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Trekking the Annapurna Trail (part 2)

(click here to read from the start)

After having been mellow in Manang it is time to continue the journey to Tilicho lake now. I am having one of those surprisingly delicious samosas in my hand when the group to join arrives.



I have to tell you this: the vast amount of chang the day before yesterday seems to still affect my legs and the (greasy) samosas from this morning are having a weird party in my belly. So the relatively gentle ascent is challenging me more than a bit. Let’s say I am somehow suffering in these gorgeous surroundings…

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We arrive in Tilicho base camp after a day of stunning views along a very nice hike, even though an unusually challenging one for me. We have a dip in the icecold riverwater just because we can, kind of supported by the last rays of the sun before we head into the restaurant to wait for another dhal bhat !

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Click here for the full post on Tilicho Lake

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‘Tilicho Lake’, available in Stino Select

The next morning the weather turns out te be grey and rainy and we pity the people having to go up to the lake now and feeling thankful we had all the blueskies… On the way back to Manang I see several boys carrying huge logs of wood along the small trail, it looks pretty impressive and puts the idea of having a porter to carry your stuff in a different perspective altogether…







There is a shortcut to Yak Kharka on the way to the Thorang la pass but I decide to go back to Manang as I bet the shortcut is a bit overrated.  The descent to Manang takes longer than I thought though, and when I finally arrive I check in in my cosy room there for another night and have more samosas but no chang this time!



Next morning I proceed to Yak Kharka, after I had 4 samosas (and four more packed for later). The scenery is still not getting dull nor boring in any way visible, there’s a herd of mountain goats next to me and I take all the time to photograph them in their natural splendour. I see an Israeli couple and their porter stopping at every possible resting point and wonder when and if they will ever reach their destination.




I arrive in Letdar and I walk till the last option to stay and it seems like the nice people are assembled here. I immediately befriend a Korean guy named Dong who has a genuine smile on his face.

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I have not much options in choosing a room, actually no choice, I stay in one of the  attached wooden rooms. Next to me is an American couple, turns out they have exactly the same music taste as me so I DJ for a good part of the evening (from my phone) through the wall. It helps to stay warm as well. In the night I get bothered by symptoms of altitude sickness even though I am way lower again than Tilicho lake, how silly is that? The room at the other side is the toilet and I have to bear with all the sounds that come out of it (my earplugs are not doing what they’re supposed to). Awkward this is.


Next morning I set out with Dong and his wife Sil ; actually everybody starts at the same time at a VERY slow pace and it resembles queuing for the bathroom or something. Which is ok,  as, strangely enough, after 2 weeks of hiking my heel suddenly is an open wound and will challenge me more than a bit the next few days.

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This stretch of the trail is actually where a few weeks later the blizzards would kill dozens of hikers, it is still very hard to imagine what exactly happened here as this is the main hiking season when the weather is very stable.


Thorung Pedi is considered base camp before the Thorung La pass. (at 4450m – 14600ft) We’re having lunch here, I stay a little longer to acclimatise a little more. These are the times when I eat a piece of raw garlic every three hours and it really does magic. I go up to high camp and I realise I’m choosing the wrong time to be on my own, my body behaves a little strange and I have hardly any water left. Fortunately I meet a lovely Spanish couple who is hiking the trail in the opposite direction and they supply me with water. We exchange some useful do’s and dont’s and then continue our ways. The climb is very steep. I have no idea how long it’s gonna take. But pretty soon I see buildings appear and I arrive in high camp at 4850m – 15912 ft

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‘It’s pretty chilly up here’ I say to myself before realising it’s really bloody cold as the sun goes down. As if I hadn’t had enough yet, I climb the hill nearby to acclimatise even more in preparation for the high pass tomorrow. I feel pretty dizzy and hardly get up there, where three Russian ladies are acclimatising and chitchatting the time away in their flashy blue, green and red jackets as if constituting a brand new flag…


I go in the cosy restaurant to socialise with my friends and have a garlic soup (yes) but I notice it’s too cold and I’m really high on the altitude now and retreat to my room where I bury myself under sheets and promise myself not to go to the toilet under any circumstance in this freezing night.

Tucked in for 14 hours I have been waiting for the morning to come… My friends are already gone so it’s gonna be on my own again. I pay my bill and say something for the first time of my life: ‘keep the change and gimme some more garlic’. And even though ‘it is said’ 4 to 5 am is the best time to go up, there’s plenty of people going up around 7. the sky is blue and I’m sure it’s a little warmer than a few hours earlier! And the views splendid!

