On the first week of June 2019, I was informed by my manager that we would be going on Annapurna Circuit Trek. June is the month of monsoon and not a season of high tourist influx. So I was surprised to hear the news. However, I was quite excited to do the trek as I absolutely love the trail. Also, he told me that there would be kids who will be joining us, which surprised me. Yet, I was not worried as I had already done trekking in the Himalayas with kids in Panchase.
Annapurna Circuit Trek is the hardest trekking route in the Annapurna region. The trekking involves reaching the Tilicho Lake at 4919 meters and Thorang La Pass at 5416 meters, which are not easy. Many have returned from mid-way, and some even had accidents due to the difficulty of this trek.
Before the Trek
We met the MacDonald couple a day before the trek. We went to the hotel they were staying and met a beautiful couple of Angus and Anita MacDonald. They had three children: a son and two daughters, who did not come out of their room. We reckoned they got shy as they were in a new country and among new faces. It was not their first time trekking though. They had previously trekked in South America.
On the first day, we traveled via bus and Jeep. We reached Besisahar by bus and went to Chame by Jeep. Their 14-year old son Liam slept for the whole 5 hours of the Jeep ride. He only woke up after water drops of a cascade coming through the windows made him slightly wet. We all laughed when he got up all of a sudden.
I was cautious about the teens doing the trek. What if they were not able to do the trek? I was convinced that I need to pay quite an attention to the kids. Also, I came prepared with medical kits and homemade medicine for altitude sickness, just in case.
Upon reaching Chame, we went for a hot spring bath. The hot spring is located in the bank of the Marsyangdi River. It was quite a relaxing experience to take a dip in the warm water of the spring. We then went to our hotel where we had dinner and went to bed.
The next day, we began our hiking from Chame. After taking some photos under the gate of Chame, we headed towards Pisang. I led the way and told them to follow me. Liam started to walk quickly and went ahead of me while others were behind us. After a while, Liam was already out of sight. I then asked our porters to go quickly and get him as he might lose the way. I along with Angus, Anita, and their two daughters Grace and Carrie continued steadily. Carrie, 17, had good stamina for walking but 13-year old Grace was getting tired quickly. After half an hour, we met Liam and the porters at Bartang. I told Liam not to rush and walk together with all of us as trekking becomes more fun that way. We reached Pisang after hiking for 7 hours.
On the third day, we woke up at 5:00 a.m. and hiked to Gangapurna Lake. It was a practice hike to adapt to the high elevation and prepare ourselves for the more challenging treks in the next few days.
Different Walking Pace of the Kids
Throughout the trek, Grace kept asking me how much more we had to walk. She was clearly exhausted by the hike. On the other hand, Liam was always enthusiastically walking ahead of me and asking which direction to go.
While we were heading to Tilicho Lake from Khangsar, Grace got really tired and said she could not walk anymore. I then told her the story of Hari Ghale, who is a 15-year-old boy who works in the tea shop near the Tilicho Lake. The boy heads to the lake every morning from his home in Tilicho Base Camp. He goes there to open his tea shop and returns to the base camp at noon. The boy would not stay at the lake as it can be freezing at night. However, he is making an effort to support his family.
After I told her the story, she began to stroll. However, it wasn’t long until she stopped again. I could not wait for her as others were walking towards the landslide zone and I had to go with them. The region requires careful attention while walking along the trail on the slopes. After crossing the area, one of our team members told me that Grace is returning to the base camp along with her father. Angus could not leave her daughter alone and so decided to go back with her. Rest of us arrived safely at Tilicho Lake. The view was quite stunning as we could see the glorious lake from up-close and several mountains in the background. We enjoyed the view while drinking tea at the teashop. Indeed, that was one of the best moments of our trekking.
Walking ahead of the Team
On the way to Thorung Phedi from Yak Kharka, Liam was walking quite a distance ahead of us. He was already at a tea shop on top of a hill, while we were still trailing below. We shouted and told him not to move from the tea house until we arrive. However, when we reached there, he was nowhere to be found. I told the others to stay at the tea shop while I go and bring him back. I kept thinking that trekking in the Himalayas with kids is not easy. He was waiting for us in the landslide area 5 minutes from there. I brought him back to the tea house where he got some telling-off from his mother.
The Journey Ends
While hiking towards Thorang La, Angus hired a horse for Grace as she was having difficulties in walking. We ascended slowly to Thorung La Pass, which sits at 5416 meters. Finally, at 2 p.m., we reached Muktinath. We spent the night in Muktinath and came back to Pokhara the next day via a 12-hour bus Jeep ride. We dropped the Macdonald family at their hotel and concluded our journey.
We were lucky that no one got hurt or struck down by altitude sickness. Everyone followed my instructions, and the traditional medicines I brought were useful. Moreover, our itinerary was perfect, and we visited all the significant places of the trail. Overall, trekking in the Himalayas with the kids was a lot of fun. Grace, Liam, and Carrie were very cooperative with us in this journey. Angus and Anita were very friendly and supportive as well. They all have helped me become a better guide in my career.
You can find the detailed itinerary of Annapurna Circuit Trek here.
By Yagya Raj Adhikari – Travel blogger and Guide