Annapurna, She Who Is
We started hiking from the beginning point: Besisahar (827 high meter). Since three years the government has been building a road for jeeps and buses to go all the way up to Manang (3400 m). So people with less time decide to take a jeep. We have all the time of the world, so we walk. We take the bus, three hours from Pokhhara to Besis and start our trip at 14.00 o’clock P,M. On our way we almost see no other hikers. It looks like everybody takes the bus. But the environment is already beautiful and we enjoy our three our walk to Nadi Bazar big time. Crossing our first bridges and trying to find the off road.
Sara did not bring her good camera because of the weight. Which is a bit of a regret, because the camera of her phone is definitely less quality. But, ah well it still will do.
Day 1: Besisahar (830 m) Nadi Bazar (890 m)
Day 2: Nadi Bazar (890 m)- Chamje (1430m)
In Nadi we meet a very nice guy owning a lodge. His wife makes dal bhat for us, for still a fair price. Room is for free. We have a wonderful night in the quiet mountains. Next day we meet our first fellow hikers. American Philip and Australian Illyas. Illyas we would meet the next coming ten days almost every day. We spend a few hours walking together the stunning green hilly environment. Passing the most idyllic mountain villages with gorgeous gardens with beautiful colors of the flowers.
Second part of our hike we met Leon, 22 year old French guy that studies chemistry and Robbert and Hannes, two guys from Eindhoven the Netherlands. With these guys we would spend the coming days together. For Sara it was nice to speak Dutch again and it was nice to have some good company. We hiked through the Tal region which were gorgous river valleys in between huge cliffs.
Day 3: Chamje (1430m) – Timang (2710 m)
Every day we mostly got up at 6 and started walking around 7. So we had the whole day in front of us. We made our own breakfast on the way. And in the early morning hours its not so busy yet with fellow hikers. Because now we coming accros more and more in high season October. The way to Timang we spend with some Germans from Freiburg, a 72 year old man and 29 year old woman. Who became friends 10 years ago during the walk Santiago de Compostella, and now every year went on a hike together. Also we met a girl from Utrecht, the Netherlands who left her husband behind and started walking with us.
By this time we already had some shoe problems. Apparently buying a fake brand is asking for trouble. Chris started to get painful blisters from day two and Sara’s sole was falling apart. On day three the sole even fell off. Timang was a good place to rest. We had a very cosy lodge where they were fine with us not having dinner or breakfast. We had a beautiful evening view on the Manaslu (8000 plus meter). But for the first time it was starting to get cold. So even it was still a few days for Chris his birthday he already got his birthday hat and sunglasses.
Day 4: Timang (2710 m) – Upper Pisang (3300)
Chris had fixed Sara’s shoe with some needle and string and he tried to survive on his own feet who every day got struck by an extra blister. This day we met Illyas again, some Chinese hikers with a drone, and many more. The way to Upper Pisang was amazing. landscape changed into pine and rocky. In Upper Pisang we had a warm shower in a wooden hut where the wind was attacking us from each side. Sara was slowly getting cranky because of the lack of diner. So in the end she ordered a soupy to satisfy her warm food needs. Chris still wanted to challenge himself, so he did not eat in the evening.
Day 5: Upper Pisang (3300m) – Mungji (3400)
Next day was a stunning day. The morning hours were so beautiful. We hiked up to 3800 meter. We met two Dutch guys on our way, 50 plus that were very excited to hear about our bicycle trip. Vultures were circling above our heads and yaks in front of us. Also we met Illyas again and we had a nice lunch all together eating our first Tibetan goaty dish which name I forgot. Here we also met the Dutch Edo.
The second part of the day got even more beautiful. Tibetan monasteries, Buddhist shrines everywhere against the background of the snowy mountains. We ended up at Mungji where Leon, Robbert and Hannes were chilling in a according to them great guesthouse, There was still a room free and we had a nice night with also French Sully. And we met a nice couple from Sweden. They had the best vegetarians burgers ever. So big and juicy and the bakery across had pain au chocolat. All for not even so much money. So Sara was very very happy. Until she had to sew her shoe again. She promised Chris a vegetarian burger in order to do it. Although in the end he was not happy with his big juicy burger, because he would have liked to continue his skipping dinner exercise.
Day 6: Mungji (3400m) – Ice lake (4600m) – Mungji
This day we decided to make a day trip to the Ice lake on 4600 meters. Leon had brought his camping gear, so we arranged some vegetables and took the cooking pot to make a nice rice dish at the lake. This was a really fun day. It was super clear, we saw the mountains so good. They were right in front of us. On our way we got some wood and in a few hours we made a delicious rice dish on the fire. What a success.