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The path is winding up higher and higher and I spread my two last chops of garlic over the estimated remaining time… it is fascinating again to feel how my teeth-grinded garlic does its fabulous work in my system. My augmenting dizziness settles down and the body adapts to the ever increasing altitude.

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The pass is a very long stretch of land to cross but finally the goal is reached. THORONG LA! People jump around in front of the camera’s and I enjoy photographing them. I don’t jump. I’m allright.


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And I keep my promise to Jacky -the Chinese guy whom I met at the beginning of the trail- and honour his request to put the picture of his girlfriend in a significant place. I wrap her in the colorful Tibetan prayer flags so she can overlook the pass and bless the fresh arrivals every single day! The first one is a British guy who walked all the way up with his bike next to him.  As he must have been ‘bike’walking’ for more than a week now he was so eager to jump on the saddle again. I see him almost go flat on his face missing the first curve seemingly overexcited to be ON his bike again!


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 After having photographed enough jumping people (it’s mainly the Chinese -again) I commence the descent. A group of mules is coming towards me and the valley extending beyond is simply gorgeous and makes me think of Ladakh in India.

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I stumble upon 3 young Frenchies, they seem superexcited not only about the hike but about anything in life,  a refreshing encounter, they walk as fast as they talk though, we almost fly down, and still the descent seems endless…




I had to let go of the speedy French in order to keep enjoying the views at my own pace. Finally Muktinath is in sight. It is a pilgrimage centre for both Hindus and Buddhists. Find the blogpost here. The town itself deeply disappoints but the temple grounds are the main appeal here.

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‘Muktinath Horse’, present in Stino’s New Current gallery

The morning after I see Pong again and we decide to take the long road to Kagbeni together, crossing small villages in the former Kingdom of Mustang. The Korean couple takes the straight road and the Frenchies… They  probably are already miles ahead!





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After having waited for half an hour for Pong to descend the gompa-monastery we were visiting in a small village, I decide to slowly walk on, I wait a bit in the next town and then again I continue. Little did I know I would be walking for hours in a remote dry desert…

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Usually I get water anywhere along the trail which I purify with chlorine tablets but the coming hours there is absolutely no water apart from a shallow muddy pool and the fierce wind feels like it is blowing every single drop of moist out of my body. I drink tiny sips of what is left in my bottle. The wind becomes so strong that I have to lean into it in order to progress a bit. Of course this is the time that my knee starts hurting as well as if going into a spasm and I try to remain calm, which is another challenge…

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After a few hours a green oasis appears and I don’t know if this is Kagbeni but there is definitely water and people there. The descent still takes much longer than the view and my wishful thinking are suggesting.

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Once in Kagbeni I check in in the ‘Yac Donald’s hotel and one of these days I would have their yakburger which tastes incredibly delicious. Turns out the Koreans are here as well (of all places) and that’s good for another blast of laughter. I also meet a fun Polish couple with whom I would spend the last few days of my hike. They were hesitant about the wind and they took in my recommendation coming from fresh experience so they stayed. Mustang_Nepal_15 Mustang_Nepal_16

I meet a new Zealand journalist who needs a photographer the next day.  I have a very comfy room so I stay a few days in Kagbeni which is on the verge of lower and upper Mustang. I need a permit if I’d want to go to upper Mustang which would cost me 500 $ for 10 days. So I can get a fine if i wander too much in the wrong direction here. But the winds are so crazy that this is not appealing to me too much…



I gotta say that from now on I am less excited about what I see around me landscape-wise.  Or the pain in my knee prevents me from enjoying them that is also possible. I arrive in Marpha where I ketchup with Piotr and Paulina and we celebrate that with apple brandy, the local delicacy. the rest of the day we enjoy singing songs, playing guitar and sipping brandy. Even though it’s way heavier than chang it won’t sink into my legs the next day.


Because of the above mentioned activities we’re engrossed in, I have a very quick look around Marpha the next morning. We -me and the Polish- all agree that it is a little too polished here and resembles more a place in Switzerland than a genuine town in Nepal.

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The epilogue… last stretch to Tatopani, the promising place with the hot springs I figured would be the end of  my three week hike. We take a wrong detour along the riverbed, have to go back, take a break at a Dutch bakery where a Dutch man serves us Douwe Egberts koffie (coffee) and somehow move on bit by bit…




At a certain point we loose a lot of time by thinking to have a smart shortcut by crossing the riverbed and a few tiny streams ; they turn out to be pretty fast running waters and I almost loose my balance and belongings in the water, but we make it and the thrill feels good on this silly day.

