Broadening trekking horizons has been a vision for the team at Mont Blanc Treks, who planned and crafted an ultimate Nepalese trekking adventure which was off the beaten track. ‘The Best of Annapurna’ combined the challenges of higher altitude trekking in the Annapurna region alongside more than a glimpse of the life and culture of Nepal. The original plan was for ‘Best of Annapurna’ to go live in 2020. The trek attracted a multinational group of eleven clients from USA, Australia and UK, who kept the faith for a departure to Nepal in October 2022.
The chance of a Nepal trek immediately captured my imagination and took me back to a childhood fascination fuelled by travel literature, storytelling poetry and old tv documentaries. KATHMANDU! A faraway, mystical place, a Shangri La of forgotten valleys, highest snow-capped peaks, Yaks and Yetis. My dreams were of prayer flags, marigold garlands, incense and buddha eyes. Bells on top of golden temples, gods and goddesses and maybe even a yellow idol with a green eye…
‘The Best of Annapurna’ with Mont Blanc Treks had all this and more. A well-crafted itinerary mixed nine days of challenging’ off grid trekking with guided, cultural days in Kathmandu, Pokhara and sacred sites of spiritual pilgrimage at Kagbeni and Muktinath, all beneath an ever presence of the Annapurna Mountain Range. The Annapurnas (five of them), Machapuchare (Fish Tail), Fang, Dhaulagiri, and more summits of over 7000m, were all getting closer day by day. We trekked community trails; the paths used by local folk between villages. This trek effectively allowed us to explore four contrasting areas of Nepal.
We began in Kathmandu in October and were to experience 15 days in Nepal. The trekking challenge was a 100km /62mile journey between community teahouses on less used, jeep free community trails. Led by Sara, assisted by Nepali guides Rishi and Dharma the group was well supported by a team of six porters, each carrying two MBT green bags. We trekked with day packs under clear blue skies beginning in Birethanti where the only way was up. In fact, four days of up; around 1000m or more per day in mixed terrain taking us from farmland and forest to the snow line at 4660m. Sometimes trails were seemingly endless stone steps, or steep paths through fertile farmland, cavernous gorges, or lush forest. Local folk ran past us going about daily life with heavy loads of firewood and corn tethered to foreheads, always offering us a friendly greeting ‘Namaste’. Each village was filled with sounds, smells and colour of Nepali life. In Dobato we were adopted by a most handsome, polite and friendly wandering dog. This Nepalese mastiff became our mascot and trekked happily with us for four days to Khopra Danda. Our highest altitude treks were optional days which took us towards Khayer Lake (4665m) and Dhaulaghiri Ice fall, way above the villages below. Every trekking day kept us well away from the dusty roads which now, sadly, typify the original Annapurna Circuit and Himalayan Base Camp treks.
After hotel accommodation in Kathmandu and Pokhara, our lunch and overnight destinations became local tea houses. A little more detail on tea houses, as this was a new experience for me… small, family run, local guest houses, all with sunrise and sunset mountain views and a warm welcome! The tea houses we visited were those on community trails rather than situated on roads or jeep tracks, thus we found ourselves in places less frequented by other visitors and our arrival was something to be celebrated! We sat down to watch the sunset with hot, refreshing ginger tea and biscuits. Our hosts were keen to provide us with most substantial breakfasts, lunches and dinners, boiled water for drinking and of course a bed for the night in a twin room, sometimes with en-suite facilities.
Meals were all locally sourced, home cooked and freshly prepared. We enjoyed Nepalese bread and honey and yak cheese omelettes for breakfast; lunches and dinners were veggie fried rice, veggie fried noodles, veggie noodle soup, thali dishes of spicy dal bhat and bite sized dumplings called Momos. Milk tea, milk coffee and butter tea only for the brave! Our Nepalese hosts took the greatest pleasure to ensure we were warm, comfortable and very well fed - even to the extent of lighting a charcoal brazier under the table cloth and serving homemade apple pie.
Many thanks to Sangam Serchan and his family at Mount Ice View Lodge in Larjung. It gets dark early and up high it’s cold at night but our evenings were a delight as we bonded as a group, met others, shared stories with our hosts, Rishi and Dharma and joined in entertainment singing Resam Feriri with happy porters each evening. In case you were wondering at most tea houses, wifi is available, as is a Gurkha Beer, not that you necessarily need either! We tried to tread lightly, avoid bottled water, make no waste and become more appreciative of the extra effort that our hosts took to overcome the challenges of life in the mountains. Tea house accommodation is an unforgettable, enchanting experience; we were completely looked after and left feeling refreshed by the next morning.
Some clever planning had gone in to our itinerary offering us free time to properly explore Kathmandu and Pokhara. We visited temples, royal palaces, paddled traditional boats on Phewa lake and did a lot of shopping! Interesting local guides took charge for cultural tours. Kamal arranged a rare and special glimpse of Kumari, a child goddess in the Royal Palace, Durbar Square. This really special sighting of a living goddess seemed to ensure the good fortune for our group for the entire trip.
Mont Blanc Treks ‘Best of Annapurna’ is a fantastic trekking experience in Nepal - a most captivating country in the foothills of the highest mountain range in the world. This off grid and challenging multi day trekking journey in these mythical, legendary mountains was an unforgettable adventure. Alongside this we visited exciting, sometimes chaotic cities where expansion and growth has overtaken infrastructure. The Nepalese people remain enduringly happy, generous hearted and harmonious with an underlying and fundamental spiritual faith.
Pictures courtesy of Michelle, John, Mia, Sue, Janet & Sara