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RAT racer
21st October 2006, 01:54 PM
Round Annapurna Trek to be revised

Fighting your way from Kagbeni to Jomsom against the strong afternoon winds that blow dust and sand in your face often was the worst part of the Round Annapurna Trek (RAT) for many trekkers. In the last few years new means of transport in the area have increased the level of annoyance for trekkers. Noisy tractors with trailers ply up or down the road to transport building materials, agricultural products or people, including some pilgrims on their way to or from Muktinath. Worse is that trekkers are rudely awoken out of their daydreams of climbing snow covered peaks and passes by loudly honking motor bikes that appear to think that they own the road. And their numbers are increasing fast.

This is only the beginning. The government of Nepal has decided that Mustang and Manang Districts should be connected to the national road network to reduce poverty in the areas. Although it may take 5 to 10 years (or longer) before these roads are completed it will spell the end of the RAT-as-we-know-it, only leaving the Manang to Muktinath trek across Thorong La. New type of trekkers with less time and maybe more money may flock to Manang, probably get altitude sick, still may try to get across the 5416m high pass and be gone in a week.

Such a demise of the world-famous RAT did not appear a nice prospect to the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), which manages the area together with the local population. Consequently, and with funding from UNEP, ACAP launched a survey of alternative trails for the RAT. The surveyors, an outside volunteer and ACAP staff, hiked most of the trails that were considered potential alternatives. They compared the alternatives with the present trails for scenery, nature and culture. They tried to cross passes that could be included in the circuit and on several occasions ended up in thigh-deep snow, due to late snowfalls in April. They retreated, but eventually covered most of the trails. They proposed to urgently reroute the sections of the RAT that are already infested with motorbikes or are disturbed by ongoing road construction. In the long run, there should be a new RAT, mostly on the opposite side of the valley than the roads and only occasionally crossing them.

The survey team judged that the alternative routes offered better views and less disturbed nature, while cultural features along these routes were mostly comparable to those of the present route. The alternative routes may be slightly longer but along them trekkers should not or seldom be disturbed by noisy traffic. Facilities such as guest houses and teashops are still largely lacking, but the villagers along the new routes welcomed the idea of receiving trekkers. Some basic lodges and teashops already exist and as more trekkers come along these routes new facilities will emerge. Some of the villages along the alternative routes still have retained their traditional character and the team has proposed that ACAP undertake efforts to try to maintain the scenic character of the villages, rather than letting them all become high-altitude Lakeside-look-alikes.

The first six alternative routes to be opened in 2006 are:
- Koto – Meta – Nar – Kang La (5300m) – Ngawal. This route requires the Government to change the groups-only policy for Nar-Phu valley. Moreover, due to a serious lack of facilities along this route it should at present only be tried by experienced and acclimatised trekkers. However, this part of the trek will resemble the RAT of the old days when dal-bhat was the standard trekkers’ meal and villages had hardly been touched by modern developments.
- Muktinath/Ranipouwa – Jhong – Putak – Kagbeni.
After completion of a suspension bridge near Putak this higher but three km longer route offers beautiful views of the Nilgiris, Dhaulagiri and Upper Mustang, a chance to see blue sheep (but more likely loads of local goats and sheep) and a stunning entry into Kagbeni from the North.
- Old Jomsom – Thini – (Dumbha) – Marpha. Away from the airport and New Jomsom (but you could use the suspension bridge south of the airport to visit the Mustang Eco-museum), this higher route passes Thini and offers an option of a detour to Dhumba lake and monastery. It crosses back to the West side of the Kali Gandaki, where a walking trail should be marked between the tractor road and the river to take trekkers to the traditional whitewashed village of Marpha.
- South Marpha – Chairo – North Tukuche. A short detour past Chairo monastery which is presently under renovation. It could be accompanied by a still to be marked new trail close to the river from the South Chairo suspension bridge to Tukuche.
- Kokhethanti - Titi lake – Chhoyo - Lete Khola (+ detour Taglung-Kunjo). Taking the tractor road past Titi Lake you reach a low pass with a collection of big old stupas. From here you can take a direct route to Chhoyo, but the detour through the traditional villages of Taglung and Kunjo is worthwhile. A small chorten in Kunjo, a bit off the trail to Chhoyo is of interest because human sacrifices used to be made here. Reportedly the sacrificed people travelled to Kunjo from Manang after having eaten a chicken that had appeared in Manang after having been tied to a pole in Polche, a village south of Kunjo.
- Kopchepani – Garpar - suspension bridge N Tatopani. A stiff climb out of Kopchepani and then an easy stroll past Garpar and a hydropower station takes you all the way to the suspension bridge near Tatopani. The only facility along this route is a local teashop in Balabhat, but you can cross the Kali Gandaki at various points to guest houses and restaurants in Dana and Rupse Chahara.

