Photo Journal: The Annapurna Circuit

A string of nineteen days. Made up of simple and ordinary joys, various feats of courage and perseverance, instances of being utterly awestruck and feeling incredibly alive plus a handful of discomforts and complaints. It all adds up to be one of the most remarkable experiences of our lives.

We quickly fell into a routine as the days sort of melted together, each one containing variations of the one before: incredible landscapes, quaint villages and rural life being lived. And walking. Lots and lots of walking.

Except for the time we jumped in a bus to avoid inhaling loads of dirt from the back end of jeeps driving this highly trafficked portion of the route. This road is the result of progress and while it proves to be useful for villagers living in those hard to reach places, it also threatens their biggest source of revenue since trekkers don’t particularly like to hike on dusty roads. Cough, cough.

The dusty road passing along the Annapurna Circuit as seen from the bus window

Most everyday started with an immediate and eager glimpse out from our bedroom window to check the skies and see if a mountain peak was clearly visible. Fortunately for us we were often rewarded with views like this one.

The view of Annapurna II from our teahouse in Upper Pisang.

We drank gallons of masala milk tea and ate our fair share of Tibetan bread (a glorified sopapilla) for breakfast (or whenever).

Tibetan bread and honey

We traveled miles and miles of beautiful terrain. In the lower areas we walked along ridges of rich green rice terraces and before long the crops turned to corn.

The rich green valley as seen from Bahundanda on the Annapurna Circuit.
Corn fields at the base of a mountain on the Annapurna Circuit

Our views changed drastically over the weeks (really, over the hours!) and included things like this large rock slab where it seems as if the face of the mountain has completely slipped off.

The rock wall of the Annapurna Circuit

And flat spans of trail filled with tall pine trees and their fresh, calm inducing scent.

Forest on the Annapurna Circuit

A vast space of green valley and yellow wild flowers

We just happened to be in one of the few villages with an internet cafe the night of Adrian’s birthday so he was able to check his email and receive his birthday card from everyone (thanks again for sending love!) and then we were joined by new friends at our guesthouse for a celebratory candlelit dinner thanks to Nepal’s frequent power outages.

Adrian in the internet cafe in Chame on his birthday

We had a few our parents would kill us if they knew what we were doing moments including a trip across this landslide area …

The landslide area on our way to Tilicho Lake on the Annapurna Circuit

Where the view down to the river below was frightening …

The view down from the landslide area on the Annapurna Circuit

But the view of the lake at the top was rewarding and since we didn’t actually die, it was worth it.

Panoramic of us at Tilicho Lake

Thanks to our friend, Al, for this cool panoramic shot.


We visited several sacred Gompas (Buddhist monasteries) including the one on top of this hill that is over 500 hundred years old, where we received blessings for prosperity and safety.

Receiving a blessing for safety in the gompa in Braga

Adrian relaxing and taking in the peaceful surrounding of a gompa in Muktinath, Nepal

We crossed paths with many local people carrying out the daily tasks of their rural life. It’s impressive the amount of physical strength and endurance they possess, toting incredibly heavy amounts of wood and rock up and down the steep mountains using nothing more than ropes and/or dokos (the traditional baskets they strap to their head to carry the materials up in) – while wearing flimsy flip-flops on their feet! The animals are required to work hard too. Life here is simple but it is certainly not easy.

A villager carrying firewood up the mountain in a doko strapped to her head.

A herd of donkeys coming up the trail

Donkeys carrying loads of supplies up the mountain

We played and took photos with the village kids. Always fun to see their energetic reactions when they see themselves on camera!

A young kid in Manang village, Nepal

Adrian showing a young boy his photo on the iPhone in Muktinath

We thought a lot about our families and loved ones back home, stopped on many occasions to stack rocks (officially called Cairns) on their behalf and send them loving prayers. We even found a special way to commemorate the first birthday of my niece, Chloe.

Ashlie stacking rocks for our family on the Annapurna Circuit

Adrian writing a birthday message on a rock for our niece, Chloe.

Our birthday rock for Chloe and the view of the mountain behind

We met a dog, Kumar, with a striking resemblance to Rambo (of course not as smart or handsome) and Adrian spent all his energy trying to coax him away from his beloved owner so he could love on him. His owner was equally as lovable and our chance meeting with the two of them was a highlight of the trek.

Kumar, a dog resembling Rambo that we met in the village of Ngawal, Nepal on the Annapurna Circuit

We took plenty of time to scream at the top of our lungs into the vastness (which feels Oh so good), to capitalize on the many photo opportunities and to simply revel in the magnificence of it all.

Adrian shouting on the mountain top

Adrian jumping in front of the mountain in Nwagal

Ashlie posing for a photo overlooking the valley outside of Pisang, Nepal

We had hot bucket showers in small outhouses (if we took showers) and did our laundry in the sink over the squatter. It’s enough to ensure that we’ll never take indoor plumbing or washing machines for granted. Ever.

Adrian holding up a bucket he used for his shower on the Annapurna Circuit

Ashlie doing laundry in the bathroom in Manang village, Nepal

We had a few surprisingly good meals like this plate of bean and yak cheese enchiladas and plenty of not so noteworthy ones as well.

