POSTED: 18 February 2017
Although it was snowing when I went to bed, I awoke to a wonderful clear sunny day and I was very much encouraged about successfully traversing the Thorung La. Some people begin this day at 3am but the logic of it completely escapes me. It's both pointless and dangerous. I left at 6.30am and enjoyed some wonderful mountain views on the way up. I hit the top about 9.30am and then did the knee-crunching 1,600m descent to Muktinath, arriving early afternoon. Mission accomplished!
It's not for the faint hearted though. I passed an English couple on the way up. She was crying because she was dizzy and fatigued. He was with her but wasn't a lot better. He had a case of diahorrea and hadn't slept. I gave them all the encouragement I could but after that there wasn't much I could do. It was up to their own physical and mental strength to get them there. The reward for the effort was the amazing feeling of being on top of the world!
Top of Thorung La Pass – 5,416m
The other side of the pass was both interesting and different. The walk to the Tibetan village of Kagbeni was very pretty with vibrant autumn colours contrasting with the snowy Himalayan peaks. When I turned into the Kali Gandaki valley I was immediately walking into the wind that comes up every day in this area. I think it's called a katabatic wind and it begins as the land warms up during the morning and eases with the cooling later in the day. Whatever it is, it wasn't particularly pleasant and I had three and a half hours slogging straight into it!
For much of this section of the track I was actually walking on a road. I guess eventually this will be extended all the way down to the end. As I was trekking it seemed a little strange to be passed by motorcycles occasionally. There were also a few planes passing overhead on their way to the airstrip at Jomsom. So, from that point of view it was quite different to the first week of the trek. But it didn't detract from some fantastic mountain scenery along this stretch and the fantastic feeling of walking gradually downhill!
Beautiful scenery near Marpha
Of course, as I descended the scenery changed back to how it was in the beginning - a lot greener and also a lot warmer. I was so happy for that! Tatopani was the lowest point (1,100m) before the climbing started again. So, it was perhaps ironic and a little unfortunate that this was where the hot springs ('tato' means hot and 'pani' means water) were. How nice they would have been up in Manang! That aside, I soaked in them till I resembled a raisin and my tired legs just loved it!
The following day the hard work began again on my way up to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC). It started with a climb of 1,600m up to Ghorapani. Again, it was cold but I had a cosy guest house with the chimney from the fire in the kitchen extending up through my room. I'm not certain you'll find the word 'insulation' too readily in a Nepalese dictionary so I really appreciated the little luxuries sometimes.
Mule train near Ghasa
Tourists trek to Ghorapani to climb the nearby Poon Hill and watch the sunrise on the Himalayas. It's been described as one of the great sights of Nepal and I wouldn't disagree. At 5.15am I joined the long line of torch beams as we made our way up to the viewpoint. There is something magic about watching the first rays of sun hitting a mountain and turning the snow a golden colour. This gradually became a brilliant white as yet another beautiful day dawned.
Trekking across into the Annapurna Sanctuary was a tough and long day. My desination was Chomrong which is actually at a lower altitude to Ghorapani. So, in theory it should have been a reasonably easy day. However it seems to have been firmly instilled into the Nepalese that the quickest way between two points is a straight line...regardless of what might happen to be in the way! In other words that particular day took me up and down the sides of various valleys and I was very weary by the time I arrived.