Thorung-La at last... and whatever happens at the pass, continues after the pass...? ;)

Nepal's flag
Asia » Nepal » Annapurna » Annapurna Circuit
April 19th 2013
Published: May 15th 2013
Edit Blog Post

D12 Thorung Phedi to Muktinath (3,760m)

There were no doubts that it was going to be a difficult day – not only it would be a pretty long one, as we were waking up at 3am and were supposed to be walking 9 hours that day, but also it would be quite challenging altitude-wise as first we had to climb 1,000m to Thorung-La Pass and then descend 1,700m all the way to Muktinath. Quite a difference in altitude that was for sure! But I think everybody was happy that we would be sleeping that night under 4,000m.

It was a huge relief, despite the devilish hour, to wake up and realise that my headache was finally gone. I didn’t really have the best of nights as had to get up a couple of times and run to the loo (I say Diamox might have had something to do with that), but my dear roomie, Andrea didn’t have much sleep because of me either as every time I woke up she did as well worrying about me and asking me if everything was ok. So sweet! Definitely a great feeling to know that there is someone there who cares about you even though they don’t really know you that well…

It sure was strange to have breakfast at this hour, but then we needed a bit of extra strength that day, so whether we were hungry or not, we had to eat something before we set off. Surprisingly it didn’t seem that cold outside, it still was probably around 0 degrees, but I thought it was going to be much colder at this hour. So not a bad start… So shortly after breakfast, we put our head torches on and started the climb to the High Camp. It sure was quite an amazing sight – you could see almost nothing but the bright dots (people with torches that is) spread around all the way to the High Camp – there were quite a few groups ahead of us, I wondered what time they had to wake up? Maybe they didn’t sleep at all? 😉 Since we went that way the day before on our acclimatisation trek, we knew more or less what to expect… I say more or less, as it was dark and it seemed to be getting colder with each step. I regretted straight away that I didn’t buy a better pair of gloves as my hands were freezing. As easy as it was to walk this trail the day before it sure was pretty challenging for me that day… Half way up I started having difficulties with breathing and stopping here and there to catch a few breaths didn’t seem to be helping at all. Hundreds of thoughts were flying through my head, I just couldn’t believe I was struggling so bad again! I definitely felt more prepared for this trek than the previous one – was eating properly, drinking enough water, what else could I do? It was soooo disappointing... I just kept saying to myself: ‘Come on! Put yourself together woman! You can do it!’ But as much as I wanted to feel better it didn’t seem to be working at all… I thought at this point that probably it would be best to try to keep up with the group, push myself a bit now and just take it easy from the High Camp as this part was supposed to be the steepest one… It turned out to be a pretty bad idea as my breathing only got worse… Somehow I managed to get to the High Camp but thought I was going to suffocate there – just couldn’t catch my breath at all, was trying to take some deep breaths, but some strange noise was coming out from my lungs and judging by the faces of the people around me, I definitely didn’t look that great at that moment. I felt so cold also, thought my hands were going to freeze. Suddenly I had all the guides around me, they took me to the lodge in the High Camp and gave me some hot water to drink. They looked pretty worried, which made me worry even more. Come on! I made it so far, it just couldn’t finish up here!!! Or actually it could… and that was the scary part. Prem was asking me all the time how I was feeling and if I was able to walk. I was feeling a little bit better now, the hot water seemed to have helped a bit and my breathing was more or less normal again. Still felt totally exhausted and what's more... terribly disappointed! my spirit was just gone… Then Prem said that the group left already... 😞 but we could try to
and that would be Grant!and that would be Grant!and that would be Grant!

...also well known as my saviour! :)
walk very slowly and see what happened – if I was feeling good we would continue on, if not they would arrange a yak (!!!!) for me to take me over the pass… Whaaaat???? I guess the idea of me sitting on a yak gave me a bit of motivation to walk on my own... I also got an extra jacket from Chandra (he also took my daypack) and gloves from Prem and slowly we continued our walk from the High Camp in the direction of the Thorung-La Pass. It really was a slow pace, or more than slow actually, full concentration on putting one foot in front of the other… and a stop to take a deep breath after a few steps… It was getting brighter and brighter around finally also… Great! As I badly needed some sun to defrost a bit! It felt as if there was no end to the trail and every time we went up one hill, another one was appearing right behind it… I was losing motivation with each step but was wondering how my buddies were doing at the same time… Suddenly more people appeared all around us, it looked like we reached some kind of a tea house. And then as I lifted my head I saw a friendly face in the crowd… Felt so demotivated and embarrassed for being so weak… I think my dear friend knew or saw I was pretty close to the edge at that moment as just came over to me and gave me a big hug… I really needed it badly at that moment! Once again it was just an amazing feeling to know that somebody cares… it’s just incredible that one hug can do so much! As I really felt my spirit came back with it and it gave me an extra motivation to continue on to the pass… So once again, thanks Grant! You truly were my saviour! 😊

