Jungles and Canyons
Our first leg of the Annapurna Circuit is a 5-day stretch along the Marsyangdi River. Beginning in a region of terraced fields and Gurung villages, the narrow path leads through a series of steep river gorges, first through tropical jungles, later through deciduous forest.
The highlights of this stretch include an intimate view of local village life, a beautiful terraced landscape, bird life, and rhesus macaques swinging through the trees. Perhaps, the most interesting aspect of this stretch is the trail itself which clings to precipitous cliffs, winds along raging boulder-strewn rivers, and crosses countless mind-boggling bridges spanning the deep river gorges.
Tropical humidity and the resulting clouds limit mountain views until day 4 or 5, but when they come into view it’s quite a blow to the mind. Still at a relatively low elevation, the Himalayas appear far more massive than they do from the Tibetan side of the mountain chain.
The Annapurna Circuit is not an isolated hiking trail, though. It’s actually a main conduit into the roadless Nepali interior. Although the trail is narrow and often quite rough, Thomas and I (and other trekkers) are sharing it with large mule caravans carrying supplies to remote mountain villages. In addition to the caravans, the trail is home to water buffaloes and herds of goats, often clinging to the vertical terrain. This can all make hiking the trail a challenge at times. But most of the day, the trek is pure joy.
As for carrying our own packs (approximately 12 kilos/26 pounds each), day three was the roughest for me personally. I was seriously questioning how I would do once we got to the tougher, higher altitudes. But, something happened on day four and I was recharged and ready to go again. We both actually love traveling this way. It’s fantastic to leave the vehicles behind and just walk!