Kuala Lumpur and Singapore

Kuala Lumpur

As our flight from Kathmandu was later in the evening, we decided to walk the six kilometers to the airport. It was a very dusty and dark walk as there was, once again, a power cut.

We finally arrived in the very confusing and crowded airport. We walked in, went through “security” (we put our bags in the machine but nobody was paying attention) and tried to find the right counter to check-in as the screens where not working. The immigration officer didn’t even look at our dutifully filled immigration papers before stamping our passports. For the second security check, there were two different lines, one for men and one, much shorter, for women. This security check was again very fast and not thorough.

Next step was pre-boarding which consisted of a guy ripping our boarding passes off, and much later somebody else entering them in the computer. We saw the plane arrive and park from where we sat, and had a good laugh as they used the buses to bring people to the main entrance… on the other side of our 10 meters wide waiting room. We boarded the biggest plane so far on our trip. We had planned to sleep a little bit but the people sitting behind us had other plans.

We arrived in Kuala Lumpur 15 minutes prior to our schedule. We followed the other passengers on the tarmac and through immigration. There were many restaurants outside and we settled on the White Coffee to have some peanut butter toasts (we had missed our precious peanut butter so much!) and coffee. We walked to platform three where we found the Star shuttle bus and got in just in time as it left five minutes later. The ride to the center took about one hour and we were really impressed to be back in civilisation, with a decent bus, street lights, nice roads, etc.

When the bus stopped close to Jalan Petaling, we got off and walked in the unusually quiet Chinatown as it was about 6:30 am. We stopped in one hotel to ask for the price, but found it too expensive. We went out and saw the Backpacker Traveler hostel. The room price was within our budget and we could get it immediately. We slept for a few hours before heading out for a walk. We walked by the nice and clean Jamek Mosque, across immense Merdeka Square with the 100 meters tall flagpole. We continued on Jalan Raja, walked by the nice colonial style Sultan Abdul Samad building and the Old Post Office. We walked back towards Chinatown and stopped for lunch at Subway, for finally something else than fried rice! Later in the day, we went out for a walk in Little India, seeing many shops selling headscarves among many other colorful clothing items.

Masjid Jamek Mosque

Merdeka Square

Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad

On our next day in KL, AA discovered many rashes that looked like mosquito bites but we didn’t pay more attention to it as she gets bitten all the time. We spent part of the day catching up online before going out for some street food. We asked our waiter if there was meat in the pineapple fried rice. He said prawns or seafood. We asked if is was possible to get it without meat or seafood. He answered with: Chicken??… We finally got through with our request and received it without meat (except for the little sprinkle of bacon on top). Malaysia is not the easiest when it comes time to eat for a vegetarian.

After eating we came back to the hostel where we realized that the little bug running on the bed was probably a bed bug, and that the mosquito bites were, in fact, bed bug bites. We came down to the reception to ask for a different room. The guy didn’t seem surprised at all and asked if we would mind staying there for the night as he didn’t have the same kind of room available. We asked if there was anything else available, dorm or anything really, because there was no way we were going to risk having even more bites. He finally gave us an “upgrade” to a room with an ensuite bathroom but told us we would have to move again the next morning. We spent the following four hours going through everything we own looking for the little beasts to try and not bring any in the new room. Needless to say that wasn’t our original plan for the evening.

After going through everything we own again the next morning, we needed some fresh air so we walked towards Menara KL, the big CN like tower. On the other side of KLCC we followed the signs to the Petronas twin towers. We went through the walkway over the streets. We were expecting a small one just going across the street but it actually stretched almost all the way to the towers. We decided to go inside the Suria KLCC, one of many shopping centers, as we wanted an ice coffee. We walked though the mall and came out on the other side, right between the feet of the twin towers. We took some nice pictures and kept walking East to find one of the few Arab restaurants we had seen online. The hummus, pitas and falafels were very good and this is definitely one of our favourite type of food. We came back to the hotel under pouring rain, on the slippery sidewalks and booked our bus for Singapore for the next day.

Menara KL Tower

Sky walk

Behind Suria Shopping Centre

Petronas Twin Towers

On the day we left Kuala Lumpur, we walked from the hostel to the very modern bus station where many helpful employees wanted to direct us to the right counter. We had a very pleasant surprise when the bus arrived. It was the most comfortable bus we had ever seen. The seats were about the size of first-class airplane seats, with foot rest and a lot of room to stretch. The seats were also reclining and had an integrated massage function. Very impressive! The road was quiet and comfortable.

Best bus ever!
The bus stopped at the Malaysian border where we got off, walked through the main building and went through immigration. We then hopped back on the bus to cross the bridge, stopped again, this time for the Singapore immigration. We had to get off the bus once more but this time taking our luggage with us. We filled out our arrival card and waited in line to get our stamps. It was a quick process giving the amount of people that go though at the same time.


We started our Singapore discovery with the Chinatown district, visiting colorful Sri Mariamman Temple as well as the very big, impressive and informative Buddah Tooth Replic temple. We then headed towards the Financial district, Raffles place and the many shopping centers. We walked along the Olympic Walk to the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands before crossing a very modern looking bridge. We came back to the hotel, walking in front of the parliament and stopped in a real supermarket to buy some wine and food.

Nice and different architecture all around

Sri Mariamman Temple

Chinese market – noticed the lizard like creatures on sticks?

