Day 10 – Muktinath (3,700m) – Marpha (2,800m) - Annapurna circuit

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April 25th 2012
Published: July 6th 2012
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KC (my guide) managed to convince me last night that it would be better to walk the whole distance today instead of getting a jeep. For better or worse I took his advice and we headed off that morning on the long walk to Marpha. Today we would be covering much more distance than we had on any previous day, although it would either be downhill or flat so we should cover ground fairly quickly. We would lose 1000m of altitude overall today but I was assured that the decline would be much more agreeable than yesterdays return from the pass, something I didn’t want to face again for a long, long time (or ever).

The day started well, it took us 2 ½ hours to travel downhill to Ekle Bhatti, the trail down was reasonably steep, but mostly on solid ground and was at no point a serious issue. The sun was shining, I still felt full of energy and I was in a good mood. The scenery on the way down was unlike anything we had come across previously, we were now walking past the gateway to the remote and mysterious mountain kingdom of Upper Mustang which had it’s own Royal Family up until 2007 when all of Nepal became a republic. The scenery looked very much like The Grand Canyon/Nevada, or how I imagine The Grand Canyon/Nevada to look anyway seeing as I’ve not actually been! Basically the landscape was very dry, dusty and full of massive canyons and was a fascinating change from the usual scenery. However I would not have wanted to spend more than a day or so trekking in such an area as it was a little too dry and desert like for my tastes.

Upon reaching Ekle Bhatti (2 ½ hours into the trek) the trail all of sudden became almost completely flat as we began to follow the Kali Gandaki river. The Kali Gandaki very much lived up to it’s name, the Black River, the water really was as black as Tony Blair’s soul. The river bed was large, flat, open and very dry (due to us being near the end of the dry season). From Ekle Bhatti the trail (also a jeepable gravel road) followed the river bed through several high sided, wide, dusty canyons. Shortly after leaving Ekle Bhatti I noticed that the wind had significantly picked up, this would signal the start of today’s bad times. The walk from Ekle Bhatti to Jomsom (district capital and our lunch stop) would have been fine if it had not been for the wind, after all the trail was flat and it was a nice sunny day. However the wind made things truly miserable and contributed to this becoming the second hardest and least enjoyable part of the trek to date. With the wind blowing at 60-70mph the bone dry river bed became a giant dust bowl. Nothing was safe from the dust, sun glasses provided some relief but ultimately resistance was futile. At times it was hard to breath and the noise of the howling wind was unbearable, having any form of conversation was out of the question. I don’t have many pictures of this section of the day as I put my camera away to stop dust running the lense. In all honesty not having pictures wasn’t a big deal as the scenery was both boring and ugly, I do wonder though if things would have looked better had there been less wind and I had been in a better mood? I suspect so.

I saw Jomsom about 45 mins into the trek but it took another 45+ mins to get there. It was one of those annoying moments where no matter how far you walk the destination doesn’t seem to get any closer, exactly what I didn’t need with the moral crippling wind sapping my will to live (maybe a little dramatic). I normally walk behind my guide KC or by his side, however I found myself walking far ahead of him during this hellish section of the trek. I had by this point lost any sense of manners and just wanted to move as quickly as possible and get to Jomsom. It must have been a really crappy journey for KC considering he was carrying all my luggage into the gale force winds, I know when we did finally arrive into Jomsom he looked pretty knackered.

Walking through Jomsom was another cruel trial, this uncharacteristically dull town seemed to go on forever. Just at the exit of the town we found a restaurant and ate some much needed Dal Baht. Unfortunately Jomsom was not todays destination, Marpha was to be our final port of call. At 14.00 we set off on our final leg, already today had been a very long day and it wasn’t over. After lunch I was feeling incredibly tired and really not up for any more walking. The wind at this point had got increasingly silly and I was now in a very bad mood due to the earlier dust bowl trauma and due to the fact that I was still very tired from yesterdays epic walk. The journey to Marpha was bleak, dry and dusty and involved much side stepping to avoid passing vehicles which raced passed and blew a whirlwind of dust in our face as they passed. Had I been in one of those vehicles I would have felt sorry for the poor people who were walking in such crappy conditions, I would also have been glad that I choose to take the bus. Sadly I wasn’t in the bus or any other vehicle for that matter and any pity I did receive from passersby did nothing to relieve my misery. It took around 1 hr and 15 mins to get to Marpha, although it felt like much longer. Marpha is apparently a very pretty village, not that I could have told you though as I went straight to sleep upon arriving at our accommodation. I woke briefly to have dinner before promptly returning to bed. Yes my body was most definitely tired.

Today had started well but ended in a moral sapping dust bowl nightmare. It was exactly NOT what I needed after the previous days energy sapping trek. I arrived in Marpha very tired and very much tired of trekking. KC told me that there would be wind for the whole west section of the circuit, after today’s experience the thought of more wind made me both want to cry and run away to that tropical beach I kept thinking of. This really wasn’t fun at all. To add insult to injury the food in Marpha is supposed to be the best in all of Nepal and my dinner in our hotel was remarkably average and did not live up to my expectations at all. It would appear that today there would be no saving grace, let’s hope tomorrow is a better day, it really, really needs to be a better day.

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