Pro Tips: Balloons. All the kids ask for balloons, strange request but true. They are lightweight and easy to carry and will make you popular with the little ones!
This was my first trip to Manaslu after the earthquake on 25th April 2015 so I was interested to see if anything had changed.
With me on the trek were Karyn, Heyley, Nino, Ram, and Deepak. And since Karyn is a medical doctor.
We did the whole manaslu circuit trek in thirteen days. There are different itineraries for Manaslu. So here is the itinerary we followed:
13 Days Manaslu Circuit Trek Itinerary
- Kathmandu to Soti Khola (Switch a bus in Arukhet)
- Soti Khola to Maccha Khola
- Maccha Khola to Jagat
- Jagat to Deng
- Deng to Namrung
- Namrung to Lho
- Lho to Sama Gaun
- Acclimatization day in Sama Gaun (Manaslu Base Camp)
- Sama Gaun to Samdo
- Samdo to Dharmashala
- Dharmasala to Bimthang (Larke La Pass)
- Bimthang to Dharapani
- Dharapani to Kathmandu (Switch a bus in Beshi Sahar)
We started at 6:30 am from Dhading Bus Park near Maccha Pokhari and stopped at mid-day for lunch near Kali Daha. On offer was a vegetarian dal bhat set for USD 1 and, for meat lovers, dal bhat with meat for USD 2. We reached Arukhet at 2:30 pm and waited for the local bus to Soti Khola, where we stayed in ABC Guest House.
Chapati with peanut butter, perfect breakfast! Check Manaslu trek food. Then we moved on to Lapu Beshi, where we stopped for lunch. Here we found there are some alternative routes in use after the earthquake. We stayed in Tsum Valley Lodge & Restaurant that night.
I was wondering what is the correct elevation of Maccha Khola. I saw two different signboards. At Diamir a sign displayed 900 meters and at Aktivferien a sign displayed 830 meters. I checked the elevation of Maccha Khola with my device, 870 meters! So on average, the elevation of Maccha Khola is 866.66 meters above sea level. I also discovered different versions of the trek map give different elevations of the places along the trail. Check Manaslu trek map.
On our way to Jagat, we stopped in Dovan for lunch. The literal meaning of Dovan is a place where two rivers merge’. The local hotel owner fed us with dal bhat and fiddlehead fern. Not for the faint-hearted! We stayed in Jagat Guest House, at, guess where, Jagat! We tried to get a local chicken for dinner, but the owner asked for USD 26! We were ready to pay USD 24 but unfortunately for us, she refused.
The next day we got lucky. An old lady sold us a chicken for USD 15. We brought the chicken to Philim and cooked it in Chisapani for lunch. At Deng there are only two teahouses, so we stayed in Windy Valley Lodge, run by Chandra Gurung, who also runs the Larke Rest House in Dharmasala. Nino, Karyn, and I suffered from diarrhea in Deng! Must have been that cheap chicken they said, but I thought it was the pumpkin pie. Actually, Nino ordered pumpkin pie for dessert, which was big enough to share among all of us. Nino bought additional toilet paper for USD 1.5 in Deng! Good man! I was wearing sandals and carrying heavy Scarpa boots in my backpack. After I started suffering from stomach problems I decided to wear my Scarpa.
Gap is a regular lunch place between Deng and Namrung. There was a new teahouse on the right of the trail, without pumpkin pie, I hope. Before arriving in Namrung, there was a drastic change in the trail due to the earthquake. Now you need to climb an additional thirty minutes uphill and descend for ten minutes to arrive at Namrung. We stayed in Namrung Thakali Guest House, the first place that had Internet.
A brand new Four Seasons resort was under construction in Namrung. Initially, we had planned to trek from Namrung to Sama Gaun in one day, but we decided to split this into two days, making it Namrung to Lho and Lho to Sama Gaun. As a result, we had to skip the side trip to the Tibetan border from Samdo. We stayed in the Majestic Cottage in Lho. There were three hammocks in the courtyard, which excited us! On the same day, there was a festival in Lho, a horse race. The weather didn’t permit the festival to run smoothly, however. It was raining and a bit windy. Weather cannot be predicted.
