20 Days in the Himalayas
26.05.2012 - 14.06.2012 35 °C
To view all the photos from the Annapurna Circuit, click here.
The Annapurna Circuit is an amazing trek, one that should not go unconsidered by visitors to Nepal. The ever-changing landscape was endlessly beautiful and serene, and walking for days among some of the world's highest peaks (and climbing to one of its highest passes) was exhilarating. The route is connected by several small villages that we spent our afternoons exploring, getting a taste of mountain life, meeting several interesting locals, and learning about Nepali and Tibetan cultures. At night, we slept in village guesthouses where accommodation was cheap (sometimes even free) provided we ate dinner in the adjacent tea house. As such, we got to try a lot of delicious local foods and had a fair share of tea as well.
Although it can certainly be conquered by anyone willing, the Annapurna Circuit is not without its challenges. There were times when it seemed impossible to continue, if for no other reason than because we were so worn out from previous days of walking and hiking 15 - 20 kilometers. Nevertheless, over the course of our 20 days in the Himalayas, we conquered the Thorung La pass, took the "death-defying" side trip to Tilicho Lake, and completed a fair amount of the trek on foot. We did it without a guide, a decidedly unnecessary added expense as the path is well-marked (thanks to an overly enthusiastic German trekker, who also wrote a small book -available in PDF- on the trek). We also did the trek without a porter, strengthening our bodies as well as our resolve.
We kept notes of our adventures, particularly any unusual or special sights and experiences, which are outlined below. We hope this will give our readers a taste of our experiences, as well as serve to inform any future Annapurna Trekkers of what to expect, where to stay, how much to spend, what to try, etc.
Day 1: Kathmandu to Besisahar (bus)
Besisahar (820 m) - Bhulbhule (840 m); 9 km (walk)
As per our usual style, we opted to take a local bus. This proved futile, as we were charged almost twice as much as the locals, and probably about the same amount as what the tourist buses charge. When we tried to argue with the ticket seller, he said he charges foreigners more because "they have big bags." Of course, given that we were embarking on a 20-day trek in the mountains, our bags were not exactly oversized, but that didn't seem to matter. Getting ripped off soured the bus ride, though it would've been pretty terrible either way (save an overeager and amusing young bus attendant whom Colin described as a "keen young lad").
The trip took around five hours including the multiple stops which are characteristic for this region. Our first stop was a "bathroom break," though the toilet was actually just a slab of concrete which drained into a ditch and was partitioned off by a thin plastic sheet. Open-air "toilets" are not uncommon in Nepal, but we opted not to go just the same. To our dismay, the next town we passed through (but didn't stop) had a large sign proudly thanking visitors for stopping at the "open defecation-free model sanitation zone."
Unlike most other Trekkers we met along the way, we decided to start our journey on foot in Besisahar as opposed to taking a bus or jeep to Bhulbhule. Although the walk was along the infamous road (hence why most people hop on a bus), we enjoyed the warm-up, as well as the numerous friendly locals we met along the way. To our annoyance, every child we passed asked for candy or chocolate, so many thanks to the early Annapurna pioneers that set the precedent by showering the locals with sweets (that was sarcasm). Needless to say, we did not hand out goodies, which is strongly discouraged by ACAP anyway.
Though the first day's trek didn't last too long, we happily settled in Bhulbhule for a quiet dinner with lovely river views and an early night's sleep.
Guesthouse: Heaven Guest House, 150 r (dbl room)
Features: friendly owner; overlooks river/valley; old wooden structure with charming halls/rooms; decent shared shower
Recommendation: mint tea with homegrown mint
Day 2: Bhulbhule (840 m) - Syange (1100 m); 13.5 km
Highest Point: Bahundanda (1310 m)
A lovely hike with an ever-changing landscape, the highlight of day two was a walk through numerous corn fields and charming villages. We also saw lots of waterfalls, which were the most beautiful in Ghermu. We had an excellent lunch at "Top of the Town" restaurant in Bahundanda, which boasts proudly, "not recommended by Lonely Planet." Following Bahundanda, there is a steep descent with epic walls of rice paddies on either side.
