Saturnalia – Lindsey Davis

Saturnalia - Lindsey Davis
Saturnalia – Lindsey Davis

Saturnalia festivities spell family time for Falco. Uh oh.

And to make matters worse, Germania’s most beguiling priestess, and Justinianus’ first love, Veleda has been captured and is being held under house arrest just outside Rome, where the son and heir has just been found murdered, his severed head in an ornamental pond….

Author page: Saturnalia – Lindsey Davis

Picos de Europa: Photos & Notes

We’re back after a mixed week walking in the Picos de Europa. We had a smashing guide, Alfonso, and Hotel Torrecerredo is a great base where Jim and Pilar provide good accommodation and wonderful food. But …. the weather, local fiestas and preponderance of biting insects meant that the overall experience didn’t live up to my (admittedly high) expectations.

The days (and nights) alternated between hot and humid, thundery and wet, and bad weather put paid to two of the more challenging walks – the Lakes of Covadonga, Majada de Belbin & Peak Pandescura (day 6) and the twin summits of Mancondiu plus San Carlos Peak (day 7).  EasyJet delays both ways made for long travel days at either end and the all night fiestas for the first few nights resulted in poor sleep. Horseflies, mozzies and midges speak – and bite – for themselves.

But we did have a fabulous day on the Thursday when Alfonso took us on the Peña Maín walk we’d not been able to do on Tuesday due to orange weather warnings. The best day by far, although it inevitably came with the downside that it that made me realise what we were missing on the other days. So Steffi, Hazel and I are keen to return to tackle the El Anillo de Picos next June or September.

Also on the plus side, the wildflowers were beautiful – I was particularly taken with the sea holly – and I’ve returned with Pilar and Jim’s recipe for Sopa de Lentejas. The food really was wonderful.

Sea Holly, Cabeza Juan Robre walk
Sea Holly, Cabeza Juan Robre walk

Photos from the week are in my Spain, July 2019 album on Flickr.

Here’s what we did on Exodus’ Walking the Picos de Europa, day by day:

Saturday, 20 July 2019: London Stansted – Bilbao – Las Arenas de Cabrales (No photos)

Weather: Rain.

Day 1: EasyJet U23227 from Stansted to Bilbao. Scheduled departure 11:50 arrival 14:50. Delayed almost 3 hours.

Alfonso and his fellow driver met us at the arrivals hall for the two and a half hour drive to Las Arenas de Cabrales. The first of many excellent evening meals at the Hotel Torrecerredo.

Sunday, 21 July 2019: Cares Gorge (photos)

Weather: Overcast, hot & humid.

Day 2: Drive to Poncebos, walk easy footpath though the Cares River Gorge to Caín and back. Busy with Sunday strollers. Lots of limestone.

Cares Gorge walk
Cares Gorge

Monday, 22 July 2019: Cabeza Juan Robre (871m) (photos)

Weather: Overcast, clearing occasionally, hot.

Day 3: Walk from the hotel, into Las Arenas and along trails up into the high pastures of Nava, full of wild flowers. On up via limestone bowls and paths to Cabeza Juan Robre (871m) which we can see from the hotel. Lunch at the top watching the clouds clear from the main Picos range to our south, then a long ridge descent back into Las Arenas de Cabrales, with great views of the town and valley en route.

Cabeza Juan Robre and Las Arenas old church
Cabeza Juan Robre from Las Arenas de Cabrales

Tuesday, 23 July 2019: Hoyu del Tejo – Tresviso – Urdón (photos)

Weather: Thunderstorms threatened. Overcast, hot & humid.

Day 4: Bad weather meant we had to forgo the scheduled walk in favour of a lower level alternative. Alfonso and Nanni drove us to the car park above Sotres (CA-1, Hoyu del Tejo) where it was extremely windy. From there we dropped down into the shelter of Vau los Lobos, turning off to follow Arroyo de Valdediezma down to Río de Sobra, crossing via an old stone bridge and skirting abandoned summer farms to get back up to the CA-1 and walking on into Tresviso for elevenses at La Taberna de Tresviso. Then the famous zig zag descent via Barrio Tresviso to Río Urdón. We met the minibuses at Urdón on the N-621 and then drove back to Las Arenas.

On the Treviso-Urdón trail
Treviso-Urdón trail

Wednesday, 24 July 2019: Celorio – Llanes – Celorio via the Coastal Path (photos)

Weather: Overcast, hot & humid.

Day 5: Free day. Hazel, Steffi and I, plus others, opted to take the hotel minibus to the coast to walk the coastal path from Celorio to Llanes. Lunch in the old town then back to Celorio for 4.30pm pick up and the hour’s drive back to sunny Las Arenas.

“Wine Wednesday” mojitos in Cafe Jardin La Palma followed by raciones at La Plazuela.

Thursday, 25 July 2019: Peña Maín (1612 m) (photos)

Weather: Blue skies, growing cloudy later.

