Turtle, Ecuador

Your words, not ours

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Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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  • Reviewed April 2018
    Dorian Moss

    Manaslu circuit: a little-visited gem away from the crowds

    The Manaslu trek takes one up a very remote valley through villages where life seems to have changed little for centuries, and gives the chance to see Buddhist people of Tibetan origins. This valley is now threatened by a road being built to the Tibetan border - go there soon before it is completed! The scenery in the upper valley is stunning. The Larkye La pass was very tough for me and I was most relieved to have completed it.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Walking under clear blue skies between the towering snowy peaks (especially from Sama to Samdo). Seeing these peaks at sunrise from Lho and Sama. Feeling of achievement once the Larkye La pass was behind us!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    (Lakpa) Tsheten is a great leader, very caring, intelligent and informative about Nepal, the people and the mountains around us. He looked after me (the oldest in our group) especially well. I was glad he got us to complete a health-check sheet every day.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You need to be ready for tea houses which are in remote locations and fall well below the standards you might be used to in European mountain refuges. Their standards vary, some are clean and comfortable but others are not. Dharamsala is as bad as the trip notes suggest, but is a necessary overnight stop to be able to cross the pass. It is well worth taking extra food such as energy bars to supplement the monotonous food and fill gaps during the days' walks.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The nine days spent approaching the pass paid off as nobody suffered from altitude sickness. I don't understand why there were only four of us while Annapurna treks were full. This is an excellent trek - go now before it changes.
  • Reviewed April 2018
    Chris Durham

    A marvel, get it while you can

    Most first time trekkers go for Everest or Annapurna but Manaslu Circuit is a trek for the more discerning customer. It is a busy route, but not so much with tourists. It may take a little longer and is a little more challenging but the pay-off is huge. Sure, you trek around the 8th highest peak on the planet but if your interests extend beyond the magnificence of the mountains into the cultural heritage of the region then an education in remote living awaits. The route passes through many ancient Tibetan settlements where little has changed in hundreds of years. In contrast, the tea houses are nearly all recently built on this circuit so, apart from a couple of high altitude stops, they are more spacious and cleaner than those I’ve seen in the past. I wondered if a couple of the shorter days could be done in one but the longer approach provides excellent acclimatisation time which is much needed as Larke La is a significant challenge, especially in the unusually deep snow we had; it would certainly be easier in the Autumn season. This well planned trip has everything really, small monasteries to visit as well as is plenty for wild-life enthusiasts. Against all odds a road is being built to the Tibetan border which, as always, will bring many benefits but at a cost. Best to go in the next couple of years as I fear this route is changing forever.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Obviously there is great joy getting over Larke La but that's almost missing the point. For me, experiencing each medieval settlement and learning more about the remote life-style is utterly humbling.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader, Tsheten Sherpa, never tired of looking after us, nothing was too much trouble. He had extensive local knowledge which he shared constantly. If you did this trek alone you would certainly miss a lot. I was particularly pleased to see how sensitive and caring he was to the villagers we passed en route. This man is a gem.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to learn, travel with an open mind and heart at all times.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Make every effort to socialise with your porters, these are excellent young men who are often very shy with few words of English. They have no idea what you are thinking otherwise and teaching them a little English is great for them and may well be very entertaining for you too.
  • Reviewed January 2018
    Neil Bowman Carole Mahoney

    Trekking at its best

    As many of the other travellers who were on the same trek have said, this was one of the best. We've trekked many times in the Himalaya without visiting the Annapurna or Everest regions, so all our experiences have been in less visited and quite remote areas. With this in mind, this trip was still exceptional. We passed through a wide variety of environments, were rewarded with spectacular high peak scenery, and observed traditional life in villages which gradually evolved from Nepalese to Tibetan culture the higher we trekked. This part of our experience was enhanced by staying mainly in lodges in the villages rather than wild camping which is what we've mostly done previously. Even though the lodges were basic (and referring to them as 'lodges' may be rather misleading!), they were nevertheless adequate for our needs.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    For us, a very personal example was, after getting up at 3am in the freezing cold, walking in the dark for three hours under the stars, seeing the sun rise over the mountains, reaching the hundreds of prayer flags on the Larkye La, then struggling in the buffeting cold wind and bright sunshine to add a string of our own. We did this for a very special reason - our prayer flags were for the well-being of a friend with whom we've previously trekked in the Himalaya but who at the time was suffering from cancer. Apart from the many moments that have been described by our fellow trekkers which we also shared, we were very aware of the liberated but seemingly responsible lives the young children in the traditional villages led. Some examples - being in charge of goats or cows/zhos on the hillsides, collecting firewood, helping with farm chores (even burning stubble in the fields using firebrands!), but also being free to play unsupervised. And not a high-vis vest to be seen!!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We've trekked with Valerie many times and without a doubt, she's second to none. She also tells a good story or two!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Yes, a Steripen is essential for this trek. Water off the mountains was in good supply and this is all you needed to keep your water bottles filled and treated. Don't take too much stuff - our experience has always been to wear the same clothes for days and not to be obsessed with cleanliness (ie take a leaf out of the locals' book!).

