The Annapurna Trail is pretty brutal especially since I am a first time trekker, and first time multi-day trekker. Luckily my husband is very good at planning these things and so he made all the altitude maps and looked for possible places to stop each time. He's done many hikes similar - not exactly like this and after doing it, he said definitely not as tough - but his experience is good enough to get us through it.
We started in Kathmandu and took a bus to Besi Shahar, which took 7 hours...no AC and only two main breaks. There are a lot of winding roads and when I rode the bus, there was construction so what should have been a 5-6 hour bus ride was extended for an extra hour. It's just something I had to come to terms with. I don't count the travel to Kathmandu to Bhulbhule only because we rode most of the way.
I will say, if you look at the kilometers and altitude maps, it's not very accurate as far as how much hiking you'll actually hike from one town to the next. There are times when we'll be hiking for an hour or two and not make much headway because it doesn't account for switchbacks or other small things.
***DOWNLOAD the App: Maps.me
It's the best tool we had to guestimate our trek as far as elevation gain and actual distance. You won't regret it!
Day 1 (830m elevation)
From Besi Shahar, I didn't want to start the hike because I hadn't eaten in 7 hours - I get carsick easily so I eliminated that from the equation. Well, we tried to hike for 1Km and found it was just too much so we took a bus to Bhulbhule at 820m. After that ride, I was so happy to get a bus (about 1000 rupees) and stayed at Heaven Restaurant and Inn. There we met our friend Michal and Svieta (I am sorry if I didn't spell it right) who became our good buddies along the trail and great companions.p
Day 2 ( m elevation)
The next morning we started to head to Ghermu and it was hard. I had a 16Kg pack and my husband had a 13.5Kg pack (I insisted on having my computer mainly to get all my photos posted before going back to work so my pack was a bit heavy). The hike out of Ghermu started out fine and we stopped in a few towns for tea breaks (I think this was when we stopped at Lampata), but after that there were quite a few switchbacks. I think around 5 of them to be exact but I could be wrong. After stopping in another town for a break to get more water, the sun came out and the climb to Bhahudanda was BRUTAL! We even went on the wrong road a bit before a kid from the village yelled to at us to make a right, not a left. The last leg to the top is killer!
We spent an hour an a half there, at Dahl Baht for power (24 hour) and then head down towards the last leg of Ghermu. You are, again, going Nepali 'flat' meaning there is some incline that we think is rough but not the locals. When they say flat - expect some incline. It was another two hours and a little stressful because it started to drizzle. The rain from earlier or the day before had created a small landslide in certain areas so we had to be careful where we stepped from there. You'll walk past two or three villages hoping they are Ghermu but you're not that lucky. We finally made it there once the rain really picked up and luckily out side of the areas that were a bit sketching from the landslide. We stayed at the first hotel, Fishtail Hotel Inn and Pacha, the owner was very nice! His wife was one of the best cooks we encountered on the trek and they were nice enough to help us find a tailor in town to help me mend my bag - my straps were coming undone. The Tailor did such a good job that I don't think I'll be having any issues with my bag ever again!
Day 3 (1600m elevation)
We headed to Tal but in the worst possible way! (DO NOT go to the Fields of Marijuana that is listed on the map. Leeches Galore!) Take the jeep road! I think this was the hardest leg of the trip and there were so many false peaks or what I considered to be false peaks along this leg of the hike. We passed a few villages but knew that the half way point was at Sattele and I honestly wanted to stop there because I knew we had a long way to go. After Sattele, you are climbing wet granite and the elevation is high enough to walk through clouds, which we were doing from there to Tal. It was brutal and just before you head into Tal, you'll see a clearing where it flattens and there are tons of pines before you have to climb another huge hill...mountain. Halfway up that hill, there is a teashop/guesthouse which is a good place to get come carbs and tea, catch your breath before you have to make one last push. It's a hard one but luckily we had friends that helped us along the way. Once you clear that large hill, you will see the huge body of water and walk on the flat blank of that river until you reach Tal.
Rest Day in Tal
Day 5 (2670m elevation)
It was decided based on how tired and sore I was that I would take the Jeep to Chame. Just from the ride, it seemed a REALLY hard trek to cover and we saw both of our hiking friends along the way. I think if we were actually to hike this leg of the trail, it would have been the hardest hike yet because the inclines were extremely steep - and I'm just talking about the jeep road - and there was one point where the jeep had to cross a river and I was a bit leery about that because of how strong the current was but we made it. Many uphills and passing many villages before we finally made it to Chame. The Jeep ride was about 4 hours long.