Day 6: Leaving the minibuses at Tielve we walked up through shady beech woods to Peña Maín (Cabeza La Mesa, 1612 m) for splendid views of Naranjo de Bulnes / Pico Urriellu (2519 m), the rest of the main range and mountains all around.

Descending through wildflower meadows towards Sotres, picnicking en route, brought us down to the Pandébano Col from where the trail continued downwards through more meadows and on slippery tree shadowed cobbled paths sunk deep into the hillside, to bring us into Bulnes for ice creams and a final descent along a classic Picos limestone river gorge back to Poncebos.

A fab day.

Peña Maín panorama
Peña Maín panorama

Friday, 26 July 2019: Refugio Casetón de Andara & Carreña to Las Arenas de Cabrales (photos)

Weather: Rain, easing off later

Day 7: Low cloud and rain meant zero visibility and another bad weather alternative, driving back to the car park at Hoyo del Tejo (CA-1, above Sotres) where we donned full waterproofs and warm clothes to walk the old mining track to Refugio Casetón de Andara and back. Picnic lunch and warm drinks at a bar in Sotres before driving back to Las Arenas.

Me and Steffi arriving at Refugio Casetón de Andara
Me and Steffi arriving at Refugio Casetón de Andara

In the afternoon, Steffi, Helen and I, accompanied by Alfonso and the GPS download, took Pilar’s recommendation of a 3 hour walk between a drop off in the Arroyo de la Ría above Carreña and Arangas. Technically it’s part of GR-109 Ruta Asturias Interior, Etapa 2: Alles – Carreña and whilst a lot of the trail is along disused concrete roads the connecting cross country paths proved tricky to find at times. Lots of bramble bashing and nettle dodging was required.

On our way back along the AS-345 into Las Arenas we stopped off at another of Pilar’s top tips: Quesería artesanal El Cabriteru where we enjoyed a leisurely hour meeting the goats and sheep and then tasting (and buying) their cheese, and sampling the local cider. Excellent.

Quesería artesanal El Cabriteru
Quesería artesanal El Cabriteru

Saturday, 27 July 2019: Las Arenas de Cabrales – Bilbao – London Stansted (No photos)

Weather: Rain.

Day 8: Two and a half hour drive to Bilbao to catch EasyJet U23228 to London Stansted, scheduled departure 15:20, arrival 16:10. Delayed 1+ hour. Smooth journey on the Stansted Express back to Central London for wine and pizza à la Waitrose.

See Delphi And Die – Lindsey Davis

See Delphi And Die - Lindsey Davis
See Delphi And Die – Lindsey Davis

Leaving daughters Julia Junilla and Sosia Favonia at home in the indulgent care of their grandparents, Falco and Helena, and a select ensemble of younger family and friends, plus Nux, head off to Greece to investigate the suspicious deaths of two young women a few years apart.

A goodie!

Author page: See Delphi And Die – Lindsey Davis

Picos de Europa: Final Count Down

Not long now before Hazel, Steffi and I head off to Northern Spain for our week walking in the Picos de Europa, with Exodus*.


The forecast for Las Arenas de Cabrales says it’s going to be sunny!

Weather Forecast: Las Arenas de Cabrales
Weather Forecast: Las Arenas de Cabrales

OK, there is a bit of rain, but not many millimetres.


Looking the spare bed pile I reckon I’m going to be taking more to the Picos than I do to Nepal. Probably not a bad thing seeing as we will be in company and it’s not really de rigueur to wear the same clothes for a week on the trot.

Having read some of the recent reviews and refreshed myself on the trip notes, I am taking:

  • ear plugs …. due to cow bells!!!!
  • a brolly. There must be sections when we won’t need to use poles. And hopefully I won’t need it.


I have my Euros, just as the exchange rate drops even further. Thanks for nothing, Brexit.

Insurance / Optional Activities

I checked my travel insurance cover regarding the optional activities on offer for the spare day:

Today is free for you to visit the coast or try a spot of caving, self-guided canoeing or canyoning. Our local staff will be able to help organise any of these activities.

and only canoeing gets a mention:

Grade 1 and 2 only

So it’ll be that or a visit to the coast, or maybe another day out in the Picos….


I am looking forward to there being a bar….

* If you want details, you’ll need to find the trip on the Exodus website. They don’t like me linking to it. It spoils their SEO. Really?

Manaslu & Tsum: Photos & Notes

I wrote up my first(ish) impressions of last November’s four week trek into Tsum and on around the Manaslu Circuit in my Manaslu & Tsum: We’re back blogpost.

This blogpost has the day by day account, with links to photos from the day. Scroll down to the end for Charles’ schematic map of our route, and for some of the useful resources I’ve used in this write up.

If you just want to take a look at my photos, you’ll find them, plus some lovely ones from Charles, Doug and Steffi, in my Nepal, November 2018 Flickr album.