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Big thanks to the support team who were always ready to lend a hand on dodgy paths, fulfil our needs in the lodges and of course carry all the 'stuff' many of us didn't need!
  • Reviewed December 2017
    Kris and Garth Brookes

    Manaslu Lodge Circuit

    One of the best treks that we have done in Nepal fulfilling all our expectations and more! A brilliant blend of valleys, gorges, forests and unforgettable surprise views of the Himalaya. Villages are relatively unspoilt as the area does not receive the volume of tourists as on the Circuit or Everest treks. If interested in nature the area abounds with birds and butterflies plus some mammals. Lodges, although basic, were perfectly adequate and the standard of food generally very good. However the lodge at Dharamsala was very basic. We stayed in a room as opposed to a tent but the fact that you get up at 3am it really does not matter. Food was fine.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Possibly too many to list. Scenery above Samdo. Walk to Tilje - keep looking back! Not a moment but the variety of butterflies. Lammergeiers and Griffon Vultures.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    What can one say about Valerie that has not already been said! Amazing as always. Local leaders were excellent caring for us whilst walking and in the lodges.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go on this trek you will not regret it. There are numerous high bridges but if like me, Kris, you are not very keen they are best crossed on ones own to reduce any movement.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Definitely purchase a SteriPen.
  • Reviewed December 2017
    Julia Stevenson

    Manaslu Circuit

    This is a highly recommended adventure. The Manaslu Circuit is all it says it will be and much more. It is a truly spectacular, isolated circuit around the world's eighth highest mountain but weaves through sub-tropical settlements, before climbing into bamboo and rhododendron forest and ultimately, opens out into moraine, glacial lakes and majestic panoramic views of Manaslu, Naike, Peak 29 et al. If you like your treks remote and rugged, this is for you but don't leave it too long because the Manaslu circuit is already beginning to attract attention and in a few years may be as popular as its neighbour, the Annapurna Circuit.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were far too many high points to pick out a single moment. Reaching a Tibetan style village for tea and for the first time, seeing the whole of Manaslu and neighbouring peaks before us. Rapidly escaping the chaotic urgency of a yak on a mission and then, from the safety of a wall, watching it break into a stone courtyard to raid the meal of other young life stock. Fleeing for a second time, as the yak was rudely evicted. Witnessing an elderly woman carefully light and attend to butter lamps in gloom of a monastery. Watching shooting stars from the lofty perch of the camp site at Dharamsala. Getting up at 3am for the climb over Larkya La. Stumbling along into freezing driving sleet, head torch carefully trained on the ankles of the the trekker in front of me, aware of the silent brooding peaks unseen in the darkness. The windy euphoria of reaching the long awaited summit prayer flags and the sublime views looking across and down. The glorious walk to the beautiful glacial Pongkar Lake. The unparalleled views walking down the valley to Burdin Khola.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Unlike others in the group, I had never been on a trek with Valerie Parkinson but found her to be extremely knowledgeable and very passionate about all things Nepali. As noted elsewhere, Valerie was the first British woman to climb Manaslu and has also reached the south summit of Everest. She was encouraged to talk about her experiences over a mug of tea post dinner one evening. This too, was a highlight.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do buy a Steripen. I too was sceptical and drank my first two litres of Steripened water with some trepidation but I survived. Don't eat the spaghetti in tomato (?) sauce at the lodge in Samdo. I did and for some days rather wished I hadn't.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This was my third Himalayan trek and the one I have enjoyed the most. Thank you to my fellow trekkers for their humour, warmth and camaraderie but the biggest thanks goes to Exodus, Valerie and the boys for a well organised, very memorable adventure.
  • Reviewed December 2017
    Jayne Potter

