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ESCAPE 33


YOU WAKE UP IN ONE KIND OF LANDSCAPE AND FALL ASLEEP IN ANOTHER, FEELING AS IF YOU’VE TRAVELLED HUNDREDS OF MILES.


NEPAL: TAKING A BITE OUT OF S


THE APPLE PIE TRAIL Sarah Duff is awed by the drama of one of the world’s best treks: the Annapurna Circuit


tarting in the villages dotted among the verdant Himalayan foothills of Nepal and rising 5 416m to the top of a snowy pass, surrounded by some of the highest mountains on the planet, the Annapurna Circuit is consistently ranked as one of the world’s best treks – and it’s easy to see why. The sheer diversity of startling landscapes of the


circuit is hard to beat: terraced rice fields, tangled jungle and red-speckled rhododendron thickets give way to patches of alpine forest and ice-blue rivers which turn into jagged snow- and glacier- encrusted peaks, looming over dramatic valleys and studded with photogenic grazing yaks. Each day’s hike is totally different: you wake up in one kind of landscape and fall asleep in another, feeling as if you’ve travelled hundreds of miles. But the Annapurna Circuit isn’t just about


captivating scenery – the trail also has more culture and history than you can shake a hiking pole at. Along the way you’ll come across ancient Buddhist monasteries built on lonely hilltops and carved into the mountainsides, spinning prayer wheels, stones carved with sacred mantras and atmospheric hamlets where some aspects of life haven’t changed in centuries. Every night you’ll sleep in village


guesthouses and replenish your burnt kilojoules with delicious, hiker-friendly food – think curry, Tibetan dumplings, noodles, fried potatoes, yak cheese pizza and, of course, the apple pie after which the trek is nicknamed. You’ll also meet other trekkers from around the world. The Annapurna Circuit, which ranges in length


from 160-230km (there are various options for starting and end points) and takes two to three weeks to complete, is very demanding, especially if you’re carrying your own backpack (you can hire a porter to make the trek easier). The hardest part of it all is the altitude – the topmost point of the trail is higher than Everest Base Camp – and you need to do some research to protect yourself from altitude sickness, but the rewards of this physical challenge speak for themselves.


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