|Mountains and prayer flags of the Annapurna circuit|
MTV and I wanted to trek the Annapurna circuit, one of the world’s most famous walks, and we discovered it was simple and a lot cheaper to organise a trek once we got to Kathmandu. After comparing a few different options from just setting off alone with our backpacks to a large group tour, the princess in me won out and we opted for a small group of just us and one other person alongside a guide and porter to carry our bags.
|We passed lots of locals herding goats along the way|
The trek was breathtaking with the scenery changing from rice paddy fields and swing bridges crossing the raging Marsyangdi Khola river to passes high in the snow topped mountains. We walked just under 200km and climbed as high as 5,416m. Trekking meant experiencing life without Western luxuries and for 16 days we stayed in tea houses, simple hostel style paces with no heating, squat toilets and communal (often cold) showers. Internet and television were distant memories.
True to name the tea houses offered extensive tea menus ranging from salty Tibetan style tea to fresh peppermint. Each also had a laminated “government approved” menu which generally included traditional Nepalese fare alongside the Nepalese take on traditional trekking fare like pasta and pizza.
The most ubiquitious meal was dahl bhaat, a meal of lentil soup, rice and curried vegetables. This is almost a Nepalese national dish and when done well was filling with a good amount of kick to it. We also came across momos a lot, a steamed dumpling filled with cheese, vegetables or meat and teamed with a chilli sauce. At the Manasalu Guest house in the village of Ghermu, the momos (Rs 200) were freshly made with thick skins and stuffed with local spring greens.
Breakfast was generally porridge or home made bread with eggs from the nearby chickens. At the New Trekkers Hotel in Danque, the porridge was creamy and topped with apple (Rs 180) while the Tibetan bread puffed up to almost resemble a giant savoury donut (Rs 205).
|A local walks the Annapurna circuit|
Most trekkers stay two nights in the village of Manang to acclimatise, so the tea houses there made a little more effort with their menus. At the Tilicho tea house we tried yak bolognese (Rs 400) and yak steak. The bolognese was more successful with real depth of flavour while the steak (Rs 800) was actually minced yak meat bound together which suffered from toughness.
|A yak steak|
The food we ate most of all though was apple pie. The Lonely Planet describes the Annapurna Circuit as the “Apple Pie” trek and we saw lots of apples growing on the lower stretches of the trek which then featured on every menu in pie form. The amusingly named Bob Marley guesthouse in Muktinath made a particularly good version (Rs 350) complete with warm custard slathered over the top.
|Apple pie with the most yellow custard you have ever seen (that would be the free range eggs)|
Gourmet Travel Tips
- We flew to Kathmandu from London via Delhi with Kingfisher for £450 one way. I highly recommend an airline named after a beer.
- It is much cheaper (and very easy) to book a trek once in Kathmandu. The only benefit of going with an expensive company is the quality of the guide as everyone has to stay at essentially the same places and eat the same things, no matter how much they have paid.
- We trekked with Global Adventure Trekking which was good value at USD$550 for 16 days trek with a guide and porter and all meals, accomodation, transfers and trekking permits. That said, our guide Bashu was not very knowledgeable or helpful and saw his role as more confined to leading the way (which is pretty obvious) and ordering our meals rather than giving us any historical or cultural background on the trip. I would recommend meeting your guide before going (which we did) and really quizzing them (which we didn’t) to find out the level of their knowledge.