Trekking the Manaslu Circuit – the queen of all circuits
The classic Annapurna Circuit Trek for several decades held the title of being the best hiking/trekking trail in the world. This was because of the varied landscape one would trek through – from tropical lowlands with terraced paddy fields to alpine territory where yaks and wild blue sheep grazed together in the barren dust-blown cliffs – giving her a good perspective of Nepal’s diversity both in terms of landscape and the ethnic groups that reside in these regions. But this changed with the jeep track that has been built from Besi-Sahar to Chame and from Muktinath to Beni; this covers more than 12 days of the original trekking trail. However, with new lodges being built, the Manaslu Circuit trek seems set to take over. It is the perfect substitute for the Annapurna Circuit Trek – it has similar mountain scenery and similar elevation and ethnic diversity – but without the jeep tracks or the vehicles. In fact, the culture on this trail has been better preserved and is evident in the many Buddhist shrines and monasteries – especially the one around the Sama Gaon area.
The trek starts with a drive to Arughat and then to Soti Khola. The latter half of this road is on jeep track and is quite bumpy. The trek starts at Soti Khola in a region inhabited by Hindu Brahmins and Chettris. Many are surprised at how hot trekking in Nepal can be until one ascends to around 5,000 ft. The mid hills are home to the Gurung people. The dominant ethnic group in the Annapurna region is also the Gurungs. Surprisingly the Gurungs of the Annapurna region cannot fully understand the dialect of the Gurungs of the Manaslu region. The Gurungs can be both Buddhists and Hindus but follow animism when it comes to birth or death rituals.
Slowly as you ascend, you enter the Nubra territory inhabited by a group that shares more similarities with Tibetans than Nepalis. After all, this region is very close to the Tibetan border and their ancestors originally migrated to the Nubra Valley from Tibet. The region above Lho allows some of the most fascinating mountain views. Manaslu with its twin peaks, besides being beautiful, is a very unique mountain. Manaslu is called a Japanese mountain – the Japanese attempted Manaslu several times before successfully summiting the mountain, but more importantly had to appease the locals of the area – and their impact is evident in their philanthropy through numerous schools and monasteries in the region. The monastery at Sama Gaon is especially spectacular.
The hike up to the Larkyala (la means mountain pass in Tibetan), compared to the Thorungla on the Annapurna Circuit, isn’t especially long but the descent from the pass to camp at Bimthang is one of the longest among the popular passes in Nepal. A day past Bimthang, you re-enter the Annapurna Circuit Trail meeting the jeep track for a ride back to Besi-Sahar where the trek ends.
Grand Asian Journeys recently revised its Manaslu program to make it a fully lodge based trek which is more affordable. This trek can also be run for one participant. We have a confirmed departure in April 2015. Contact Jwalant directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details about this trek. Check it out here: The Manaslu Circuit Trek