too late, I know. We have finished the Annapurna circuit about a month ago now and I am sitting for the last morning in Siem Reap in Cambodia as I am splitting this blog post into 3 because I am still not finished with the photos. Therefore this is just the 1st part at this moment.
These lines below give a really brief summary of what has happened in those fast days a month ago.
Zurich to Muscat to Kathmandu…
Flights went without much trouble. The 7 hour break in Muscat (Oman) was tough – seriously falling asleep, and not very much to do at this airport. We basically spent most of the time at the same coffee, where the chairs got very uncomfy after some hours.
We met one girl at the immigration at KTM airport. We believed she was from Israel… more about her later. Tired and after a complicated immigration procedure at KTM airport we got a pickup car to our hotel in Thamel in Kathmandu.
With a lovely excuse at the hotel (someone broke a leg and cannot leave the room) they told us that they have to put us to another neighboring hotel for the 1st night. Alright… Except that someone decided to move the furniture above our room at midnight it was great to be in the bed. Next day we moved to our booked hotel. We started arranging the things for the Annapurna Circuit trek (2 different permits needed, buy some additional things etc, buses from Kathmandu to Besisahar, then another one to Pokhara after the trek and from Pokhara to Kathmandu…). As I of course had to carry my camera toys (lenses, tripod, solar charger, …) we decided to get a porter as well. All this was arranged with a help of a local guy from our hotel. I simply call him the CEO of Kathmandu as he can get everything you could ask for arranged (for an acceptable fee).
Nov 4th… Day one of the Annapurna experience…
6 hour bus ahead of us with a stop for lunch. Took a cab to ‘bus station’. Nobody serious enough would ever give that place such an honorable name. It was a dusty place next to a big road with people shouting, begging for money and with some small mini buses. Such a bus would be good for maybe 10 people. In the end we had about 20 in there. One (working for the bus company) was standing for 6 hours straight on these Nepalese curvy, destroyed roads full of overtaking trucks. A dream job.
After some minutes we found out that the girl sitting one row in front of us was the girl from the immigration at the airport. She was Canadian but coming from her travels in Israel (therefore the Israeli English accent). She met with her boyfriend (Frederick) and they were going to the the Annapurna Circuit as well.
Day 1: Besisahar and the shithole lodge…
In the later afternoon we got to the official start of the Annapurna Circuit – Besisahar. Our dear porter Ganesh took us to the nearest lodge possible (Superview Hotel). Oh dear, that was a super view. I guess many prisons look much better than this. The walls were rotten completely, the carpet on the floor was full of life and the bed… Disgusted as much as we could, we told ourselves that this will be a great start to set our expectations for the next months in Asia. Still we hope that we won’t see anything more disgusting than this on the whole around the world trip. Forget any bigger activities like shower or longer time at the shared stinky dirty toilet. We met several trekkers (mostly from Germany and Austria). All said that this has been the worst they had seen so far.
Day 2: Syange – Tal
The Canadians told us that many trekkers skip the first stage of the trek as it is just a dusty walk along the road and convinced us to do the same. Next morning we arranged an overpriced (8000 NPR) SUV ride (3 hours) to Syange. This ride was comparable to some Six Flags rides.
At about 10:30am (5th Nov) we started the first kilometers of the trekking. Altitude – about 1000m with hot weather, subtropical climate and blue skies. We walked probably until 3pm, found some nice and clean hotel (some Christian Italian place). It even had warm shower. At the dinner, we met a UK couple (Keith and Stephanie) that moved to Greece some 25 years ago.
Day 3: Tal – Timang and the destroyed lens
Shortly after leaving Tal, we passed nice waterfalls, hanging bridges, met plenty of people. Wheat growing pretty much just along the trek. We saw several bicycle racers. We learned that there was a race competition on bikes on the Annapurna Circuit. The subscription fee for this super painful, exhausting and risky (altitude sickness) fun was some 4000 USD!
We met the Canadians on the road. The hike was not steep except for the last 1-1.5 hours, which gave us an altitude gain of some 300+ meters. We met there a German couple (Oli and Ines) with whom we trekked together for the next several days – also because they had a porter AND a guide, which means Ganesh had someone to talk to as well. We stayed in a nice village – Timang with awesome views of the Tamaslu range. This got me really excited to go and do some astrophotography in the night with my new Samyang 14mm f2.8 lens. As I carried the camera on the tripod to the terrace the whole camera with the lens fell down on the concrete floor (some 1.5 – 2 metres). I got an instant shock. My new Pentax K1 with the new lens on it. Camera surprisingly survived without the slightest scratch. Samyang on the other hand cannot focus sharp on the infinity. And you can guess that the stars (for the astrophotography) are at the infinity distance. Ouch. Anyway, I set up some timelapses to put it into the test… As I sit here – drafting the blog – a local Kathmandu lens and camera repair guru is looking into it. At 5pm, I will see if the lens goes to the photo heaven or will raise from the dead.
Nevertheless I made a test timelapse with the lens. It is not super-sharp as it should be, but still worked more less ok.
Day 4: Timang – Chame or a superlazy 3 hour hike
I confirmed in the daylight that the lens is unusable. So for the rest of the trek it was just some extra useless half a kilo burden in my backpack. The tripod also became much more useless… My remaining lens was just the Pentax 28 – 105mm lens. Nice one, but useless for anything wide-angle.
We hiked very comfortably for 3 lazy hours until we got to Chame (capital of Manang district). Still I don’t understand why Manang is not the capital of Manang. We stayed in a popular place in Chame (Marshyangdi Mandala) together with the Germans and met the Canadians for some tea. We checked the ‘hot springs’ – about 20 degrees hot maybe, and rather being used by the locals for washing themselves and their stuff in than for a real thermal spa feeling.