In planning your Annapurna Circuit trek, you’ll have to decide whether to hire a guide and/or porter? We opted for both a guide and a porter. Part of our foreign aid policy is to go to under-developed countries and pay locals for their services. I try to avoid going through an agency, preferring to deal directly with the guide when possible. I contacted Devendra by email, and coordinated with him directly.

You can certainly trek the AC without a guide. It’s well-signed and the inn-keepers all speak enough English (and other languages) as to not be any impediment. So what’s the value of a guide?

Devendra chose our lodging and always got us the best room wherever we stayed, and at a lower than list price (not that the price was really any expense). He took our meal orders and generally made sure that everything in the teahouses were to our liking. He changed my itinerary to add more days for acclimatizing — I wasn’t happy with this at the time, but I’m very glad he did it because we had virtually no altitude issues. Devendra spoke fairly good English, so he could serve as a translator. He negotiated the price and timing of all the busses & jeeps. And he’s done the AC some thirty times before, and was a licensed guide. His fees included insurance for both him and the porter.

Ari, our porter, knew no English – but that never stopped us from having fun with him. I’d never seen someone carry such a load up impossibly steep trails, passing us on the way up. And when we’d finally catch up, he’d be smoking and already be having tea, chatting up the teahouse woman.

Not to say that all was wonderful with Devendra. Spending two and a half weeks (17 days) with a chatty Nepali was, at times, a bit annoying. Of course, the upside of this is that we’d get annoyed with him and not each other. But those times were just passing moods. Any guide we would have hired would have irritated me at least as much and probably more.

I feel that we connected with the local Nepali people more with Devendra than we would have without him. And for us the occasional friction with him outweighed by his knowledge with the AC and his communication with folks on it. But you’ll have to make that call for yourself.