11/18/09 – 11/19/09: Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Day 15: Ghara to Ghorepani (4.75 hours)
Most mountains I can think of go uphill for a while and then head back down, meaning once you reach the top, it’s all downhill from there. Not this one. This one goes up to the top, then down, down, down, up! Rather than an anticlimactic descent, as soon as we thought we reached the bottom, we were forced to head back up another 2,000 meters. Today we climbed about 1,300 of those meters all before lunchtime. All I can say is that Zhou is one tough hiker. I bet you wish you could be more like her.
[Note: For those of you planning on doing the Annapurna Circuit anytime soon, we have one piece of advice. Skip the west side. Take the bus from Muktinath (after you complete the Pass) to Tatopani, then spend your time hiking the Sanctuary trek instead. Sure, you’ll miss out on most of the downhill, but our hike between those cities was a windy, dusty, cold waste of three days. We spent nearly all of our time on the roads, and the few times we could have taken a trail instead, we didn’t realize is until it was too late (this is one time that a guide would have been helpful). Now that we’re back on the trails, everything seems so much nicer: the views, the hike, the weather, even the chickens that we pass.]
Day 16: Ghorepani to Nayapul (8 hours)
Welcome to the circus: today we found out how the other half hikes. There are many shorter treks that surround Ghorepani and the locally famous Poon Hill (from which there are great views of both the Annapurna and Dhaulgiri mountain ranges), so everyone and their overweight brother comes here to test their luck. This is a politically correct blog however, so I won’t list the types of people that we saw climbing today, but let’s just say I thought I was at a Marilyn Manson meets Carrot Top concert (and no, I don’t mean there was no one there). To the credit of these hikers, however, they were doing quite a climb. After a 45 minute ascent to Poon Hill for sunrise, it took Zhou and me a relentless 7 hours and 15 minutes to descend the 2,200 meters to the bus stop. At one point, I’d say we did 500 meters downhill while only covering 300 meters horizontally – it was that steep.
You’d think after finishing a 16 day trek covering almost 140 miles in just under 87 hours of trekking time, you’d be rewarded with a plush bus ride complete with delicious dinner on your way to the nearest city. You’d be wrong. Such a hike wouldn’t be complete without an extra three meter climb to the roof of a bus. Yes, we squeezed eight of us and our gear (including two kayaks and a chicken coop) onto the top of a bus for the two hour ride through the winding mountains to Pokhara.
Picture of the Day: One of those faux inspirational posters? “Escape. Sometimes life is better on the inside.”