Buddah Tooth Replic Temple 

Inside the Temple

The view at Marina Bay

Skyline of the Business District

Pedestrian bridge over Marina Bay
On our second day in Singapore we woke up late in our window-less room. We went for breakfast in one of the many malls before our walk in town under the rain. We walked by Little India and Arab Street, having a look at the big golden domed Mosque. It was raining on and off and, after a while, we were wet enough that we decided to walk back to the hostel and book some flights for our next destination.

We really liked our incursion back into modern society. We were amazed by the modernity of Kuala Lumpur and the cleanliness of Singapore especially after Nepal. Both cities were very easy to get around on foot and had great public transport from the airport. Our next destination won’t be as clean, but obviously not as expensive either!

Chitwan National Park, Nepal

After our well-deserved break in Pokhara, we needed a new adventure. We decided to visit Chitwan National Park, a national reserve located close to the Indian border. Early in the morning, we walked to the bus station in Pokhara. Having already bought our ticket the day before from the hotel, we tried to find the right bus. There are many buses in the station, many of them without clear indicator of the company but fortunately, locals working there are very helpful. Many people were selling warm pastries and souvenirs. As we were a little early, we put AA’s bag on the top of the bus and waited for the bus to fill up. It left on time at 7:30 for a five-hour long ride. We stopped somewhere in the middle for a thirty-minute break.

Pokhara Bus Station
Breakfast break

When we arrived in Sauraha, one of the villages located right on the border of the protected area, many hotel owners were waiting for the bus, offering a ten Rupies ride to their hotel. We don’t like to be pressured into choosing a hotel so we walked for about 1.5 kilometers to the main street, where we stopped for lunch before starting our hotel research. We visited a few but the prices were a little too high for our liking. We were going to change our mind about the pricing when one of the owners we had met at the bus station drove by with his small red pick-up. We took him on his offer to show us the room and if we didn’t like it he would drive us back to the center. The hotel was located on a side street, with very quiet surrounding. The 400 Rupies room was nice enough, roomy and included a hot shower, so we decided to stay.
The hotel offers a “sightseeing” tour everyday around 4pm. We followed our “guide” to a place where they keep some of the elephants. We saw a baby elephant, about 5 months old and her mom, 40 years old. There was also a big old male about 60 years old. They are unfortunately chained down to prevent them from running away. It is sad to see them restrained, but as they grow up in captivity, they are not used to caring for themselves anymore. They are mostly used for safaris in the jungle, carying tourists on their backs twice a day. We saw one owner clearly abusing his elephant, but for the most part, owners seemed to treat their elephants fairly. Never as good as if they were in the wild, but better than we had expected. 
Government owned elephants
Mom and baby
Sunset over the Rapti River

The next morning, we woke up at 5:30, had breakfast and met with our guide for our walking safari. We walked to the ‘sunset viewpoint’ area, where our guide had to buy our permit. The formalities took a while and we started our trip only at 8am. Any groups of more than two going for a walking safari in the jungle needs two guides, one in front and one in the back. We sat in a long canoe with another couple, the four guides and the boat driver. We spent 45 minutes on the water, seeing many birds on our way. It was very foggy and it added a little mystery. When we stopped our boat tour, we stepped out and viewed our first big animal, a rhino! It was in the very tall grass so quite hard to spot, but we stayed for a while and it finally moved a little bit while eating, before laying down with a “hmmph” of content. 
Sunrise in the fog
Canoe ride on the Rapti River

We walked in the jungle with both our guides, armed with bamboo sticks. We saw some spotted deers and a crocodile. We took many breaks during the day as it was very hot and the animals don’t move much during the day. About an hour after following tiger prints (and smelling a fresh pee marking) we took another break. We walked some more and spotted many birds including peacocks, countless butterflies, many deers (spotted and smaller ones too), monkeys, 3 crocodiles (Gharial and Mugger crocodile), another rhino and some wild chickens. We crossed the river back to the village at 5pm. We said thank you to the guides and went for a well-deserved shower after walking all day in the sun. 
Our guide looking for wildlife 
Deers on the side of the Rapti River

Our second day in Chitwan was spent mostly enjoying the warm weather from our balcony. On our third day, we went for a second safari, this time leaving for a 2 day/1 night tour. We woke up early again and met our guides in town this time. They had already arranged the park entrance permits so we sat in the long wooden boat and started our second expedition on the Rapti River. We saw many birds on our way despite of the thick fog. Our guide was very good, pointing all the different type of birds and the many crocodiles. After about 3 hours of boating, with a small stretching break in the middle, we arrived to the next village. It felt good to be back on dry land after spending the first part of our expedition on small wooden benches which are very hard on the back and bottom.