After a big cup of hot tea, I took back my daypack from Chandra (oviously a good sign!) and was ready to go forward again. And it sure was a difference to walk along the group instead of hanging somewhere far in the back on my own. As helpful as the guides were (and I truly appreciate all they have done for me and that they haven’t given up on me), I felt much better walking alongside my buddies. Once again thanks Grant for sticking at the back with me and putting up with my turtle pace! 😊 I definitely felt better at this stage as even took out my camera to take some pictures (once the camera is put away, there's certainly something wrong with me 😉)! And it was just impossible not to stop once in a while to look at the surrounding mountains! Everything was covered in snow which was glittering beautifully in the sun. Absolutely stunning views all around! Again it was a tough climb, one small step after another… and those never-ending hills again! But then suddenly prayer flags appeared in front of our eyes… Yep! There it was finally! We’ve made it to Thorung-La! I felt like a new person at that moment! Soooo happy to have made it all the way to the top! But then it looked like everybody else was in great spirits as well – happy faces all around! We congratulated each other for reaching the pass and after a few hugs it was time for some pictures! It sure was pretty crowded at the pass! But everybody was staying here only a short while as there was still a long and tough way ahead! So soon after the guides let us know it was time to start descending as it usually was getting cloudy around here in the late mornings. So after taking the last few shots we set off to Muktinath. We had a bit of fun on the way downhill, at least during the snowy part of the trail as a couple of times just slid on our butts rather than walked. 😊 But then once again there seemed to be no end to the steep descent – I guess it wasn’t really a big surprise as after all we had to descend 1,700m! I definitely felt how steep it was in my knees – but I wasn’t the only one, a couple of people In my group had sore knees as well. After a small tea break on the way we continued on to Muktinath. Everybody was pretty tired at this stage, it sure was a long day!

We couldn’t believe it was only lunch time when we got to our guesthouse, it felt like such a loooong day – well I guess it was since it started at 3am! Nobody was thinking about food though, it was time to celebrate! The boys started with beers straight away, I thought it would be best to freshen up a bit first and don't think I have to say that but... the hot shower (despite the pretty disgusting bathroom - don't think it has ever been cleaned!) felt just amazing! It was a great evening, the main challenge behind us already, so it was time to relax and reflect on the hardships of the day and have some beers of course! 😉 The guides joined us and so did the porters. Also we got a special treat as it turned out that Kharka, one of the porters was pretty good at giving massages, well you couldn’t say no to that, right? It sure was a funny evening, lots of stories to tell and laughter! It was just great to relax and let all the emotions go… Once again I thanked the guides for getting me through the day – they sure were a great help.

D13 Muktinath to Kagbeni (2,800m)

Before breakfast we went for a short walk to see the local temples up on the hill. Despite the morning hours there were many pilgrims at the temples already - apparently Muktinath is quite a famous place for pilgrimages. I found it very surprising to see both Hindu and Buddhist monasteries at one site, but then I guess Buddhism has deep roots in Hindu religion so I don’t see the reason why both of them shouldn’t coexist… The main temple on the site was the Vishnu temple with its holy waters running all around it. There were many people gathered around here – some were taking the samples of holy water or even washing their whole bodies there, some leaving offerings at the temple, while others were praying and getting the tika blessings from the monk who was sitting inside. I saw one little boy was trying to take a picture of me from far away so just smiled to him with my thumbs up, after which he looked at his father and without words just handed the camera to his dad and ran up to me to have a photo! It sure was very sweet and made my day even brighter!

