Annapurna Sanctuary Trek – An Amazing Journey

The season for the Annapurna Sanctuary trek begins in earnest in October. The advantage of heading off into the mountains before then is blissfully quiet trails. The disadvantage is that the weather can be a little unpredictable…

It was late September when I set off for the Sanctuary. The first three days were perfect. We wound our way through vivid green rice terraces and dense rhododendron and bamboo forest as multicoloured butterflies fluttered around us and inquisitive langur monkeys peered down from treetops. Emerging into a clearing I would do a double take as a distant peak appeared, dazzling against the blue sky. Beginning early we would reach our Best Time To Visit Annapurna Base Camp cozy, comfortable teahouses by mid afternoon to be welcomed by smiling Nepalis offering welcome refreshment. Day 3 began with an exciting pre-dawn hike to watch mountain summits turn from icy gray to a warm glowing pink with the first rays of the sun: the first of many matchless views on this trek.

On day 4, I looked out to see that the stunning view had been swallowed by billows of cloud and rain. Three days later, without a pause in the rain, the trail had become a combination of deep mud, running water and treacherous wet mossy rocks. While the dramatic snowy peaks were hidden, though, the scenery was still beautiful in a misty, atmospheric way with layers of hazy, green slopes cut through with waterfalls, reminiscent of a Japanese painting.

Over the next couple of days the adventure heightened as we crossed waterfall ledges and turbulent streams, balancing precariously on rickety bridges and stepping stones. Rising to 3,700 meters on day 6, the altitude kicked in as breathing became a little harder and the uphill gradient more of a challenge. Then the miracle occurred! On day 7 we reached Annapurna Base Camp: 4130 meters; visibility zero! But later in the day, as we huddled together in the warmth of the lodge, the clouds gradually lifted. For an hour we were blessed with a jaw-dropping 360 degree panorama in this incredible mountain amphitheater, surrounded by towering snow covered giants glittering against the blue backdrop. I stood gazing at the sharp outline of Macchapuchre, unable to believe I was so close. The huge bulk of Annapurna South was blinding in the direct sun appearing as a mirage. It was one of the most spellbinding sights I have ever experienced. Then, suddenly, the clouds rolled up from the green valley below and within seconds the magic show was over: the vista was gone but the euphoria remained.

We retraced our steps for a couple of days to Chomrong, where, on day 9, the sky began to change… After some rumbling thunder and a few flashes of lightning a rainbow appeared like a beacon of hope and slowly the clouds thinned, revealing the valley through which we had walked up and back, with the mighty white mountains standing out in all their glory. It was stunning.


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