I took over 1,000 photos while hiking the Annapurna Circuit. Depending on how intimate you are with your camera, you may or may not consider that number high. Regardless, it was hard for me to whittle 1,000+ pictures down to the 30 I’m sharing today. I tried to choose photos that capture the essence of the trail: stunning mountain vistas, rural villages, colorful prayer flags, and the sacred sense of peace that hovers over it all like fog. There are dozens more photos that I want to share and you can see them all on the So Many Places Facebook Page.
We begin our trek in Besi Sahar and walk a dirt road to Nadi Bazar where we sleep for the night.
The following morning we make our way towards Jagat, past backhoes and excavators and snarling construction equipment. When the Nepalese government began constructing roads along the circuit a few years ago many claimed that the circuit would be ruined. As we walk past this ugly machinery we begin to worry that maybe it has been.
But within a day we have left the construction behind. We wind our way through the charming village of Chyamche where a group of schoolkids wander with us for a while.
The following day we climb upward. The trail skirts around the mountainside and we are rewarded with beautiful views of the boulder-filled river below.
We opt to take a side trail through the village of Odar and climb a horse path to view the town from above. We stand in a pine forest and look out over glowing green fields. The sweet smell of pine needles just crushes me. It’s my favorite smell in the world.
The next day some clouds roll in and we enjoy a pleasant, cool morning. We walk through dozens of villages, each with its very own prayer wall. We spin the wheels in silence.
Some things you just wholeheartedly agree with.
We wake to a sunny, blue-skied day and continue our climb upward through high-altitude villages. I can’t get enough of these tiny villages and the simple beauty of village life.
We walk onward towards a towering wall of smooth rock. Local legend states that when someone dies their soul climbs this wall to heaven.
We sleep and wake again to another blue-sky day. Today we face a tough climb upward. Luckily, we’re able to find a few reasons to stop and take a break.
Two hours of upward climbing rewarded us with a snow-capped mountain view and the perfect photo op.
Most of the villages along the trail mark the beginning and end of town with a structure of prayer wheels. I love that someone has painted one solitary prayer wheel yellow. I can almost hear it screaming, “Stand out from the crowd!”
We walk deeper and deeper into the mountains. Each time we don’t think it could get more beautiful, it does.
See what I mean?
We decide to take a two-day side trip to Tilicho Lake, the highest lake in the world at 4,949 meters (16,138 feet) above sea level. It’s a difficult climb and we reach the lake right as a storm blows in.
The trail to and from Tilicho Lake terrifies me. This stretch of landslide area feels extremely dangerous. One wrong step and you won’t stop tumbling until you reach the river thousands of feet below.
With Tilicho Lake behind us, we head to our next destination: Yak Kharka.
Speaking of yaks, this train of yaks deftly maneuvers their massive bodies along a teeny-tiny trail. I hold my breath, but they all manage without a problem. It’s amazing to watch.
We’re nearing the village of Ledar where we’ll sleep for the night. We walk past dozens of tents filled with families that have come from all over Nepal to hunt for the yarsagumba fungus. This mushroom/parasite grows only in the high Himalayas. Locals pick and sell the fungus to the Chinese who use it in medicines as a natural viagra.
The following morning we wake early and make the brutal climb to high camp. We’ll sleep here tonight to acclimate and make an attempt at crossing Thorong La Pass tomorrow morning.
But first we eat (and eat, and eat) a dinner of dal bhat (24-hour power, as the saying goes). Brian claims he’s on a dal bhat diet. He eats dal bhat for nine days straight before succumbing to the siren song of fried noodles.
In the morning we wake to a clear blue sky perfect for crossing the pass. Everyone at high camp is up and walking by 6:30 a.m.
Two hours of huffing and puffing later we have reached the top of the pass! At 5,416 meters (17,769 feet) the air is cold and thin. Perhaps it is the oxygen deprevation but I feel light and giddy.
Brian builds a rock cairn and we string prayer flags around it, concentrating on our hopes and intentions as we leave our prayers at the top of the mountain.
And then we’re trudging downward again, making our way towards the holy city of Muktinath.
And then onward to our favorite village on the entire circuit, Kagbeni.
Kagbeni from above.
We’re nearing the end of our trek now. In the final few days of walking we drop in elevation and enter the humid, green valley of the Kali Gandaki River.
Our last day on the trail: only one more hour to go. The humidity is intense and we sweat like we’re in a sauna. I conjure up daydreams of cold showers and freshwater swimming pools. Despite the heat, I’m sad that our time on the Annapurna Circuit has come to an end. I loved every step of it.