The first and last sections of this trek involved retreading routes previously taken. I first trekked in the Tsum Valley with Hazel back in 2015 and my blogposts on our Tsum Valley trek with Val Pitkethly have all the details. Further back, in 2009,  Hazel and I spent three weeks trekking the Annapurna Circuit with Mountain Kingdoms. It was our first big trek and you can read about the trip in my Annapurna Circuit blogposts. A lot has changed in the intervening 3 / 9 years, as you’ll see from my Manaslu & Tsum: We’re back blogpost.

Here’s what I did on Val Pitkethly’s Manaslu and Tsum trek in November 2018, in the excellent company of Anne, Charles, Doug and Steffi.

Wednesday 31 October / Thursday 1 November 2018: London – Delhi – Kathmandu (photos)

LHR – DEL overnight flight on Air India AI 112.

DEL – KTM on Air India AI 215.

Overnight at the Hotel Marshyandi, Thamel.

Friday 2 November 2018: Kathmandu – Sotikhola (597 m) – Lapubesi (880 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 1

Drive Kathmandu / काठमाडौं – Sotikhola / सोती खोला (597 m).

Route: Trek to Laupubensi / Lapubesi / लापुबेसी (880 m).

Camp: Laxshmi’s Lodge.

Saturday 3 November 2018: Lapubesi (880 m) – Yaruphant (1170 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 2

Route: Laupubensi / Lapubesi / लापुबेसी (880 m) – Machhakhola / Machha Khola / मछाखोला (930 m) – Khorlabesi / Khorlabeshi / खोर्लाबेसी (970 m) – Tatopani / तातोपानी (990 m) – Dobhan / दोभान (1050 m) – Yaruphant / लापुबेसी (1170 m).

Camp: Between Yaru village and its bridge.

First (alleged) sighting of poisonous snakes. One of this trek’s recurring themes.

Sunday 4 November 2018: Yaruphant (1170 m) – Chisapani (1620 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 3

Route: Yaruphant / लापुबेसी (1170 m) – Jagat / जगत (1340 m) – Sirdibas / सिर्दिबास (1420 m) – Philim / Phillim / फिलिम (1570 m) – Chisapani / चिसापानी (1620 m).

Camp: Mountain View Lodge.

We had a cup of tea to pass the time while Chhering dealt with the paperwork at the Manaslu Conservation Area Checkpoint on the way out of Jagat. And Welsh Whisky at Chisapani!

Monday 5 November 2018: Chisapani (1620 m) – Chumling (2385 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 4 / Tsum Valley Day 1

Route: Chisapani / चिसापानी (1620 m) – Gampul (1626 m) – Lokpa / Lhokpa / लोक्पा (2240 m) – Sarli Khola Bridge & Gorge (1825 m) – Gadhi Khola Bridge – Chumling / चुम्लिंग (2385 m).

Camp: Chumling School.

Gampul is where the trail into the Tsum Valley splits off from the Manaslu Circuit. We spent the next week in Tsum.

Tuesday 6 November 2018: Chumling (2385 m) – Chhokang Paro (3030 m) (photos)

Tsum Valley Day 2

Route: Chumling / चुम्लिंग (2385 m) – Domje / Tumje / तुम्जे (2460 m) – Gho (2510 m) – Chauri Kharka (2950 m) – Chhekampar / Chhekam / Chhaikampar / Chhokang Paro / छैकम्पार (3030 m).

Camp: Namgyl’s Bio-Hotel Khamsangbo.

Fab views of Peak 5698, Baudha Himal / Boudha Himal (6672 m) and Himal Chuli / Himalchuli East (7893 m) from the viewpoint on the approach to Chhokang Paro.

Cham Festival at Jhong / Dzong Gompa.


Wednesday 7 November 2018: Chhokang Paro (3030 m) – Chule (3350 m) (photos)

Tsum Valley Day 3

Route: Chhekampar / Chekampar / Chhaikampar / Chhokang Paro / छैकम्पार (3030 m) – Ngakyu-Leru – Lamagaon / Lamabagar / लामाबगर – Phurbe (3251 m) – Pangdun (3258 m) – Chule / छुले (3350 m).

Camp: Ani Ayurvedic Clinic.

Distributed LED* Solar Lights at Leru. Tea at Pangdun. The Afternoon of the Missing Mules. Chhule Gompa (Gonhgye Gompa) views and circling birds of prey….

Thursday 8 November 2018: Chule (3350 m) – Mu Gompa (3700 m) (photos)

Tsum Valley Day 4

Route: Chule / छुले (3350 m) – Mu Gompa (3700 m).

Camp: below Mu Gompa.

Trail runners (French race) at Mu. Dhephu Doma Ani Gompa. High climb above camp with Val for views of the trail to Tibet.

The road building around Mu Gompa broke my heart.

