Alternative Route For Manaslu Circuit Trek That Avoids Road Construction

"Last update; 16 November 2018"  - The Manaslu Circuit trek has been considered one of the best off-the-beaten trek in the world.  This route has been open to foreign hikers since 1990s.  Manaslu trek gained popularity since tea houses were built here in 2010.  Prior to that, you had to camp out in the wild. 

In 2010, the Nepal government announced to construct a highway connecting Tibet (China) and India with the route passing through Tsum Valley.   The affected area is the road between Sotikhola and Jagat (first two days of the trek) which normally would be the starting point for the Manaslu and Tsum Valley treks.  For many, this is a positive development for the Nepali community living in these areas.  However, for tourism, the road construction is somehow threatening its reputation and the future of the trail as a cultural and remote trek.  Up to this day, it remains a virgin trail and less crowded than any other base camp treks in Nepal.  It is also one of the least explored trails in Nepal because of the restriction imposed by the government.   This may all change in the near future. 

This article information is inspired from our guide who just explored an alternative route to find out the future possibilities as an alternative route for Manaslu. In this article, we hope to share the optional route to avoid the road section and still have the same off-the-beaten experience in the Manaslu trek.   Our company just explored the alternate route that goes east side of Budigandaki river to ensure safety for our clients and other tourists.

What is the condition of the current trial

The Manaslu hike usually starts from Sotikhola and the day would normally end at a camp near Macchikhola.  On Day 1, the trail passes by small towns including Lapubesi, before reaching Macchikhola.  

 The first three hours of trek from Sotikhola to Naulikhola, the trail condition is smooth through a mountain road.  However, from Lapubesi, the old hiking trail has been removed and replaced by a hike by the Budhighandaki river.   
  One or two places, the hike by the river could be unsafe due to the falling rocks.  It is also sometimes closed during the monsoon season when the tide is high and the trail becomes unpassable. This rocky and muddy trail by the river goes all the way to Macchikhola. However, it is just a pre-cousin for the safety. There has been no casualty or injury reported to the date. 

The following day, Day 2, trek usually starts from Macchikhola and ends in Jagat.  On the way, trekkers would pass by small villages including Khorlabesi and Tatopani before reaching Jagat. 
 
 From Khorlabesi, the old trail has been completely closed.  Instead, hikers are required to make a detour to another town uphill called Kerauja to reach Khorlabeshi.  The detour takes roughly 3 hours and completely safe compared to a one hour hike if the old trail was not closed.  

 From Khorlabeshi to Tatopani, again, the old trail has been completely replaced by an ongoing road construction.  This area is also patrolled by the Nepal government army who regulates the times when trekkers are allowed to pass by.  The army opens the trail to trekkers from 11 am to 12 noon, and again from 5 pm to 7 am.  Outside this timeframe, you are not allowed to pass. 

⇒ Due to the rapid construction Spring, 2018 was much worse compear to this Autumn season. At present, the trail is rough but not bad as you think. 

What are the challenges to trekkers of the current trial?

 During the first two days of the trek, expect a rough trail. Trekkers are expected to walk on the rocky and muddy road. 
 There has been no casualty or injury has been reported to the date. As a pre-cousin, you need to be extra careful with falling rocks.
 Due to the road construction, some of the classic trails have been removed,  so you are required to make a detour that could take a couple of extra hours to reach the camp. 
 After the earthquake, a lot of villages are still rebuilding.  The locals use mules or donkey to help carry some of the load. So, expect to share the trail with cattle as well.  Note thatthere are more than 1200 mules/donkeys in the Manaslu Tsum Valley area.  Usually, one group would consist of at least 30-40 loaded mules/donkeys at a time. 

Manaslu Trail update after the road construction - 15 September 2018 

I know, the recent road construction in Manaslu has left a lot of fear to the hikers.  In this new update, I will let you know what exactly we know about the alternative trail and the regular trail with road construction. 
 We were inspired to explore alternative route; when we read someone's post online, it says there 
is some possibilities from the east side of Budigandaki river. This autumn, four of our senior guide from NEST Adventure was sent to Manabu – Yartsa – Kasigaun – Keraunja – Runchet – Hulchuk – Dobhan -Jagat. After we just found out yet, there are no possibilities for the tea house or homestay trek on this trail. After the massive earthquake hit in this region, the locals are still building their homes.    We decided to send all of our group through the regular route (Sotikhola-Machhekhola Jajat). We (NEST Adventure) organised more than 40 different group in Manaslu during September, October and November 2018 through the regular route on this season. Check out the video link below what our customer from this year said about the regular route. 
What we have seen is the first part of Manaslu Trek isn't bad as you think. It is still the perfect destination, and it can be done without any problem with your small consideration.  

