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Travel Plans, Part 1

Trekking in Nepal and India

Two weeks to go!! Here are a few more titbits about our travel plans!

Our trip divides quite neatly into two equal parts. For the first couple of months, we'll be in the Himalaya in Nepal and India. Some of you will already know that we've fallen in love with Nepal, so this seemed like the obvious place to start our travels.

September and October is the post-monsoon season, when the skies are usually clear and the trails pounded by thousands of trekkers. On both our previous trips we travelled independently, taking advantage of the network of trekkers' lodges in the Annapurna and Everest regions. With so much time available, we now have the chance to venture into a less-visited part of Nepal. Independent trekking won't be possible, because of the lack of infrastructure and regulations which prevent unaccompanied trekkers wandering into restricted areas (particularly those close to the Chinese border.) So we've arranged a trek with a local agency, Nepal Environmental Trek and Expeditions, and they will be providing us with a guide, a cook, our porters and all the camping equipment and food for the first four weeks.

Our trek starts in the Gurkha region, a few hours' drive west of Kathmandu. The plan is to trek around Manaslu, one of the world's highest mountains - we saw it from the Annapurna Circuit in 2007. The Manaslu Circuit is not yet as developed as the more famous Annapurna Circuit but more lodges are being opened every year and soon it will be possible to walk the whole route without a tent.

Manaslu from the Annapurna Circuit

Manaslu from the Annapurna Circuit

A week into the trek, we branch off the main trail into the Tsum Valley, a very remote high-altitude region close to the border with Tibet. This valley only opened to foreigners in 2007 and is beyond the reach of the Lonely Planet! We will spend about a week exploring the area and visiting Ganesh Himal Base Camp at 4,200m (13,780ft).

Rejoining the Manaslu Circuit, we continue around the north side of the mountain, climbing gradually to a high point of 5,135m (16,847ft) at the Larkya La. From what we have read, this pass crossing can be difficult due to unpredictable snowfall, even in peak season. If we make it across, we will head down the valley on the opposite side to join the Annapurna Circuit at Dharapani.

We will luxuriate in hot showers and apple pie for a couple of days as we head up the Marsyangdi valley, before striking off north into another restricted area called Nar Phu. Annapurna trekkers rarely venture into this valley because of the permit required and the lack of tea houses. To leave the Nar Phu area we will attempt another high pass, the 5,322m (17,461ft) Kang La. I'm already dreaming of the view!

Back down on the Annapurna Circuit, we will wave goodbye to our guide and porters and continue on our own, fully laden this time! We will also be faced with a choice - up or down the valley? My preference is up, either retracing our steps from 2007 over the Thorung La, or attempting a more adventurous pass crossing which includes a wild camp at 5,000m on the shore of Tilicho Lake. Apparently this is prime snow leopard country. Beyond the pass lies the town of Jomsom, the end of our five-week Nepal trek.

You can see a map of the trekking route here.

Next, to Sikkim in north-east India. This is a fairly tortuous journey overland so we will probably use internal flights to cut out some of the gruelling bus journeys. After crossing the border at the end of October, we arrive in Darjeeling. Time to take tea, ride the toy train and generally masquerade as normal tourists.

It won't last long though - from Darjeeling, we will embark on our second trek in West Sikkim. This area is less established as a trekking base than Nepal so we will be on another fully-supported camping trek, this time with a local agency called Yak and Yeti Travels and Expeditions. We will have yaks instead of porters, but I'm hoping we get a bona fide guide and not a yeti! The trek will follow the Singalila Ridge, very close to the border between Nepal and India, from where we will hopefully have grandstand views of Kangchenjunga, the world's 3rd highest mountain. Our high point on this trek will be the Goecha La, a 4,940m (16,200ft) pass.

All being well, we will finish our trek in Yuksom on 11/11/11. We then haul ourselves on to a train for an overnight journey to Kolkata, where we catch a flight to Vietnam, ready for the next adventure...

Posted by Chris Parsons 17:38 Tagged india nepal planning

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