A skillet of enchiladas in Muktinath, Nepal

In the afternoon I’d read the trekking guide and plot out the next day and we’d wait to watch the sun make it’s exit (which was at times quite spectacular) before calling it a night, usually by 8pm.

Ashlie sitting in bed reading the trekking guide

The sun going down at Tilicho Lake

Then, there was that one day that we woke up at the ridiculous hour of 3:30am so that we could enjoy the magical morning light on our way towards Thorong-La Pass, the pinnacle of the Annapurna Circuit at an elevation of 17,769 feet.

Adrian in the early morning dawn on our way to cross Thorong-La Pass

Ashlie and Adrian celebrating their arrival at Thorong-La Pass

There came a point on our way down when our knees declared they had been punished enough and we caught another bus to complete our trip. It should be noted that taking a public bus in Nepal is an absolute must for getting a real experience of the culture (and a few good laughs).

A crowded bus in Nepal.

That night, after enjoying ridiculously hot showers for the first time in weeks (and a much needed shave for Adrian) we went out for some dinner and had a toast to commemorate our fine accomplishment.

A close up of a Gorkha beer

And I feel compelled to mention that we were fortunate to share various parts of this amazing experience (and share snacks and sunscreen and card games and laughs) with some really cool people from all around the world. Ones that I will forever feel connected to. If y’all are reading this – you helped to make it all the more memorable and special for us, thank you!

Ashlie was born in Big Spring, Texas and has claimed Dallas as her home for the last 10 years. A life long love of travel, a healthy dose of curiosity and a desire to discover other worlds has set her off on the adventure of a lifetime. She takes with her a passion for photography and a commitment to make a difference wherever she goes.
  1. Katie Reply
    AMAZING!!! These pictures are insane -- especially the one with the landslide area. I can't even imagine a place so incredibly gorgeous, but you've done a wonderful job capturing it for those of us who might never see it. Thank you!!
    • Ashlie Reply
      Thanks, Katie! I have to be honest when we got back and I started looking through the photos I was disappointed. It's just so hard to capture the magnitude of such mountains. I needed to have taken a wide angle :)
  2. mama Reply
    You are right!!! I'm so glad I didn't know about the landslide, geez it gave me the jitters just looking at it. The photographs are outstanding and your descriptions are too. Nice summary for us watching through your eyes! Much love
    • Ashlie Reply
      I could just hear you saying 'oh, that's real good, son!'.
  3. Sue H. Reply
    Dear Birthday Girl, Thanks so very much for showing us these parts of your journey -- it's all overwhelming -- we take it in and feel so grateful that you so generously share your treks with the rest of us. Sending you LOVE with these thanks.
    • Ashlie Reply
      Most things are better shared don't you think?!
  4. mamaw Reply
    Great photos!! The mountains are just beautiful. I can hear you screaming into the vastness, and the look on Ashlie's face as she was washing something in the sink was priceless. Great job of capturing the moments for us. Love you
    • Ashlie Reply
      On the washing note - can you imagine living in the mountains with a family and having to hand wash all those filthy clothes? I'd see women at the taps with piles! Ugh.
  5. Valeri Reply
    Im glad you have shared your pictures on this leg of your journey. Seriously, I definately could not have done it myself!!
    • Ashlie Reply
      There were times I wondered if I could! One step at a time works best :)
  6. Melodia Reply
    Love the pictures.....they are amazing! Thanks so much for sharing them :-) I agree with Judi......I am glad I did not know about the landslide area until you were finished. I think my favorite photo is the one of the two of you sitting on rocks at Thorong La Pass.....you two are so adorable and full of LIFE!!!! Love y'all!!!
    • Ashlie Reply
      We were feeling pretty proud at that moment.
  7. Hannah Reply
    Ooh I've been looking forward to more photos from your trek - you guys always take the most incredible shots. These were all spectacular!
    • Ashlie Reply
      Thanks, Hannah!!
  8. Joseph Schiel Reply
    Thank you for sharing your adventure. I enjoyed the adventure as seen through you eyes. A vicarious adventure is better than none.
    • Ashlie Reply
      Definitely better than none!
  9. Jovan Reply
    That is an amazing album. Feeling I get now, while still sitting at the computer, is between quit everything pack bags and head for Nepal (right now) and cool now I don't have to go to Nepal since I been there already (trough you).
    • Ashlie Reply
      Glad you enjoyed the photos. I vote for a personal visit :)
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  11. Janine Reply
    Beautiful photo's, Love it ;) Happy Late Birthday Adrian! xo
  12. Rosie Reply
    LOVE the photos!! Trying to go through mine to figure out which to edit... Loved seeing and recognizing places. Looks like the lake was worth it! Glad we met you guys! Good luck with your future travel!
    • Ashlie Reply
      Thanks, Rosie. I took so many that editing through was a big chore. I was scared to death going to that lake, not even joking. But yes, it was worth it. Nice to have crossed your path too. Maybe we'll bump into each other again somewhere?
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