annapurna circuit Nepal
We have prayer flags in our home that hang over the back windows next to our kitchen. They are in desperate need of a wash but I'm no nervous that they will just disintergrate that even my OCD clean fetish can't over ride my attachment to these flags. That's what Nepal does to you. It seeps into your soul and years later you cannot think about Nepal without smiling. You just can't.
- When to hike: - Apparently the spring and summer are ridiculously busy and I can understand why. I don't usually go back anywhere, I like to keep moving forward and going somewhere new but Nepal is so hard NOT to revisit and particularly when I think of hiking, I just want to go back to Annapurna and walk. We did it in December and while it was very cold at night, not as horrid as I expected. I imagine February would be cripplingly cold and you may not even be able to hike then. The trade off with the spring weather is of course the crowds. It's up to you to decide which suits you more.
- Consider how valuable a good guide is - We were going to get a guide, we weren't. Yes we would, no we didn't need it. We procrastinated with the best of them and in the end a friend suggested that a guide for the first week would not be the worst thing. She was right. Tek our amazing guide led us up and down valleys, around mountains, to temples and memorials and to the best tea houses with always a smile. Now that we've been I realise you don't need a guide but we left happy that we given him a weeks work and much more in tune with the mountains after he had guided us with not only direction but discovery in mind.
- Cost - This is all based around how long you go, the guide situation and the season. I believe that the spring summer can be as much as double in places. That seems hard to swallow at first but its the only time they get to make their annual income so I can't begrudge them that. I would budget around $30 USD per day (2013 prices) for accommodation and meals. Guides range in prices but I would imagine that $1000-$1500 USD would cover a 21 day trek. Check what is included though. We nearly didn't go with Tek as he was more expensive than others and it was only that he came so highly recommended that we stuck with him. Once we started we found out that his price included breakfast, dinners and accommodation. ASK - you might be surprised. Don't forget to include Visa costs in your calculations.
- Don't rush: It's not a race. Be clear with your guide in the beginning if you want side hikes or zero days or late starts. Some people prefer to hike early and then rest and some want to hike from 10am, still do 7 hours hiking and keep a leisurely pace the whole way. It's your trip - be clear what you want from it.
- Tipping - Expect to pay around 10% of the guide cost as a tip.
My 3 Tips:
These are just things I recommend, its different for everyone of course.
I don't usually subscribe to packing lists becuase everyone's trip is always different and hiking in particular is such a personal thing, especially with your comfort level. So - I'm going to list items that you can't do without. You build your perfect list from there.
Make sure your travel insurance covers helicopter extraction.
While I'm sure you will be fine, some area's are a good days walk from anywhere and if you fall and break your leg - you need to get out somehow.
While they don't do it with any intent, the guides will call for a helicopter extraction if they think you need it and will assume that because you are from the west, you can afford it. We met a guy in Kathmandu, propped up at a bar who fell two days before the end and broke his shin bone and his kneecap. Even worse, he didn't have that level of cover and had to hit up his dad for $3000 USD to pay the bill.
This seems fully transparent.
Don't expect to walk all day for 21 days straight with no training. I know its just walking but it is at altitude, it is all day every day and it is up and down constantly with some serious elevation gain and loss in there.
The fitter you are the more you will enjoy it.
Don't ignore that fact. Hike. Hike in hills. Hike in hills with your pack on.
Find more pics of Nepal in the Nepal Gallery.