Life on the Annapurna Circuit is a lot more relaxed post altitude, snow and Thorong La. Suffering and fear being my favourite muses, I find less motivation to write a blog now I don’t need it as therapeutic discharge for my adrenaline filled dramas! Beer, sunshine and sleeping nine-ten hours a night -are my new normal- not the most conducive atmosphere for productivity. But, I will do my best!
The Road. Part two!
Since Kagbeni, we’ve walked for four days to a town called Kalopani. The amusing fact is, we could have probably walked along the road for a mere day (and many do) and made it here, but instead we’ve chosen the alternative paths that avoid the road, quadrupling both our distance and net elevation gain and loss. It is completely worth the extra gruelling miles through – the road on this side is far more horrific than the other. I understand now why people want to avoid the road, and may choose to get a jeep past this section.
On the other side, the rock was more solid and the valley narrower. There were fewer towns, the environment being more harsh. Once built, the road kind of stays there, and most of the traffic is just tourist jeeps. On this side of the pass, the valley is huge, the rock crumbly and the weather warmer, more friendly for settlements and hence development. The road regularly crumbles due to freeze thaw and landslides so it is being constantly rebuilt/improved. This means there is a lot more traffic (relatively speaking- it’s still no rush hour in the UK!), especially construction traffic. The traffic flows in styles typical of Nepali driving, heavy goods vehicles racing along with little regard for the sheer drops or bumpy surface, or other traffic, or pedestrians, beeping their horns noisily and with alarming frequency, to clear their oncoming path. The road has its very own offensive soundtrack of pile drivers breaking rocks, or motorbikes kicking dust into the sky and several types of horn. The rock itself is so dusty and crumbly, the road appears to vapourise every time a vehicle bounces past, and you are always covered in a layer of dust.
So, Liam and I have been very careful to avoid the road! Sadly, even when you are high above the road, you can still hear the sound of pile drivers, cracking rock, and vehicle horns echoing and amplifying round the valley, drowning out the birdsong and river. But, we accept it, and have long conversations about it!
We’ve had some absolutely wonderful days walking high in the hills. The scenery is so different on this side, stunning desert at first, followed by alpine style walks in pine forests with increasing plant and birdlife.
One of our favourite walks was from Kagbeni to Jomsom, a stretch which along the road can take 1.5 hours, but took us five, as we climbed 700m up and descended the same back down, along a high route. Amazing views of mountains including Thorong La, we passed through two beautiful pristine villages, and saw not a soul along the way!
Other walks have had us wandering around on river beds, walking in gigantic loops (we walked for 7 hours and we could have walked along the road in 1 hour!) around high mountain lakes and rarely visited towns.
The benefit (for us) of doing all these side trails is also that we rarely see any other trekker. Most people have already taken the jeep to finish the trail, others walk along the road. We have the trail to ourselves! However, this is quite bad for the people who had come to rely on the trekkers for their livelihood. We have seen lots of abandoned teahouses and even one town which, in our guidebook, was supposed to be a growing trekking town, abandoned and no longer on the map!
Game of thrones
Liam and I have been in horror at realising that we will be missing the final season of Game of Thrones whilst we are in Nepal. But Liam, savvy as he is, and fuelled by desperation, worked out a way to download it onto his Samsung! In one of our lodges, we shared this information with some Australian students we met, and they were so desperate to watch it, we shared our phone with them for the evening. So, you can watch Game of Thrones on the Annapurna Circuit!