Friday 9 November 2018 : Mu Gompa (3700 m) – Chhokang Paro (3030 m) (photos)

Tsum Valley Day 5

Route: Mu Gompa (3700 m) – Chule / छुले (3350 m) – Chhokang Paro / Chhekampar / Chekampar / Chhaikampar / छैकम्पार (3030 m).

Camp: Namgyl’s Bio-Hotel Khamsangbo.

In Chule, Chhering, Steffi and I ran the first LED eye clinic of the trek, using Pat Booth’s excellent guide and two boxes of donated glasses. Val and Anne also distributed school supplies and Val ran a mobile medical clinic.

Saturday 10 November 2018: Chhokang Paro (3030 m) – Gumba Lungdung / Gompa Lungdang (3200 m) (photos)

Tsum Valley Day 6

Route: Chhekampar / Chekampar / Chhaikampar / Chhokang Paro / छैकम्पार (3030 m) – Domje / Tumje / तुम्जे (2460 m) – Gumba Lungdung / Gompa Lungdang (3200 m).

Camp: Terraces below old Ani houses.

Coffee at the Tsum Valley Cafe!

Beautiful wooden bridge crossing – turquoise water, red virginia creeper vines – en route to Domje, where Val and Chhering did some LED solar light distribution.

Long climb up into the valley of the Langdang Khola, through forest high above the river. Beautiful moss hanging from the trees. Steep drops down. On the trail to Ganesh Himal Base Camp. The trail from Domje onwards was new to me.


Sunday 11 November 2018: Gumba Lungdung / Gompa Lungdang (3200 m) – Ripchet (2470 m) (photos)

Tsum Valley Day 7

Route: Gumba Lungdung / Gompa Lungdang (3200 m) – Domje / Tumje / तुम्जे (2460 m) – Ripchet (2470 m).

Camp: Ripchet School.

Early morning call courtesy of Doug for the glorious mountain view sunrise:

  • East – Himal Chuli / Himalchuli East (7893 m), Ngadi Chuli / Peak 29 (7871 m) and our first sighting of mighty Manaslu (just) (8156 m)
  • West – Ganesh I / Yangra Kangri (7422 m), Ganesh II (7118 m) and the Lumbo Himal.

LED solar light distribution and eye clinic / glasses distribution with the Anis (nuns).

Back down the trail clinging to hillsides high above the Langdang Khola and through the forests to Domje’s modern bridge and LED solar light distribution on the Ripchet side of the Tsum Chu.

En route to Ripchet: ravines, small bright yellow birds and monkeys in trees.

Sunny afternoon opportunity for clothes washing.

Leopard killing monkey screams overnight (which I slept through).

Monday 12 November 2018: Ripchet (2470 m) – Deng (1870 m) (photos)

Tsum Valley Day 8 / Manaslu Circuit Day 5

Route: Ripchet (2470 m) – Gadhi Khola Bridge – Lokpa / Lhokpa (लोक्पा) (2240 m) – Gampul (1626 m) – Nyak Phedi (1625 m) – Deng / Dyang / डेङ (1870 m).

Camp: Deng Shop.

At Gampul we crossed the Budhi Gandaki river to rejoin the main Manaslu Circuit. Lots more trekkers and mules. Hot this low down!

Overcast all the way to Deng. Not that inspiring.

Tuesday 13 November 2018: Deng (1870 m) – Prok (2397 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 6

Route: Deng / Dyang / डेङ (1870 m) – Rana (1970 m) – Bihi Phedi / बिहि फेदी (1985 m) – Bhijam (2020 m) – Prok / प्रोक (2397 m).

Camp: “Outer Prok”.

Deng to Bihi Phedi was dull, bar an impromptu mini medical clinic by Val in Rana. Too many trekkers (in too few clothes).

Things improved once we crossed the river and left the main trail. A lovely walk up through thick forest, passing DIY saw mills and water powered flour mills en route to Prok. Not another trekker to be seen. Bliss.

A stiff climb up to Prok’s plateau, and Prok proved to be a big place. Lots of land for farming, lots of homes. Fences. A (new-looking) gompa perched above the main village, which I didn’t make it to. I liked Prok.

We camped on the far side of the village. Dali bought fresh greens from the family whose land we camped on. We lunched late on paratha.

Wednesday 14 November 2018: Prok (2397 m) – Lihi (2900 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 7

Route: Prok / प्रोक (2397 m) – Ghap / घप (2660 m) – Lunga Chhyuda (2375 m) – Suksum – Namrung / नाम्रुङ (2660 m) – Bhanjam / बन्जाम (2650 m) – Lihi / Lhi / लिही (2900 m).

Overnight: Lihi Teahouse (rooms due to rain).

We paused in Ghap to distribute LED solar lights to Chak and Tsak villagers before leaving Steffi and Val to do a medical clinic.