Guesthouse: Anju Guest House, 150 r (dbl room)
Features: hot shower; friendly staff with cute kids; clean sheets and comfortable beds
Recommendation: fried macaroni and yak cheese
Day 3: Syange (1100 m) - Tal (1700 m); 11.5 km
We awoke in Syange with clear morning skies and stunning mountain views. To our amusement, during our trek we passed multiple herds of donkeys that were being used to transport various goods through the mountains. We also passed other Trekkers for the first time. We deviated from the main route, following a NATT trail up and over a small mountain along a stream. In his summary of the circuit, the German described this as a "romantic forest walk"; Colin and Leah disagree about this description, which basically just solidifies Leah's point that the alternate route was not romantic. :-)
Much of the afternoon was spent going up and down a long, steep, rocky path, and walking along the edge of a dusty cliff. This was actually quite a difficult climb, mostly because of the blistering heat. It was also discouraging, because every time it seemed like we were making progress, having climbed 400-500 meters, we dropped back down again. The final ascent to Tal was up a steep, rocky path that was created as the result of a landslide. Tal was unimpressive, a village comprised mostly of guesthouses, save a massive waterfall that provided a nice backdrop, but we were tired so we stayed.
Colin Fights a Monkey
When we first arrived at our guesthouse in Tal, we decided to have dinner at a picnic table in the garden. Just as we sat down, a monkey came walking up the path. The guesthouse owner and several of her neighbors smiled in amusement at the monkey, so we had no reason to believe it was hostile. Leah, like everyone else, smiled and watched the monkey as it meandered toward the guesthouse gate. All of a sudden, the monkey locked eyes with Leah, it's expression turned sour, and it began running toward her. As it jumped onto the picnic table, Leah jumped up and ran toward the guesthouse owner. Meanwhile, Colin stepped in between the monkey and Leah, and tried to intimidate the monkey so that it would go away. He did this by waving around a Nalgene water bottle that was secured to a strap. The monkey definitely did not like this posturing, and he lunged at Colin. Everyone watched in horror as Colin stepped back several times, still swinging the bottle, with the monkey jumping at him in an effort to bite or scratch. Finally, Colin took aim and smacked the bottle, which still had about 400 ml of water in it, square in the monkey's head. The sound was loud, and the monkey jumped back, stunned. It then shook its head vigorously and ran off. In shock and horror, we turned to the guesthouse owner, who shrugged and in broken English said, "I don't know this monkey. This monkey new to me." Colin was the hero of the hour.
Guesthouse: Potala Guesthouse, 100 r (dbl room)
Features: nice, clean room; friendly staff; cheap local beer; good food; great views of waterfalls from corner room
Recommendation: pumpkin curry with corn bread (as advertised on the sign)
Day 4: Tal (1700 m) - Danagyu (2200 m); 10.5 km
This was a nice, easy day of trekking. The ascent was steady, though we opted to bypass other steeper, off-the-path trails, enjoying the smooth gradient of the road. We also passed under a couple of waterfalls, which offered a cool respite from the heat. We passed several porters carrying stacks of chicken cages on their backs, and were amused by all the birds poking their heads out of the holes of their wired cells. We discovered the ease of trekking with the aide of walking sticks (just in time for Leah's knees!), and are not ashamed of our continued reliance on them.
When we went in pursuit of lunch, we were amused to see how many tea houses cater to Koreans, with signs that advertise kimchi. With lunch, we got a show. We sat in the garden of a restaurant, and watched one of the owners chase and capture a chicken. He disappeared for a minute, and when he came back, the bird was headless. He then proceeded to feather and clean it in a nearby sink.