 

Is there an alternative trail?

The answer is Yes.    Based on a recent survey, there is an alternative route that goes from the other side of the river, i.e. opposite to the current trail.  The current trail goes from the west side of the river, while the alternate trail would follow the east side of the river.    The alternative route will be an uphill trail and passing through the local villages:  Manbu – Yartsa – Kasigaun – Keraunja – Runchet – Hulchuk – Dobhan - Jagat.  This is the route usually followed by the locals in the area.  

During the main season, there is a direct local bus from Kathmandu to Manbu.   Or trekkers could also start from Sotikhola, but will need to hike up for around 45 minutes and cross a suspension bridge to reach Manbu. 

What are the highlights of the alternative route?

 It is a scenic trail offering panoramic views of Ganesh, Sringi and Manaslu Himalayan ranges.
  Experience some of the ethnical groups in Nepal like Gurung and Ghale settlement
  Opportunity to live with locals through homestay and taste homemade local food (In future the homestay is not yet ready to welcome tourist)
 Mixed culture and religion of Buddhist and Hindu
  Avoids ongoing road construction including the landslide zone when this trip is open  
  Avoids hundreds of cattle traffic allowing you to enjoy the hike in peace and quiet 
 During monsoon, this trail would be ideal.  The trail will not close due to high tide. 

Lowlights of the alternative trail 

  It requires more hours of walking (approximately 7 to 8 hours daily).  There are also a lot of downhill and uphill treks making it more challenging for some.   
 Tea houses are not yet fully developed in each camp, so you will need to stay in a local's house (i.e. homestay).  While this is a plus for many who would like to experience Nepali culture and mingle with locals, one downside would be that there may not be any comfortable toilets or showers. 
 You may need at least one extra day.
  You may not easily find a local company and a guide who know this trails. Most of the local companies and guide would prefer the current trail. 
 Food options might be limited.  Please expect to eat what locals eat and there will be no food menu for you to choose from.  
  Depending on the weather and the season, it might be hot, humid or rainy as you will walk through the low hilly region.   Depending on the season, please also bring insect repellant. 

Challenges and possibilities in the alternative route

  • Some camp may have enough homestay for a small group, but some camp bearly have room for the guest.
  • Food availabilities are minimal; Even our guide had to hike with their own packed food. 
  • Some days a camp is very long, we had to walk almost 12 hours to see the next village and no lunch camp in the middle. 
  • It required to ascend almost 1,200m in one day, and 600m descend to reach the village. 
  • The trail is very narrow and some places it required to hanging on the rope to cross the landslide area. 

What we have seen is the first part of Manaslu Trek isn't bad as you think. It is still the perfect destination, and it can be done without any problem with your small consideration.  From our recent survey, we just found out that we can't operate tea hour trek in the alternative route. As long as I know, MCAP (Manaslu Conservation area project) is working hard to open alternative route in Manaslu. 

What is the itinerary if I follow the Alternative route

The itinerary from the alternative route would only differ for the first couple of days before reaching Jagat.  Once you reach Jagat, you will follow the same classical itinerary. 

Here is the itinerary based on the alternative route mentioned above.  We highlighted in blue below the change from the usual current route.  The NEST Adventure guide team is also set off to depart next week to test this route.

