Irian Jaya’s Kombai
The Tree House People

Annapurna Circuit Nepal

Annapurna is an enormous Himalayan massif. At 26,545ft it is the tenth highest mountain in the world. It lies in a remote and roadless part of Nepal. In 1989 my sister and I completed the 300 kilometer circuit around it. Unfortunately we only had one simple 35mm point and shoot camera to document what at the time felt like the greatest adventure of our lives.

In Katmandu

We took about $200US worth of Nepalese rupees with us on our trek. We took only small bills as we were told that it would be very difficult for villagers to make change for us on the trail. Here I am in Katmandu counting the money for the trek. It seemed like we were carrying a fortune.

We rode in the back of this truck from Katmandu to the trail head. During the trip out it was crammed pack full of people some of whom were hanging out the side. We bounced along for hours over unpaved roads before we reached the town of Besi Sahar where we started the trek.

One of many bridges that we crossed.

We stayed in small tea houses along the way. For a couple of dollars we’d get a bed and our meals. We travelled on just a few dollars a day and lived very well by Nepalese standards.

We passed by many prayer walls along the way. The wheels set in the walls are packed full of paper with prayers written on them. As you pass by you spin the wheels and the prayers are sent to heaven. It is important to keep your right side closest to the wall as you pass by. Societies without toilet paper tend to clean themselves with their left (non dominant) hands and so the left side of the body is considered unclean.

The one-horse town of Tal

On the Trail

As there are no roads for motorized vehicles all of the towns and villages around Annapurna have to be supplied by human porters or by large caravans of horses and yaks.

 

Our diet consisted mainly of Dal Bhat (rice and lentils). There was very little else to be had. We could sometimes buy boiled eggs and tibetan bread for breakfast, but mainly we just ate Dal Bhat. We tended to stay away from tibetan tea which tasted pretty much like melted salty butter and made me gag.

On the Trail

On the Trail

The village of Upper Pisang hangs on a the side of a mountain and faces the Annapurna massif across a canyon. It is a very traditional village. In fact, it’s so “traditional” that it doesn’t even have an outhouse. You just have to hike out of the village to do your business. There was a thick layer of dirt blanketing everything inside the houses. We spent the night and the next morning ate some boiled potatoes and continued on our way. After about 30 minutes I started to feel very sick and threw up. I was later told that the man who fixed our potatoes blew his nose in the rag that he used to wipe our dishes prior to serving us. It didn’t seem like he meant to be mean. It was more like he grabbed the first convenient rag to blow is nose in, and then grabbed the nearest rag to wipe the dishes. Some people theorize that as tibetans live in cold dry environments that they never had to develop the same levels of cleanliness as most cultures. Despite getting sick there, Upper Pisang was so beautiful that it was my favorite town on the trek.