Guesthouse: Potala Guesthouse, 100 r (dbl room)
Features: amazing, HOT solar shower; beautiful rose garden; guitar for free use
Recommendation: yak curry
Day 5: Danagyu (2200 m) - Bhratang (2850 m); 19 km
We awoke on day five to our first clear view of the Annapurna Himalayas. We followed the trail a steep 350 m ascent through a lovely forest. When we emerged in the quaint hilltop village of Timang, we were rewarded with breathtaking 360-degree snow-capped mountain views. We were truly in awe.
We decided to push for a long trekking day, enjoying the steady up and down hike. We saw a goat stuck high in a hillside tree, listening to its heart-wrenching cries for several steps. Leah got a fright when a herd of goats emerged from seemingly nowhere, charging straight at her. And we saw what is decidedly the world's most beautiful football pitch with the Himalayas providing a nice backdrop to the field.
We stopped in Chame, debating whether to stay or push on. Despite that this is the first major village between the start of the trek and Manang and offers many conveniences, we thought it was too big, dirty, and the people were rude. Old Chame, on the other hand, was a charming village, and we enjoyed walking through it en route to Bhratang.
Again we deviated from the circuit, following NATT trail signs along a 3 km walk through a shaded forest with a soft bed of pine needles under our feet. On our left, we enjoyed views of the Annapurnas the whole way, as well as several gushing waterfalls.
Guesthouse: Raju Hotel, 200 r (dbl room) ... If you arrive at dusk, like we did, she won't negotiate the room cost because she knows you're not going anywhere else. Also, it's the only tea house in town.
Features: great, old farmhouse-style stone building; bucket shower (probably with cold water... We don't know because we didn't use it); very, very nice host and hostess; wood burning stove in comfortable common room, which provides nice heat throughout the night
Recommendation: cheese fried macaroni, mint tea with enormous tea leaves
Day 6: Bhratang (2850 m) - Ghyaru (3730 m); 12 km
We awoke in Bhratang to a clear view of Annapurna II, which we followed for much of the day. We also walked along the "soup bowl," which is basically a massive, smooth, bowl-shaped slice through the mountains created by a glacier. The views of the soup bowl were especially stunning from the valley below.
We stopped in Lower Pisang to look at some interesting houses and talk to a man that was selling jewelry and metal works outside his home. From there, we followed a forested path toward Ghyaru, passing Emerald Lake and with the views of Annapurna II ever-expanding around us. We crossed an unusually long suspension bridge, then began our final ascent, a steep 470 m climb. We were greeted at the top with the best views yet.
Guesthouse: Yak RU, 100 r (dbl room)
Features: very welcoming, kind people; adorable old woman cook/hostess; great food; hot bucket shower (our first experience!); interesting old 2-story stone and wood building with rooms that look down on a wood stove; menu with local food
Recommendation: cheese fried potatoes, local noodle dish
Day 7: Ghyaru (3730 m) - Manang (3540 m); 15 km
We awoke to the same stunning views of Annapurna II and III, though the clouds quickly moved in. We enjoyed a cliffside walk to the small village of Ngwal, where we stopped for breakfast, passing multiple prayer walls and stupas. From Ngwal, we descended along a steep, cliffside path that was scary, sleek and dusty. We continued through a valley with many unusual rock formations on one side and views of the Himalayas on the other. The landscape was surreal, though hot, dusty, and windy. We rested in a park with views of Braha, a beautiful cliffside village with old stone buildings. We watched a horse family graze, and we were amused by several local toddlers who managed to create their own slide out of a stair railing.
We arrived in Manang in the early afternoon. We had been following signs to this town since day one, as it is a main hub and the recommended place to spend a day acclimatizing. Although we expected a more bustling city center (not unlike Chame), we were pleased to see that it is actually quite a small village. We settled in for our day of rest, washed our clothes, and washed down yak burgers with some local wine, which is basically like soju or sake.
