Hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas was on Mark’s bucket when I met him 14 years ago, before a bucket list was a thing. Sometimes a long anticipation of such a thing can end in disappointment once realized. Not so with hiking in the foothills of the section of the Himalayas called the Annapurnas. Truly some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

Our flight west from Kathmandu to Pokhara  (100 miles) shadowed the Himalayan Range on its south face. We flew along at 10,000 feet with haze filling the sky from a few thousand feet below us to several thousand feet above us. We had deliberately sat on the right side of the plane for a view of the mountains, but all we could see was murkiness. And then suddenly, there were the peaks of Langtang Himal, Ganesh Himal, Gurkha Himal and Annapurna Himal, snow-covered pinnacles sticking out of the haze miles above us.

Each Himal is a complete mountain range within the Himalayas with many high peaks, spectacular glaciers and deep gorges. In fact, the Kali Gandaki Gorge is the deepest gorge in the world, plunging 18,278 below Annapurna I which bounds it at one point.

It was humorous to watch the woman in front of me searching, searching at eye-level and below in vain. When she finally looked upward and noticed the startlingly white peaks high above us, her surprise and delight were obvious.

Our first glimpse of the Annapurnas which comprise  a section of the Himalayas in north-central Nepal that includes  (26,545 ft) Annapurna I, thirteen additional peaks over 23,000 ft and 16 more over 20,000 ft.  The Annapurnas are about 35 miles in length.  We hiked in the southen foothills of the Annapurnas.

Our first glimpse of the Annapurnas which comprise a section of the Himalayas in north-central Nepal that includes (26,545 ft) Annapurna I, thirteen additional peaks over 23,000 ft and 16 more over 20,000 ft. The Annapurnas are about 35 miles in length. The view was so much better than the picture here but we wanted to give a taste of the experience.



Landed safe and sound at the Pokhara Airport.

Landed safe and sound at the Pokhara Airport. Lush trees and gardens portend good things ahead.



Pokhara trekking company headquarters.

Pokhara trekking company headquarters with our complimentary one-size fits all trekking hats.



Our first trail came as a very pleasant surprise. We started the hike from Lumle village, and the trail was COMPLETELY stone-paved… the flat parts, the ups, the downs. And mostly in big flat flagstone type paving, not small uneven cobble-y stones. And not just for a small stretch through the village; the stone pathway went on and on and up and down for miles. For anyone who has hiked up and down the hillsides of the Amalfi coast, it reminded us of those paths, though much more sparsely populated here in the Annapurna Conservation Area. Wow, I remarked to our guide, how nice of them to make the trail so walkable for all us tourists. He just laughed at me. Apparently, the paths have been paved for hundreds of years, by the locals who’ve had to use them to get to/from their farms and villages without roads.

We were hiking lodge-to-lodge with our local Gurkah guide, Mani, often away from the main trails. We shared quiet routes with farmers and the domestic traffic of locals and animals: women bearing huge bundles of vegetables, sticks or plants, sturdy young men transporting enormous loads on their backs, mule caravans carrying rice and propane tanks. The landscape of the terraced hills is delightfully beautiful. The vibrancy and density of the vegetation was surprising to us. Even now before rainy season (June-Aug), the landscape here is much greener and more lush than what we experienced in Bhutan.

We enjoyed every moment of our 5 days of hiking the foothills of the Annapurnas; the scenery and the details of daily life were mesmerizing. A man and his ox plowing  tiny fields, uniformed children climbing up or down a mountain to arrive  at school, millet being threshed by cows driven round a pole, barefoot women bent over rice patties, weeding one little plant at a time. But the biggest delight of all was when the clouds and mist finally cleared and we had a stunning close-up view of the 30-mile-long Annapurna Himal. As icing on the cake, the next morning we were treated to a clear morning sunrise lighting up the behemoth peaks while we sipped milk tea.

We were so surprised at the extensive and well maintained stone paving of the hiking trails. Many have been paved for hundreds of years.

We were so surprised at the extensive and well maintained stone paving of the hiking trails. Many have been paved for hundreds of years.



Annapurna yoga class.

Annapurna yoga class.



This ancient was an active beekeeper.

This ancient was an active beekeeper.



These are her bee hives, between the windows.

These are her bee hives, between the windows.



The terracing along the deep valleys was extensive.

The terracing along the deep valleys was extensive.



Our first Sanctuary Lodge along one of the Modi River flowing from the Annapurnas.

Our first Sanctuary Lodge along one of the Modi River flowing from the Annapurnas.



Another view of the Sanctuary Lodge's landscaping.  This picture doesn't do it justice.

Another view of the Sanctuary Lodge’s landscaping. This picture doesn’t do it justice.



Women hard at work in the terraced fields.

Women hard at work in the terraced fields.



Shauna makes new friends.

Shauna makes new friends.



Mani - our guide - takes a turn at rocking the cradle.