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As I expected the last days to be the easy-going ones it turns out to be quite the opposite ; we walk for almost 10 hours, It seems  though my knee is at the end of its capacity. I have an ongoing intense pain but I want to reach Tatopani by my own forces. Fortunately we have our Monthy Python imitations as an ongoing relief and the first thing upon arrival is of course a good cold beer. One at a time!




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Mellow in Manang

Manang is the place where many people take a resting day while trekking the Annapurna trail. Many trekkers have guides and porters and some go pretty slow and I thought Manang might be overrated in that respect. But jenever can tell! I had been hearing so many opposing things along the trail about the trail and one really always has to see and feel it with his/her own pairs of senses to know what’s true or not, something very healthy to apply in many an are of life, if not all for that matter…


Soit, (anyway), I am in Manang now and I like it, I stumble upon Julia and Alan whom I met having a beer in Pokhara during happy hour time in between shopping for my trekking necessities. We would have more happy hours here with Chang. Chang is not a Chinese citizen (Jacky Chang) but a local brew, they call it beer but it is not, even though they do say so, just to be clear here…


Anyway, before having lots of chang in a cosy wooden place we hike up a nearby hill at 3800m to kind of acclimatise to the altitude from now onwards. After my experience with altitude sickness in the past I tend to be overly careful now. (even though you might rightfully wonder if it is good to have more than a few chang at the same stretch of time)


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After our cosy drinking we head towards one of the movie theaters here to watch Life of Phi. Below is not Phi but Alan performing his English self in front of the cinema projector.


Next day I decide to stay yet another day. A Thai guy called Pong arrives and tells me he’s headed for Tilicho Lake (which is another sidetrek from the main trail)  the following day with a bunch of people and says the road is a bit tricky (is it true?) so might be good to go in group. I decide to join them and the rest of the day I would spend being mellow in Manang, enjoying the rest and views in my gorgeous room and take more photos.


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Trekking the Annapurna Trail (part I)

Day 1: Pokhara to Besisahar to Bahundanda (6h walk)(1300m – 4265 ft)

The day starts with a 4 hour bumpy bus ride (there are no other rides in Nepal or you must be rafting a river or paragliding) from Pokhara to Besisahar. Apart from the locals there’s me, a Chinese guy and a Swiss couple with their guide. Once in Besisahar the Chinese takes a jeep to take him further up. I decide to start walking. This is the official starting point of the Annapurna trail and I’ve been looking forward to this point and can’t wait to get my feet and legs moving.

Almost immediately I am face to face with a river running over the road and it’s a little too deep to cross so I have to invent a passage. A woman starts waiving and pointing towards a ‘trail’. When I’m on the road again I am met by a few overly excited girls coming back from school. They wear colorful dresses and have flowers in their hair and it feels like my own private welcoming committee came to greet me right on time.




While I’m enjoying their company for a bit there’s a group of people with blue shirts passing me by. It dawns on me that even though I started out on my own and the high season has not started yet I won’t be alone for long stretches of time.


I catch up with them again, there’s a nice connection so I walk with them for a bit. They are American and Canadian women who have been working on a charity boat in Africa nursing patients and the Nepali men were their guards. Coming from the Gorkha caste the men are often deployed in tough situations abroad. They became good friends there and now they are walking the Annapurna trail together.


They have only so much time to walk the trail so their pace is pretty firm and even though I intended to set out slowly the first day turns into a fast walk. We cross the first hanging bridges over the white river in the green surroundings.


This is mid september 2014 and the monsoon has finished but we’re catching its tail still, it starts raining but it feels very refreshing as it’s pretty hot at this altitude (800m)


We walk for long hours and my body has to adapt to this immediate effort of intense walking and climbing. the valleys we get into are  gorgeous already. As soon as I think we arrived at our goal for the day there are yet again steps leading further up.

Pretty exhausted but satisfied we arrive in Bahundanda and again there is a welcoming committee, this time of friendly people wanting us in their guesthouse.  My new friends stay in the ‘swiss alpen hotel’ and me feeling already part of their group I almost check in there as well but I decide to go to hotel mount view and indeed the view is superb!


