Finishing the Circuit! Back to Civilisation.

It’s been a week since I blogged and that’s because we’ve been pretty busy, relatively speaking of course! We finished the Annapurna Circuit, stayed two nights in Pokhara and are now on day four of a seven day yoga retreat in Begnas Tal, a small town 20km from Pokhara. I will hazily attempt to describe the past week, though I have to admit, the heat and relaxation of the retreat is making me lazy. But, according to the yoga philosophy class I just attended, pratyahara, meaning… do the opposite of what you feel in order to grow. So, I write!

Finishing the Annapurna Circuit via Poon Hill Trek

We departed from Ghorepani and the weather, which had been mist, rain and more rain, was suddenly glorious! We had had barely any views for a week, which was contributing to us wanting to stop trekking, but it was like Annapurna was inviting us to keep trekking by showing us mountains again. I felt so blessed to be climbing 400m and more to a panorama view point of the Annapurna Range. The rhododendron trees were blossoming with red and pink flowers, and the hills were dotted with magnificent colours.

After admiring the view, we began a very long descent of over 700m, down hundreds and hundreds of steps into Ghandruk. This took several hours of thigh and hip burning stair cases. Fortunately, the waterfalls, crystal clear streams, views and jungle surroundings made it worth it. The scenery was so pristine! However, this part of the trek was also rather busy. The trail was now the Poon Hill Trek, a self contained 5 day trek, and very popular with large groups of guides tourists and their trekking staff. We spent some time wondering at many ill equip trekkers. That, our burning legs, in addition to the roasting heat, contributed to us wanting to stop trekking again!

When we reached Ghandruk, we were so hot, we had to have a coke before we even considered trying to find a guest house. By this point, we both knew that we needed to stop trekking soon. We were both pretty much done, and despite the glorious surroundings, trekking had become a chore.

That evening, we tried to lift morale by sharing a feast of snacks bought from the local shop. We bought Nepalese Chocolate Eclair sweets, a tube of Pringles and a tray of assorted biscuits. However, when we opened them, the Pringles were completely crushed into tiny pieces, the chocolate eclairs were actually aniseed chewy sweets, and the assorted biscuits were just 20 of the same bland biscuits, with a similar texture to baby rusks. We ate them all anyway, laughing at ourselves for hoping for any comfort!

That evening we were treated to an enormous rainstorm! The water flooded the communal outdoor space of the guesthouse and poured down complete with thunder and lightening for an hour. The spectacular clouds that followed were a highlight of the trip for me! Layer upon layer of different cloud type rippling up from the valley floor to the mountain tops like the giant lasagne we were so craving.

The following day, we set off on the final two day leg of our journey, to a town called Landruk, then onto Pothana and to a bus to Pokhara. We first descended another 700m of stairs with very achy legs, and were repeatedly harassed for chocolate by local children on their way up the stairs to school. Liam joked, no wonder they need chocolate if they walking up those stairs every day! It felt quite uncomfortable though, and especially when one girl asked for Spiker, shortly followed by a boy trying to grab him! He was not a happy Puffin.

When we passed the staircase we reached a river where we started to ascend again. We checked the map and realised with horror, we would have to ascend another 900m in two days… so we decided to look for an alternative route, desperate now to finish the trek. In 37 degree heat, we trekked with little shade along a river to a town where we could get a bus.

This part of the trek was utterly brutal. We were so tired, and hot, and we became quite full of tempers and snapped at each other a lot in a way we never usually do.

“I’m so hot!” “What do you want me to do about it!” Etc. Who would have guessed we had spent every moment of 40 days in each other’s company! It wasn’t helped by accidentally taking the wrong turn, walking uphill unnecessarily, and hearing our bus pass below us.

Fortunately, we made it both alive and innocent of murder to a town where we could take a bus to Pokhara. Before we took the bus, we tried to order lunch. Although Pokhara was very close, Nepali buses are very slow, bouncy and stop a lot, so it could take hours. Sadly, the woman who owned the teashop said “no doing lunch” (despite the menu suggesting otherwise) so we decided to just get the bus.

Then, our fortunes/moods changed a little. A guide and his clients came to the teashop and marvelled at how we had spent 40 days trekking! No wonder we were so exhausted. The guide, however, encouraged to keep walking the extra 2 hours to Nayapul (the town where the Annapurna Circuit officially ends) as it was a really beautiful walk. Having walked so far, we were really tempted, but couldn’t do it without any food. Then, the guide ordered lunch for his clients (the woman was serving lunch now apparently) and so we had some lunch and felt refreshed. We resolved to carry on, and finish the Circuit!

The final few hours were also long and hot, but we kept resting in the shade and stopping for cokes and tea… and we made it. Relieved and absolutely shattered!

We decided to stay a night in the town just before Nayapul and we enjoyed several cold beers and felt proud of ourselves. We watched game of thrones on the phone but the episode was set in the night time and we could barely see screen! We kept asking each other, who was that? Are they dead? Did they die? Who was that? What happened! Luckily we were in better spirits so no snapping!

Next stop, Pokhara! That is for another blog entry!

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