Have you heard of a place in Nepal called Nupri? You will, if you go on the Manaslu trek. Nupri is an area where Tibetan influence is dominant, and where the traditional trade routes between Nepal and Tibet are very much still in use. But, this is nothing new as far as regions bordering Tibet are concerned; what makes Nupri more interesting is that this area follows ancient laws whereby wildlife hunting is totally prohibited. In fact, the ancient laws decree that anyone found to be killing wildlife will be given 500 lashes in public, that too, on the buttocks!
Interesting stuff what? However, that’s not the only thing about this area that’s interesting. A trek through the region takes you on a tough route through some of the wildest and most beautiful scenery you’ll see anywhere, besides a most dramatic Himalayan pass, the Larkya La (5,231 m). The 177 km route (which generally takes 20 days to complete) skirts the Manaslu massif over the pass down to Annapurna, following an early salt-trading route along the Budi Gandaki River. At least 10 Himalayan peaks over 6,500 m will grace your trek with their majestic presence. One of them, Manaslu (8,156 m), is the eighth highest mountain in the world. It holds special significance for the Japanese due to the fact it was first conquered by a Japanese climber, Toshio Imanishi, in 1956, along with Gyalzen Norbu Sherpa.
The Manaslu trek begins by driving to Gorkha (about 5 hr), once a kingdom in its own right. In the 18th century, its king, Prithvi Narayan Shah, set out to conquer and unify Nepal, as a result of which, the Shah Dynasty ruled the country for well nigh 250 years. A good place as any to start trekking, wouldn’t you agree? From here, you first take a two-hour hike to Charkot (600 m) where you call it a day. The next day, your objective is to reach Siangdi Khola (650 m), which should take you around five hours of steady plodding. Rest for the night, and early next day, carry on plodding on the level trail to Durondi Khola (750 m), a four-hour walk, or thereabouts. By now, you might be thinking that it’s a most pleasant outing, pretty easy on the legs. But, hold on, the trail’s going to get a bit tougher now.
You carry on walking along the Durondi Khola, and soon enough you’ll find yourself climbing steadily uphill to reach Barbak (1,900 m) and then still higher, to Kharka Pass (2, 850 m) . It will probably take you around six hours to do so. You’ll want some rest now, that’s for sure, so camp for the night. The next day, walk downhill along the sheer cliff faces of the Budi Gandaki River; you’ll come across charming waterfalls and large bamboo groves on the way, as well forests of rhododendron and fir. You’ll also see a number of mani walls with Buddhist inscriptions. You reach a place called Gumda (2,050 m) in about six hours. After Gumda, the next goal is to reach Jagat (1,360 m), another six-hour trek. You’ll no doubt be thankful that you’re not climbing now, but yet again, that’s speaking too soon. Your trek the next day is again all uphill to Nyak (2,300 m); it will take you around five hours to reach there. Similarly, the following day, you will be walking for a similar period of time to reach Ghap (2, 380 m), only this time, it’s on a pretty level trail, so you get a chance to give your legs a break, which you’ll appreciate a lot later because the real climbing is yet to come. After Ghap, you walk through verdant fir forests teeming with birds; keep an eye out for the Impeyan pheasant (danfe: Nepal’s national bird). You also come across a gorge where the Tom Khol, flowing in from Tibet, merges with the Budi Gandaki, and you will now be giving way to yak and mule caravans trundling on along the trail. By and by, you will come to Namrung village, and enter the Nupri region,where you’ll notice that most folks, both men and women, are wearing traditional Tibetan dresses. You’ll also see a lot of chortens and prayer wheels along the route, as well as tall watchtowers in the fields. These are to protect the wheat and buckwheat crops from being eaten up by marauding bears. In about four hours, you should be in Bengsam (2,900 m). After Bengsam, the next couple of days takes you to Sama (3,360 m; 4 hr), and Kermo Samdo (3,780 m; 4 hr). You’ll no doubt now be feeling that you’ve done a lot of climbing, but the best is yet to come.
On day 14, you land up at Larkya Bazaar (4,400 m; 5 hr)), where you take a good night’s rest for the next day’s labors. On day 15, you’ll reach the climax of your trek—the challenging haul to Larkya La, the pass situated at a height of 5,100 meters. You make your way through a trail that climbs in and out of the gorge before reaching the moraine at 4,700 meters. Now, the trail goes pretty much straight upwards to the pass. You’ll find the top gaily decorated with plenty of prayer flags fluttering in the wind. The view from up here is as expected: fantastic. You’ll be able to see Annapurna II (7,937 m). Himlung Himal (7,126 m), Gyaji Kung (7.030 m), Kang Guru (6,981 m), and Cheo Himal (6,820 m). Take your time, take a long break, you have earned it.
The six-hour descent takes you into the vast Bimtang valley (3,630 m) that’s surrounded on all sides by impressive Himalayan peaks. It might interest you to know that this valley was once a staging area for Khampa guerilla activities during the time of the Khampa insurgency in 1974-1975. You’ll enjoy walking through this beautiful valley, that’s for sure. The next few days take you again through lovely forests and along the Marsyangdi gorge to Tilche (2,640 m; 5 hr), Tal (1,680 m; 4 hr), Bahun Danda (1,260 m; 5 hr), and finally to Besisahar (760 m; 3 hr) from where you drive back to Kathmandu. Well, now you can add one more on the list of your achievements, you have completed the Manaslu trek, a trek that has given you ample time to reconnect to nature big time. Congratulations!