Day 6: To Pisang
(O/nt Altitude ,3240m/5 hrs approx.) Beyond Chame, the trail crosses a small stream and then, by way of a large suspension bridge, the Marsyangdi river itself. Continuing on through fields of barley and then a descent to a bridge, one reaches the Khampa settlement of Bhratang. The trail now heads into deep forest, followed by a steep climb over a ridge and further higher, to the upper Marsyangdi Valley. Pisang is a cluster of houses; a long mani wall near a bridge being the village’s most prominent feature.
Day 7: To Manang
(O/nt Altitude 3,540m/6 hrs approx.) The trail passes by way of small villages, including Bryaga. Here, stone houses are built one atop another, each with an open balcony created by a lower neighbour’s rooftop. Here also is the largest Gompa of the Manang district, perched on an elevated cliff overlooking Bryaga. The Gompa has an outstanding collection of statues, thankas and manuscripts, some estimated to be 400-500 years old. A short walk past the gompa are more chortens and mani walls. Further on, and having crossed a stream, the way opens out into the flat, arid ‘moonscape’ of Manang.
Day 8: In Manang
The special trading privileges conferred on the people of Manang in 1784 by King Rana Bahadur Shah brought major outside influences to the region. These days the local inhabitants dress in fashionable Western clothing, much brought during their trading excursions throughout Asia, especially Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore. The shopkeepers have pretty accurately figured out what western trekkers want and hotel menus usually consist of such things as hamburgers and steaks.
An additional day in Manang to acclimatize and to ramble around the old part of the village, a compact settlement of approximately 500 dwellings, separated by narrow alleyways. With the summits of Annapurna and Gangapurna less than 8kms away, it’s a remarkable setting.
Day 9: To Yak Kharka
Now begins a serious ascent (of almost 1,500m in total) towards Thorung La. Climbing up out of the Marshyangdi Valley and leaving large vegetation behind, the route traverses through scrub juniper and alpine grasses, then through meadows where horses and yaks graze, and then sparse forests of juniper, rose and barberry.
Having crossed a large stream that flows from Chulu Peak and Gundang and passed by ancient mani walls erected in the midst of serene grasslands, the trail reaches Yak Kharka, also known as Koche. A visit to a yak herders’ camp in the late afternoon is customary.
Day 10: To Phedi
Day 11: Cross the Thorung-La Pass and to Muktinath
(O/nt Altitude 4,450m/4hrs approx.) Today the going is deliberately slow due to the high altitude. Two days are dedicated to the crossing of the Thorung La, the highest point on the Annapurna Circuit. Once at Phedi, there is time to rest and further acclimatise.
(O/nt Altitude 3,800m/8-9hrs approx.) Expect a very early start for the crossing of Thorung La (5,416m). Immediately after leaving Phedi the clearly marked trail becomes very steep. A 4-6 hour ascent leads to the apex of the Pass, which is festooned with prayer flags, a chorten and stone cairn built by those who’ve met the challenge of the crossing. The views from the pass and from the trail are majestic. Further along, the way descends steeply towards Chabarbu. From here on, the trail crosses meadows, drops into a deep ravine, climbs out and follows a wide path to Muktinath, a revered pilgrimage site of both Hindus and Buddhists.
Day 12: To Kagbeni
(O/nt Altitude 2,800m/3.5hrs approx.) To allow for a much-deserved rest after yesterday’s crossing, it’s a late morning start. There is first time to visit the Muktinath temple complex, one of the most revered pilgrimage sites in Nepal. Refreshed and perhaps spiritually invigorated, descend through farmlands and clusters of poplar trees to Ranipauwa, Jharkot (3,550m), and Khingar (3,200m). Shortly after Khingar should be the first glimpse of the Kali Gandaki River at its confluence with the Jhong Khola. Further on the trail forks: the left hand trail leads to Eklaibhatti, and the one on the right leads to Kagbeni - a green oasis in the middle of desert, a former junction on the ancient Trans-Himalayan trade route and the gateway to the restricted region of Upper Mustang.
Day 13: To Chele
(O/nt Altitude 3,050m/6hrs approx.) The back route from Kagbeni village leads into the restricted zone of Upper Mustang. The trail heads due North and we reach Tangbe, a pleasant village of white-washed houses and narrow alleys set in patchwork fields of buckwheat, barley and apple orchards. We reach Chhuksang, nestled in a crook at the confluence of the Narshing River and the Kali Gandaki, and then continue on to Chele. The transformation from ethnic Manangi to Tibetan (Mustangi) culture is well-expressed in the local architecture.