Our second guide on the long boat ride
Mugger Crocodile
Gharial Crocodile

We followed the guide through the very long grass keeping an eye open for wildlife and hoping for a tiger or a leopard. Unfortunately we didn’t see them. When we arrived closer to a long lake, a rhino got out of the bushes right behind us. We looked at it for a few minutes while it was wondering if we were a treat or not. We walked to a tall watchtower to have lunch. The rhino decided it was bath time and went in the water just in front of the tower. We watched it for about an hour while having our lunch. It really seemed to enjoy its bath, but at one point it needed to go to the toilet, so he walked out of the water, peed for what seemed like forever, and went right back in the lake. Later on, another group caught up with us and the rhino must have thought it wasn’t quiet enough anymore because it went back in the forest.
We walked more in the jungle, seeing spotted deers and monkeys. We did a huge circle and came back later to the watch tower. We spotted a couple of wild boars on the other side of the river along with many crocodiles. We were almost at the watch tower when a entire family of wild boars with seven or eight babies ran around us to get cover. They ran very fast and surprised us quite a bit! We walked toward the river, catching up with a big group of tourists. They were walking really slow and talking so we weren’t expecting to see any more wildlife when suddenly the group stopped. Their guide had spotted a big mommy rhino with a baby. She wasn’t too happy and looked like she was going to charge the group to protect her baby. The guide used his bamboo stick to make lots of noise and the rhinos ran away. We made our way back to the river where we took a small boat across to the village outside of the park.
Our guides brought us to a small lodge by the river where we took a cold shower. We were entertained by the 13 year old kid singing many songs in five different languages. We were all very impressed by what he had learned from the previous visitors. 

Time for a bath
Even trees have parasite
Wild Boars

The next morning we woke up a 5:45, went for breakfast and started our second day in the jungle, this time in the buffer zone. We walked through the jungle, seeing many termite towers. We saw some deers and monkeys again. We even got a piggy-back ride from our guide in order to cross a small river as the water level was high. Fortunately they were no crocs in this river, according to our barefoot guide. We stopped at a few water holes looking for new animal prints. We also went by another watch tower where some people had heard a tiger, but unfortunately it didn’t want to see us, or a least be seen by us. We made our waz back into civilization, walking by the elephant breeding center.

Termite Nest
Twisted tree
Sunrise in the jungle

After enjoying the nature of Chitwan National Park, it was time to take a bus back to Kathmandu. We had bought the tickets through our hotel and were very impressed when we saw the bus. It was great, a real coach, with comfy seats and room for our legs. The bus ride was long, following the same road we were on before. It had many sharp turns, a lot of traffic and many close calls. We stopped for a snack break, then for lunch and finally to let people out in the surroundings of Kathmandu. We walked to Thamel district, found a place to sleep and went to the hotel we previously stayed at to get our bags back. We came back to the room to have a look at the stuff we had left behind. We had forgotten how busy and noisy Kathmandu is and we were not quite ready for it. It was time to get out of Nepal and experience a new country!

The Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

Our adventure in Nepal is unfortunately over. We had a great time hiking in the highest mountains in the world. It was one of the best things we did on our trip so far. According to our GPS, we walked 288 kilometres, climbed a cumulative 25000 metres and also went down as much. The views were breathtaking and pictures are never as impressive as witnessing the imposing scenery with your own eyes. Hopefully we will come back in this beautiful country for a future adventure. It was not easy every day, as living standards in one of the poorest country in the world is not something we are used to. It is as big of a mental challenge as it is a physical one. We definitely recommend it to anybody that likes the outdoors and hiking in the mountains.

We decided to split our story in 8 posts and below are the links :

Enjoy !

Annapurna Circuit Part 8, Nepal

Day 21 to 24, from Tatopani to Pokhara

Day 21 – To Phalate

We weren’t sure how Seb’s knee was going to be after the long descent in Tatopani. As soon as we left we had to stop at the checkpoint. We learned that because of the strike the buses to Beni were 2200 instead of 200 rupies as they needed to have police escort. It confirmed our idea of walking all the way and not taking a bus! We finally left Tatopani and started to go up the never ending stairs. We walked up stairs all day in a beautiful valley. A few people tried to point us in the wrong direction for some reason, all saying : other way, other way!

We stopped for lunch in Shikha. After resting our legs, we climbed more stairs to the village of Phalate. Just outside the village, a guy was doing some sort of welcome dance for us so we decided to stop there for the day. We ordered Tibetan bread and Gorkha beer which came in a recycled Tuborg bottle. The lady who took our order left just after getting us our beer so we never had the bread. We enjoyed the scenery for the remaining of the afternoon but when it got cold, the owner invited us in the kitchen by the wood stove. We read and talked to the owner.  Just before the owner started cooking our food, he went running outside and came back with his goat. We went back to the room, in a building with five rooms. It could have been very cosy and noisy as the walls were not going all the way up to the roof. We could also clearly see downstairs and the goat through the cracks in the floor.

This one didn’t look as safe as the others!
Nice stone seats along the ascending trail
The valley with fields,looking back towards Tatopani
Another basic lodge on the trail
Noticed the walls not going all the way up?
The kitchen
Wood burning stove
Day 22 – To Ban Thanti 

We finally left at 8:00 am, making our way slowly up more stairs to Ghorepani. We arrived there around 10 am. We were surprised to see that many big lodges, but as it is the starting point of the hike to Poon Hill, it made sense. They had decent WiFi, so we took the opportunity to book our flight out of Nepal. We kept going up stairs to a nice viewpoint of the Annapurna range. In two days, we went up 2000 meters in rock staircases. We enjoyed the view for a while and kept walking towards Deurali Pass before coming down a small village. A young mother asked us where we were going and if we could bring a note to somebody in the next village. We took the note and started our descent. We gave the message and as there were many people in the village already we decided to keep walking to the next lodge. A very loud remix of Justin Bieber welcomed us to the “Tranquility” lodge so we rapidly made our way through. Somehow, we got on a side path and had to climb to get on the correct path. That is when we heard some noise in the forest. We looked up and spotted a monkey. It had a black face surrounded by a crown of white hair, like a small lion. We spent a few minutes watching the monkeys before moving on to the Trekker’s Sanctuary lodge where we decided to stop for the night.

