Day 8 4th October Tatopani-Shikha
After the dramas of yesterday we decided to treat ourselves to a lay-in and a slow start to the day. We were not really looking forward to the massive ascent to Ghorepani and so decided to do it in two days, and skip the rest day at the top. We figured that this would take us about 3 hours.
Within the first hour we were already behind time, having to find an alternative bridge as the main trekking bridge had had its suspension cables loosened so that even Rob did not trust to walk on it. Luckily a little further along the road and newer, slight less rickety bridge had been built, and we began heading up the steep muddy path, meeting the large herd of goats and sheep that we would end up following for the next three days!
It took 2 hours to get to the first stop and Santosh viewpoint where we had a pot of tea and some chocolate, and were entertained (or perhaps the other way round) by the most adorable 3 year old girl who mimicked our tea-drinking, introduced me to her koala bear and doodles her vowels over her notebook and our guidebook, and my hand.
From there we could see Shikha although it looked a lot further than the 2 hours recommended walk in the guidebook – and it was. We were walking pretty slow as the road was steep and deep with mud in parts, and our bags were very heavy.
It was getting late by the time we arrived at the town of Shikha where we registered with ACAP. We had seen a guest house in the book which we guessed was cheaper because it was on the far end of town. Turns out it was a whole other valley away and was only cheap because it was a shared squat toilet, oh and the whole building leans to one side, the floor boards creak so badly that we can’t stand together, and we are the only guests here. It’s a little bit surreal. The owner made an excellent Dal Bhat though which we ate by torchlight before heading for yet another early night!
We will have to start early tomorrow to beat the heat that we struggled with today, and while the sign downstairs says we have only 3 hours to Ghorepani – knowing our uphill speed we will probably take longer.
Day 9 5th October Shikha-Ghorepani
We have completed our final ascent – it took two days but that daunted 1700+m climb is done. Rob seemed to take it in his stride (apart from the early morning start, which he is now sleeping off) but I had to order my legs to take each step up this morning, feet and calves and knees burning already from yesterday.
Including a stop for brunch we made it to the very top of the hill/mountain (2750m) at 12.30, found a slightly more stable room and set to washing and resting. It was a nice morning in that along the way we seemed to bump into everyone we have met over the last week and a bit – we were all heading in the same direction after all, but some we saw yesterday, others a week ago. Lots of tired but accomplished smiles.
Tonight we are staying at the Nice View Lodge where we have an amazing nice view over the full range of western Annapurna mountains that we have gradually walked through and around, or at least will once the clouds clear a bit. Most people will get up before dawn tomorrow to walk to Poon Hill to see the sunrise over the whole Himalaya, but Rob has seen it before and apparently it gets too crowded so I think I will make the most of the already incredible viewpoint that we have already I should be able to see it all apart from Machapuchhaure from just outside the hotel.
We have finally written and sent postcards to parents and Rob has emailed (yep there is internet up here! although we haven’t used it until now) our hotel in Pokhara to say we should be back tomorrow night.
The sunrise walkers woke us up at a ridiculous 3.30am to start heading up to Poon Hill. Managed to doze and woke with a feeling of urgency at 5.55. Threw on clothes, jumpers, scarf and any other layers I could find over my pjs and ran downstairs with camera to catch the first peaks as they turned orange. A beautiful clear morning. I sat alone at the tap next to the hotel until my bum went numb from the cold, and then headed to the kitchen to sit by the wood-burner and defrost. Once everyone else stared to return, I woke Rob up and ordered our breakfast, and we ate eggs, potatoes and drank early tea with two new friends who are doing a similar route to us but overland on motorbikes. Rob is very jealous.
Straight after breakfast, already packed we set off to try and beat the crowds heading down. The route between Ghorepani and Naya Pul is used by three different walks and so was a lot busier than any other bit we have walked. It was a cold start, but the lower we went and the higher the sun got, the hotter it became, hard work getting down that first 1000m, on mainly stone steps. When I say steps I actually mean that someone stuck rocks on top of one another, regardless of width, height or even if the surface was flat. It was pretty repetitive after a while, but the views from our regular knee-rests were impressive. Finally got to see Machapuchhaure too.
Along the way Rob’s bag fell from a ledge and my camera broke, so that
the last ten or so picture we took look like this. Thankfully Rob was able to fix it once we got back to Pokhara, but in the drama I may have forgotten to ‘bend the knees’ for the last cluster of steps, so that by the time we resumed walking after our lunch break at the aptly named Hille, my right knee had swollen so much that I couldn’t bend it, at least without a lot of pain.
The second half of the day was therefore… slow. It took us nearly double to time and somehow, with the thought of Nirvana (hotel that is) waiting for us with hot showers and pillows, we made it to the final checkpoint just before dusk (8 hours of walking).
As we were already late and wanting to be back in Pokhrta in time to go eat and drink at whatever establishment we could hobble to, we splurged and got a taxi from Naya Pul to Pokhara (the bus would take 90 minutes).
How nice of all our familiar faces from the hotel and corner shop opposite to be there as we got out of the taxi, and to still be watching when I realised that I couldn’t control my right leg to actually get out of the taxi. One guy was still laughing at me when he saw me the next day.
But we did it! And after a very sedate day of reading and hobbling around Pokhara we are ready to head back to Kathmandu and get everything set for our third (and hopefully most relaxing) country, Thailand.
Additional Note: The Goats
I mentioned the goats briefly when we left Tatopani, and this herd and their patient, funny herders were our walking companions for various sections along the route. We may have been slower than a lot of the trekkers, but we were keeping up with the goats – the only ones to have shorter legs than me! There were a few large herds being led to Pokhara to be slaughtered for Dashain, but the group that I have photographed over the last three days of the trek were all from the same herd.
After getting stranded in a crowd of them on the most narrow, steep bit of the path, Rob helped to ‘rescue’ a few who attempted to escape the trail over walls and hedges, they decided to come say hello when we got to our lodge outside of Shikha. They were grazing as we were reaching Ghorepani, and later that afternoon were led right through the centre of the town where a few of them got into trouble for licking the Buddha eyes on the stupa! We missed them a little on our last day, but quite perfectly, just as we arrived at the final bridge over to the ACAP office in Naya Pul, there they were, being led over to their own final destinations.