Lho is a nice village. I recommend you to stay here for a day. You can watch sunset and sunrise over the Manaslu and explore the monastery.
Lho to Sama Gaun was only about three hours walk, so we stopped in Shyala for tea. Sama Gaun is in the lap of Manaslu and has a primary school. Bir Bahadur Lama is the director of the school, and he also runs hotel Manaslu Hotel & Lodge. A small portion of your money at the hotel will go to school. This project is even supported by some organizations.
You won’t find any lodge better than Manaslu Hotel and Lodge in Sama Gaun! A quality meal is guaranteed. Despite stomach problems, Nino ordered yak steak for dinner. All rooms were insulated, warm, and cozy. Thank you, Bir Bahadur Dai (brother), for your warm hospitality!
On our acclimatization day, we went to Manaslu Base Camp. Birendra Lake was partially frozen. At the trail’s end, it gets technical, and we couldn’t make it all the way to base camp due to snow and ice. I checked the elevation, and we were at 4,470 meters. We had to climb approximately 50 meters to reach the real base camp. But it looked risky, so we turned back.
I checked the weather forecast on the Internet. Yes, there was WiFi in the lodge. It showed that it would be snowing the next day when we were planning to cross the pass. I warned a few other groups who had just arrived at in Sama Gaun that they might have to return to Soti Khola.
Some groups decided to stay in Sama, whereas some decided to skip the acclimatization day, and we hiked together to Samdo. We stayed in Tibetan Twin in Samdo. Personally, I do not recommend this hotel to anyone!
Instead, go to Chez Karsang Lodge, the first hotel on your right-hand side. They can accommodate up to eighteen trekkers. Also, there is a good space for a camping group. Pasang Lama from Chez Karsang Lodge studies in grade one in Samdo Primary School. As she is really pretty and kind, I went there for some snacks! But she was shy and ran away when I tried to take her picture!
I repeat, do not go to Tibetan Twin Hotel! The building had developed cracks on its walls after the quake. There were few skulls of blue sheep in Samdo.
Nightmare! Dharmasala is the worst place to stay overnight on the entire Manaslu Trek. There would be no other options unless you chose to cross the pass starting from Samdo. By mid-afternoon, there were nine trekkers, approximately six guides and porters, and seven staff members in Dharmasala. Suddenly a swarming group of Spanish, Irish, and Italians arrived in Dharmasala. By the end of the day, there were twenty-two foreigners, eighteen guides and porters, and a group of six local trekkers, and everyone was worried about the upcoming weather.
Nino was sick after his breakfast in Dharmasala. They didn’t want to sell a can of tuna! Why? We do not have enough stock, simply. The flow of tourists was low after the earthquake and fuel blockade, so they were not maintaining a proper stock. It is hard to supply goods, but they should have maintained a good stock of tinned items.
We started very early in the morning. It was roughly 4:15 am. Larke Pass was easier going to the top but was more risky and dangerous while descending. I highly recommend a micro spike for Larke La.
It took us eight and a half hours to reach Bimthang. Hotel Ponkar Mt. Inn is the place where we stayed. Locals from Tilije and Goa are running the hotel.
It was raining while we were descending to Dharapani. The weather forecast was right. We stayed in The Seven Teahouse & Restaurant in Dharapani. This is very close to the checkpoint. Nino and Hayley were heading to the Annapurna Circuit. I made an exit permit for Karyn.
The next morning we reserved a jeep to drive back to Beshi Sahar. We shared the jeep with a Spanish group. It took us almost six complete hours to drive to Beshi Sahar. Nino and Heyley continued toward Annapurna. From Beshi Sahar Ram, Deepak and I got a car back to Kathmandu. Actually, the car was there to drop off a client, so we paid USD 15 in total for three of us! Karyn went to Pokhara from Beshi Sahar with the Spanish group.
I am now in a chair, soaking my feet in a bucket of hot water to cure my bad blisters! I have got antiseptic cream for it! Sometime in May, I will go to Kanchenjunga.
Enjoy your trek! And once you are there, you will see why I talk a lot about food and accommodation!
Namaste & Dhanyabad!