Hikers Looking Overseas to Annapurna Circuit in Nepal
Americans have traditionally liked to avoid perilous situations while overseas. We generally wait until something has become popular before showing up. For that reason, the Camino de Santiago is now being inundated by Americans. Of course, Europeans walked the Camino en masse during medieval times. More recently the pilgrimage has regained favor. And in the wake of the Hollywood movie, The Way, starring Martin Sheen, Americans have begun arriving on El Camino de Santiago in significant numbers. Better yet, everyone is now realizing that it is not inherently dangerous to trek overseas. In fact, many say the Camino is safer than either the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail. And there is the mystique of being overseas trekking across a foreign country.
For these reasons, Americans (and Europeans in even greater numbers) have begun looking for other trekking opportunities abroad. Many are now turning their sights on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. This is the most popular trek in Asia. Better yet, it represents a unique opportunity for an average person to get to truly high elevations (17,768 feet) without undertaking any technical climbing or even especially steep ascents. The circuit routes hikers around some of the world’s greatest peaks (Manaslu, Gangapurna, Annapurana) without actually having to summit these daunting peaks.
The daily routine on Annapurna is actually somewhat similar to that on the Camino de Santiago. Trekkers (called hikers in America, and pilgrims on the Camino) walk a modest distance each day–usually about a 1,200 foot elevation gain (Note: in Nepal they speak not of kilometers walked, but of elevation picked up). Then trekkers stay in very cheap ‘teahouses’ (albergues on the Camino), where they eat dinner. Fortunately they sleep in mostly private rooms as opposed to the crowded bunkrooms on the Camino. The food is not as good as on the Camino, but much better than the awful hiker food on the Appalachian Trail.
The cost of a trek on the Annapurna Circuit and a pilgrimage on the Camino are also bound to be similar. The Camino is not expensive carried to just about any other European vacation. However, the Annapurna Circuit is even less expensive, given that Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries. Far and away the most prohibitive cost is the transportation getting to Nepal. But after doing the Camino, people are beginning to realize just how doable the whole thing is. It’s just a matter of picking the time to go, making reservations, and saving up a few thousand dollars. That may not be all that easy, but it’s doable. And like the Camino, the Annapurna Circuit is a marvelously rich way to travel. One can expect to meet trekkers from around the world. In fact, given the daily routine it is almost impossible not to make some significant acquaintances. How exciting! And Nepal’s geography has been blowing visitors away for centuries; expect yourself to be yet another casualty.
Books by Bill Walker include Getting High–The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal (2013). He is also the author of The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago, Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail and Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail.