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Published: March 22nd 2012
“I had seen those astonishing snow peaks to the north; to close that distance, to go step by step across the greatest range on Earth...was a true pilgrimage, a journey of the heart.”
When speaking with my parents some months ago over Skype, informing them of my intentions to undertake the challenge of hiking over 100km around the Annapurna Circuit, ascending to heights of over 5000m in altitude (and higher than the famous base camp at Everest), I was aware of two things: firstly that my mother would suffer cardiac arrest if she thought I would be doing this alone (my original intention); and secondly, that my father would undoubtedly want to join me on the journey. I allowed my proclamations to settle with them for a few days before receiving a call from them informing me that Dad was indeed joining the trip, and would spend the next few months manically trying to whip himself into shape to do so.
I chose to do the Annapurna Circuit for a number of reasons. First, as a test of endurance there are few hikes around the world that physically and mentally test people as much as
this circuit, from the ascents in altitude to the sheer distance covered, particularly in attempting it without guide or porters as we would be doing. Secondly, and most importantly, the trek itself takes you right into the heart of the Himalayas, passing along the way various Nepali and Tibetan settlements; dwellings of the people who now call home the vastly varying terrain of the circuit, from the lush rice fields of the lowlands around Tal and Ghermu, to the arid dryness of the Tibetan Plateau around the Mustang Valley from Muktinath onwards and obviously, to those mesmerising snow peaks from Pisang west through the Manang Valley and finally north up the Thorung and Kone Khola’s to the icy top of the Thorung La itself, which at 5,416m, stands as the highest mountain pass in the world.
“The sense of having one’s life needs at hand, of travelling light, brings with it intense energy and exhilaration. Simplicity is the whole secret of well-being.”
The idea of trekking through this terrain, with nothing but our backpacks, a compass and map was all the appeal I needed. Of course, Dad felt a little differently bringing along enough
food and medicine to make him a cult hero in the mountains by the time our journey was complete, together with a particularly infuriating cowboy hat, which he finally saw sense in dumping after the hard rains we encountered en route to Chame!
All told, we ended our journey having hiked a grand total of 122km over ten days, from Besi Sahar through to Muktinath on the west side of the Thorung La pass, spending seven of those days above the accepted altitude line of 2800m. Along the way we faced all manner of weather, from searing sunshine, hard rains, strong winds, thunder and lightning storms and finally snow and blizzards at the very foot of and on the slopes of the Thorung La itself. All of course adds to the sense of accomplishment I now feel whilst writing this and typing up notes I made along the way, together with the pride I feel at having undertaken this challenge with my father, of whom I am also immensely proud.
Quotations I have added in this piece are all taken from the Himalayan classic “The Snow Leopard,” written by Peter Matthiessen, describing his adventure hiking to
the mysterious Shey Gompa and the Crystal Mountain in Dolpo, west of the Kali Gandaki Valley where our own trip would conclude. The book was a great companion and the perfect complement to our own trek. I use Matthiessen’s wonderfully descriptive words to paint a picture of what we saw in these mountains, as I’m not sure my own could ever fully do them justice...
*** Day One: Besi Sahar (820m) – Ghermu (1130m)
“The fire coloured dragonflies in the early autumn air, the bent backs in bright reds and yellows, the gleam of the black cattle and grain stubble, the fresh green of the paddies and the sparkling river – over everything lies an immortal light, like transparent silver. In the clean air and absence of all sound come the whispers of a paradisal age.”
After the significant delays we encountered getting to Besi Sahar from Kathmandu, caused naturally by one of the frequent ‘road closure’ strikes, we began our journey already half a day behind schedule, so like two narrow minded males, we simply decided to make it all up in one hard day’s trek of 22km.
Winding our way through the low land valleys, in the very infancy of the Annapurna circuit, we were immediately given our first glimpse of distant, snow-capped peaks in the shrouded forms of Manaslu (8156m) and Ngadi Chuli (7871m). Tantalisingly, as suddenly as these peaks presented themselves, they disappeared behind thick cloud, enticing us further into the depths of these valleys.
On we went, meandering our way through the villages of Ngadi Bazaar and Bahundanda, passing tiered rice paddies and budding thickets, not dissimilar to those I have encountered in hikes in the northern Vietnamese hills around Sapa which seems like a lifetime ago, as we traced our way along the great and beautiful Marsyangdi Nadi River, a path we will follow high into the Himalaya. And, thus far, a path it seems that is lined with tiny shards of silver, exposed in time as the rocks of these valleys have given way to industry and nature. The silver illuminates our path all the way to Ghermu, where we spend the night at a comfortable tea house, low in the valley and sheltered from some of the afternoon winds.