    Manasulu Trek

    I have just returned from this trek and after many years of travelling with Exodus I have to say that this trip is second to none and is far better than the Everest region, or Nanda Devi. Being a circular trip you are able to have an amphitheatre of high peaks over 7,000m+ nearly every day, once out of the initial valley. The daily walks were very varied with steep ravines, village life and extraordinary mountain ranges in front and behind you. The days are long in the beginning but you always have something to look at that makes you smile. Some of the tea houses are very basic the higher you go and make sure you have warm gear for the evenings. Gaining altitude is gradual with half days and afternoon walks to acclimatise you. The very early start to get over the pass was very cold and a tough day but if the weather is good the scenery is superb. Be sure to have a good working head torch with lithium batteries. If you area seasoned trekker do this one. You will not be disappointed. Do not lave it too long as the Nepalese are likely to get the road built and this valley will become like Annapurna and possible spoilt for those that like remoteness with beauty.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Beginning to descend after the Larkye La pass and looking across at the Annapurna mountain range.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valley was, as usual brilliant in all aspects.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Have very warm gear for the tea houses over 2,000m and the high pass. Ensure you bring Lithium batteries with spare ones and a good head torch. You will need quite a lot of cash as you buy everything including hot water.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I think Exodus need to take a little more care in choosing the airlines they work with. Some of the budget airlines are not performing well and problems can detract from the good holiday experience. In the past two years I have got caught in Argentina for nearly three days and recently I took 39 hours to get back from Nepal. Both due to local airlines being extremely poor at coping with problems. Passengers are dealt with very badly by the cheaper companies.
  • Reviewed December 2017
    Dave Tyas

    Manaslu Circuit

    I came on to write a review of the trip I have just returned from and found that two other group members, Irene Neilson & Steve Terry have already submitted reviews. What they have written is almost exactly what I intended to write so there is no point in simply duplicating. I travelled with my wife & son. We have travelled & trekked extensively for many years but consider this particular trek to be one of the very special ones. It was truly superb, with every day a new experience. Manaslu isn't as well recognised as the Everest or Annapurna regions and is all the better for it. We travelled towards the end of the trekking season and on some days only saw two other trekkers. Near the high pass where routes & itineraries converged we saw more people, but then only around 20-30 trekkers per day. Most of the time we felt we had the trail to ourselves except for the occasional mule train carrying goods to outlying villages. We were particularly pleased to pass through many villages which seemed to have changed little since medieval times, with weaving, spinning, winnowing & haymaking abundantly evident. We also saw several monasteries and many chortens, stupas & prayer wheels. Several villages had tea shops & lodges, suggesting the route had capacity for many trekkers, but we certainly didn't see large numbers.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Almost every day was superb, but perhaps the morning walk on the rest day to Ponkar lake was the best. It is one of those walks where the views are largely hidden until you are almost there, but when they reveal themselves they are truly breathtaking. Glacial valleys, moraines, seracs, ice fields, frozen lakes, soaring mountains literally surround you.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our trip was lead by Valerie Parkinson who has worked in the Himalaya for Exodus for over 31 years. Most people in our group had chosen this departure because they had already trekked with her before. We had too, but 30 years ago! Valerie is an absolutely outstanding person to lead group in this region as her knowledge is unparalleled. She is also extremely friendly and sociable both to trekkers and the guides and porters.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is a remote area and as such, conditions can be fairly basic at times. The term "lodge" could be misinterpreted by some. There is no element of luxury here and some can be extremely basic. Although a more comfortable option than camping expect no more than a flat bed with a foam mattress (which might be rather thin) and a shared squat toilet which might be frozen. The menus at all the lodges are virtually identical with generally bland hi-carb dishes based on potato, pasta or rice. Standards of cooking can be extremely variable. We found pizzas to be constently the best option. On two days the food was exrtremely poor and on one day so overcooked it was inedible. This isn't the fault of Exodus, just a consequence of the area you are travelling in. Take plenty of chewy bars to compensate and keep several handy for the long day over the pass. This is not a strenuous trek, but the timings on the trip notes are accurate. Several days involve many hours walking and there are no opt-outs. A reasonable degree of preparation is essential in order to properly enjoy the trip. Also, be aware that the journeys between Kathmandu and the start/finish points are quite long an arduous.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The Annapurna Circuit route has suffered a lot from encroaching "roads". The neighbouring Manaslu route is not nearly so affected and, according to Valerie, resembles the how the Annapurna route was 20 years ago. However, there are new roads already under construction which will ultimately have a detrimental effect on the route, but they will take many years to complete. There is still a chance to visit a relatively unspoilt part of Nepal, but don't leave it too long or the opportunity will be lost.
  • Reviewed December 2017
    Irene Neilson