A lovely autumn walk through the forest and alongside the Budhi Gandaki river, crossing some splendid water carved corkscrew channels at Lunga Chhyuda.

We sheltered from the rain over a leisurely lunch in Bhanjam, waiting for Steffi and Val to catch up. Meanwhile back in Namrung, a surprisingly smart spot to pass through in this part of the world, they were enjoying a proper coffee at fancy Four Seasons Lodge!

A damp stretch on to Lihi. The rain meant rooms overnight in Lihi tea house, v basic but it gave us all the chance to dry off, and Lihi was a lovely serene spot.

Pasty, pumpkin and chips for dinner!

Thursday 15 November 2018: Lihi (2900 m) – Hinang Gompa (3200 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 8

Route: Lihi / Lhi / लिही (2900 m) – Hinang Gompa (3200 m) – Hinang Glacier (3700 m) – Hinang Gompa (3200 m).

Camp: Hinang Gompa.

My Manaslu Circuit mood lifted at Lihi. We woke to blue skies, and a cold brisk morning. Val got us off early, and at a fast pace so that we could get to Hinang Gompa with enough time to continue up the valley to Hinang Glacier (3700 m) for lunch. Superb Himal Chuli views through drifting cloud, and a picnic lunch of chapattis, cheese and chutney.

Lots of photos, and a lovely stroll back through the woods to the gompas.

There are two: the large gompa in whose grounds we were camped is the monastery, the one perched on a rock near by is the nunnery, which also provides an old people’s home.

We coincided with trail runners at this gompa too (as at Mu). Brits this time, and it turned out that Val knew the organisers.

After soup and chips pick me up in one of the gompa classrooms, we ran another LED eye, glasses & medical clinic for the nearby nuns, monks and elderly. And then polished off the Penderyn Gold….

A fantastic day.

Friday 16 November 2018: Hinang Gompa (3200 m) – Sama Gaon / Samagaun (3500 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 9

Route: Hinang Gompa (3200 m) – Sho / शो – Lho / ल्हो (3180 m) – Shyala / श्याला (3520 m) – Sama Gaon / Samagaun / सामागाउ (3500 m).

Camp: Mr Norbu’s Sama Goan Lodge.

Before saying a fond farewell to Hinang, we paid a morning visit to the Ani Gompa, which as a parting gift provided perfect views of Himal Chuli (7893 m) against clear blue skies.

A contented morning’s walk back on the main trail, lured ever onwards by the superb views of Manaslu towering above lowly Lho, and its gompa.

Coffee at Lho, lunch at Shyala, after a walk through the woods, where autumn had turned the leaves to bronze and gold.

We lunched al fresco, sat on the roof terrace of the Shanti Guesthouse surrounded by a panorama of mountains – Simnang Himal (6251 m), Ngadi Chuli / Peak 29 (7871 m), Manaslu (8156 m) and Manaslu North (6994 m) on either side of their huge glacier, and Naike Peak (6211 m).

A final stretch brought us to Sama, which sprawls in a wide river valley at the base of Manaslu and Naike Peak.

Another lovely day.

Guenter Seyfferth’s page on Manaslu Himal is invaluable for reminding me what we saw on this part of our trek.

Saturday 17 November 2018: Sama Gaon / Samagaun (3500 m): Day hike to Phuyang / Pung Gyen Gompa (3870 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 10

Route: Sama Gaon / Samagaun / सामागाउ (3500 m) – Punggyen / Phuyang / Pung Gyen Gompa (3870 m) – Sama Gaon / Samagaun / सामागाउ (3500 m).

Camp: Mr Norbu’s Sama Gaon Lodge.

Fantastic morning walking up to Punggyen Gompa, which nestles at the foot of Manaslu (8163 m) within the wide valley carved out by the Punggyen Glacier. From the twin peaks of Manaslu the mountain vista continues on round to Ngadi Chuli Ngadi Chuli / Peak 29 (7871 m), Simnang Himal (6251 m) and the Taninga Danda, and across the Budhi Gandaki valley to the Pang Phuchi Himal and the Kutang Himal.

The tiny gompa is accompanied by small stone roofed buildings, some of which huddle into the gulley leading up to Manaslu, and strings of prayer flags arc in the breeze like streamers stretching up towards the snowline.

A fabulous, fabulous spot.

And our visit to the gompa coincided with a puja by some of the local ladies from Sama. We shared our picnic goodies and they brewed up some raksi for us. Magic.

Back in Sama, we accompanied Val visiting a friend in town who provided mugs of lovely milky coffee for us, and later on back at the lodge Steffi, Chhering, Val and I ran another LED eye glasses clinic. Our (beautifully organised) stock of donated specs in Pat Booth’s shoe boxes was rapidly dwindling.