Other changes are planned for 2007 and 2008. By that time the RAT should have recovered some of its old glory, being a bit more remote than at present and definitely quieter. Enjoy the trek and let us know your thoughts at www.trekinfo.com.

Piet van der Poel
(pipoel@yahoo.com).

Oli
25th October 2006, 04:13 AM
[SIZE="2"]let us know your thoughts

That's relly good news, thanks Piet, and hurrah for ACAP. This is exactly the sort of initiative that is required to sustain trekking in Nepal.

yakshaver
21st November 2006, 11:33 AM
Thank you for the info Piet. Very good stuff. It is extremely sad that AC (or RAT as you call it), is heading down the road development way. I have experienced the bike-honking in Jomsom, in July.
I just hope that the road will be a failure and they get great big landslides every year. Locals in the villages below Manang along the Marsyangdi absolutely hate it.

It is good that ACAP is trying to do something and provide information about alternatives. I appreciated some of the suggestions.
I still believe that the Manaslu Circuit will be the new AC within 3-4 years.

Dermot
26th November 2006, 10:24 AM
Piet

Many thanks for your useful informaton re the RAT.Just completed the trek and found the area outside Jomosom quite depressing.But I am now glad to see that ACAP are actively looking at alternatives.

Regards

Dermot

Cosmo
27th November 2006, 02:49 AM
Hi Damien
Would love to hear more of your experience - was this your first time on the AC? - what were your impressions and any tips to offer first time trekkers in the area.

Cosmo
27th November 2006, 02:51 AM
sorry! - meant DERMOT!

meirsch
24th December 2006, 12:24 AM
thanks allot
100% the stuff i was looking for
is the first part (from besisahar to trong la pass) is o.k.?:D

thesilvertops
24th December 2006, 02:34 PM
This sounds very good. I am very keen to do the AC again and also to visit Nar-Phu. The Manaslu circuit is also very tempting. However, we have no plans to do either until we can trek independently again and with no maoist hassle!

Per
24th December 2006, 08:28 PM
The frontiers of trekking will simply move. There was a time when the Everest trek started in Bhaktapur.

The main problem is the Nepalese government´s attitude. With a more liberal trekking regime, there would be lots of options, e.g., people would hike around Manaslu or up into the Hidden valley and Charkabhot from Jomosom, and there would soon be locally operated lodges and shops catering to the trekkers.

I do not think many will care to hike on the other side of the river. It does not seem to exciting. Where the road comes trekking will cease unless the road is so bad that there is not any traffic. On the other hand there are lots of options, particularly Naur and the valley system above should be great, there is supposed to be passes across to the Kali Gandaki north of Thorung La.

Other options are, of course Tilicho, and Namun Bhanyang.

yakshaver
29th December 2006, 01:05 AM
The frontiers of trekking will simply move. There was a time when the Everest trek started in Bhaktapur.

The main problem is the Nepalese government´s attitude. With a more liberal trekking regime, there would be lots of options, e.g., people would hike around Manaslu or up into the Hidden valley and Charkabhot from Jomosom, and there would soon be locally operated lodges and shops catering to the trekkers.

I do not think many will care to hike on the other side of the river. It does not seem to exciting. Where the road comes trekking will cease unless the road is so bad that there is not any traffic. On the other hand there are lots of options, particularly Naur and the valley system above should be great, there is supposed to be passes across to the Kali Gandaki north of Thorung La.

Other options are, of course Tilicho, and Namun Bhanyang.

Yes I agree Per, other treks will take the place of the AC if the road indeed takes a "foothold"... Manaslu in particular, as it is similar in length etc. It is sad that the rich people of Manang, and the Nepali government do not have the perspective that ordinary lodge owners along the AC seem to have. I tried to conduct an informal research, mindful of the fact that someitmes in Nepal you get told what you want to hear. Invariably the ansewer from the lodgeowers along the way was decidedly against the road. They clearly realise that the trucks will not stop in every village and their income will go.

yakshaver
29th December 2006, 01:16 AM
Welcome to trekinfo Per. I hope your contributions will become regular here, and other participants here will get to benefit for your considerable knowledge.

meirsch
12th January 2007, 03:57 PM
dear all

i red your post at trecinfo.com and it is a very useful one !!!!!!!!

are the alternative routs (muktinath and jomson ,marfa and so on.....) are open for terkkers??? can i relay go their????

RAT racer
23rd January 2007, 03:58 PM
Lodge owners would definitely not like the road, but ask apple orchard owners and people that do not earn much income from trekkers (this is the majority of the people in the area) and you get a different answer. They want the road and today rather than tomorrow. This is one of the reasons why the road is constructed without paying any attention to conservation.

Piet