Day 01: Kathmandu to either Sotikhola or Manbu by local bus (about 8-9 hour and private jeep 6-7 hour) 
Day 02: Trek from Sotikhola to Kashigaun (via Manbu).  Lunch at Yarsa and overnight homestay in Kashigaun (7-8 hours) 
 Day 03: Trek from Kashigaun to Runchet.  Lunch at Kerauja and overnight in Runchet (7-8 hours) 
Day 04: Trek from Runchet to Jagat or Dobhan via Yaru (8-9 hours) 
Day 05: Trek from Jagat to Deng (6-7 hours)
Day 06: Trek from Deng to Namrung - 2630m (6-7 hours)
Day 07: Trek from Namrung to Sama Gaon - 3530m (6-7 hours)
Day 08: Rest day and sidetrip to Manaslu Base Camp (MBC) or Bihendra Lake - 3,530m (6-7 hours)
Day 09: Trek from Sama Gaon to Samdo - 3860m (4-5 hours)
Day 10: Rest day and sidetrip to Tibetan border or day hike - 3860m (8-9 hours)
Day 11: Trek from Samdo to Dharmasala - 4460m (4-5 hours)
Day 12: Trek from Dharmasala to Bimthang Via Larke pass - 5160m (8-10 hours)
Day 13: Trek from Bimthang to Tilije - 1700m (5-6 hours)
Day 14: Trek from Tilije to Dharapani - 1080m (5-6 hours)
Day 15:  Drive From Tal to Kathmandu (Jeep, Bus, or Car) - 1300m (7-9 hour drive)

How is the Accommodation in the Alternative route?

For the first two nights, you are required to stay in a local homestay.   There are no commercial tea houses available yet in this route. That means you will sleep how locals sleep and use what local resources are available.  

Based on a recent survey only a few homes in each camp have toilet facilities.  This means only a small group (up to 4 people) can stay together in each homestay with basic food and accommodation.  But if you are in a bigger group (e.g. more than 4), you may need to bring your own tent, set up camp just outside the homes, and eat at the homestay.  

In order to introduce the trail and confirm available homestay, senior members of the NEST Adventure is set off to depart next week.  We will update more information about the trail, food and homestay in a few weeks' time.

What food is available in the Alternative route?

A common national dish of Nepal called "dal bhat", fried rice, fried noodles, with fresh vegetables are the common dishes for the lunch and dinner.  

For breakfast, it is likely hard-boiled egg, omelette, fried Gurung bread (also called Tibetan bread), millet bread, chapatti bread, noodles soup, seasonal fruits such as banana, orange, etc. 

For the snack, roasted corn  (depending on season), popcorn, cucumber and other fresh fruits and vegetables.  Continental foods such as spaghetti, pizza, and pasta will not available. 

What to pack for the Alternative route trek? 

Only the first two nights would differ from the usual trail where you will be required to homestay.  The rest will be staying in teahouses.   In this particular region apart from the regular packing list, you are at least required to bring:

 Sleeping bag
 Travel pillow 
 Light snacks (Chocolate bar etc)
  Toiletries, toilet paper, etc
 Water bottle and water purification tablet 
 Optional would also be to bring some small things for the local kids.  They usually like a balloon, pens and pencils, candies, etc.   They will appreciate it very much.  

Bottom line 

Due to the road construction project, there are challenges trekkers will face during the first two days of the trek.  While the current route is still possible to follow, there are some restrictions along the trail and in some situations, the safety of the tourists may not be guaranteed all the time.  

There is also the alternative route to be explored.  It may not have the same level of comfort and convenience as the current route, but it promises a different experience of Nepal and that which brings you closer to its culture, nature and people. 

About Rajendra Khanal (Raj)

Rajendra Khanal (Raj) Born and raised in Gorkha, Nepal, I am proud to call the Manaslu region my home! I have been in the travel business for over a decade from being assistance guide to being a guide/leader to being a manager and finally a founder of NEST Adventure. So you could say, I know my way well enough in the Himalayas especially in some of the off-the-beaten trails in Nepal like Manaslu, Kanchenjunga or Mustang
I am passionate about travelling and I strongly believe that seeing the world shouldn't break the bank (at least not too much!).  I studied in the UK and three years of living experience in the United States taught me how to deliver quality customer service in the business. I have backpacked to over 15 countries in Asia, Central Americas USA and Canada, one-third of Europe, Caribbean Island and  Latin America. As a backpacker myself, and travel expert of Nepal Himalayas I'm happy to share my experience with you. If you believe I can be helpful in planning your next trip to Nepal, then please do not hesitate to contact me. at nestadventure@gmail.com. I am also available 24x7 on Whats app and Viber +977- 9851052042 Or direct phone call +1(702) 465-9789. If you are interested to know more about my travel journey follow me on  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
 
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