A short distance before we arrived in Ghermu, we heard
the shrieking, almost mocking sounds of unseen birds high above our heads. We speculated as to the possibility of Himalayan vultures, of which there are numerous species, prematurely anticipating our demise on this long journey. Perhaps with the weight Dad has packed into his ruck-sack, I wondered whether they may indeed have identified their victim! For now however, we endure... Day Two: Ghermu (1130m) – Tal (1700m)
“Where the valley narrows to a canyon, there is a tea house and some huts, and here a pack train of shaggy Mongol ponies descends from the mountain in a melody of bells and splashes across the swift green water at the ford in one day’s walk we are a century away.”
After our breakfast of honey porridge and a large pot of tea, we set out headed for Tal. Following the previous day’s walk, I began the day with aching legs, something which would worsen throughout the day as we rose and descended through the valley once more.
The valley itself provided incredible views and scenery – from the early portion of the day when the sun’s rays cast spectacular light
and shadow into the gorge and throughout. Under such light, it occurred to me to make the most of the views presented to us on each given day, as with each passing hour, the scenery would be ever changing (more spectacularly we hoped) rendering some of these inspiring landscapes a little superfluous in comparison to what may lie ahead. As such, I committed to such an endeavour, difficult as it may seem!
Along the way from Ghermu to Tal, the route leaves the river after the town of Chamje and steeply ascends the valley wall up a steep rocky path, where we encountered numerous train packs of mountain donkeys, mules and horses, pulling heavy loads along tremendously arduous journeys, their masters commanding them from the rear of the pack (one particular herder seemed more incompetent than most, incessantly berating and beating one horse with a long stick of bamboo and further along the valley, comically having to hurl stones at and chase his disobedient pack of escaping mules, none of which seemed to respect the authority of this buffoon).
As each mule passed, masterfully picking their way between the uneven rocks, noticeable was the colourful headwear adorning each
animal, a Tibetan stitched cloth covering the snout and a larger colourful patch placed under the saddle. For whom and what purpose such decoration is intended I am unsure but it certainly added to the authenticity of our journey as did the sound of the jingling bells hung around the necks of these grafters. Such a melody of bells is an unbelievably uplifting noise, in many ways inseparable from these very mountains, in a place mostly devoid of non-natural sound.
After climbing a rocky path, somewhat less skilfully than the passing mules, we had Tal within our sights; situated at the foot of a large waterfall and several hills, which provide the village both a stunning and safe setting. We traipsed through recently formed puddles on the ground as the rains began to fall and, fortunately, we just made it to our accommodation before lightning storms began, where we warmed ourselves with some terrific pumpkin soup and cornbread. Day Three: Tal (1700m) – Chame (2710m)
“Tibetans say that obstacles in a hard journey, such as hailstones, wind, and unrelenting rains, are the work of demons, anxious to test the sincerity of
the pilgrims and eliminate the fainthearted among them.”
I awoke this morning a little anxious for the long day ahead. We would be ascending above or close to the ‘altitude line,’ the point commonly accepted as that at which people become susceptible to altitude sickness. Given that I had experienced some of these symptoms at 2,500m on Tiger Hill in Darjeeling, I didn’t want to let dad down or have to come back, so assaulted my system with litre after litre of water in preparation for the long, arduous climb to Chame.
After breakfast, we left our tea house accommodation and were greeted with our first serious views of the snow capped Himalayas, appearing in startling white catching the suns early morning rays at the head of the valley. Our path would take us in their direction the whole day long, providing some amazing views. Due to the fact it is early Spring, most trees have not yet blossomed or even sprung early buds, instead retaining a few leaves remaining from the previous autumn, however we came across a single beautiful Cherry Blossom high in the valley, perched over the Marsyangdi River and set before snow covered mountains
in the distance.
I had been leading our trek over the first two days but now sensed dad wanted to get out in front – he is like one of the race horses we have seen so many times at the famous race meets at Aintree, one who simply needs to be at the head of the pack, or in our case, pair. Immediately after departing Tal, he took to the front and I suspect it will continue this way for the remainder of our voyage!