Guesthouse: Mountain Lake, 100 r (dbl room)
Features: adorable baby kitten; big room with warm blankets; good facilities for washing clothes (laundry service is also available if you prefer)
Day 8: Acclimatization Day in Manang (3540 m)
This was a fairly uneventful day. We mostly just wandered around the village, rested, and tried some new, interesting foods.
Recommendation: bean cheese burritos at Yak Motel (not your ordinary burrito)
Days 9 - 11: Side Trip to Tilicho Lake
Along with four new friends, we decided to take a recommended side trip to Tilicho Lake, which is allegedly the highest lake in the world, though a later Internet search seemed to dispute that claim. Our trek, which deviated from the main circuit, spanned three days and was a very challenging but rewarding experience. We're not sure how many additional kilometers this added to the overall trek, but our estimate is that it was about 30-40. It took three days, because at such high elevations, it was so difficult to breathe that we were moving slowly and sluggishly. Additionally, we both had difficulty acclimatizing despite the extra day in Manang. Tilicho Lake is a large, beautiful, crystal blue icy lake that sits at an elevation of 4900 meters, but we climbed to over 5000 to view it from above.
The first day we walked slowly, enjoying the clear skies and beautiful views, and exploring a village and monastery along the way. We decided to stop early in the afternoon in Sri Kharka (4165 m), which turned out to be a wise decision since the rain and snow came shortly after our arrival.
The following morning we set off for Tilicho Base Camp (4200 m). Both the German and the guide book warned that this portion of the trek was dangerous due to landslides. What we did not expect, however, was that much of the trek was on a very narrow, rocky path that cut straight through the massive landslides. The landslide area was very steep, so basically we had the threat of falling rocks above us and a horrifying 500+ meter drop below us. Although we did not encounter any heavy landslides, we had to be on constant alert. At times, when the rocks did start to fall, we had to run along the narrow path to avoid getting hurt. The path was sometimes only as wide as a shoe. At other times it disappeared altogether, and we had to create a new path in the soft rock bed or literally jump to the next visible section. It was a very surreal and terrifying experience, and not one that Leah cares to relive in words. We'll let the pictures do the talking. (Hint: That tiny little line that cuts through the landslides is our path.) Needless to say, we arrived at the base camp, alive and (physically, but not emotionally) well. Leah feels she owes her survival to our newfound friends, Enrico and Libby, who helped her through much of the trek.
On the third day, we left our bags at the base camp and ascended to over 5000 meters to view the beautiful lake. Unfortunately, we could not enjoy it as much as we would've liked since the sudden 800 meter ascent and thin air brought on symptoms of elevation sickness. We refilled our bottles with freshly fallen snow, snapped a couple photos, and started the descent before the feelings of sickness became too unbearable. However, before we left, we had the extraordinary experience of witnessing a massive avalanche in the mountains that surrounded the lake.
When we returned to the base camp, we learned that during the previous night, a snow leopard had visited the camp and killed one of the owner's yaks. Although this was a devastating blow to him, he happily fried up some fresh yak meat and we had a taste. Although we'd tried a minced yak and veg burger and curry made with dried yak meat already, tasting the fresh meat was definitely a treat.
We stayed a second night at the base camp and spent the rest of the evening recovering from the trauma of our ascent, drinking tea, enjoying the warmth of the wood stove, and watching the yaks, some of which were only a few days old, roam the grounds (on our trek to Tilicho we also saw numerous deer, field mice, and various species of birds, including vultures and falcons). We also mentally prepared ourselves for the return to the circuit... Back along the landslides.
Day 12: Tilicho Base Camp (4200 m) - Yak Kharka (4070 m); ?? km
Our return to the circuit meant crossing over the landslides again. This time it was less traumatizing, though still slightly nerve racking and potentially dangerous. Nevertheless, we survived. Having done this portion of the trek already, we felt slightly more comfortable and were therefore able to appreciate the views much more. Moreover, the sky, which had been overcast on the way to the base camp, was crystal clear, and we were able to see the Annapurna Himalayas once again. Jutting out of the mountain on our left were numerous massive rock structures that were absolutely stunning, and the river below sparkled majestically.