And who is chilling on the balcony here you think? my chinese friend! which makes me realise I walked a really crazy distance for my first day, so I decide to take it easy the next morning and start late after a stroll through the pleasant village.


DAY 2: Bahundanda to Jagat (5-6h)(1300m – 4265 ft)

The journey continues through vibrant green paddy fields and I decide to test my walking sticks. People who had completed the Annapurna Circuit assured me I would benefit from them and if they would  have looked like people-who-need-walking-sticks, I would not have bought them, the image of elderly ladies in the park back in Holland was a little too familiar to me.  But the steep descent the first thing in the morning immediately make their use clear to me and I get used to my 6 limbs now.  I see a lady hitting hard on another lady who might be her mother, I fortunately see the futility of interfering and continue along pathways that are inundated by water. I ask a local if it is swimming from here onward.  I approvingly see my shoes to be kind of semi-gore-tex.



I suddenly stumble upon my Chinese friend Jacky again (not Jacky Chan) who left earlier in the morning. Turns out he decided to quit as he totally underestimated the mountains. Actually it is the first time in his life he ever sees a mountain coming from the flat plains in southern China. He is also carrying way too much stuff he says. he leaves his bag in a lodge and accompanies me for the afternoon. Before saying goodbye he asks (urges) me to leave a picture of his beautiful girlfriend when I reach Annapurna Base Camp or any other special place. I promise him to do so and would also try not to look at it too often… it would turn out I’d find the perfect place for her 2 weeks from here…


I continue alone again never knowing for how long, crossing villages and bridges and children playing with their improvised kites…



I follow my gut feeling whenever I enter a new village looking for lodging and for sure I never stay in the first option. Here in Jagat I am led to the Peace Full hotel. The hotel is actually empty and I install myself in a gorgeous room with amazing views, take a hot shower  and get ready for my daily dhal bhat, the classic Nepali food consisting of rice, lentils, and curry mainly.



DAY 3 Jagat to Dharapani (6h) (1920m – 6300 ft)

The sun is for the first time shining full on in the morning so the day begins very promising and it looks like the monsoon is really gone now. I walk along with a whole caravan of mules fully packed with necessities to be delivered higher up. in Chame I have a masala chai which is a ‘staggering’ 80 rupees, double price already, but still less than a dollar. after Chame the next hanging bridge leads up towards a steep ascent along a ridge amidst intense greenery.





The valley goes up to the next valley and it’s nice to really see how valleys are connected through different elevations. The beautiful village of Tal sits on the other side at the wide meandering river. To my surprise there is still wifi available here and I hope this really is the last place now as I like to be disconnected from the internet for at least a few weeks (please!)(and don’t wanna be tempted all the time)




Once in Dharapani I check out one of the first places which is Tibetan owned, I almost stay here but – even though my body feels finished for the day- I check out the rest of the village ; a woman gives me the biggest smile of the day and defenseless I check in at her place. A little later her brother arrives and it seems we are brothers in arms immediately. Dil talks of the place in a valley nearby where he lives. It sounds incredibly beautiful. he’s busy building his dream there in the form of a hotel. so I consider going off the main trail for a side trip the next day…



DAY 4 Dharapani to Gor (5h sidetrek)

I decided on a little ‘detour’ in the steps of Dil who is eager to show me his hotel and on our way also the school where he teaches and of which he’s the headmaster. He asks me to give a class of English which I happily accept and I improvise a talk on Belgium and Holland and India, the countries where I’ve spent most of my time. The children are interested and very smart as they understand the complicated nature of a country like Belgium.


There is one teacher for every 2 children which is not normal at all. The explanation is pretty surprising. With the Tibetan refugees in the area over the years and the world-wide support for their cause (which is great of course) the Tibetan schools are of a higher standard and also free of charge (including free clothing and food) which the government cannot (or doesnt want to) compete with. So all teachers need to be present for their paycheck even though they hardly see the inside of the many classrooms. And payment for teachers in Nepal is related to altitude and remoteness so it is not a bad situation for them money-wise, they only have to cope with boredom…


We arrive in Gor (pronounced GOA) after a climb way more enduring than I expected. The valley is flanked by waterfalls on both sides and the flowers in the fields are gorgeous and there’s mysteriously looking stones scattered around, the atmosphere is simply sweet here, almost fairytale-like.

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Once at his place in front of the hotel-under-construction amidst the 30 working men I shout at him: ‘Jezes, Dil! crazy man!! this is not a hotel but a palace!!! Are you mad or what? Now it dawns on me why he had to borrow 40.000 € (which is A LOT of money in Nepal) from his two sisters in France, the bank and his savings!