Rest Day in Chame to recover. It was there that we decided to have someone motor my bag to our next destination to Lower Pisang. The inn keep Asim offered to take it but in the end when a huge group came he sent it on a Jeep, similar to the one we rode in over to Lower Pisang. We were to pick it up at his brother's in the Moonlight Inn and received it around 4:00pm. I enjoyed fresh picked mushrooms in the form of stirfry, pasta and soup and that made that stop worth it all!
Day 7 (3250m elevation)
Lower Pisang was not a bad hike now that I didn't have to lug my bag. I hired someone to porter it for us but because a huge tourist group came suddenly, he popped it on a jeep and we received it 4pmish the next day. Lower Pisang's hike has a few uphills but it's mainly before you reach Humde area. It's not as brutal as the first few days of hiking but I can start to feel the fatigue hitting me. Again, we took the Jeep road and hiked through dusty areas with sparse vegetation. We took a tea break in Humde and slowly made out way to Lower Pisang. This is the place where the trail splits between upper and lower but many say that Upper Pisang is more beautiful but a bit more difficult to do. Here in Lower Pisang, we ate some of the best food since Ghermu and really recommend that you try the local mushroom dishes as many of the locals pick it fresh for your meals.
Day 8 (3540m elevation)
With a push to go to Manang and the incentive of a rest day and it was hard but once we made it to Humde, it was gradual incline except for a few spots. There was a bull that is probably in one of my spheres that decided it wanted to guide us into town so we followed behind at a safe distance.
Day 9 (roughly 3800m elevation)
Rest Day in Gunsang. Because Gungsang is not too far from Manang and the only challenging thing about the hike is the elevation change, we decided to rest the whole day at Gungsang after only an hour of hiking after Manang. It's REALLY expensive to stay in Gungsang, which is probably why people push to Ledar but the view of the mountains in the morning were what made this stop all worth it.
Day 10 (4200m elevation)
We slowly made our way to (Churi) Ledar, stopping in Yakar Ka and then made it to Ledar. The incline was also gradual but personally, I could really feel the elevation effecting my breathing and my progress despite taking Diamox from Manang.
Day 11 (4450m elevation)
It was a rough climb to Thorong Peti. Halfway through, there is a tea stop that you can catch your breath at and then you come to a pretty precarious area. There is a warning sign that gives you a heads up about landslides and falling rocks. It was a stressful crossing on somewhat narrow paths and trying to look out for any signs of falling rocks. You won't be able to miss the area because the hills are practically made of gravel...large chunks of gravel that will take out your head but you get the picture. Just keep on the look and head to Thorong Peti for a short break.
PERSONALLY, we were treated like shit and everyone else we talked to said the same thing. If you have an hour to spare, just get your tea break at Thorong Peti and high tail it as fast as you can to High Camp because it's not far - just a very steep elevation climb - and nicer people. I didn't sleep well at Thorong Peti and I figure High Camp will not be that much different but at least you won't have to deal with assholes that resent your very presence.
Day 12 (5416m elevation)
We were going to stay at Thorong Peti for an extra night but decided to make a push to High Camp. Somehow our talk about High Camp turned to pushing it to Muktinath and then I rode a horse that farted all the while from High Camp to the Thorong La Pass and hiked downhill for 5 hours. It was brutal going down hill but the motivation of being done with this hike as well as a clean room, a HOT shower and good food that didn't cost as much as it did at the top of the mountain was more than enough motivation.
The 5 hour hike is brutal. Granted, I was fresh for the hike but my two companions had a bit of a struggle on the way down because of the elevation climb in roughly two hours and then coming back down. It's steep and when we did it, it was extremely foggy. There was mud in some areas but more so when you reach the first town in four hours and you get to flatter terrain. I would recommend taking it slowly just so you don't hurt yourself as it's still a bit gravelly. Once you hit flat land, Muktinath is still flat - FINALLY, actual flat! - but still an hour away. It's a nice walk once you get below the very visible cloud line.
When you get into Muktinath, you'll see a sign but GO TO Hotel Bob Marley Inn.
I swear you won't regret it and the hot shower, beer and good food will make the extra 20 minutes walk to the hotel all the more worth it!
Enjoy your hike and remember, don't forget to download the hiking app Map.me