We retraced our route only as far as Sri Kharka, where we had stopped the first night. From there, we picked up a new trail that led us to Upper Kansar. This village was the highlight of the day, comprised mostly of small stone and mud houses that were eerily abandoned. In fact, it seemed like most of the houses had been converted into barns, because we could hear the cries of goats coming from within the structures. We wandered around the town looking for any residents, but found only a small stable with adorable baby cows and goats.
On the absence of residents, we developed two theories: First, we suspected that perhaps everyone had moved to (lower) Kansar, and converted the old village into stables. Because there were cows and horses grazing in the nearby fields and all of the animals looked healthy and well-cared for, we assumed that the farmers ascended the small mountain daily from Kansar to Upper Kansar to feed the animals. Our second theory was that all of the residents had left town, traveling to Yak Kharka to gather mushrooms for sale to the Chinese. These popular mushrooms, which are believed to be an aphrodisiac and are used in Chinese medicine, sell for as much as $100 per mushroom. As this was the season for mushrooms, we suspected that the residents had gone in pursuit of them. Either way, it was interesting to wander through this beautiful, old ghost town.
From there, we had to hike up and over a mountain that offered distant views of Manang from the top. Following the descent, we crossed the river again, and hiked up a much smaller mountain. When we arrived at the top, we were surprised to walk onto a wide, open field with a prayer wall and monastery in the distance. We crossed the field and were connected once again to the main Annapurna path. After almost four days off the path, we stepped onto the road with feelings of mixed enthusiasm and disinclination. Nevertheless, we set off toward Yak Kharka.
While walking, several local men in their early 20s passed us with a goat on a leash. They were friendly and seemed excited about their journey and the goat, which they were obviously pampering. Having already hiked over two mountains and what was probably about 15 km, we were moving slowly, and the boys quickly disappeared ahead. About an hour later, just outside the village limits, we saw a roaring bonfire. As we approached, we saw that it was the same group of boys gathered around the fire. To our horror and amusement, the goat was now headless and, as we passed by the fire, we saw one of the boys toss the entire carcass, fur and all, onto the fire. We would've stopped to further investigate, but it was getting dark and we needed to find a place to sleep in the bustling little village. The next day we inspected the bonfire site and found remnants of the dead animal, which the boys had obviously been excited about consuming.
Guesthouse: Gannapurna, 150 r (dbl room)
Features: strict owner (makes you eat all your meals at her tea house), but very good cook; standard rooms and toilets; blankets are not very warm!
Recommendation: yak steak, veg burger, salad, real bread and rolls
Day 13: Rest Day in Yak Kharka (4070 m)
Worn out from our side trip to the lake, wishing we'd spent a second day in Manang acclimatizing, and enjoying the bustle of the mushroom village, as well as the company of our traveling companions, we decided to spend an extra day in Yak Kharka. The village was quiet during the day, with most people off gathering mushrooms in the nearby hills. However, they left their children roaming about, and we were amused by the tiny, filthy little babies that ran and played all around us. Leah had to resist the urge to throw them all under the community water tap and scrub them down, however, as it was obvious most of them had not been cleaned for weeks.
When the adults returned in the late afternoon, the town took on a very different energy. The people poured into local restaurants that had been preparing tibetan bread and lentils all day, washing down these cheap delights with local brew. Then the selling and trading began, as mushrooms were exchanged for big wads of cash or livestock. With their pockets freshly lined, the men then formed massive circles and the dice began to roll. The gambling and general excitement lasted for much of the evening.
