Most Inspirational Moment
Interestingly it was the day after the pass crossing. With the uphill sections behind us and the tiring pass crossing behind us, it was possible to fully relax on a long downhill day through stunning forests. The autumn colours were out, the sun was shining, the birds were tweeting, and the moneys were monkeying. All the while the white peaks of Manaslu, Peak 29 and Himal Chuli towered over us and could be seen between the tall trees or from clearings. We were so lucky with the weather, if it had been cloudy then it wouldn't have looked the same, but the yellows and reds of autumn, coupled with the blue sky and the white mountains meant it was a photographer's dream.
My advice is spread out, find a gap for some quiet-time and stop from time to time to listen and look. I saw four langur monkey family groups because I was quiet. The birds were fast and harder to photograph, but the whole day was a treat for the senses,
Thoughts on Group Leader
Keshar was outstanding. All the guides I've had in Nepal have been. As with most trips, there can be unexpected things to sort out and without going into detail, Keshar sorted them. We had snow for a couple of days before the pass crossing, and Keshar was planing our exit strategy and preparing us for that should it be needed, luckily the snow simply made things pretty. There are so many little (and big) things all the guides and support crew do make our treks a success, and this is why I've returned to Exodus again and again.
We didn't need our spare day, and Keshar decided to use it to split the last long walking day onto 2 shorter days. This was an excellent idea, we had an intermediate night in Tal on the Annapurna Circuit, and the two shorter days meant we had time to relax rather than blasting out of the mountains as often seems to be the case when the main objective of the trek has been achieved.
Advice for Potential Travellers
Time is running out. The 'road' is encroaching at both ends. The first 3 days were long and mostly on the dusty road, there is very little traffic at the moment but it won't last. Landslides make the road turn into narrow ledge paths from time to time and at the moment it's hard to see how a permanent road could hope to exist in such a dynamic landscape, but you can see people working to repair damage and hacking away at the mountainside to further its progress. The road brings people/tourists and other developments like new lodges. There are new lodges springing up all over the place, so the Manaslu Circuit will soon be as commercial as the Annapurna or Everest areas, so I'm pleased I've seen it when I have. My advice is to do it now whilst it's still a more remote trekking route and before it gets too 'touristy'
Take ear plugs for the lodges at night.
Take one of those concentrated squash things to mix your own drink for lunch and dinner, no need to buy plastic fizzy drink bottles (or water bottles).
Take a light-weight buff to breath through to keep dust out of your lungs.
If you can spare the time, fly out a day or two early to get over the jet lag. I went with Qatar Airways this time and I have to say it was a much nicer experience than the usual Jet flights.
I've done many Nepal treks and this is one of the tougher ones. Mainly because of the pass crossing. The pass is a more gradual approach than say the Thorong La, so nothing too steep, but once on top it's a chaotic jumble of moraine to cross. There is a trampled path to follow, but there's a lot of slow up and down over the waves of rubble. We didn't have lying snow on the pass or down the other side, but I can see how this would slow you down further if the conditions were bad. A frozen lake provided a nice flat section, but the rest is tiring and cold. The rewards are the views, the panorama that greets you once you can see over the other side is out of this world.
The lodges were all fine. Deng was draughty and the whole building moved, but still warm at night, and Dharamasala was a sort of pre-fab box with 4 people to a box on a mattress on the floor, but all quite acceptable given what you are doing.
Our trip was made by the amazing crew and by the weather, so I suggest you do your homework and go when statistically the weather looks best.
It's beautiful, the valleys, people, mountains, rivers, trees, wildlife, waterfalls, glaciers... the list goes on.