Day 23 – To Landruk

We went down to Tadapani, were we quickly stopped to buy toilet paper (very important to carry some as it is not available in any bathrooms) before continuing on to Ghandruk. We stopped for lunch at the very beginning of the village in a small lodge where we could hear the neighbours play music. The seemingly hang over owner sat with us for a while. After eating, we followed the owner’s advice and stopped a the German Bakery for chocolate doughnuts. They were big and tasty. We then started to descent the interminable steps to the bridge and then up to the village of Landruk. We stopped in the first lodge as we couldn’t go further. We took a room and rushed to the ‘hot’ shower. It was freezing cold, so once again we washed our hair and used a towel to clean our bodies.

Yes, we do have to go all the way down to the river and all the way back up to the village of Landruk
Looking towards Annapurna Base Camp trek from Landruk
And looking the other way leaving Landruk, always following the valleys
Day 24 – To Pohkara 

We left the hotel at 7:45 and went up the stairs to the village. We walked through, trying to follow the trail, but with the new road, the trail is impracticable at best. We had just started when a young girl in a field asked us for money saying she was very hungry. We were trying to stay on the trail when a family told us to walk by their land. We did so and they asked for a photo, and then wanted money for the photo, and the girl kept asking for us to give her our clothing or shoes etc. We felt like walking ATMs. This trail is obviously more touristic because we kept getting asked for money by everyone. When we first left the village in the morning, a nice black dog started to follow us. He followed us all the way to the second village. We were starting to worry he would not turn around when he went his separate way.

We came across a sign that said : short way to Pokhara, so we decided to try it. We are not sure if it was any shorter, but it was much steeper! We climbed to the top of the mountain to the village of Pitam Deurali where we stopped for a few pictures before continuing toward Dhampus. We stopped at both Tims and permit checkpoint to get our exit stamps, and started our very long descent along the stone paved trail. We stopped for lunch in Dhampus. We were going to stop there for the night but were not completely satisfied with the hotels. The couple we had lunch with were going to catch a taxi from Phedi, so we decided to do the same. We walked down the many many stairs to Phedi, going twice in the wrong direction, adding to the already endless stairs. When we finally arrived to the bottom, a few taxis where parked there and the drivers came our way to offer their services. The first price they asked us for was 3000 rupies, about 2 times the amount of the normal tourist price. We told them we needed a coffee first. The taxi drivers came back to see if we wanted to discuss the price of the ride. We bargained it down to 1800, which was quite expensive but because of the strike, it was our only option if we didn’t want to walk the extra 20 kilometres on the side of the highway. When we arrived in Lakeside Pokhara, the driver dropped us at the main corner and we were almost jumped on by hotel owners. We took a business card and told them that we wanted to see the lake first. We walked to the lake and decided to have a look at the first hotel, Lake House. For 600 rupies (about 6 CAD) a night, it was pretty good. We had a real bed and a very hot shower (we actually had to add cold water) and no cracks in the walls. After supper, we walked around, shopping for a celebratory bottle of wine to be enjoyed in our room. The next morning we changed hotel to find one with WiFi where we stayed for a week, relaxing and enjoying different types of food.

Pokhara is across the mountain over 20 kilometres away
We are back in the “civilized” world
Rooftop view of the lake from the hotel
Nepali tractor
Quite the tractor right?

Annapurna Circuit Part 7, Nepal

Day 18 to 20, from Jomsom to Tatopani

Day 18 – To Chhairo, a small Tibetan refugee village

We crossed the river in Jomsom to get to the trail. We walked by a few villages, across a field of loose rocks before going up the mountain and down to Chhairo. It was very windy and parts of the trail were again on loose rocks, very slippery. We walked through a small Tibetan refugee village, and found a restaurant. We were hungry so we decided to stop for lunch. It was very good and very filling. We decided we had enough for the day as the trail was not the easiest.


Looking at Jomson from across the river 

Day 19 – To Kalapani

We woke up at 6 am, as we had ordered breakfast for 6:30. We packed our things and went in the restaurant. Nobody was there, the kitchen was still locked. We finished packing our bags while waiting to see if someone was going to wake up. At 7, we counted the money we owed, wrote a message and left. There was still nobody awake. We walked out of the village and suddenly, somebody was yelling at us. We made our way back and told them the money was on the counter. They asked if we wanted breakfast but as it was already almost 7:30, we decided to start walking and eat our granola bars. We walked across a few villages again. We were getting hungry and when coming in Sauru village, we saw a lodge. We were walking towards the lodge when a men asked us if we wanted to have tea or food. We gladly said yes to food and his wife prepared some Dhal Bat for us. We waited while watching roosters and chickens walking around. All the kids of the village walked by on their way to school and greated us with a nice Namaste before asking for sweets. At least this time they didn’t try to go through our bags…

Best Dhal Bat ever in a small private Nepali home, made by the owner’s wife
View from the hotel in Kalapani

Day 20 Tatopani

We left the lodge early and walked for 2 hours in a trail up the road where we could hear some birds and the river before arriving in Ghasa. We decided to stop to have cinnamon milk tea and Tibetan bread with honey. After all that sugar we almost ran down the hill. Going up was much easier that we expected and we raced to the top before coming back down again. The scenery and vegetation changed a lot during the day, even the bamboo was back. We walked through many villages that didn’t seem to have any lodges open. Seb was offered some hash, again (it is a common occurrence in Nepal). We crossed the wooden bridge to Dana where Seb had trouble with his knee so we stopped for lunch. We decided to stay on the main road for the remaining hour of the walk to Tatopani as it was flat. This was the biggest day so far with 21,8 kilometres and around 1150 metres of descent, not including the ups and downs.