Mani – our guide – takes a turn at rocking the cradle.



Uh Oh!

Uh Oh!



We happened upon some Malaysian hikers training for Mt. Everest.  The Malaysian flag has 14 stripes - one for each Malaysian state and one for the Malaysian federal government.

We happened upon some Malaysian hikers training for Mt. Everest. The Malaysian flag has 14 stripes – one for each Malaysian state and one for the Malaysian federal government.



The local bus - it was typical to see the buses this full.

The local bus – it was typical to see the buses this full.



Our first view of Annapurna South.

Our first view of Annapurna South.



The Annapurna South saddle.

The Annapurna South saddle.



Sunrise on Annapurna South.  At almost 24,000 ft, it rises way high above the foreground hills.

Sunrise on Annapurna South. At almost 24,000 ft, it rises way high above the foreground hills.



Another view of Annapurna South and its saddle at sunrise.

Another view of Annapurna South and its saddle at sunrise. We also had a terrific view of our favorite peak Mt. Machapuchare – or Fishtail – but the sun made it hard to capture on camera.



Nice spot for catching up on emails!

Nice spot for catching up on emails!



The well kept stone pathways and stone steps made walking through dense foliage easy.

The well kept stone pathways and stone steps made walking through dense foliage easy (as long as you don’t mind going up several hundred steps:).



Gully view from the stone steps.

Gully view from the stone steps.



We were able to get fairly close to these Gray Langur monkeys.

We were able to get fairly close to these Gray Langur monkeys. More good fortune ahead?!



One of the Gray Langurs in action.

Leapin’ Langur!



Some more monkeys..

Some more monkeys..



Actually, we are in a Rhododendron forest, if you can believe it.

Actually, we are in a Rhododendron forest, blooms already faded, but spectacular still.



Graddruk village is one of the larger villages in the Annapurna foothills.

Ghandruk village is one of the larger villages in the Annapurna foothills.



A close-up of Grandruk village.

A close-up of Ghandruk village.



The ever-present satellite dish.

The ever-present satellite dish.



Donkeys are the main means of transporting supplies since there are no roads.  Notice the guy on his mobile phone.

And the ever-present mobile phone. Donkeys are the main means of transporting supplies since there are no roads.



Nepali children at play.

Nepali children at play.



The local lumber yard.

The local lumber yard.



Wow - that is steep.  Glad we had stone steps.

Wow – that is steep. Glad we had stone steps.



Woodcarver and his pet lamb.

Woodcarver and his pet lamb.



Shauna over a fast flowing river.

Shauna over a fast flowing river.



In September, after the July/August monsoons, this river is well over the boulders.

In September, after the July/August monsoons, this river is well over the boulders.



Other users walk across the bridge.

Other users walk across the bridge.



Firewood storage before the winter.

Firewood storage before the winter.



Our favorite lodge, the Garung Lodge in Majgaun.

Our favorite lodge, the Garung Lodge in Majgaun.



Another view of landscaping from the Garung Lodge.

Another view of landscaping from the Garung Lodge.



More landscaping from the Garung Lodge.

Beautiful bottle-brush tree at the Garung Lodge.



The northern view from the Garung Lodge.  Stunning even though we couldn't see the Annapurna peaks because of the mist.

The northern view from the Garung Lodge. So peaceful and still stunning even though we couldn’t see the Annapurna peaks because of the mist.



Nightime view from the Garung Lodge.

Nightime view from the Garung Lodge.



Another example of lush landscape.

Another example of lush landscape.



I think I can....I think I can.....I think I can.... I can't.

I think I can….I think I can…..I think I can…. I can’t.



America International School.

America International School.



One of the many schools sponsored by "foreigners" who fell in love with Nepal. We saw others sponsored by Japan, America, Germany and more.

One of the many schools sponsored by “foreigners” who fell in love with Nepal. We saw others sponsored by Japan, America, Germany and more.



Almost to the end of our last hike in the Annapurna foothills.  We are sad to be leaving.

Almost to the end of our last hike in the Annapurna foothills. We are sad to be leaving.



And here a just a few pics we managed to snap on our drive out of Pokhara (flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu cancelled = 6 hour drive over bumpy, crowded, windy mountain roads… ugh). The stonework on the houses around Pokhara fascinated us, and the bright trims made us smile. One thing we couldn’t capture as we were snapping pics from the car below as we zoomed by, but many of these buildings had an outdoor spiral staircase up to a small ‘lookout’ upper floor…some architect or ironworks manufacturer really started a trend – it was everywhere!

Almost all of the tractors were decorated.

Almost all of the tractors were decorated.



Example of local architecture.

Example of local architecture.



Example of local architecture.

Example of local architecture.



Example of local architecture.

Example of local architecture.



Example of local architecture.

Example of local architecture.



Example of local architecture.

Example of local architecture.