On we trekked, ever gaining altitude onwards towards the Tibetan village of Bagarchhap. As we approached this village, we passed beneath chorten gates guarding the small village – with the Annapurnas coming into clear view for the first time at this point in our journey, it was as if this stone gateway was passage itself to the Himalayas and the Manang valley, a place where each pilgrim must enter, rotating tin prayers wheels in the hopes of a safe passage. Bagarchhap itself has experienced recent tragedy owing to the Himalayan Mountains, which cast ominous shadows over the Tibetan settlement – a white stupa, draped in colourful prayer flags has been erected in
the village centre to commemorate villagers who lost their lives in a terrible and tragic avalanche in the not too distant past.
We took our lunch in this village as the road from here would become tremendously difficult, not helped by the fact that rain had started to fall and we were close to four hours and 500m in altitude away from Chame. We climbed steep stone and mud stair cases high into the hills and through the villages of Timang and Thanchok, passing locals as we went who incredibly traverse these hillsides in nothing but bare feet or the occasional pair of sandals, carrying painfully heavy loads across the terrain.
Finally, drenched with rain, we reached Chame, tired after another 22km day and hungry for a decent meal, which we received by candle light since the town suffered a power outage that night, making for a rather more atmospheric evening high in these hills. Day Four: Chame (2710m) – Pisang (3250m)
“A luminous mountain morning. Mist and fire smoke, sun shafts and dark ravines: a peak of Annapurna poises on soft clouds The track passes along beneath wild
walnut trees. The last leaves are yellow and stiff on the gaunt branches, and the nuts are fallen: the dry scratch of sere leaves bring on the vague melancholy of some other autumn, half-remembered. The wild wood brings on mild nostalgia, not for home or place, but for lost innocence – the paradise lost that, as Proust said, is the only paradise.”
Following the heavy storm of the previous evening, which included thunder and lightning amongst other things, we awoke to find a crystal clear morning over the Manang valley, with the snow peaks of the Annapurnas indicating our route west.
Again, we found that the scenery had completely changed once more, now resembling an Alaskan wilderness; exposed rock and glacial rivers augmented by snow covered pine forests and of course, snow caps all around. Indeed, today we found ourselves entering the snow line for the first time in what proved to be an amazingly beautiful trek.
Our typical routine on this trip has been to break mid-morning for some lunch and a hot cup of tea, so it was with great excitement that we saw the village of Bhratang in the distance, our intended lunch spot
for the day after an arduous morning of walking through land slide areas. However, our enthusiasm was short lived as this village was completely deserted, the only remaining activity being the movement of a single raised prayer flag, dancing on the Himalayan wind, a reminder that even for the locals, these mountains are inhospitable during the harsh winter months.
After an all-too-short break, on we continued. Reaching Pisang was for me, exactly what I had been waiting for. Flat top adobe houses adorned in Tibetan decoration on the floor of the beautiful Manang valley, prayer flags atop each building flapping in the afternoon gusts and snow covered mountains on all sides including the monstrous Annapurna II (7937m) to the south. Hauntingly, the deserted looking Upper Pisang is perched high on the opposite hillside – as dark descended, only a few discernible signs of life could be seen from the higher village.
Pisang felt like a real Himalayan town and I enjoyed our stay here. However, I think dad will feel the effects of the shower here for quite some time, where a wooden enclosure with rather large gaps allowing the powerful afternoon winds to gust through provided little
protection from the worsening conditions as we rose ever higher. He cursed my cowardice for not braving the shower but it seemed that warmth and not hypothermia takes priority in my daily well being. Day Five: Pisang (3250m) – Manang (3540m)
“I feel at peace among these looming rocks, the cloud swirl and wind-whirled snow, as if the Earth had opened up to take me in The wind blows snow from pristine points that glisten in the light, and there are magic colours in the clouds that sail across the peaks on high blue journeys.”
Mist and cloud greeted us in the morning of our fifth day, frustratingly so since we planned to take the higher pass to Manang through the villages of Ghyaru and Ngawal, which by all accounts provide breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. However, with the mist and cloud high in the morning sky, we would see little of these storied peaks from such heights, so we opted for the lower road to Manang through ice and snow via the Humdae airstrip and hoped that the weather would clear.
Along such roads, it quickly became
evident to me that 3500m above sea level, particularly in the Himalayas, provided exactly the kind of scenery I had longed to see. At such heights, the landscape perfectly combines the snow and ice capped peaks of the Annapurnas with the arid desolation of the Tibetan plateau, a place where the occasional adobe village can be found tucked into the hillside and where the dirt paths are frequented by locals on horseback, again with the sound of bells announcing their presence long before their appearance.
If the scenery here was stunning, it was surpassed only by the village of Manang and its location in this spectacular valley. Raised on a central hill, surrounded by glacial peaks on all sides, a Himalayan tribute to Tolkien’s Edoras, Manang is one of the truly beautiful villages of the world. From any point in the town, one can see the glistening peaks of Annapurnas II, III (7555m) and IV (7525m), Gangapurna (7454m) and Tilicho (7134m), each seemingly close enough to touch. Here we marvelled at the setting for quite some time before the sun finally retreated behind Tilicho in the west.
Sitting in the restaurant of our tea house that evening, devouring
our dinner of Yak stew with rice and potatoes, I became aware of an unspoken camaraderie that has developed along these trails, which are delightfully calm in the absence of any mass tourism since it is too early in the season. Instead we seem to see the same faces each evening sitting around an iron fire, warming their hands as dried Yak dung keeps us heated. Whilst most tend to keep to themselves, the occasional nod of familiarity is exchanged from across the room, acknowledging perhaps the difficultly of the day and that each person had made it safely thus far. Day Six: Manang (3540m) (Acclimatisation Day)
“The Himalayan Griffon, buff and brown, is almost the size of the great lammergeyer; its graceful turns against the peaks inspire the Tibetans, who revere the wind and sky. For Buddhist Tibetans, prayer flags and wind bells confide spiritual longings to the winds. There is also a custom called “air burial,” in which the body of the deceased is set out on a wide crag to be rended and devoured by the wild beasts. Thus all is returned into the elements, death into life.”
Annapurnas II, IV and III
It is necessary when reaching Manang to take a day to acclimatise here, since the constant increase in altitude over the coming days towards the Thorung La pass are too severe for a single night. To be completely honest, I could spend days on end in this wonderful village – it even has a small adobe cinema, complete with Yak fur covered seats and plays Himalaya related films and documentaries.
The one downfall of acclimatising is that one must gain significant altitude during the day and then retreat again in the afternoon; therefore what grace a day of rest may provide is cruelly snatched away by the physical deficiencies of the human condition. We decided to head up the drier northern slopes of the Manang Valley for Praken Gompa, a monastery etched into the mountainside at 3945m, which houses a particularly remarkable Buddhist Lama (holy man) who provides blessings and well wishes for the hardships ahead in the form of a simple piece of material tied around the neck, naturally for the sum of 100Rps.
Whilst struggling through the thin air on these slopes, we noticed above us countless large Himalayan Griffons circling the valley, then landing somewhere
unseen but close by. We decided to take a closer look at these remarkable vultures, which in flight look truly beautiful and graceful but once huddled up in packs on the mountainside, seemingly transform into something hideous and grotesque.
Following our exploits on the mountainside, dad decided to order some lunch back at our tea house, while I headed down to the glacial lake at the foot of Gangapurna, where I found myself surprisingly alone in such a beautiful and tranquil place. It was here sitting alone at 4000m in the air that I missed Amy most, and wondered how she would be faring on her own trek to Poon Hill with her father – after two years of inseparable company, it was an unusual experience.
We ate dinner quickly and quietly that evening, uncertain of how we would fare in the coming days. Earlier, a German man had passed through the village delirious with altitude sickness and in need of medical assistance and although we had done absolutely everything necessary to prevent such an outcome for ourselves, it nevertheless weighed heavily on my mind. Before bed, I again sat alone on the terrace of our hotel –
as most electricity disappeared in the village, I enjoyed crystal clear views of the cosmos above, where a particularly bright star discharged astonishing light intermittently, illuminating the sky with each pulsation. Day Seven: Manang (3540m) – Yak Kharka (4050m)
“In a halo of sun rays the sun itself bursts forth, incandescent in a sky without cloud, an ultimate blue that south over India is pale and warm, and cold deep dark in the north over Tibet – a bluer than blue, transparent, ringing Out of nothingness comes a faint whispering. Fine crystals dance upon the light as snow falls from high mountains of rock. A bird has flown north toward Tibet, a small white falcon.”
I was sad to leave the Manang Valley, one of the most beautiful places on this earth, as our path took us north, away from the glacial splendour of the Marsyangdi Ngadi River, our companion for what was now 90km, which traces further west towards its genesis close to Tilicho Mountain.
Our intended destination for the day was Yak Kharka, which translates as “Yak pastures.” Indeed anywhere where Yak’s graze will be considered
high in altitude since it is the only place on earth they are able to survive. Advancing above the 4000m altitude mark, we were now embarking upon the most critical part of our journey.
Despite the abundance of Yak’s grazing on the mountainside, I rather foolishly spent most of the day occupying my concentration on spotting the elusive snow leopard, known to frequent these heights. Of course what is foolish about this task is that snow leopards are perhaps the most elusive and shy animal on the face of the earth, having been spotted by only a handful of foreign visitors, and are so adept at camouflaging their presence that one could fail to spot one of these cats standing mere feet away.
Between thoughts of snow leopards and munching on flap-jacks, Dad and I stopped a little while on the slopes a few kilometres shy of Yak Kharka while we took in some fluids and generally soaked up the Himalayan atmosphere. At this point, I was struck by just how deathly silent these mountains are once the wind dies down – literally nothing, perhaps the most astonishing thing I have ever heard. In this moment
I craned my neck to take in the blue sky, the deepest blue I have ever seen, cloudless and imposing. This silent moment was broken by a single cry from a passing black raven, following which we were plunged into the stillness once more. Day Eight: Yak Kharka (4050m) – Thorung Phedi (4450m)
“I enjoy crisp air myself, but I am happy in this moment; we shall be up there in cold weather soon enough.”
Today we passed the 100km mark when we passed through the village of Letdar at 4200m. Our sense of accomplishment however will not be fully appreciated until we actually get over the pass at Thorung La – turning back at this juncture due to altitude or injury would be devastating. As such, a distinct tiredness seems to have kicked in, the kind experienced when you become aware you are nearing the end of your journey and as such, Dad and I appear to have adopted a “one foot in front of the other mentality” now, edging ever nearer to our lofty target.
At these heights, we trekked through desolate scenery of shale and ice; there
is an absence of any plant life here, save for scrubs of bush which the Yak’s and Blue Sheep endeavour to get at the roots, completely nonresponsive to our presence as they do so, unperturbed by these strange foreign visitors.
As we approached Thorung Phedi (meaning “foot of the hill”), I noticed that the Kone river, which we have followed since departing the Marsyangdi, was all but dried up, indicating the glacial mountain waters had yet to thaw but hopefully not an indication that the Thorung La is unpassable. Night temperatures at these altitudes are painfully cold and I don’t want to spend more nights on this mountain than I have to.
However, when we reached Thorung Phedi, we discovered that the pass was indeed open, and that other trekkers had ascended the summit earlier that morning. With spirits high, we ate some garlic noodle soup (supposedly good for acclimatisation) while a Counting Crows CD played over the stereo, a strange sense of symmetry forming since the first concert I ever attended was with my father watching Counting Crows in Manchester some ten years ago. Here we were on the roof of the world, father and son, listening
to that same band as we prepared ourselves to ascend the highest mountain pass in the world! Day Nine: Thorung Phedi (4450m) – High Camp (4850m)
“I wait, facing the north; instinct tells me to stand absolutely still. Cloud mist, snow, and utter silence, utter solitude: extinction. I breathe, mists swirl, and all has vanished – nothing ! The mountain sky is bare – wind, wind, and cold.”
I rose excitedly as the alarm sounded, absolutely ready for what lay ahead. However, when I opened the curtains of our room, disaster and disappointment lay before me as blizzard snow and winds assaulted Thorung Phedi and the mountain above us. We sat eating breakfast anxious and with a decision to make. We could go for it, continuing along our schedule and make it back to Pokhara in time to meet with Amy and Ste before he flew home to England. However, strong winds, freezing temperatures and limited visibility would make the pass difficult and dangerous. I almost wish in such situations the power of choice was removed, that I was already on the mountain when the storm kicked in leaving no choice
but to continue but on this occasion, heads overruled hearts. We would finish breakfast and head an hour up the mountain to our consolation prize of high camp (4850m), a tantalising 566m from the Thorung La summit, where we would wait and hope for better conditions in the morning.
At High Camp, we loaded up on carbohydrates and garlic soup, washing each mouthful down with overpriced tea. Despite frustrations, spirits were high in the camp and we made acquaintances with numerous people and enjoyed almost a full day of doing nothing but exchanging stories with one another.
As the day wore on, the storm had still not passed and in fact appeared to be worsening, forcing us into a cramped dining room where people huddled together around a small fire to steal any heat possible. At this point, Dad noticed something through the snow covered windows; four large Yak’s had drifted into the high camp where they were presented with food from their herder. Dad and I quickly picked up our cameras and hurried outside into the cold and snow to simply watch and take photos of these remarkable animals, covered in matted fur which was now thick
with the falling snow.
It was a great moment and one which I took with me to help my spirits as we headed for bed through the worsening storm, where our hopes of crossing the Thorung La in the morning were beginning to dwindle. Day Ten (Part 1): High Camp (4850m) – Thorung La (5416m)
“Days and months are the travellers of eternity. So are the years that pass by...I myself have been tempted for a long time by the cloud-moving wind – filled with a strong desire to wander...I walked through mists and clouds, breathing the thin air of high altitudes and stepping on slippery ice and snow, till at last through a gateway of clouds, as it seemed, to the very paths of the sun and moon, I reached the summit, completely out of breath and nearly frozen to death. Presently the sun went down and the moon rose glistening in the sky.”
Through a tiny gap at the side of the curtain above my face, I spotted the crescent moon, clear against the star spotted night sky. I pulled the curtain back excitedly and saw that last
night’s storm had indeed subsided, the clear moonlight now illuminating surrounding snow peaks and the path before us.
I have played sports for some years, often in furious contests with and against my Dad, but never have I been so fired up on adrenaline for a challenge which lay ahead, an excitement and determination mirrored on Dad’s face also. After yesterdays disappointment, I seemingly devoured my bowl of steaming porridge in one and was impatiently ready for the off.
Through ankle deep snow in the glow of the oncoming dawn, we began our ascent. Through the surface snow, it was hard going, the altitude not helping at all, with each step feeling like one hundred. Despite the clear skies, it was terribly cold and gusting winds rushed over the tops of the peaks as we balanced precariously over steep drops. In fact, it was so cold that the bottled water we were carrying froze as we attempted to drink from it – at one point a few drops escaped the bottle and landed on the plastic of my camera lens, freezing immediately on impact!
The wind was painful on our faces but in spite of the conditions
and the fact I had lost feeling in my hands, it was heartening to see one of the more beautiful dawns unravelling before our very eyes, painting the mountains in a golden yellow as the sun brought with it a welcome warmth.
The ascent of Thorung La has numerous false peaks – areas which when approached from a lower position look like they are the summit but each passed, soul-shatteringly, one after the next. Finally, breathless from the altitude, wind and cold we saw prayer flags draped over the famed summit sign indicating the success of one’s quest. Dad and I enjoyed a huge embrace at the culmination of a trip long in planning, before hurriedly posing for our photographs by the sign. I say hurriedly since the wind again picked up to a point where the wind chill placed the temperature at best in the -30’s. We quickly dumped our packs and scurried inside the tiny stone tea shop atop the pass, where we enjoyed the warmth and sugar of a scolding cup of tea. Day Ten (Part 2): Thorung La (5416m) – Muktinath (3800m)
“The search may begin with
a restless feeling, as if one were being watched. One turns in all directions and sees nothing. Yet one senses that there is a source for this deep restlessness; and the path that leads there is not a path to a strange place, but the path home.”
Following the brief respite a cup of tea could provide, we began our descent down the mountain. If going up was difficult, the descent was ridiculous – two and a half knee pounding hours almost vertically downhill, plodding and sliding through knee high snow and edging along perilous drops. Even the porters and guides we passed along the way were finding the going extremely tough, falling to the ground on numerous occasions in the wretched conditions.
Finally, we spotted the village of Chabarbu and in the distance Muktinath, set against the arid backdrop of the mysterious Mustang Valley. After lunch in Chabarbu, we powered on, continuing our descent all the way to this pilgrimage town on tired legs. We had decided at this point to finish our journey in Muktinath, from where we caught a jeep to Jomsom where we would fly out in the morning to Pokhara. The delay at
Thorung Phedi due to the blizzard meant we would miss out on the villages of Jharkot and Kagbeni which we passed in our jeep ride, each a gateway to the fabled kingdom of Mustang, but each, places I will return to in the future, of that I am absolutely sure.
For now however, we settled ourselves with our achievement and our decision to return to Pohkara in time to see Amy and of course Ste, who I won’t see again for another five months or so, before his departure back to England. As we sat in our warm hotel in Jomsom, away from the blistering cold of the few nights previous and awaiting our flight in the morning, I felt really proud of what Dad and I had accomplished together.
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