Legends, fables, and old guidebooks tell of a splitting of the trail outside of Danaqyu. But in truth the lower pass no longer exists—it has been obliterated by landslides. This is okay, however, as the climb into Temang (2500 meters) on the higher pass is the initial highlight of the Circuit. You walk through forests of pine and rhododendrons. There are far fewer people, and more importantly, donkeys on this part of the trek. And the mountains, which have been flirting for days, sit in your lap and give you a big wet kiss.
From Temang, it would be a good walk to Lower Pisang (3250 meters). Pisang, both the upper and lower, have a real medieval look. The next couple villages—Ghyaru, Ngawal, Bhraga, and Manang are all very scenic. From Pisang, you once again have a choice of low or high path. Choose wisely—the high path is a heartbreaking climb but the views trump the best you’ve had so far quite easily.
Because nearly the entire trek is inhabited, getting water isn’t as big a problem as it would be in a true wilderness experience. There are many streams and wells where you can get water either via filter or to later treat. New Zealand has stepped in as well, and installed safe-water drinking stations in 16 of the towns on the trek. The price varies from 35-60 rupees, depending on how far up you are at the time.
Though they say 2500 meters is the start of AMS, and that you should only climb 300-500 meters a day from here, in my experience no one did this. Most people don’t feel AMS until Yak Kharka (4050 meters) or Thorang Pedi (4450 meters).
I don’t mean to make light of it, and if you feel any symptoms certainly stop ascending. You can take diamox, which I didn’t, but some Israeli trekkers took it pre-emptively and never felt any thing. I had a slight headache and was vaguely nauseous above 4200 meters, but it never got bad.
I didn’t stay there, but Yak Ru seemed like a brilliant place to spend the night…though you would get there quite early if you slept in Pisang the previous night. This isn’t really a problem, however, as you would easily reach Manang the next day. (Between Ghyaru and Ngawal is a ruined fort a little bit out of the way but very cool to see.)
Manang (3540 meters) is a big town, it takes at least ten minutes to walk through it all. When I was there, it was early in the season and it was still gearing up…but it still had many lodges, some bakeries, a movie theatre, and a place to charge your batteries. With Thorung La coming up, this is an essential step for cameras.
Nearly everyone stays in Manang for two days—in part because you need to in order to acclimatize. But it’s a very pleasant place to stay, with many great daytrips and it’s full of the trekkers you’ve seen on the trail. The only bad lodge on the Hotel was found here—the promisingly named Hotel Yeti. The experience left me feeling very sour and I’d advise to stay somewhere else—anywhere else.
Up here, there is a new treat in addition to the bakeries. It’s called Seabuckthorn juice (though spelled in a wide variety of ways). It’s made from a local plant and taste like a cross between apple juice, fig juice, and some kind of berry. Hard to describe, but very good.
And here are some photos of the Manang area. Some trekkers hike to Manang and then back, a 10-12 day trek that would be quite pleasant.