I plodded along the road, cursing the jeep which had rumbled past and kicked a cloud of dust in my face.
It was day one of the Annapurna Circuit, possibly the world’s greatest trek. But it had been rubbish so far.
I’d started in Besi Sahar, climbing a valley that had been disfigured by human hands. A newly constructed road scythed through the hillsides, a long brown scar that seemed engineered to create as much damage as possible. I had no alternative but to walk along it as the old trekking trail had been cannibalised.
The road passed pits of trash, black rings surrounding the edge, marking a previous fire. I followed the electricity pylons, steel slaves of modernity. To my right was a hydro dam, its turbines roared and drowned out the engine of the buses hurtling towards me.
I continued walking, the road twisted around a field littered with corpses of rusting trucks. Children were playing there, but stopped when they saw me and came running over. “Chocolate, chocolate!” they demanded, their hands outstretched. I smiled back at them, dying a little inside. This was probably how people came to see trekkers in Nepal as walking wallets.
Mercifully, the trail eventually left the road. It took me to the quiet village of Bahandunda, where I stayed the night. For dinner I ate dal bat, Nepal’s national dish. It came with a mound of rice surrounded by dal and a potato and pumpkin curry.
Prem, the chap running the guesthouse, told me that he and his wife had grown all the food. Images of a young man cycling to an organic cafe to eat a kale and tofu salad flashed in my mind.
“Life is so hard now,” Prem said, staring down at the table. “People don’t trek through here anymore,” he continued, “I used to make all my money from trekking, but now I have to farm.”
“The new road?” I asked.
“Yes, the fucking road,” Prem clenched his fists. “You can take a jeep in a day for what you used to walk in a week, straight to Manang! I don’t blame them, the road is very bad to walk on.”
I didn’t disagree.
Prem went to put his daughter to bed, so I looked at the map, plotting the route I’d take for the Annapurna Circuit — 230 kilometres and 18 days of trekking beckoned. Even more if I detoured to Annapurna Base Camp. Halfway along was the Thorung La, an infamous mountain pass that was 5,416 metres high.
I was excited. This promised to be an epic trek, filled with snow-covered trails, mysterious temples and ancient Tibetan villages. All with the backdrop of the Annapurna Massif, a collection of 8,000 and 7,000 metre high peaks.
When traveling, expectations rarely match reality, usually in a negative way. But for once, I was about to experience the opposite. For the Annapurna Circuit was to be more incredible than I’d ever imagined.
After trekking from Besi Sahar to Bahundanda, I continued to Upper Pisang, which you can read about here.
I’ve written more about the Annapurna Circuit at the links below:
- Annapurna Circuit: Besi Sahar to Bahundanda
- Annapurna Circuit: Bahundanda to Upper Pisang
- Annapurna Circuit: Upper Pisang to Manang
- Annapurna Circuit: Manang to Tilicho Base Camp
- Annapurna Circuit: Trek to Tilicho Lake
- Annapurna Circuit: Shree Kharka to Thorung Phedi
- Annapurna Circuit: Crossing the Thorung La
- Annapurna Circuit: Muktinath to Kagbeni
- Annapurna Circuit: Kagbeni to Larjung
- Annapurna Circuit: Larjung to Ghorepani