Sunday 18 November 2018: Sama Gaon / Samagaun (3500 m) – Samdo (3860 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 11

Route: Sama Gaon / Samagaun / सामागाउँ (3500 m) – Birendra Tal / बिरेन्द्र ताल (3460 m) – Samdo / संदो (3860 m).

Camp: Chez Karsang Lodge.

After swinging Sama’s cheekiest little monkey to school, we made a side trip to Birendra Tal, following the path that leads to Manaslu Base Camp and dropping down to the lake from the moraine wall, quite a steep path in places.

Down at the shore line we added our own stone towers and took lots of photos of the turquoise lake with Manaslu and Naike Peak towering above.

As the clouds gathered we followed the Budhi Gandaki up the valley to Samdo, letting the ungrateful trail runners overtake.

Chez Karsang Lodge was our Samdo base and after sorting out our tents and lunching in the lodge we had the (cloudy) afternoon free. Samdo’s a small place, but growing fast, and it was full of trekkers and trail runners.

After a stroll around “town”, Steffi and I decided to walk up the side valley that shelters the village, climbing up to a dry lake and getting good views back down into Samdo. This is the older side of the village, not on the trail to the Larke La, and from the hillside we looked down on the clusters of stone built houses with byres below, livestock pens outside and crops drying on the roof. Lovely.

Just time before dinner to head out with Val to deliver an LED solar light and to arrange further distribution of lights and school supples once we’re back from the Yak Kharka.

Monday 19 November 2018: Samdo (3860 m) – Yak Kharka above Samdo (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 12

Route: Samdo / संदो (3860 m) – Mayol Khola / Samdo Glacier valley – Yak Kharka above Samdo (4400 m).

Camp: Yak Kharka above Samdo.

We retraced the route Steffi and I had taken yesterday afternoon, continuing up the valley of Mayol Khola with the Samdo Glacier on our right. The trail leads to the Larjyang La / Lajyung Bhanjyang and Tibet, but we were only going to Val’s Yak Kharka a couple of hours hike from Samdo.

Fab views back over to Naike Peak and the Manaslu massif, and Samdo Peak / Pangpoche and the Samdo Himal to the south east.

A peaceful morning with the birds – chatty Choughs, Himalayan Red Kite, Himalayan Griffon Vultures and Lammergaier.

Afternoon stroll further up our bit of the valley for more great views: the Pana Danda roughly to the north, Sonam / Samdo Himal to the south, with the Mayol valley travelling east between them, and to the west our first sighting of the Larke peaks, the glacier and the pass…

I’ve lots of photos with the following sweep of peaks: Manaslu (8163 m, in cloud), Naike Peak (6211 m), the “No Name Pointy Peaks”, Larkya Peak (6416 m, square topped), P 5888, Larkya North (6246 m, snow topped), the Larkya La (5135 m) and some more snow covered peaks to the north of the pass.

The cloud came down for an atmospheric afternoon. At the yak kharka, the side stream between our tents and the dining tent was covered in a thick sheet of ice….

Tuesday 20 November 2018: Yak Kharka above Samdo (4400 m) – Samdo (3860 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 13

Route: Yak Kharka above Samdo (4400 m) – “Samdo Ri” (5150 m) – Yak Kharka (4400 m) – Samdo / संदो (3860 m).

Camp: Chez Karsang Lodge.

Morning hike up what I’m calling Samdo Ri – it’s the viewpoint peak in the Pana Danda above Samdo, a couple of hours straight up from our Yak Kharka camp. Hard work, especially at Gori pace, but oh so worth it – clear blue skies brought The Best Views of the Trip. I think they even beat those from the Larkya La.

We had the same sweep of peaks as yesterday, plus Ngadi Chuli and Himal Chuli, and glaciers galore – Manaslu, Syacha and Larkya – all much, much clearer than yesterday, and from much higher up. Plus, tearing our gaze away from the Manaslu Massif, to the north and east the ridge from the Ri became the Pana Danda, leading into the Lajyung / Mayol Himal that form the border with Tibet. Snow capped mountains to the north (Nysing Himal ?) and to the west, across the Laryke La.

The vista list(a): Rani Peak (6693 m), Simnang Himal (6251 m), Himalchuli (7893 m), Ngadi Chuli / Peak 29 (7871 m), Manaslu (8163 m) and Manaslu North (6991 m), Naike Peak (6211 m), the “No Name Pointy Peaks”, Larkya Peak (6416 m, square topped), P 5888, Larkya North (6246 m, snow topped), the Larkya La (5135 m) plus all those snow covered peaks to the north and west of the pass. On the Mayol Khola side of the ridge, we could see clear across to Pangpoche (6400m) which I was calling Samdo Peak in yesterday’s write up and up to the Lajyung Pass and into Tibet.

Plus Himalayan Griffon Vulture and/or Lammergeier and Blue Sheep in the Mayol Valley uplands, where Val, Anne and Charles were hiking.