Day 7: Mungji – Upper Sree Karka (4200m)
This day the boys went for continuing their way to the pass. We decided to take a side trail to Tilicho lake situated on 5000 high meters. This day we were a bit tired and happy to arrive finally at 4200 meters. We enjoyed the last sun beams till we saw Edo. We spend the night together playing cards and meeting a great funny British couple who had traveled around and had nice stories to share. In the night there was an electricity cut, so Chris had the chance to see all the stars of the milky way. Sara was too late.
Day 8: Upper Sree Karka (4200m) – Tilicho Lake (5000m) – Upper Sree Karka (26 km)
This day was a tough day! We started 6 in the morning with Edo, because we knew it was going to be a long day ahead of us. We decided not to sleep at base camp at 4400, because we heard the prices were twice as much, but it meant we had to calculate 4 hours more in total. This trek to the lake is a touristy trek, so the prices are high! It took us 6 hour to get to the 5000m lake. It was our first 5000 in our lives joehoe, and it felt a bit invincible. Chris decided to get water at the lake while Edo and I were waiting. However minutes turned almost into an hour. We were afraid something had happened, he was too far to spot him, so Sara rushed to the lake. But there he eventually was, just sitting and enjoying the serenity. Drinking the lake water. The lake was a beauty. However, we knew we still had some hours in front of us, so we could not enjoy it so long. Chris his feet really began to hurt this time. We had to go slow. But in the end, totally warned out we arrived at our lodge again at 15.30. What a day.
In the evening one of the young Nepali girls of the owner of the lodge was struck down by the visit of her dead uncle. For an hour they had to some exorcism to get the uncle and thus the girl at peace. They eventually solved it by calling her mother who did a prayer over the phone. We had to sooth the baby who was left crying in a corner. It was quite a show.
Day 9: Upper Sree Karka (4200m) – Thorung Pedi (4400m)
The hike to Thorung Pedi, the last place before the pass was a bit tiring after the previous day. But not less beautiful. It was autumn, everywhere the bushes were red, yellow, green and we went through ghost towns. We saw blue sheep on our way. For the first time we bought some delicious yak cheese and before we knew it we arrived in the afternoon at Thorung Pedi where we shared a room with an Italian guy and Edo again. In the evening we met some nice Germans we played card games with. It was one of the coldest nights at the rocky windy spot of Thorung Pedi. We slept with all our clothes.
Day 10: Thorung Pedi (4400m) – Thorung La Pass (5416m) – Muktinath (3800m)
The day of the pass was a tough day. We got up at 4.30 started hiking at 05.00 under the stars. The first hour was the steep way up to high camp at 4800m. Here we got some headache which mostly disappeared after we had breakfast there. We also started to feel much better when the sun appeared on our faces.
And then we hiked grandpa and grandma style the last 600 meters to the top. It was busy our way to the top. Horses, donkeys, hikers, porters. We met some people on the way we had seen before, Australian and Russian couple. And then after four hours we reached the windy chilly top! We had a quick picture moment and quickly rushed our way down. Back to warm Muktinath. We met Illyas again. Wearing shorts. Of course. This day we were pretty tired and even though the Germans of the night before invited us for dinner we slept around 19.00 P.M.
Daytrip Upper Mustang
Day 11: Muktinath (3800m) – Upper Mustang – Kagbeni (2800m)
Because we were both tired of ten days of intensive hiking, crossing the pass, with blisters and broken shoes as a result. We had planned a rest day: a 10 kilometer hike to Kagbeni. The morning was beautiful, environment stunning, like always. Only our way went after half an hour walking up, and a little bit up, and a little bit more up. There were even thousands of red arrows pointing: up, up, up. So we went up. On the top, almost three hours later we were thinking: nice now we go down, just two more hours to Kagbeni. ‘And btw is that behind that big mountain range not Upper Mustang?’ The region where you need a special permission because its close to the border of Tibet.
So we went down, down, down. What a beautiful rocky red environment. Sara even made a video: ‘there is nobody. Only silence.’ Until we were almost down. Then hiking groups were coming up. The guide of the third big hiking group stopped us and asked: ‘guys do you have a special permission for this area?’ We answered.. ‘no, why?’. ‘This is Upper Mustang. Its costs 550 dollar for ten days. If someone checks you, you might get in trouble and end up with a fine. ‘ You are kidding.’
Shit, we looked at the map, and saw Kagbeni was still 16 kilometers! Oh my, that would take so long. Up was no question for Chris his hurtful feed. He wanted to continue and find a way through Upper Mustang. On maps.me the hiking ways are drawn, but in real there are no. Just some vague small line which maybe some villagers decades ago had been using. So we continued walking and walking. There was nobody. Just wide rocky plains. Not even a cow. A goat. Nothing. After 1,5 hour we saw a village. Only Chris discovered half the way it was not the village we had to go to. We had to go to the left. Not the right. Sara desperately wanted to go to the village. To ask people if they can help us finding the way. And it was the only clear path. But Chris was not to be convinced. Even not by Sara’s panic attack. We went left.