    Truly spectacular mountain scenery

    Wonderful trek that far exceeded our expectations. Our enjoyment of trekking comes from a love of the high mountains so while the walk up the valley was enjoyable albeit hot and a bit dusty, for us, day 8 onwards was truly fantastic - pristine mountain scenery set against azure blue skies, all enhanced by Tibetan stone houses, yaks and remote village life. The mountains- from Manaslu onwards - were breathtakingly beautiful and the weather excellent. The acclimatization walks from Samagaon/Samdo to monasteries and a lake were both enjoyable and interesting. The climb over the Larkya La pass began at 4am and was tough with high winds buffeting us but again the mountain scenery and the starry sky overhead was breathtaking. Fortunately, there wasn't much ice on the descent from the pass so, although long, the scree slopes weren't too bad and one was easily distracted by more wonderful mountain views. Bimthang proved a comfortable lodge for a two night stay. Our rest day incorporated a walk in the morning to Pongkar Lake, a lovely glacier lake set in an amphitheatre of mountains and a bonfire singsong in the afternoon. We were lucky to have several musicians in our group so we could match the porters’ renderings of Resham Firiri with UK favorites. The combination of surrounding mountains, fire and song made a slight feeling of deflation after crossing the pass disappear. The descent to Tilje continues to move through lovely mountain scenery then attractive forest. It's really only when you hit Dharapani and the dust tracks of the Annapurna roadworks that the mountain magic disappears a little. We were lucky with wildlife - Himalayan Tahr, blue sheep, pika, lammergeyer, griffin vultures, golden eagles, red monkey, langur monkeys, musk deer, barking deer were all spotted.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Day 8: wonderful weather made the mountains truly spectacular and we had our first glimpse of Manaslu. The mountain scenery at the heart of this trek is phenomenal and remains so over several days.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our trip was led by Valerie Parkinson. It was great to hear Valerie’s first hand account of climbing Manaslu and have her point out the ascent route from base camp. Her willingness to share her knowledge of Nepal and the changes in its culture over the last 30 yrs makes walking with her extremely enjoyable. Her account of climbing Everest and having to turn back after the South summit and suffering severe frostbite in her feet was also amazing. She is an extremely nice, kind person.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Beginning of the trek really is very hot and dusty but at altitude, particularly late November it can be very cold so a range of trekking clothes is needed. It certainly surprised us how cold it could be in the evenings. Some of the more basic high altitude lodges really were drafty. Curiously we found the fixed tent at Dharamsala warm. Lithium batteries coped best with the cold. Several people brought hot chocolate sachets that proved a rather nice treat. Some also had duck tape wrapped on their walking stick which proved handy. Excellent trail mix for snacks can be bought in the Supermarket opposite the Royal Singhi. If you stay in the Hotel Ambassador, as our group did, the hotel restaurant on the first floor -the Diplomat- serves excellent South Asian food- the homemade kulfi was fantastic. We bough the new Qantum steripen and bag as it does 4 liters of water at a time but found it was more convenient just to use the steripen with a Nalgene bottle. We forgot that hydration bladder tubes freeze in the cold and this was a problem on the Larkya La pass. Guess best bet is to have some form of insulation for the tube at altitude. Few lodges had functioning wifi and some had no electricity - power packs are useful. Ncell local sim does not work on the Manaslu circuit. Exodus have replaced elephant safaris with jeep based safaris in their bookings for the Chitwan extension. If you want to go to Chitwan and experience elephant safaris and bathing -which we personally would highly recommend- you may want to consider booking direct with Safari Narayani Hotel.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This really is a great trek taking you into remote mountain scenery and fascinating traditional village life. Do it now before roads and dams are built.
  • Reviewed December 2017
    Steve Terry

