- 1 - Besisahar to Khudi: Most People Walk Further to Work
- 2 - Who Says Trekking in Nepal Has to Involve Lots of Walking?
- 3 - Conquering the Annapurna Circuit’s First Hill
- 4 - Trek to Jagat and a Rant Against Guides on the Annapurna Circuit
- 5 - Jagat to Tal: Our First Real Day of Trekking
- 6 - Tal to Chame: Falling into a Trekking Routine
- 7 - Chame to Pisang: Just Takin’ the Goat for a Walk
- 8 - A Well-Deserved Day Off in Upper Pisang
- 9 - Pisang to Ngawal: A Hard Climb to Beautiful Views
- 10 - Drinking Yak Sewage in Ngawal
- 11 - Arriving In Manang…Two Weeks Later Than Most
- 12 - Trekking On Our Day Off From Trekking in Manang
- 13 - Annoying Trekker Abuses Friendly Guesthouse Owner
When we first got to our guesthouse in Bahundanda, we immediately noticed the beds. Comfortable mattresses are a rarity in Nepal and one of our goals upon entering any town where we planned to spend the night was to find the guesthouse with the softest beds. In many villages, the thickest mattress you could find was about as wide as a finger and Bahundanda turned out to be one of those places.
Our wooden beds were covered in about a centimeter of foam padding, so we quickly asked the proprietor for any extra mattresses. We each doubled up on the padding, bringing our beds’ softness up to the level of your average paved road. One of my friends was having problems with his back, so he decided to take some mattresses out of one of the other rooms. In the end, his bed ended up a good 20 cm taller than mine and he kind of disappeared into the middle of a big pile of foam when he lay down. He seemed comfortable, though.
Not so comfortable were the people in the now mattress-free room. We felt a little bad at first, but those feelings went away quickly when they actually showed up. They were part of a large group of middle-aged Dutch people who arrived an hour or two later, when we were in the middle of some rousing, high-tension card games. Every last one of them was incredibly loud and annoying.
Not surprisingly, their loudness only increased when they noticed their missing bedding. I’m guessing this somehow makes us bad people, but I have to admit, we were pretty happy about their discomfort.
Not long after going to bed, it started to rain again. Hard. So hard, in fact, that I decided to leave my warm comfortable bed piece of plywood and head outside to check it out. It was raining about as hard as rain can get and the deck where we had eaten our forgettable meal was already flooded. I decided it would be a good idea to watch the rainstorm from under the umbrella of a table on the edge of the deck some twenty meters away. My clothes were completely soaked through before I got even halfway there.
It was worth it though. Listening to the torrents of rain hit the pavement from my little dry circle surrounded by walls of falling water through which I could barely see the dim lights of the guesthouse in the distance was one of my favorite memories from the early parts of the trek….and it lasted about a minute. That’s when the Dutch group’s Nepalese trekking guide decided to dart through the rain to keep me company and fill my little dry circle with cigarette smoke. And incredibly boring and mostly unintelligible conversation.
This seems as good a time as any to detour into a little rant about trekking guides on the Annapurna circuit. I knew I would write this at some point in this series and there’s a good chance I’ll make room for another rant in a future part. Basically, guides, while useful and even necessary on many treks in Nepal, are not really needed at all on the Annapurna Circuit. More than unnecessary, I found all the guides we met along the way slightly annoying at best and downright obnoxious, creepy or offensive at worst.
The main function of a trekking guide is to show you the way, but getting lost on the Annapurna circuit is pretty much impossible, as you follow two river valleys and are rarely ever alone on the trail, with hundreds of other trekkers, plus local traffic and near-constant donkey trains available to help you out, should you ever lose your bearings.
Another reason many people opt for a guide is local knowledge. In theory, guides can provide you with a wealth of information about the areas you pass through and they can help you find better guesthouses for less money. Some guides are indeed quite knowledgeable, but most are just kids for whom this was by far the best job they could get. They know less about the area than you could learn from Wikipedia and they don’t care to tell you anything they might know anyway.
We didn’t have a guide at all, but we found we could get any information we wanted from the owners of the guesthouses and restaurants where we slept and ate. Most of them love talking to guests and teaching them about their home towns. It also gives you a good topic of conversation, which is not always easy to find.
When it comes to finding guesthouses, guides do not help you at all—they will simply take you to the places that pay them a commission. This means you pay more and enjoy worse conditions.
The worst thing about the guides, though, is the incessant talking. Most of the people I talked to who had hired a guide were really regretting that decision mainly for this one reason. One of the most appealing aspects of a trek like the Annapurna circuit is the stunning scenery and the feeling of awe and serenity as you take it all in: the fresh mountain air, the fields, the forests, the clear rivers and waterfalls and, of course, the towering snow-capped peaks. It’s hard to enjoy that when you’re enduring a constant babble of mostly incoherent English and have to answer the same inane questions over and over, all day every day for the 14 to 30 days you spend on the trail.
Ok, rant over. Let’s get to some actual trekking. We made it further than ever the next day, although we probably still covered less distance than anyone else ever has while walking for a whole day. The first section had us losing every meter of altitude we gained on our hard climb the day before, as we descended back down into the valley for a river crossing. We always dreaded seeing those on our maps, as it meant descending down to the river and back up the other side. In some cases that wasn’t far; in others, like this particular section, it was quite an ordeal.
That’s not to say the descent wasn’t pleasant. The morning sun warmed the skin and gave the yellow rice terraces a fresh glow after the heavy overnight rains. Once we got down to the river, the valley narrowed, blocking the sun and cooling the air considerably. Climbing back up the other side kept us warm though. We started passing more and more donkey trains and goat herds until we ended the day in the town of Jagat, perched on a ledge far above the turquoise river below. This was the first town that felt cold and the first where we appreciated the solar-heated water. Or would have appreciated it, if the other guests hadn’t used most of it up and left us with cold showers.
Series continued in part 5: Jagat to Tal: Our First Real Day of Trekking