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Annapurna The Descent

Day 12 saw us begin the descent. Some of us (not me) were more reluctant than others to leave the cannabis themed and filled hotel. We decided to do a rather short down hill walk that day to the town of Kagbeni (9240 ft). The walk is down a broad and barren valley topped by snow capped peaks. This town is most notable for two things. First it is one of the main entrances to the Kingdom of Mustang. This is an area of Nepal that still maintains its own monarch. It costs $700 to go trekking here for 10 days and one must go as part of a group. Secondly Kagbeni is home to Yak Donalds complete with Golden Arches. There is also a knockoff 7/11. Kagbeni is set next to a braided river. Upstream, the river flows through an arid valley that leads to Mustang. After checking into a hotel in Kagbeni, Steve, Colin, and I set off to explore the town. Paul was using the Internet and the girls had decided to walk further. We first walked through some orchids on the outside of town before heading through some rice fields. There we encounted women making hay. After saying hello, we headed up a nearby peak to get a view of the town and Upper Mustang. We didn’t know, but we had actually illegally entered Mustang. We found this out by walking back into town past signs warning people not to go any further. We ate that night at Yak Donalds which served disappointingly small yak burgers.

Day 13 brought us to the apple town of Marpha. Marpha is surrounded by apple orchards. There is a distillery in town that makes various fruit brandies. Unfortunately the distillery was closed when we got there. We did find the research farm open. They allowed us to come in and look around. This orchard was full of different types of apple trees. We were given permission to pick apples off the trees. To get to Marpha we had to pass through Jomsom which is the major town on this side of the pass. It also has an airport. We walked along the braided river for a while looking for fossils. In doing so, we had to at times wade through the river soaking my shoes.

Day 14 began with Colin getting sick with diarrhea. The rest of the group went on to Kalopani (6594 ft) while I stayed behind to nurse Colin. He felt better by midday and we did the relatively easy walk to Kalopani. The walk was made easier (but dustier) as it was mostly along a road that is being constructed along the circuit. The road is being built in pieces on both sides of the pass and is years from completion. When it is finished, this will probably be the death knell for the circuit. Already one has to walk by motorcycles at parts.

Day 15 saw us arrive in Tatopani (3904 ft) famous for its hot springs and also the break-up of our little fellowship. From here Steve and Colin (who had developed a shin splint) decided to head out to Beni to go back to Pokhara. Paul decided to have a rest day in Tatopani and hang out at the hot springs. They were nice but to me not worth another day. Andy (the guy that I had rode on the bus roof with and who I saw on and off during the trek) decided to walk on to do the trek into the heart of the Annapurna range. The decision was in part precipitated by the fact that the next two days on the trail is known for muggings as it is heavily forested and isolated. His group that he had been walking with was also breaking up. I spent a little while in the hot springs near the river and then went to bed.

Day 16 proved to be one of the hardest day’s walk on the trek even with all the oxygen in the air. Andy and I headed for Ghorepani. This involved a nonstop 5400ft climb up hills and stairs on a very hot sunny day. It was humid as we were back in a jungle type environment. This is the biggest one day climb I have ever done. Along the way we ran back into Heidi and Keri. They wanted to walk with us as they had heard that there were more Maoist ahead. Sure enough we ran into a group of two guys and one girl. They were a bit more aggressive. I showed them my reciept which they didn’t like as it was for a different group. As they didn’t appear to have radios, I took my receipt back and ignored them and kept walking. Both Andy and I were bigger than them anyway. When the girls arrived, we got them just to keep walking. Two French men also slipped around during this time. We were told after this that the group was quite upset and started blocking the path more aggressively after we left making people pay. We arrived in Ghorepani quite exhausted and went to bed early as we had an early start the next day.

Day 17 began with a predawn climb up Poon Hill. Poon Hill is famous for its sunrise views. There is a viewing stand constructed on top for just such a purpose. We got up at 4:00 am and did the 1400 ft climb to the top. The morning was clear and the hilltop crowded. Even though there were no spectacular sunrise colors, it was still stunning to see each peak begin to glow in the morning light one by one. We left Poon Hill about 6:30 and went to the lodge for breakfast. We then began another hard days walk to Chomrong. While we didn’t have the straight up climb like we did the day before to Ghorepani, we probably gained at least as much altitude due to the numerous ups and downs. This trail unlike the Annapurna crossed valleys instead of going along them. This was also one of the longest days of hiking if one takes into account the early morning Poon Hill excursion. We arrived in Chomrong around 5:00 in the evening. Chomrong sits high up on a valley wall that slopes down to a river far below. The valley is full of rice terraces as far as the eye can see.

Day 18 was a rest day of not much note. As I was thoroughly warn out from the last few days of hiking, I didn’t do much but read at the lodge. I did pay to get my laundry done. After 18 days of sweating, shower washing just wasn’t getting the job done anymore.

So ends this installment. The next installment will detail into and out of the Sanctuary (not a Logan’s Run reference)

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No Responses to “Annapurna The Descent”

  1. Preeti Says:

    yak milk, yak cheese, and now yak burgers…

    And just because you’re bigger than the Maoists doesn’t mean they couldn’t cause some damage (a kindly reminder from your buddy the martial artist)

  2. Posted from United States United States

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