A steep descent brought us back to the Yak Kharka for a bowl of noodle soup, our packed lunch and a super cute politely pleading pooch, then back down the Mayol Khola valley trail to Samdo for a leisurely afternoon.

Dali did us proud for dinner:

  • Soup with popcorn
  • Pumpkin curry, iscus (the green things) and aubergine curry, peas, chips, cheese …. and PIZZA!
  • Apple Pie Fritters – YUMMY!!

Wednesday 21 November 2018: Samdo (3860 m) – Dharmasala (4460 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 14

Route: Samdo / संदो (3860 m) – Dharmasala / Dharamshala धर्मशाला (4460 m).

Camp: Dharmasala.

Steffi and I spent a couple of hours LED-ing in Samdo with Val, distributing lights, clothes and school supplies, drinking butter tea and tucking into tsampa, before walking the easy trail to Dharmasala, getting there in time for lunch. The trail turns west at Samdo, still following the Budhi Gandaki river – more of a large stream now – and we had super views back to Pangpoche, the Mayol Khola valley and the Samdo Glacier. To the south, clear views of and up the Syacha Glacier to Manaslu North and Manaslu Main. Wonderful.

Afternoon acclimatisation walk up the ridge above camp. Dharmasala is a pretty unprepossessing place – it only really exists as a final overnight stop for trekkers before they (we) cross the Larkya La. As a result, it was busy with trekking groups, not all of whom were well acclimatised. We’d heard a lot of helicopter activity since Sama.

Apprehensive, as always, before a big day with an early start (4am), I don’t think anyone slept well. The mule bells and constant movement didn’t help. More about that “tomorrow”…

Thursday 22 November 2018: Dharmasala (4460 m) – Larkya La pass (5135 m) – Bhimtang (3720 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 15

Route: Dharmasala / Dharamshala / धर्मशाला (4460 m) – Larkya La pass (5135 m) – Bhimtang / Bimthang / Bhimthang / बिम्थंग (3720 m).

Camp: Shushma’s Lodge.

After 4am bed tea and breakfast, we set off in the predawn dark on the trail tracking below the glacial moraine ridge, dawn rays hitting Pangpoche, Larkya North and Manaslu.

Gradually we left the grass and soil behind, moving onto stony stretches that become bouldered. You pick out the route by the poles set up to guide winter traders through the deep, deep snow.

Hot lemon and great views from the Larke Tea Shop at 4850 m then on over the boulder field. The final approach to the pass skirted shallow lakes frozen solid, before a final climb to the prayer flags at the pass. Once there, we added our prayer flags then celebrated with “Bombay” mix and Green & Blacks mini bars of chocolate, and enjoyed a last look at the views east. Farewell Gorkha District. Hello Manang District.

The Larkya La descent was gentle to start – which was good because the views west are stupendous: Lamjung Himal (6983 m), Annapurna II (7937 m), Kang Guru (6981 m) and Chombi (6704 m) with P6780 and P6805 in between, P6479, Kechakyu Himal (5542 m) and Gyaji Kang (7074 m), then Nemjung (7140 m), Himjung (7092 m) and Himlung (7126 m) and, closest to the pass, Panbari (6905 m).

But soon the path became steeper, still rocky, and we were zig zagging down into the valley towards the weird solid blue waters of Ponkar Tal, which disappeared as we got closer to the moraine walls and turned southwards – the trail follows the route of the Salpudanda Glacier which merges with the Ponkar Glacier and Kechahyu Khola Glacier a little north of Bhimtang. You get clear views of all three glaciers on the descent.

Gradually rocks and silence gave way to grass, shrubs and bushes; birds reappeared.

Revitalising veg noodle soup at Dangboche Kharka, then the final downhill stretch to Bhimtang and its surreal sunshine yellow chalets.

Our tents were on the edge of one of Bimthang’s wooden fenced corals with fine views of the north western flank of Manaslu.

Teatime segued into rakshi time, dinner, then bed. A long day, but a great one.

Plenty of people here too – we were already heading back to the mainstream. From here on in we’d find ourselves in busier places, as we drew closer to and eventually joined the Annapurna Circuit.

Friday 23 November 2018: Bhimtang (3720 m) – Tilche (2300 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 16

Route: Bhimtang / Bimthang / Bhimthang / बिम्थंग (3720 m) – Habu (3400 m) – Chauli Kharka / Yak Kharka (3030 m) – Gho – Gowa / गोवा (2470 m) – Kharche / खर्चे – Tilje / Tilche (2300 m).

Camp: Apple Garden Lodge.

Glorious morning views back up the valley towards Bimthang to Nemjung (7140 m) and Panbari (6905 m), then into the forest for a lovely morning walk following the Dudh Khola, stopping off for final views of Mighty Manaslu and at Chauli Kharka for tea with Val’s friends who run the Purti Himalayan Hotel.

