12. Like any walk, you tend to question the point of it for the longer it goes on; the pack is getting heavier, your feet are burning up, and you’re generally contemplating the point of your existence. This walk, for me, was one of those walks. It wasn’t even our main hike; it was only a side trip! Luckily, it was absolutely stunning – an azure blue lake surrounding by snow covered mountains. It was truly beautiful and I’m so glad we went to see it. Boy, of course, went for a swim.
Part Three will be my final post about the Annapurna Circuit. Up until this point, the hike had been evenly split between hiking and rest days. From my perspective, it was different to Everest Base Camp in several ways. It doesn’t begin at altitude so you start in the sweltering heat; it’s cheaper because the road has provided increased access to goods (e.g., gas and food), and it had fewer “hikers” and more “travellers” (not too sure why - perhaps because this is a cheaper, more accessible hike?)
The next post will describe our climb over Thorung-La, and the bus ride back to Pokhara!
Bye for now,