We stepped in to a few Buddhist temples at the complex as well (one
...and our whole gang!...and our whole gang!...and our whole gang!

well almost whole, as Chandra seemed to have disappeared somewhere!
with eternal fire supposedly) and it was time to head back to our guesthouse. Straight after breakfast we set off to Kagbeni. It was pretty miserable that morning. It even started snowing a little when we were leaving our guesthouse. Honestly we couldn’t believe how lucky we were the previous day with the weather as I surely wouldn’t have made it through the pass if it was raining or snowing for that matter… It was a short trek that day, but I guess we needed that after the previous day. Despite it being all cloudy and windy (and pretty dusty because of that) it was a nice walk as the views didn’t disappoint again… We got to Kagbeni just for lunch and what better way to start the afternoon than having a nice cold beer? Really what a difference before and after the pass… Until Thorung-La it was all about being fit and making it through the pass, so we were sticking to our guides’ rule: ‘strictly no alcohol… until after the pass of course!’. The guides were telling us from the very beginning that after the pass everything was allowed and what's more everything would be better also – food and the variety of food as well, guesthouses, hot showers everywhere … hmmm… a big difference for sure! So it looked like after the pass there was going to be only relaxing and enjoying ourselves… and trekking a bit in between of course! 😉

After lunch I went for a walk with my roomies around Kagbeni as we all needed to buy a couple of things and besides it looked like a lovely town – a little green oasis in the middle of the desert… And it sure was a charming little village, narrow alleys, old buildings and a few bakeries here and there! 😉 And it was set just at the entrance to Upper Mustang! Ah well… one day maybe… Once we got back to our guesthouse there were more beers and after dinner dancing to Nepali music… and singing! It was so nice to relax and let all the worries go and it seemed that everybody was on the same page – our whole gang (including the guides and the porters)! Great night that was! Especially that it looked like I was getting a bit closer to one person… my saviour… well… I guess tough experiences really bring people together and it surely worked here…

D14-20 Kagbeni to Marpha (2,670m) – Kalopani (2,530m) – Tatopani (1,190m) – Ghorepani (2,860m) – Birethanti (1,050m) – Pokhara - Kathmandu

The next few days just seemed to fly by in a second… I say that spending these days with a special someone might have had something to do with that! 😉 It surely was a nice feeling to trek together and get to know each other a bit better with each day… It certainly made the trekking even more pleasurable… Not to mention that the trail still surprised us with beautiful and how very different views each day.

First it was Marpha… the land of apples… 😊 Well I’ve been hearing about Marpha since my apple crumble success in Manang as the guides said that the pies would only get better after the pass, Marpha especially! So guess what was the first thing we were presented with when we got to our guesthouse??? An apple pie of course! Well I just couldn’t say no right? Still sorry to say but, apple paradise or not, Manang was way better! Marpha town looked very charming (and sure had quite a few bakeries around) and once we were walking through it I thought I might go for a walk there later on but since our guesthouse was a bit away from the town, I just gave up on this thought… Was pretty tired after a night before also (was up chatting until 2am so no surprise there I guess)… What turned out to be a huge surprise were the room arrangements though as I was put in a room with my saviour… hmmm… I smelt a plot here somewhere… Not that it was the first time I shared a room with a boy on this trip as they didn't seem to mind to mix the sexes at all... Anyway… Even though we felt pretty good around each other some time before, I guess our 'friendship' only grew stronger from here... After all we had a lot of things in common and with each day were connecting even more, it sure was nice to feel close to someone and care about someone once again…

Next stop Kalopani… But first a visit to a Tibetan refugee camp right next to Marpha – I was surprised to find out that Nepal takes in more refugees than Australia for example, especially when looking at the wealth (or in Nepal’s case poverty) of each of these countries – no comparison whatsoever! It just says enough about Nepal again – very welcoming country, despite its many problems it still is open for other people who are desperately looking for help. We walked through a stone desert later on that day – apparently full of fossils, well maybe I could have searched for some but I would need to know what I was looking for first I guess. Sadly all the stones look the same to me – well I still see a difference in shapes and colours, but that would be about it. 😉 The guides were saying that we would have a nice place to stay at in Kalopani, but nobody expected that! Really first class! Apparently the place belongs to some kind of minister. It seems that due to its luxurious look not many people stay here… Ah well… We loved it there! The accommodation was great, the dining area huge and modern, food very decent, beers nice (I guess they taste the same everywhere though😉), listening to… Abba and Bee Gees (that’s right!) and it was Andrea’s birthday that day so we got some cake as well! Since the pass the weather was pretty dreadful and we didn’t really see many mountains but that evening made up for it all! Just before dusk the mountains started coming out of the clouds again… What an amazing sight! And once the night fell they were glittering beautifully in the moonlight… Absolutely breath-taking! Not to mention that having someone experience it with you made it just extra special! Simply unforgettable moment!