We followed this vague path, ending up in a dried river bed. We went through cliffs, unclear paths and dangerous edges. But after two hours we made it. We saw the village. We decided not go there, because their could be a checkpost. We had to go straight and there was a valley between us. On the other side we saw a white building that looked like a checkpost. We decided we did not nothing wrong. Nowhere had been a sign: Your now entering Upper Mustang. So after 45 minutes we walked aside the white building and trying to put on our normal faces as if we belong in this region. Then we quickly look left and we saw no guards, no fences. Only a sign: Organic Apple Farm.
There was only a guy selling bags of apples. From relieve we bought a big bag full of delicious Mustang apples. And we walked still 1,5 hour in the most forceful headwind the last kilometers to our destination: Kagbeni. Suddenly everywhere we saw signs: your now entering special region Upper Mustang bla di bla die bla. When we arrived, we took the first guesthouse we saw: snowboat, owned by Tenzin and his family. A very warm guesthouse with amazing mushroom soup and this was not the time to look for money. Sara ordered a tea after another. We made it. Without a fine, 25 plus kilometers instead of 10. We were exhausted and chilled for the rest of the day in beautiful Kagbeni.
Day 12: Kagbeni (2800m) – Jomsom (2700m)
So next day was definitely going to be our rest day. 10 plus kilometer to mountain city Jomsom. Lots of people fly from Jomsom back to Kathmandu. The real die hards continue the trail 😉 We arrived pretty early in ‘Windy Valley’. We expected it to be cheap, because it’s again connected with the road and it has an airport. But we were disappointed. Guesthouses asked a lot of money. And after Chris bargained with a 16 year old girl we found a comfortable guesthouse. The girl was however drilled by her mother and had was in training for being an forcing, money making robot. It was a bit scary. So the commercial vibe was not the best. But we met the nice Dutchy with his Norwegian girlfriend again and had a relieving funny conversation about among others our Upper Mustang experience.
Next morning apparently there was lots of miscommunication. The girl and the mother suddenly raised the price of the room. Probably in our tired moods we had understood: for a hundred and the girl maybe meant four hundred. Also Sara had even understood: the room is for free. But Chris doubted if she not had said: here is the key. Haha. But this we all thought about after the drama.
We explained to the mother we had agreed upon paying 100 rupees for the room. The girl came running to Chris: ‘you donkey, go to hell, go to hell. You pig, you lying bastard.’ I don’t know what kind of movies she has seen, but probably they were just as intense like her. In the end, the mother agreed with the price we had understood, probably because we had overpriced food there. But send us of with: ‘my daughter is right, you are wrong.’ It looked like as if that was the only nice thing she had ever said to her daughter. Well, Goodbye Jomsom.
Day 13: Jomsom (2700m) – Tukuche (2580m)
This day was a real chill day. We were back in the forest. Way less hikers, because everybody flies or takes the bus. We took the hiking path on the other side of the road. We saw beautiful Marpha on the other side. We were back in the pine forest. We ended up in Tukuche and decided to stay. Here we saw our favorite Russian couple and we went to bed early.
Day 14: Tukuche (2580n) – Ghasa (2110m)
And again we went down, down, down, more pine forest, more warm. Lovely. But not before we had some serious river crossings. We started on the road and wanted to get to the other side. When we saw the valley we thought we could just cross the river and come to the hiking path. However the river, was a couple of ice cold rivers. And the last river was way more broad and strong than we expected. The water came to our waste and we had to try hard not to get taken away. It was ice cold. When we suddenly looked up, we saw a bridge in 200 meters distance. Of course. We ended up in Ghasa. A good place to start celebrating Chris his birthday next morning.
Day 15: Ghasa (2110m) – Tatopani (1900m)
We had a rule on Chris his birthday: we are going to order whatever we like. Not caring about any money. So we had a royal breakfast: Tibetan bread with eggs, lemon and chocolate pancake. It was delicious. We started the beautiful hike to Tatopani and met adventurous and fellow cyclist Canadian Kevin on our way. He had been cycling for five years already and went once a year back for fishing in Alaska. He knew about all the freaking treks in the area and he made us excited to continue after the circuit. Our original plan anyway. Chris left his torture shoes behind and went further on flip flops with socks. Classic.
Day 16: Tatopani (1900m) – Beni (800m)
We hitch hiked the last 20 kilometers on the road to Beni. A city in the mountains where we could buy new proviant: cheap food and new shoes for Chris. We hitch hiked in a bus with a group of Israeli’s on this terrible bomby mountain road. Brrr. But we got to Beni and for two days we had rest of the hiking adventure. Bought everything we needed and continued for a new shorter trek: Mardi Himal.