Over lunch in the shack where he lives with his wife he explains he had a dream and saw what his hotel had to look like, so that’s exactly what he’s building now. Even though this trail is far less popular than the Annapurna trail he counts on tourism booming the next few years. Goa even has a whitesand beach along the wild river and he has plans with beach chairs and umbrellas. The rooms are very luxurious and I advise him to charge at least 5$ a night instead of the 3$ he had in mind…


DAY 5 Gor to Timang (6h)


The day starts spectacular with white peaks peeping over the already stunning valley. I say goodbye to my brother Dil after wishing him nothing less than the fulfilment of his dream and I start the hike back to the Annapurna trail. My knee is pretty challenged by now, mainly while descending and I hope it’ll endure the rest of the trail (which i only started). After 2 hours I’m down again and on the hanging bridge before Dharapani I see a woman with a huge load of wood on her back making her way to the other side with very tiny steps.



this image is present in Stino’s New Current gallery

After Dharapani the road ascends again, I see restaurants with prices that seem to follow the altitude and I even kind of negotiate my lunch (which I never did before)as the price for 2 eggs is a little ridiculous being 7 times the price I’m used to.

I pass a Chinese or Japanese man who’s very silent on his own, I switch from water purifying tablets to chlorine drops and I forgot a bit about the proper dosage. I get an overdose of chlorine intake and I have no idea how serious this is apart from me getting very nauseous, almost feeling like fainting and my stomach turning strange loops. I see the Japanese (he is) man again and ask him for help but he just waves it aside (I was sure he got my English) and I am left alone pretty astonished by this heartlessness. I reach a settlement feeling more and more sick, the people don’t speak English, I ask for a coke (no negotiations this time) and i drown whatever is wrong inside in coke and it seems to help.



Upon entering Timang the mountains pierce through the clouds and it is so beautiful. My troubles fade away along with the clouds. I take lots of photos just because I can’t help but to do so…

I find an amazing hotel called the oasis, take a hot shower, enjoy the tranquility here and when it’s time for company again 3 Irish brothers appear out of nothing (with their guide and porter). They are very fun company, we spend a nice evening talking and laughing, a southafrican guy joins in and for a while I think he is Hans de Booij (a famous Dutch singer -some time ago). He happens to be a strong lookalike. Or he just doesn’t want to be recognised as such. Or I was listening to one of his songs a little too much lately…

DAY 6: Timang to Dhukur Pokhari (7h)(3240m – 10630 ft)




The next morning the Irish, the south african and the Belgian all go their own way in the same direction. The sun is baffling in the sky and the white peaks shine crystalclear.


I am alone again, but for how long? I take a break for tea after an uninterrupted walk and I sit down with a lovely French couple who’s having tea too. Tea for tree.  And trea for tee. We immediately have fun together and I’m refreshing my French as we walk on pretty much  at the same pace. (for now at least)




Trekking_Annapurna_13We arrive in the place hard to pronounce and even though the price of a beer is double here it’s a sheer delight to have one (or two-three) after a day of continuous hiking. We sit on the rooftop of our wooden lodge  inhaling the freshness of the pinewoods around us.

DAY 7:  Dhukur Pokhari to Manang (3540m – 11615 ft)

Upon waking into another new day  the surroundings that were clouded on our arrival exhibit more and more stunning peaks, they all have names and some of these are ‘important’ but what’s in a name anyway? (Annapurna I, II, III) the name is never the thing of course and certainly in the case of mountains I would say.

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The trekking leads us  into more pine-filled lanscapes. I love pinewoods, its odour and the wind carressing the trees gently. The French walk a little too fast for me now to really enjoy the surroundings and after lunch I decide to continue on my own again. I enjoy the peace and silence around me, apart from a motorbike passing every now and then. One of those had my new southafrican friend on the back waiving like a happy child. we would catch up again later in Manang.

At certain points there’s a checkpoint where you need to show your permit and all is written into a big book by a soldier…

Manang turns out to be a little mecca for the exhausted trekker filled with german bakeries, movie theatres and a laid-back atmosphere. I would be staying here for a day or two before heading to Tilicho Lake




proceed  to part 2

This page or any part of it may be shared freely with a backlink to this page

To obtain any of the above collages or photos please mail@stinophoto.com

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for more information concerning the content please mail shivaconstino@gmail.com

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