So many suspension bridges…

Going down towards Tatopani
Our new friends looking for candies

Annapurna Circuit Part 6, Nepal

Day 16 and 17, from Muktinath to Jomsom

Day 16 – To Kagbeni

We woke up without an alarm at 6:40 am and went downstairs for breakfast. Seb had quite the surprise when knocking the hard-boiled egg on the table to break the shell. A brown substance came out everywhere, on the table, on his warm sweater, on the floor. Slightly disgusting and terribly stinky.

When we left the hotel. the sun was already up, warming up the path but not melting the snow yet as it was still pretty cold. We walked toward the pass, to cross on the other side of the valley. We followed the old road, not used much as we just saw one jeep and one motorcycle. We had a nice view of the pass, cleared of clouds, all covered in snow. We walked through the small villages of Jhong and Putak and made our way slowly lower to the village of Kagbeni. This village was different. It had a medieval feel with the little cobblestone streets and tunnels.

Town of Muktinath

Looking at the pass from the other side

Arriving to Kagbeni

Day 17 – To Jomsom

We walked to the village of Ekle Bhatti following the main road. We weren’t sure if we wanted to do the side trek to Jomsom, but when 2 jeeps drove by us it made our decision an easy one. We did not want to walk in the dust all day having to step aside for speeding vehicles. We crossed the bridge with two motorcycles. The bridge was not quite big enough for all of us and the first motorcycle almost stayed stuck in Seb’s camera. We walked across the first village, Pangling. It had the same medieval feel as Kagbeni. We kept walking, going up to Phalyak. As soon as we walked in the village, we were asked for candies or pen by children. Even a lady wanted money from us, so that sort of ruined our feeling of the place. We followed the blue arrows, but they led to another corner of the village so we had to backtrack. We walked out of the village only to realize, we could have walked just on the edge of it. It would have been much easier. Anyway, we kept going up, but we couldn’t really see the track leading to the next village. We went down in the valley where the local cultivate the land, and up again on the other side to Dhargarjung. This was our favourite of the three villages as it had a picturesque feel, a real Nepali village, not filled with tourist hotels. It also felt quite Middle Age compared to what we are used to. After that village, we stopped for a snack break. 

Once rested, we climbed the mountain. It was quite steep and fairly difficult. Once we arrived on top, we realized why it was called Bhatase Bhanjyang, or Windy Pass. It couldn’t have been more accurate. The descent was very difficult after the few trees because of the rolling rocks. We finally made our way down to Jomsom. We walked in the village, towards the airport as we had read the first part of the village looked abandoned. We walked by the check post and though that because of the line-up we would just find a place, drop our bags and go back, but we were called in. So we had to go through our bags to find the paperwork, give it to the first person who stamped it, the second one entered info in the computer and the third one put another stamp. Then we had to stop again across the street for the Tims check post.

The river bed towards Jomsom
Another suspension bridge

Seb at the Windy Pass

Annapurna Circuit Part 5, Nepal

Day 11 to 14, from Tilicho Lake to Thorung La Pass

Day 11 – to Tilicho Lake

We woke up without an alarm at 6am. We though we were going to take things slow but we were ready to go by 7am after our breakfast. We took only Seb’s backpack with water, snacks and our down jackets so we could be more gentle on our bodies. We started our ascent to the lake. It took us two hours and forty minutes to get to the top. It was tough to catch our breath, but all the efforts were rewarded by amazing views of the Annapurna range and the snow-covered mountains. When we got closer to the top, we had to walk on compacted snow. The sun was there in the morning so it was good and warm-ish, but when we arrived to the lake the sky was covered with clouds. The lake was much bigger than we had expected, and we could see the glaciers coming right down in it. We started our descent after a nice break at 5000 metres of altitude. We came back down to the base camp at 4100 metres. We enjoyed the view coming down but we had to be very careful where we put our feet as there was some landslide sections. We were hungry when we arrived so we had Nepalese pizza for lunch before sitting down in the dining room to read.

 Everybody slowly going up from the base camp to Tilicho Lake
Almost there!
Tilicho Lake at 4979 metres
The valley looking towards Manang from the hike up to the base camp

Day 12 – To Ledar

We left early in the morning and started walking on the landslide area. It was very cold as the sun was not over the mountains yet. We walked through a deserted village sitting atop a mountain. We had the most amazing views so far. We could see at least 3 days of walking before Manang and even the Tilicho valley and the path to Tilicho Lake. Just as we were getting ready to leave, we had a toilet paper malfunction. The roll fell on the ground and started going down. AA started running to catch it but thanks to the wind, we had a nice TP banner flying around.

