The Annapurna Circuit is one of the most famous hikes in the world. The loop around the Annapurna massif climbs from 800m through the wonderful Marsyangdi valley up to the 5416m high Thorang-La Pass. It's well-known for its amazing views, that's why it can get very crowded up there. But as Covid-19 stopped many tourists around the world from moving and many hikers decided to leave the country, I really got the most out of this trek.
Along the way I shared many kilometres with many nice people, above all with Elija from Switzerland, Alieke&Peter, a Dutch couple, and Victoire from France. Technically the hike isn't difficult. However the high risk of altitude sickness makes it a challenging adventure. Furthermore this year the winter was way too long and half of the trek was covered in deep snow and ice.
I really enjoyed the daily routine: go to bed early, have breakfast, hike amazing paths, have a break with breathtaking views, visit the tiny mountain villages with its monasteries, praying wheels, friendly locals and the most important to me: day dreaming of the huge Dal Bhat dinner waiting next to a bonfire in the evening. The nights got very cold, however during the day the sun literally burns your skin.
It took me around two weeks -including days of acclimatization- to cross the pass and get into the Kali Gandaki valley. I will always remember the last climbing day. We started our ascent after a short cold night in 4500m at 5am in the dark. Every step took us hours because of the lack of oxygen. Finally with our hot cup of tea on top of Thorang-La Pass, we felt pure satisfaction.
The same day we dropped down to Muktinath at 3700m on the other side. Here we wanted to relax and hang around some days. But plans changed. We received information from the government saying that they will soon “lockdown” the country because of Corona. So the same day we decided to hike down to Kagbeni, a beautiful village where we hoped to stay for some days.
We just got comfy with this situation as the next morning the police issued us an ultimatum with two options, either to stay for ten days locked in the hostel or to take the unique opportunity to take a bus straight to Kathmandu. As we were sure that the quarantine will last even more days and the situation in Nepal could get worse, everybody decided to leave. Finally after a crazy adventurous twenty-four hours ride with many security checks (at this moment nobody was allowed to move in Nepal) we were back in the capital.
In addition I followed the recommendations of the German embassy to register in the “Return to your country programme". Things speeded up so quickly that I couldn't really process what was going on. The same day I already received the information that I was on the list to fly back to Frankfurt the next morning. I spent the last hours of eight months of travelling by saying quickly goodbye to the others, I informed my family that I was going to be back tomorrow and the most complicated thing: I tried to understand what really was happening around me – impossible.
On the flight back I got into a nostalgic mood. Watching out of the plane window I could almost see our whole trip passing by in front of my eyes in a few hours. Down there 10km below me all the beautiful countries with its even more fantastic people, so many memories, experiences, adventures in the last 8 months. So close but so far.
I conclude: Maybe a special once-in-a-lifetime journey has to finish also in a special way :-)