Trek around the Annapurnas

This trip goes back to spring 2001. Our first experience in the Nepalese mountains was for us the beginning of a deep love for this area and the Himalayan cultures. In this early May, we leave Kathmandu and the small village of Pashupatinath in full Buddha Jayanti celebration, a ceremony commemorating, at the same time, the birthday of Buddha, its accession to knowledge and his death. Beginning of an almost initiatory journey of two mountain lovers.

Pashupatinath

One tiring day awaits us… it is swayed in crammed buses on jolty roads, sometimes blocked by landslides or multiple tire punctures, which we finally reach Bahun Danda. This small village will be the starting point of our trek around the massive Annapurna range.

The climate which prevails in this season is very tiring: the monsoon rains did not come yet to refresh these low altitude hamlets which a wet and choking heat comes to crush. We cross landscapes of rice fields and meet there the first smiles, these shy smiles which will accompany us throughout the paths… Slowly gaining altitude, little by little, we find a little freshness around the village of Syanje, a bit higher up. Famille de Syanje

  Près de Syanje

Comes finally Tal, peaceful hamlet resting on one of the elbows which form the sinuous Marsyandi river. We arrive at the first gleams of the day, time to observe these households's awakening. The inhabitants do their shores and morning occupations; the children seek water or wood while horses feed on grassland.

Village de Tal

Many villages stretch out on our path, so many faces and friendly encounters… Here, girls greet us with a merry “Namaste” of welcome. When we answer back “Namaste, Suva Bihaïnie Baïli!” (Hello and good day little sisters!), they laugh and giggle in surprise. Further, a young girl collects fresh grass to nourish her animals. Lastly, a man seems to collapse under the weight of a stuffed yak.

Porteur de Yak...   Namaste, Suva Bihaïnie Baïli!   Fillette Gurung

Each day, we gain a little more altitude. The climb is slow and progressive and it is by a path dug alongside a cliff wall that we reach the village of Pisang, little before the hamlet of Braga.

Environs de Pisang   Près de Braga

The entrance of the village is marked by a broad and imposing squared stupa that follows a long “Mani wall”, stones engraved with religious mantras. These symbols of Buddhist style architecture tells us that, from now on, we are entering a new universe. Tibet is not very far any more and everything here recalls it to us with happiness…

  Stupah de Braga

Low clouds have accompanied our walk for several days. It is thus by a slightly misty weather that we reach the first households of the important village of Manang.

Chorten dans la vallée de Braga   Environs de Manang

Against all odds, it is at the end of the afternoon that the sky is finally clearing. Now, but very briefly, appears, masterly, the summit peaks of Annapurna II and IV.

Sommets d'Annapurna II et IV

The arrival at Manang is also means a day of rest, necessary acclimatization to prepare the climb of the Thorung Pass, climax of our trek. Benefiting from this short pause, we wandered off to greet Lama Tashi. Sheltered in a small cave dominating Manang and its glacial lake, this Lama offers its protection to the travelers wishing to cross the col of Thorung. Putting his hand on my shoulder, he also adds that it will protect me from a possible problem in the High mountains. Perhaps is this thus thanks to him…

Manang depuis les crêtes de la grotte de Lama Tashi   Lama Tashi

A few days later we start the fateful ascent. Little before 4 am under the icy cold full moon, the air is gripping and difficult to breathe. We climb slowly, concentrated, thinking of friends who could not follow us, victims of the acute mountains illness. We finally reach the Thorung La pass and its 5430 meters of altitude with the first rays of sun. Only at the top, behind the long prayer flags still frosted, we admire the summits of Mustang and Tibet, all far on the horizon.

Col du Thorung-La

A painful descent awaits us… The landscape changes here completely and it is towards the colored ranges of the very close Mustang that we press on. In this arid valley, the peaceful sanctuary of Muktinath offers an ideal stopover to recover from our long day. Surrounded by green fields, this temple, which, for the Buddhists, represents the second holiest place in Nepal after Pashupatinath.

Sanctuaire de Muktinath

Leaving this small haven of peace, the landscape is more arid, almost lunar. The beige hills and ochres of Mustang appear at the horizon. It is after having driven back a furious desire of continuing the adventure in this kingdom, however prohibited, that we continue our descent towards the small village of Kagbeni.

Vallée aride du Mustang
Built around a blazing red Gompa, this small hamlet seems nestled in a green bed, astonishing contrast with the extreme aridity of the valley. One can only be filled with wonder in front of these inhabitants's ingenuity whom, throughout the Himalayas, knew how to adapt their working skills and techniques to create life where nothing seemed possible.
  Kagbeni, au bord de la Khali Gandaki

Walking along the powerful Khali Gandaki river, we reach the Annapurna Sanctuary. Base camp for summit climbing teams, it was opened by the victorious lead of Lachenal and Herzog. There, we especially greet Anatoli Boukhreev, a great himalayist dead in an avalanche on this dreaded mountain.

Sanctuaire des Annapurnas

It is for a last glance on this immense range which we circumvented during more than one month that we climb on Poon Hill. As true “annapurnists”, we look at the sun rising on the hills dominating the town of Pokhara, end of our trek around Annapurnas.

Poon Hill

Thus, our trip ends, quietly sitting in front of a Nepalese tea alongside the peaceful Pokhara Lake. Our last trekking days, under the monsoon rain, soaked, tearing off our skin the leeches falling from the trees, are already far… Rested, we sail on the lake and even bathe there in its warm water. Although we will soon leave this marvelous country, we dream only of one thing : to remain there !

Lac de Pokhara
Tanguy&Violette © 2001-2008 - All rights reserved.