    Manaslu from all sides

    I’m just back in Kathmandu having completed the Manaslu Lodge Circuit. 33 years ago my late wife and I trekked the Annapurna Circuit independently which was one of the loveliest experiences of our lives. So I was prepared to be very disappointed by the neighbouring Manaslu Circuit. But not one bit. The itinerary works really well - with 13 nights to get round the circuit. Starting in warmth and luxuriance and Hindu culture; moving steadily up to the colder more spacious places of Tibetan villages with the beautiful twin peaks of Manaslu and the surrounding Himal providing glorious vistas; the long hard day crossing the Larkya Pass with the unexpected revelation of the Annapurna massif in the distance; the descent through dappled forest back to the world of flowers, butterflies, monkeys and terraced fields. Just magic! More than I’d hoped for. All made even better by having Valerie Parkinson as our leader - who could tell us what it was actually like to be the first British woman to climb Manaslu (8163m) - without oxygen. I feel very spoilt. Thank you Valerie - and thank you Exodus for another well-organised, unforgettable experience.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The first proper sighting of Manaslu and the surrounding himal and the transition to Tibetan culture.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    See above. Inspirational and a wonderful human being.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Definitely take a Steripen (see trip notes) - such a brilliant device.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This was my 7th trek in the Himalayas - and, with the exception of that first Annapurna trek all those years ago, this Manaslu one has been the best trek (although having three sightings of snow leopards in Ladakh a few years ago with Exodus is a close rival!).
  • Reviewed November 2017

    Fantastic, incredibly varied off the beaten track teahouse trek

    Highly recommended. By far the most varied trek I've ever done and excellent for gradual acclimatisation. Starting from around 600m, the heat (30degC) and almost tropical lowland scenery was quite unexpected and we passed some beautifully quaint Nepali villages surrounded by terraced hillsides, padi fields and banana trees. The route follows the Buri Gandaki River Valley for the first week, which at times steepens and narrows to form a spectacular gorge with cascading waterfalls. You cross some amazing high suspension bridges over the river. As you climb gradually higher the vegetation changes to bamboo thickets, rhododendron and alpine forest and eventually you get above the treeline, where yak pastures, stark hillsides and snow-capped mountains dominate. The villages and people themselves also change as you near the Tibetan border. Crossing the Larke Pass (over 5000m) is a gradual ascent on undulating moraine – the best mountain views are from the ‘second summit’ (past the prayer flags) - save enough energy for the long descent!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    On our rest day in Bhimtang after the pass, our team of porters decided to collect firewood and host a bonfire for everyone. It was a lovely gesture and all the more special under a starlit sky - the Milky Way a clearly visible streak above us. After sharing the local millet wine (rakshi) we plucked up the courage to join in with the dancing and singing (plus keeping on moving helped us stay warm). It was lovely to see our support team or porters, guides and Tenzi (our tour leader) relaxing and enjoying themselves, having been working so hard to look after us. Music and dancing is very much part of the Nepali culture and it was great to be a part of it. Two of our porters were students and spoke some English - they challenged us to sing a song for them in return...we agreed we would but on the last night. We adapted the lyrics of a song to have one verse about each of our guides - it went down a treat at the time but I think we're all hoping there's no video evidence!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Tenzi Sherpa, also known as 'The laughing Sherpa' or 'Haha Tenzi' (owing to his distinctive and incredibly infectious laugh and gleaming white ear to ear smile), was a fantastic leader - I would request him next time. Attentive and safety conscious at all times, very well organised and managed the different walking paces within our group as well as possible. He was quietly knowledgeable if you asked him about something but without overloading you with information.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You will experience a huge range of temperatures on this trek as you climb from 600m to over 5000m - bring lightweight layers for the lowlands and high SPF sunscreen and lip balm as well as a warm fleece/down jacket for higher up. Bring mosquito repellent for the lowlands too. There are some very narrow trails and numerous high suspension bridges so I wouldn't consider this if you have a fear of height/vertigo. Not all of the lodges have electrical charging facilities so bring a power bank or solar charger / use lithium batteries if possible as these last longer in the cold. Bring lots of wet wipes - it's not practical to have a proper wash every night or when it's very cold. Travel games/cards are good for the evenings. Ear plugs are useful in the teahouses as the walls are very thin.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    There have only been teahouses in the Manaslu region for a few years and many are still very basic (especially at Deng, Samdo and Dharamsala), although that said, there are also some nicer ones dotted along the way which seem like relative luxury (i.e. hot showers, or occasionally WiFi). Some rooms are simply small box rooms with plyboard walls and ceilings with two beds - that's it. Every room had clean bedsheets and pillows. There are only one or two lodges in each village (although more are being built) so there is little/no choice in where to stay and although the trails are quiet compared to the main Annapurna and Everest regions, the lodges can be busy simply because there are so few of them.
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