We went over the mountain and down in the main valley. It was a very steep hill going down. We followed the path across the bridge and had to walk all the way back up to the same height to reach the main trail. Just before arriving in Yak Karka, we were stuck behind a big group of donkeys. While in the village, the donkeys were distracted and we finally had an opportunity to pass them. We kept going until we reached a bridge and the village of Ledar at an altitude of 4200 metres. 

We ordered lunch and decided to have a medium pot of tea. Seb asked the lady how many cups it contained (to see if it was worth buying a pot instead of cup by cup). She actually measured it with water before telling Seb it was 7 cups. We ordered Dhal Bat and it was the strangest we had seen so far. It had rice and the lentil soup plus a small plate of cabbage, carrots and potatoes in a tomato sauce. There was also cold cooked veggie dipped in vinegar and spices and a weird fatty pink styrofoam like chips instead of Pappadum. It felt like they didn’t want to start supper already so they gave us the left-overs. At night somebody else ordered Dhal Bat and it looked much better. We were debating getting the veggie burger for supper, but when we saw it, a dry patty stuck between two pieces of white bread, no sauce or veggies, we changed our minds and got Tibetan bread instead!

Meeting with a Yak

Our favourite viewpoint of the whole Annapurna circuit

Day 13 – To the High Camp of Thorung La

Our walk started with a climb and eventually we had a choice to make. The new bridge or the old bridge. A Polish guy we met the day before had read something about the new path being more dangerous than the old one. When we were at the junction, we could see that parts of the new path had actually fallen down. There was a new higher path but we though the old one that is being used by the farmers and their animals was probably a safer bet. We made it to Thorung Phedi at 4450 metres in altitude in about 2 hours and stopped for a cup of mint tea. We then started our long ascent, only 400 metres but really steep, to the High Camp.

We took it slow and arrived at the lodge around 10:45. We took our room with a hard as wood double bed and went to the restaurant to order lunch. While we ate, we could see two big mountain eagles flying and chasing just in front of the restaurant windows. We seemed to have arrived just in time as many people started to come in as we were having lunch. The views over the mountains were breathtaking. We climbed to the viewpoint, a few meters higher. As they say : Walk high, sleep low. They recommend not sleeping in the high camp but as we had already spent a few days over 4000 metres we thought we would be fine. We had a very nice view from the viewpoint and we enjoyed it almost to ourselves.

After our little expedition, we came back down to the restaurant to sit by the sun-filled window. Seb also played a dice game with three Israeli guys. Around 6 pm, we went in the room to read and warm up in our sleeping bags. It was very cold outside and inside the rooms, we could easily see our breaths. The cold also made it very dangerous to go to the toilet as all the water on the ground was frozen solid. Some people said they would leave at 4-5 in the morning, but we didn’t see the point of leaving that early as we prefer to see the trail.

Everything is harder at 5000 metres high: stretching, walking, even just making our beds and we were short of breath. We have to remember to breathe. Even getting excited can’t last for too long as we must stop to catch our breath!

High camp before Thorung La pass
Viewpoint at around 4900 metres
Day 14 Crossing the Pass and to Muktinath 

After two weeks, it was time to cross over Thorung-La pass. We didn’t have the best sleep as we woke up around midnight. Not too long afterwards we could hear some people getting ready to leave the lodge at 3-4 am. Finally our alarm went off at 5 am. We got up, packed our bags and went for breakfast. The restaurant was already full of people eating and leaving. Surprisingly, our breakfast was ready at the time we had ordered it. We started our ascent around 6:15 am. We had to walk slow and because of the altitude we had trouble catching our breath. There was a lot of people and groups on the trail. It was hard to keep a good rhythm to go up as there was also donkeys and horses going up and down.

The part from the high camp to Thorung-La was actually easier that the part from Thorong Phedi to the high camp. It had steeper sections with somewhat flat parts to catch our breath and take pictures. It was unfortunately fairly cloudy. The wind didn’t really pick up until we reached the summit. We took pictures on top of the pass, but it was very cold with the wind. So we hurried down the 1186 metres to Charabu where we stopped for tea and excellent momos. This first part was very steep and very hard on the knees. After our short break, we kept going down 430 extra metres to Muktinath. We were getting really tired and it was starting to snow on our way down.

We arrived in Muktinath, looked at the information board and decided on the second hotel we saw, as it was promoted as having free WiFi and hot water showers. We took a double room with a big bed, dropped our bags and went for a shower. It felt so good to finally have hot water! The water pressure was not quite what we would have liked, but it was still a hot shower! They even had a real western toilet that flushed! No need to fill in the tank ourselves. After our shower, we went downstairs to the restaurant where we had lunch. We were able to use WiFi to send a second message to our parents to let them know we were still alive. It snowed for the remaining of the day so we couldn’t see the surrounding mountains. We stayed in the room for most of the afternoon, watching videos and coping photos. After 14 days of walking, we took a well-deserved day off in Muktinath.

Leaving the high camp

Going up slowly
It’s not over yet…
We made it!
5416 metres

Already going down towards Muktinath

Part 6 – Muktinath to Jomsom

Annapurna Circuit Part 4, Nepal

Day 9 and 10, from Manang to Tilicho Lake Base Camp

Day 9 to Khangsar

We decided to have an easier day; no alarm in the morning. After breakfast we went in “town” to find internet. We stopped at the Mountain lodge and sent emails to both our moms as we hadn’t talk to them since we started the trek. After spending 30 long minutes to send 2 quick emails, we went on our way to Khangsar. We followed the Tilicho Lake signs for about 2 hours until we reached Khangsar. It was a shorter day, only 5.6 kilometres and it was definitely needed.