Recommendation: Dhading Laxmi is a great little restaurant that serves cheap local food and booze up the street from Gannapurna GH
Day 14: Yak Kharka (4070 m) - Thorung Pedi (4450 m); 6 km
Back on the main circuit, we were shocked at how easy it was compared to the steep, high climbs and challenging landslide walks of our side trip to Tilicho. Our trek to Thorong Pedi was smooth and easy. We stopped once to rest at a small mountainside tea house with a friendly owner. We passed through a landslide area, which was a breeze compared to Tilicho. Overall, it was a nice, easy day.
Guesthouse: Base Camp Guesthouse, 150 r (dbl room) <-- not sure if this is the correct name, but it's the only guesthouse regardless
Features: the in-room toilet was the only real highlight
Recommendation: hard to recommend any one thing, since the food is pricey and not very good, and everything (even the sandwiches) is made with chapatti
Day 15: Thorung Pedi (4450 m) - Thorung Pass (5416 m) - Muktinath (3800 m); 16 km
We awoke before sunrise, had a mediocre breakfast, then watched the first light appear across Annapurna II. The sky was crystal clear, which was exactly what we'd hoped for, and the views of the Himalayas stayed with us to the top.
The first part of our trek was a steep, zig-zag climb to the high camp. It was cold, but not too difficult. From there, we headed toward the pass and the higher we climbed, the more difficult it became to breathe. By the time we made it to the top, we were out of breath and moving slowly, but this of course did not deter our excitement. At the pass, we had views of the Annapurnas on one side and the Muktinath Himalayas on the other. It was exhilarating to be surrounded by so many of the world's highest peaks.
After some time of taking photos and enjoying the views, we began our descent. It was long, steep, dusty, and hot, and we had the misfortune of battling terrible headaches brought on by the steep ascent/descent and a lack of water. This was later remedied by friendly passers-by that happened to have headache medicine, as well as the cool refreshment of homemade apple juice at a tea house. Nevertheless, eventually we arrived in Muktinath, a surprisingly large, sprawling town. Accessible by the road, which we thankfully had not seen in several days, Muktinath is fairly developed. In dizzying awe and annoyance, we passed several motorbikes and jeeps, multi-story buildings, and shops and artisan stands. We were soon greeted by the welcoming cheers of all of the friends we had made along the way, who found each other at a local guesthouse. The "I conquered the Thorung Pass" party had already started on the rooftop, and we were soon swept into the excitement and celebration... This of course lasted for two days.
Guesthouse: Hotel Bob Marley; free with food purchase
Features: a backpacker's dream!; amazingly clean, comfortable, even decorated rooms with great blankets; hot, powerful shower; western toilets!; delicious food... This place cannot receive enough praise!
Recommendation: EVERYTHING (but the fajitas); chicken caesar salad was a personal favorite
Day 16: Celebration Day in Muktinath (3800 m)
Along with our friends, we stayed another day and night in Muktinath. We spent a large part of the day exploring the town and surrounding area, and most of the evening celebrating with a Nepali favorite, Bagpiper's Whisky.
Day 17: Muktinath (3800 m) - Kagbeni (2800); 10 km
Eager to get back on the path after so much downtime, we set off just the two of us. However, before we made it out of Muktinath, we witnessed what was most likely a funeral procession. There was a large group of women in traditional Tibetan dress, each of whom was crying or wailing loudly. We watched the group break apart and several monks emerged, each playing an instrument. The procession of monks disappeared down the street, and we moved on.
We took a trail to the nearby village of Jharkot, passing an adorable three-day old calf. Later we saw a newborn calf within minutes of its birth (literally... the afterbirth was still coming out of the mother cow while she stood nearby munching some grass, seemingly unfazed). Jharkot itself was really interesting with beautiful old stone buildings at the foot of a large monastery, and we spent a long time exploring and taking photos.