Then it was time to move on to Tatopani! Once again the weather was beautiful and we were surrounded by snowy peaks. That day we were walking through Kali Gandaki gorge which is considered to be the deepest canyon in the world! Well, I guess it says enough right? Just incredible! Also I almost kidnapped a puppy at our lunch place that day, he was just adorable. It just reminded me how much I missed my cute, sweet and absolutely gorgeous Elvis! 😞 Ah well… I knew he was in good hands though – thanks mum and dad once again! The first thing I saw when we got to our guesthouse was this lovely apple crumble just staring at me through the window! 😉 I knew what I was having later… But first a visit to hot springs! I think everybody was looking forward to that! Our minds seemed to have changed when we actually saw how it looked like… But then the temptation to soak in hot water was just too great, so eventually we all got in… Funny that the girls had to dress up a bit out of respect – meaning definitely no bikinis (even though I did see some around!) but the boys could wear whatever they wanted and show whatever they wanted for that matter! Won’t mention names, but somebody overestimated the size of his shorts (or more like slightly larger speedos) as we had a chance to see way more than we wanted!!! Honestly, please can all the boys keep their testicles inside their pants???!!!! Honestly no matter how much you try to get rid of it from your mind but this picture will just stay with you forever!!! But we sure had a good laugh about it as well! And the look on the faces of Nepali people… you simply can’t repeat that! Haha! Well... Despite this incident it was just lovely to soak in the hot water, chillax, have a cold beer, laugh a bit and enjoy the company of all my lovely buddies, especially one of them… 😊 After dinner I treated myself to some apple crumble. Well, treated myself to two pieces actually as it was so damn good! Still think Manang was better but this one was definitely very close! I probably should start thinking about writing a book about apple pies and crumbles as I’m becoming quite an expert in that topic I might say… 😉

Second last trekking stop – Ghorepani… Nobody had doubts it was going to be a challenging day as we were supposed to climb back up 1,700m that day, but some parts of the trails were just ridiculous! Actually I don’t think any part of the trail was flat, it was either down or up, up, up (most of the time actually). It was a pretty difficult day for me as my legs were just giving up at this stage, but made it so happy days! It sure was beautiful around Ghorepani as the whole area was covered in rhododendron trees – a small reward for coming up here at least. 😉 It was pretty cold again and I was getting all congested (I guess a cold shower didn’t help either), but besides that another nice evening with the gang, having nice dinner altogether and a couple of drinks while listening to… some weird mix of pop songs and… Michael Jackson! Jam on! Early night though as we were heading to Poon Hill before sunrise…

And finally last day of trekking – final stop Birethanti! But first Poon Hill! We had 500m to climb up again… I wasn’t too happy about that but then being here and not making it to Poon Hill would’ve been pretty disappointing… We set off at 5am – not as bad as 3am but still the middle of the night almost! 😉 I felt the sore muscles in my legs after the first few steps already, oops! Yep! It was going to be a tough one again! And it sure was! But with a few (or more like lots) of stops on the way, not only to rest but to take some pictures actually also as it was just absolutely beautiful all around – not only snowy peaks all around but a sea of rhododendrons as well! Simply amazing! And it was even nicer to gaze upon this incredible scenery with my very close friend... Just a great feeling to share this experience with someone special! 😊 It sure was worth it to climb up to Poon Hill as the views from here were simply spectacular – Annapurna South from one side, Machapuchre (Fish Tail) from the other, add to it blooming rhododendrons and a beautiful sunrise and you might feel like you are just this bit closer to heaven… It definitely was a nice spot to say goodbye to the Annapurnas as well… After taking a couple of shots here and there it was time to head back to the guesthouse as we still had a bit of trekking to do this last day. So after breakfast we set off on our 1,800m descent to Birethanti. As much as I’m not a fan of steep climbs, steep descents are not really to my liking either as I surely can feel them in my knees straight away. Still sore knees or not, this was the last day of trekking after all! The first part of the trek was just lovely as we were walking through a path surrounded by rhododendrons. Then a couple of steps (or more like a few hundred) downhill and we were back to flat grounds – according to our guides that is as it sure didn't seem that flat to me! And then there it was – Birethanti! First a long, hot shower and then… celebrating! 😊 Pretty decent food, nice cold beer, lovely company, what else could you possibly want? It was nice to look back at the last three weeks from a different perspective now, compare the experiences and bring back some funny moments. Really nice evening that was – full of laughter and singing (and a bit of dancing as I just couldn’t say no to Sitaram😉). Then gazing at the full moon with someone close to you... Yep! Just couldn't be better! 😊