When we arrived in Khangsar, we walked by a small lodge where the owner talked us into coming in and having a look at the room. He showed us the thick mattresses and the pile of blankets. There was about 8 blankets for 2 beds. We decided to stay there for 100 rupies for both of us and we went on the small rooftop terrace to have lunch. We spent the afternoon reading and relaxing. The sun disappeared really fast behind the mountains and it got cold almost immediately. When we were cold enough, we went upstairs in the kitchen to sit by the wood stove. We watched the owner cook our Tibetan bread and our tomato-noodle soup while talking with his family and the only other guest.

There was another festival going on in Khangsar that night. This time is was locals going from house to house dancing, singing and gathering money for village projects. We stayed a little bit longer in the kitchen, enjoying the warmth and conversation. While we were getting ready to go to bed , we could hear strange noises coming from outside. It sounded like an animal was not happy. We looked outside with our headlamps and saw some yaks or bulls (it was very hard to see in the dark) fighting. We were happy we were on the second floor as they are very strong and heavy and the streets are very small.

Looking back towards Manang on the way to Khangsar

Arriving in Khangsar
Fancy hotel
Homemade meal, like always on the trail
The hotel’s kitchen
Day 10 – Tilicho base camp

We woke up at 6am, got ready and went in the kitchen for 6:30 as we had ordered our breakfast for that time. Once again, it was not ready, actually the owner was barely getting started on boiling water for tea. We chatted with him while he prepared our breakfast. Most of the food actually comes dry, tomato soup is a powder, the milk is also powdered milk that they mix with hot water, noodles are the ramen type etc. We hadn’t seen a fridge yet in any of the kitchens. The Maya hotel is one of the oldest of the village. There are even some writings on the door dated 1973. It must have been a lot more challenging back then to hike the circuit and it must have included much more Dal Bhat!

The walk to Tilicho Base Camp was very scenic, we could see mountains and the valley very well. Is was fairly easy in the beginning, with just a few hills to climb and descent. But the closer we got to the base camp, the more difficult and stressful it got. The reason is quite simple, the last hour, the path is in a landslide zone. The mountain is made of small rocks that don’t feel very stable under our feet. It goes up and down and the path is very narrow by moments. It was very important to keep an eye on the ground as it would be very easy to slip and fall all the way down to the river. We arrived in the base camp around lunch time. 

Towards Tilicho Lake which is at the end of the valley, to the right of the white mountain

Landslide area

Tilicho Lake base camp room
Tilicho Lake base camp lodge

Part 5 – Tilicho Lake to Thorung La Pass

Annapurna Circuit Part 3, Nepal

Day 6 to 8, from Upper Pisang to Manang

Day 6 – to Ghyaru

We left the hotel at 7:35 am and followed the main trail out of Upper Pisang, until we saw a junction. We took the right side, the one going uphill. We met an older lady carrying a huge basket. She asked us if we really wanted to go to Pisang Peak or follow the main trail. It was good to know that she is looking out for tourists so they don’t get lost. It took us 2 hours to get to the viewpoint. We had an awesome view of the valleys on both sides and Annapurna 2 from the top.

We enjoyed the view for a while and made tea and ate granola bars. After looking on the GPS we saw that the next village was about 2 km away in straight line, so we decided to try to find a way in the mountain instead of having to go back down and up again. We followed an animal trail to the forest. We had also seen a group with a guide heading in that direction and as their were not back we assumed they had find a way to get through. But after walking in the forest for about an hour we came to the conclusion that there was no trail to get to Ghyaru, so we turned around, made our way back to the viewpoint and started our descent. We met the group we had seen in the forest back in the trail down to Upper Pisang. They too didn’t find a trail. The first hour was fairly flat and it felt really good on the legs after our climb and descent. The last hour to Ghyaru was a different story.

We had to go almost as high as the first mountain and is was very difficult. Being already tired from our first expedition plus the difference in altitude, made this mountain challenging. We finally arrived in the village and decided to stay at the Annapurna hotel. It was a good choice as we got to experiment a very rustic Nepali house. The family was nice even though the communication was not easy between their limited English and our non-existent Nepali.

Tea time
Basic room in Ghyaru
Day 7 to Mugje
We woke up at 6, with the room filled with smoke from the firewood stove. We had breakfast, and started our walk at 7am. It was very cold. We had planned on filling our water bottles in the morning, put the little tablet in the water and then use it later during the day when the water was purified, but it didn’t go as planned as the water pipe was frozen shut. It was also pretty cold going to the toilet in the morning! We walked for an hour before stopping for milk tea in a small tea house just by a viewpoint. We decided to follow the lower trail to make it to Mugje. We went down for a while, working those knees. The last section was more flat and went through a different scenery and vegetation again. We arrived in Mugje around 11am and sat for lunch in the “Pie in the sky” restaurant and bakery. We decided to relax for the afternoon and start our hike to the Ice Lake from there the next morning. We showered with “hot” water as advertised. The water was in no way hot, but bearable. We showered quickly anyway as it was getting cold with the wind coming in. We sat on the rooftop terrace to read and enjoy the sun.