Following Jharkot we picked up the road once again. It was wide, open, and dusty, and the sun beat down as we moseyed along. Behind us we could still see the outline of the pass, which offered an incredible sense of accomplishment. However, in front of us the landscape started to change; the picturesque snow-capped scenery was replaced by endless barren, brown hills, a far less inspirational view. The tranquility of walking in the mountains, which we had grown so accustomed to, was shattered by the occasional jeep or motorbike that came barreling up the road, honking obsessively and covering us in dust. All around us were strange bugs that twirled like helicopters and were constantly flying into our faces. As we approached Kagbeni, we got caught up in a massive wind storm, literally unable to move as the force of the wind threw us about. We fought against it, seizing small windows of opportunity when the wind died down to descend the steep trail to Kagbeni. By the time we arrived, we knew we didn't want to walk on the road anymore.
Like Jharkot, Kagbeni was a great village for exploring, which we spent most of the afternoon doing. There was a seemingly endless maze of narrow streets, and we wandered through them, getting lost but enjoying the aesthetic of the buildings, homes, tunnels and bridges, and monasteries. Although Kagbeni is technically in Mustang, we stumbled upon the sign which forbids travelers without the necessary special permits from crossing any further into this otherwise forbidden Tibetan land.
Guesthouse: Asia Trekker's Home; 100 r (dbl)
Features: clean, comfortable, spacious rooms; attached bath with hot shower; be aware of the obnoxious dog that playfully bites and will muddy your clothes (the owner thinks this is hilarious)
Recommendation: honestly, the food was pretty bad
Day 18: Kagbeni (2800) - Jomsom (2720 m); 9 km (walk)
Jomsom - Ghasa - Totaponi (1200 m); 34 km (bus/jeep)
Having decided not to continue the trek on the road, we decided just to walk a quick nine kilometers to Jomsom to pick up a bus. This basically just solidified our decision, since the walk along the road was just as miserable as the previous day despite a delicious early morning breakfast at a local Kagbeni favorite, Yak Donald's. Jomsom was even bigger, more developed, and more chaotic than Chame or Muktinath had been, and thankfully we caught a bus out quickly. The route to Ghasa didn't offer any change in landscape, as we followed the same brown, barren hills, thus further confirming that we weren't missing out on much by ending the trek early. The ride itself was long and bumpy, and the 30 km distance took several hours.
When we arrived in Ghasa we waited an hour and a half to take a second bus on to Totaponi. At the last minute, we were switched to a jeep and crammed in with fifteen other people. The remaining few kilometers, which took almost two hours, was in pouring rain, which just made the ride that much more uncomfortable (and at times, scary). Our driver, who could not have been more than seventeen, blared Hindi techno as he tore down the road, swerving to avoid massive potholes, and turning sharp corners without so much as a horn to warn oncoming traffic. We had to drive through two different waterfalls, the second of which created such a deep pool of water that we nearly got stuck. We arrived late in the evening in one piece but a little frazzled from our day on the road.
Guesthouse: Himalaya Hotel; 100 r (dbl)
Features: attached bathroom with hot shower; very big menu with good food; nice rooftop garden with beautiful views of river/mountain
Recommendation: chef's salad
Day 19: Hot Springs & Trekking Around Tatopani (1200 m)
We were pleased to see that the scenery had changed drastically on the road from Ghasa. At this lower elevation, we were once again surrounded by a lush, green landscape in an almost tropical climate. There was so much life in the surrounding hills and mountains, and we were eager to explore. We decided to spend the day trekking around Totaponi. We followed a NATT trail into the mountains, which led us to the small village of Narchyang. Here, the people were friendly and the village was charming, and we spent some time wandering around.
Tatopani is famous for its hot springs, and as such, a favorite place for Trekkers to unwind. Following our day hike, we took a dip in the springs. Although we were still debating whether to push on and over Poonhill, the final 37 km of the circuit, this felt like a befitting way to end the trek. In the end, the soothing hot water washed away 19 days of limited showers, dirty clothes, squatter toilets, and countless kilometers on our epic trek through the stunning Himalayas.
On day 20 we took the bus to Pohkara.