Lunch sat at the picnic tables of the The Seven Sister Lodge in Gho, then on through first farmland, and then the road, to Tilche,

Our last night under canvas. I didn’t take to Tilche.

Saturday 24 November 2018: Tilche (2300 m) – Chamje (1430 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 17 / Annapurna Circuit Day 1

Route: Tilje / Tilche (2300 m) – Dharapani / धारापानी (1960 m) – Tal (1700 m) – Chamje / Chyamche / चामे (1430 m).

Hotel: Hotel Lhasa Tibet.

We joined the Annapurna Circuit at Dharapani, and an even bigger road. We’d had to negotiate the bulky remains of landslides on the bulldozered road from Tilje, the road from Dharapani still has the three streams flowing across what had been the unexpectedly epic section of the Annapurna Circuit back in 2009.

Lunch in Tal, preceded by waterfalls and rainbows, and back on an older trail after crossing the Marshyangdi after Dharapani.

On the trail on to Chamje we caught sight of monkeys playing in the large waterfall on the other side of the river, and Chamje itself brought rooms and showers – the first since leaving KTM 23 days earlier – at the Hotel Lhasa Tibet, then an evening celebrating the end of a great trek with thank yous, tips and the traditional song and dance.

Sunday 25 November 2018: Chamje to Pokhara (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 18 / Annapurna Circuit 2

Route: Drive to Pokhara / पोखरा (830 m) via Besi Sahar.

Hotel: Siddhartha Garden Hotel, near Peace Stupa.

A giant spider materialised in our room as we were packing up, which got the adrenaline pumping first thing. There then followed a long day in jeeps.

We changed jeeps in Besi, where we said our final goodbyes to crew who were returning to KTM by private bus, Val and Chhering excepted.

Lovely to return to the Siddhartha Garden Hotel, its tranquil gardens and fabulous Pokhara views. And wifi.

Monday 26 November 2018: Pokhara (photos)

A relaxing day in Pokhara, starting with dawn views out over Phewa Lake to the Annapurnas (and more) beyond, and a tranquil tour of the Peace Stupa.

After breakfast, we all walked down from the Peace Stupa to the lake, where Chhering organised boats to ferry us to Lakeside for shopping followed by coffee (with brandy) in the Bamboo Garden Hotel garden. “Refreshed”, we walked further on around the lake to Devi Falls for a lovely lunch with Tenzi and Jetsen at Tseten’s.

Overnight: Siddhartha Garden Hotel.

Tuesday 27 November 2018: Pokhara (photos)

Another relaxing day in Pokhara: Walk down to Devi Falls to catch buses to the Himalayan Mountaineering Museum. After that, buses to Lakeside for lunch.

Steffi & I spent the rest of the afternoon shopping before catching a taxi back to the Peace Stupa car park for our last night all together, and our final all members meal on the terrace of the Siddhartha Garden.

Overnight: Siddhartha Garden Hotel.

Wednesday 28 November 2018: Pokhara to Kathmandu (photos)

Farewell to Charles and Val, then into our private jeep with Chhering for the 5 hour drive from Pokhara / पोखरा (830 m) to Kathmandu / काठमाडौं (1400 m), arriving back in the city at rush hour.

We managed to find Charles’ Best Falafel in KTM! And the Mandap’s courtyard cafe for coffee after epic felt-focused shopping.

After repacking and showering (can’t have too much of a good thing now the water is on tap), we met for beers in the Marshyangdi courtyard and returned to the Mandap restaurant for the traditional last night meal courtesy of Kang Kora Treks and Travels, with Mingmi and her mum, together with Chhering.

Overnight: Hotel Marshyangdi, Thamel.

Thursday 29 November 2018: KTM – DEL – LHR (photos)

Air India flight AI 21 to Delhi, an easy change (and outrageously expensive coffees) then Air India AI 111 on to London.

Wholemeal breadmaker bread with cheese and red wine for supper. Steffi and I had been dreaming of it for days….

Charles’ schematic map of our route

Manaslu Trek Schematic Map 2018

Useful resources

Guenter Seyfferth’s Die Berge des Himalaya (The mountains of Himalaya) is always invaluable in identifying peaks in Nepal. His site had mountain maps and a whole host of annotated photos taken from a variety of perspectives, including satellite. His page on Ganesh Himal + Shringi Himal covers the first part of our route, including the Tsum Valley. For the Manaslu Circuit, I used his pages on Manaslu Himal and Larkya La.

For altitudes and coordinates (and maps), Sherpana’s pages on the Manaslu Region (including Tsum) and the Annapurna Region are good.

Magical Nepal’s website has an excellent online Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek Map provided by Himalayan Map House.

I also enjoyed the geological details in Arjayempee’s Flickr Album: 2016 Nepal.

* LED – Light Education Development

You can read more about Light Education Development (aka LED) on the website – it’s Val’s charity, I’m a trustee.