Looking back to Ghyaru

Day 8 – to Ice Lake and Manang

Already a week of walking done! We woke up at 5:30, to try and have breakfast at 6, but we finally got our food at 6:30. It was very cloudy and we weren’t sure if the sky was going to clear up, but as we ate our breakfast we could see part of the clouds getting higher and moving away. We started our ascent right by the hotel. It was a pretty steep climb almost all the way up. We decided to carry our bags as a practice for the pass. It was very demanding to climb the first 1000m. We took just a few short breaks, and toward the top, we reached a plateau. We were getting very tired and hungry so we sat for lunch. After our lunch break, we decided to leave both our bags behind a little bush and try to get to the lake with only the camera. It was starting to be quite cold as the wind picked up. We made our way up the last few hundred meters and the path was going around the hill to the lakes. The view was stunning, but we didn’t take much time to enjoy it as it was cold and we were both getting a headache from the altitude. We climbed from 3400 metres to 4600 metres. 

We then made our way back down, towards the bottom of the hill. We followed what we thought was the main trail, but it turned out to be a path in a field where goats go to eat. We made our way to Braka, and decided to keep going to Manang, hoping to get a room in a hotel that would have WiFi. We should probably have stopped in Braka as the last half-hour was too much after that long day. We arrived exhausted and had to climb a little bit to reach Manang. We started looking for hotels, but they were all full and none of them had free WiFi, just Internet cafe. We finally arrived to the Northpole hotel where the girl working in the bakery told us there was only one room left. We took it, dropped our bags and laid down for a while. We had the opportunity to witness a festival parade going down the main road in Manang. It is a festival that is held only once every 3 years. They wear masks and dance around to chase the bad luck away. We weren’t really as excited as the girl working in the hotel due to our headaches but it was still interesting to see.

View towards Manang and Tilicho Lake from the Ice Lake trail

Ice Lake
Ice Lake at 4600 metres
Small “street” in Manang

Annapurna Circuit Part 2, Nepal

Day four and five, Dharapani to Upper Pisang

Day 4 – To Chame

We woke up at 6am, had breakfast and went our way, only to stop almost right away for the check point. We finally started our trek at 7:30. We stopped for tea in Danaqyu. We asked the lady if she had any bamboo sticks and she did! One of them was a little bit short, but it still made a big difference when it was time to climb up mountains. Especially right before Timang, where we took a ‘shortcut’ in the forest. It was a very steep climb and we were really happy to have found the sticks. We had to stop for another checkpoint in Koto, about 45 minutes before Chame where we decided to stay for the night. Chame is a bigger village and there are many shops just like in Thamel, in Kathmandu. There are also a lot of tourists. We arrived at 3 pm and the first hotel we had chosen was already full, so we walked to the next hotel, the Himalayan, where we got a triple room for the price of a double room. We were a little bit cold and very tired after the 15.6 km day. The menus are very similar everyday, and today we decided to try one of the Nepali specialities said to be gentle on the stomach and believed to cure everything; Garlic soup. With the amount of garlic in the soup, we can understand why no stomach bug could survive! We had a good time sharing stories with the other travellers. We went back to the room around 7 pm and went to bed at 8:15.

Going up to Odar in the morning

Tea break in Danaqyu

Lunch in Timang

Typical Nepali house
View from the room in Chame
Day 5 – To Upper Pisang

On that fifth morning, we decided to shop for more bamboo sticks so we could have 2 each, but unfortunately we waited too long on the trail to start looking for that and as the vegetation and scenery changes, there is less and less bamboo. We couldn’t find bamboo stick so we bought two pairs of regular aluminium walking sticks. We found them really useful throughout the day, especially when needing the extra pull going up. We followed the road for most of the day, crossing the river once more, stopping quickly for apples and walking through a forest to arrive in Dhikur Pokani just in time for lunch.

We had Dhal Bat and were enjoying ourselves and the view until a group arrived. It wasn’t so quiet anymore but not so bad. And that is when a second group arrived. They were loud and not concerned about the Nepalis’ custom and traditions and they quickly took their t-shirt off, and 2 girls ( a younger and an older one) were just wearing sports bra. Not very respectful to the local culture. We left quickly as soon as we were done eating and followed the Upper Pisang trail.

Upper Pisang deserves its name as it is much higher than Lower Pisang! We were rewarded by amazing views of Annapurna when we finally made it to the village. The village is also very different, no colourful buildings built for tourists, but mostly houses made of rocks and wood. We decided to stop in a brand new hotel up the hill. We asked the owner if he has hot water and outlets in the room, but no. We rushed to the bathroom, undressed and tried the water. It was ice cold. The water was coming straight from the mountain, probably from a glacier and it didn’t get warmer on the way down. We were just barely able to wash our hair and it felt like our brains were going to freeze right up.

We chatted with a group of German guys who then invited us to join them on their walk to the monastery to see the sunset. We went up a few more steps, and the view was even more stunning! The local community is rebuilding a new monastery to replace the old one, they say it is a work in progress but is was simply stunning. They set up plastic chairs so we could enjoy the view while drinking the very good lemon tea offered by the monk. We were even lucky enough to witness an avalanche and catch in on video. We came back down to the hotel when we were cold enough and went to the restaurant for supper. After talking to the German guys, we changed our plans slightly, we will go up the hill towards Pisang Peak as the views are said to be impressive.

Monastery in Upper Pisang
Inside the Monastery