The next day only half an hour walk to the bus stop. Then a bit of a wait there and the bus finally arrived. The driver seemed to be 12-years -old though… hmmm… Backpacks were thrown on the roof, everybody got their seats and the bus just wouldn’t start… The porters quickly jumped out to push the bus though and in a few seconds it seemed we were on a good path to start our journey to Pokhara, that is until Prem jumped in and with a slight panic in his eyes told everybody to get out...? Once we got off the bus and unloaded our stuff, he said that it looked like the driver smoked something just before the journey and with the bus not starting and all he just felt it wasn’t safe enough to continue with this bus. He made a few calls and soon after we were packed into taxis and set off to Pokhara. Fair play to Prem! Nicely organised! Once we got to Pokhara, we had the whole afternoon to ourselves, we were only told to get back for dinner as apparently they had something special prepared for us – some typical Nepali dishes... But first - free time! There was one thing on everybody’s mind for sure… a bit of shopping that is! I was definitely dying to jump out of my trekking clothes and wear something new, nice… and hippy for a change! 😉 We had a lovely lunch at the steakhouse – that’s right! A huge, lovely piece of beef for $7 only! Yum! Then a bit more of shopping and a nice, romantic walk next to a lake – there’s just nothing more that could make a girl happier! 😉 And then it was dinner time... We went to a place right next to our hotel where they had a few tents with nicely set tables, really lovely! It turned out that the special Nepali cuisine was Dhal baat of course, haha, but it tasted very good and had a few twists to it – like a pumpkin curry. Then there was cake and a few speeches. Really pleasant evening again!

On our final day first a 7hour bus trip to Kathmandu! Despite all the windows open, it still felt like a sauna inside the bus, but besides that the trip went by pretty quickly and it was quite pleasant as well actually – but then I guess once you have someone gorgeous sitting next to you offering you his shoulder to sleep on, well it just make things much more enjoyable! 😉 Then in the evening we had another final dinner, well it was just way too difficult to say goodbye to each other after the one in Pokhara. So once again with the whole gang we went to eat something together to Rum Doodle. We got some presies from the porters – the boys got Nepali hats and the girls scarves, pretty nice gesture that was! Again lovely evening! But this time it was really the end of our adventure (a few of us would still meet a couple of times later on in the week, but most were going their own ways). Still what an adventure that was! We walked 220km through tropics and snowy patches, reached Thorung-La at 5,416m, ate and drank, laughed, sang and danced – really unforgettable trip! And just couldn’t ask for a better group of people – our local guides and porters and fellow trekkers (one in particular! 😊). I simply fell in love with Himalayas and its people and knew it wasn’t the last time I would stand my foot here…

Additional photos below
Photos: 174, Displayed: 40


15th May 2013

I recall that in previous blogs you had time to contemplate life...
and your past difficulties with some sadness. I was delighted to read that this trip has allowed you to move forward with a newfound joy after meeting your "savior." It's been a month since your trip so keep your fellow TBers informed of how your friendship develops! We love to hear when things work out for the best for a member of our family.
17th May 2013

Thanks Bob! Always appreciate your comments! :) It's really nice to know I'm a part of the bloggers family. As for the progress in my special friendship, well... stay tuned! ;)
15th May 2013
with Grant at Poon Hill :)

Incredible photo!
17th May 2013
with Grant at Poon Hill :)

Thanks :) I kind of really like this photo too! Hmmm... ;)
16th May 2013

I think you are an amazing person. You really inspired me to keep going when I was totally exhausted going over the pass. It was an absolute pleasure meeting you and getting to know you. I look forward to seeing you again soon x
17th May 2013

Thanks Grant! Really sweet of you to leave a comment like that here! Looking forward to seeing you soon too! :)

Tot: 0.322s; Tpl: 0.098s; cc: 11; qc: 30; dbt: 0.0234s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 3; ; mem: 1.4mb