Week 3: 1st October – 8th October 2014
Our final week had a very different pace and style to the ones before it, and I wrote less and less, the further we got, so more here (in particular the last four days) is from my memory rather than notes. To compensate, we took far more photos in these eight days, than we did earlier on the trek.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our adventure – if it’s something you are planning to do, feel free to ask us any questions in the comments; having input from someone who had been there was invaluable when we were planning our trip.
So many people we met along the way had to miss out this part of the trek, rushing to get planes from Jomsom back to Pokhara. While I appreciate that not everyone can take five weeks off (to allow for three weeks trekking and two weeks to compensate for fun stuff like landslides and AMS) like we did, if you can stretch to seeing a bit more of the western side of the trail, it is well worth it. The NATT routes are now well established (compared to confusing signs when we walked the same section back in 2010) and beautiful both near and avoiding the road.
As before the times are how long it took us to walk between the two places, the distance is my total for the day according to my fitbit.
Day 15: Muktinath (3710m) – Jhong (3600m) – Kagbeni (2900m)
Walked: 13.5 miles, 5 hours
We followed the NATT trail on the opposite side of the valley. Our book mentioned that ACAP had adopted this route at the official way between Muktinath and Kagbeni, but we didn’t see any other trekkers walking that direction all day. It was a big improvement from the road route that follows the left of the valley.
We passed through the beautiful Tibetan villages of Chongur and Jhong, where locals were friendly and welcoming, almost surprised to see trekkers. This was the furthest e were allowed to go within the Upper Mustang region, without a special permit, and this made it all the more special.
Behind us, the snow on the pass and hillside reminded us of the tough days behind us, and ahead were the dry, dusty flats that marked the start of the Kali Gandaki Valley.
As we arrived over the tops of the hills above Kagbeni, the crazy winds picked up and threw us around a little. Katie’s foot was still on the mend and so the boys walked with her, while Sarah and I sped off to try and secure a room with a view.
Kagbeni has grown a bit in four years, but is still my favourite village on the whole trail. I just love the ancient, untouched feel to it; an oasis in the otherwise desert-like surroundings. It felt good to get there, and we were all in a silly mood, all a bit lighter now that we were in the ‘easy’ week.
We stayed again at the New Annapurna Lodge, which is looking a bit tired now, but still amazing views and hot showers.
After a refreshment stop, Sarah, Katie and I headed into the village for a tour of the old Gompa. Little monks were having a great time kicking flower-heads around their yard, which was covered in them after a visit from the Lama/head of their school that afternoon.
Day 16: Kagbeni – Jomsom – Marpha
Walked: 12.1 miles, 4.5 hours
After escaping the owner of New Annapurna Lodge (he seemed to want to force feed us dal bat and tea!) we followed the road and riverbed to Jomsom. Without a four+ hour detour, this was one of the few places we could not avoid the road at all. The jeeps were an annoyance but they did not spoil the views for us, or the pleasure of walking on relatively flat trails.
We had a mini-adventure along a tiny path below the road, clambering over rocks and avoiding donkey traffic jams.
The visiting Lama had obviously had a big welcome yesterday; Jomsom’s helipad was decorated with flowers and painted rocks, forming a white path that we could follow into the town. It felt like we were finishing a race.
Jomsom has changed and expanded so much! It is huge now, but luckily the main strip opposite the airport is pretty much the same. We had an amazing lunch at Om’s Place (after meeting Om back in Bratang, we had to stop in) and even a latte at the Himalayan Java café?!
The last two hours to Marpha dragged a little; it was dusty and seemed to go on forever.
We got there though, and stayed in the fabulous Sunrise Hotel, with our own little hidden courtyard. We spent the afternoon exploring the white winding streets and eating ‘Jewees’, or jalebi as Rob and I knew them, and apples.
Day 17: Marpha – Tukuche
Walked: 7.8 miles, 3 hours
I’ve eaten something that dislikes me, and I’ve felt sick with stomach pain all day. It makes the walking less fun, although thankfully I am so much fitter now than when we started, so it seems much easier; I hardly notice the weight of my bag once it’s on.
We walked through one of my favourite places, the magical woods of Chhairo. There is a Tibetan settlement there, and a Gompa that is being restored. It is also home to the most adorable mini-monks, who took us on a tour and gave us presents of post-cards of themselves. After getting their donation, they then returned to the woods to play hide and seek in the forest. What an amazing place to grow up.
We wondered on to Tukuche. We’ve revised the plan now to miss out Ghorepani and make our way (very) slowly to Tatopani and back to Pokhara by the 9th. Katie’s foot would not do well with the massive ascent and descent required for Ghorepani, and I’m fed up of being ill – it’s a nice thought that we can relax now a bit and just enjoy the scenery.
Day 18: Tukuche – Larjung
Walked: 5.5 miles, 2.5 hours
Another mini day, still feeling unwell, but I am loving the speed that I am now able to walk at with all this extra oxygen! We fancied avoiding the road, but the post-monsoon bridges that cross the riverbed are not up yet, which made for some interesting crossing points.
We have all been resting and reading, and wandering out to explore the riverbed for fossils and other treasures.
Rob and I explored the village and spent a while sat overlooking the river, discussing the slightly scary prospect of finishing the trek, and returning to the real world. For us, that’s going to be New Zealand – the reality of finding somewhere to live and work is only three weeks away!
Day 19: Larjung – Kalopani
Walked: 5.7 miles, 2.5 hours
We were stopping at every corner along this stretch to take photos of the ‘wowntains’.
The valley floor was so wide at this stage, hard to believe that we were in desert just a few days earlier.
Day 20: Kalopani – Ghasa
Walked: 5.5 miles, 3 hours
Day 21: Ghasa – Dana
Walked 8.2 miles, 4 hours
Weirdly, the only day on the whole trek that I listened to music while walking, I needed something to keep me going a bit today!
Day 22: Dana – Tatopani
Walked: 5 miles, 3.5 hours
And that is it! We headed back to Pokhara the next morning. We did try to barter a taxi driver down from the ridiculous price (something around US$120) and decided to brave the bus. It was so easy, cost 300R each and at Beni I got us straight onto a minibus that took us the rest of the way to Pokhara for 400R each. That was a nice saving of US$85!