Establish ahead of time that you'd like the flexibility to add a side trip along the way, and build in an extra rest day.
In October of 2010 I met a trekking partner from Australia through Lonely Planet Thorn tree. We agreed to trek the Annapurna Circuit, sharing the costs of a guide, and each hiring an ‘assistant guide’ or porter to carry our packs through the Three Sister’s Trekking Agency of Pokhara.
We started the trip together, but unfortunately she had to drop out before we crossed over Thorong La Pass at approx 5,400 metres. She had been fighting a cold and struggling up to that point. The good news for me is that she was still willing to split the cost of the guide to the end, and our little group had met a lovely woman from Calgary (also with a Three Sister’s assistant guide) who’d been travelling with us. So our little band of 5 women continued over the pass and finished the trip together.
The scenery was incredible. I enjoyed the diversity from one day to the next, and passing through some beautiful tiny villages. I really enjoyed exploring around Muktinath and Kagbeni. It was disappointing to realize there is a new gravel road on the other side of the pass. Around Kagbeni and beyond we were eating dust from the road for a day or two, and eventually decided to skip a day of hiking by hopping on a bus to get us closer to Tatopani.
My advice to anyone doing a trip with a guide: establish ahead of time that you’d like the flexibility to add a side trip along the way, and build in an extra rest day. The woman I completed the trek with fell ill after the pass and I had to insist we stop a day to rest. Our guide wasn’t pleased, and I suspect she had some concerns that she couldn’t get across due to the language barrier. Also, me and my partner wanted to do a side trip to explore, and again it didn’t go over well with our guide. We gave the guides/assistants the day off and headed off by ourselves. That day was possibly the most rewarding of the trip.
I liked hiring a guide and porter, partly as a way to give back to the economy, in what is one of the poorest countries in the world. Our Nepali companions were generally kind, easy going, and hard working. They made navigating and checking into tea houses very easy for us.
I was so lucky to finish the trek with a wonderful compatible trekking partner.
Overall this was a fantastic experience that left me wanting to return!
I'm glad I ended up bringing hiking poles. They helped with the 1,600 metre descent after the pass.