Day 10 – Thorung Phedi to Muktinath
Today’s the big day. We had breakfast at 05:00 and were walking by 05:30. It was bitterly cold but I know how quickly my body heats up so all I wore was a tshirt and my waterproof shell. As we ascended it got even colder so I had to put on an additional tshirt as well as my hat and gloves. I think all the prayer wheels I’ve been spinning have paid off; we got clear skies throughout our trek to the top of the pass. Saw more peaks and stunning views this morning than over the course of the last 9 days. The scenery was both breathtaking (perhaps the altitude had something to do with it) and spectacular. It wasn’t an easy hike to the top, but surprisingly it wasn’t the hardest day either because our bodies were well adjusted to the altitude. The Spanish guy who had to turn back yesterday (his girlfriend / wife was feeling just fine) ended up hiring a horse to get him to the top because he was still feeling ill.
At the top we took the obligatory celebration photos with the sign before taking on the long 1600m descent to Muktinath (3800m). It was bitterly cold at the top so we didn’t stay up there for long; it took me nearly 30 minutes to get feeling back in my right hand after I took the glove off to eat a snack at the top. The way down was hard on the knees and seemed endless. The environment gradually changed back to high alpine forest as we descended and we even found a pleasant grassy knoll to rest on and take in the views of the valley below.
Upon reaching Muktinath we got our celebratory burgers, beers, and apple pies at the Bob Marley Hotel and Restaurant. Beer never tasted so good! Also got my first shower in since leaving Manang Village. That was also really amazing. It’s been pouring rain since we arrived in Muktinath so I’ve just been reading “The Book of Dave” by Will Self all day. After waking up at 5am and trekking for 7 hours straight I was too tired to explore the town.
Day 11 – Muktinath to Jomsom
Today we walked from Muktinath to Jomsom. We wanted to get to Jomsom directly, which meant bypassing Kagbeni but we missed the fork in the road and ended up at Kagbeni anyway. We took a quick break at the town gate then proceeded to Jomsom. There was a bit of Jeep, tractor, and donkey traffic on the road but not enough to both us. As we walked along the Kali Gandaki it felt like it was just us and the great beyond of nature. This section of the valley was really wide and the river flowed lazily along as it split into many different streams across a maze of strewn rocks.
Upon arriving in Jomsom we ran into the Singaporean couple at their hotel along the main road. The hotel wouldn’t give us a discount so we inquired at the guidebook recommended place – the Xanadu Guesthouse. Bart, Dan, and I shared a room for 100 rupees/person. The Spanish couple was also staying there while waiting for their flight to Pokhara to arrive. There was also 2 American girls staying there volunteer teaching at a local school. Jomsom is the major regional hub, it’s possible to get all kinds of supplies and services here. The town boasts a gravel road and airport that links it to the rest of the country, however goods and services here are still far more expensive than in Pokhara or KTM.
The guesthouse didn’t have apple pie but their apple crumble was to die for. I couldn’t believe how good it was. All of us got a slice and were blown away. The owner’s daughter was like a 10 year old manager in training and while taking our dinner orders (yak steaks) she tried to upsell us drinks as well. I have a feeling she’s going to be a hotel tycoon one day. Oh, I should mention the yak steaks here were also delicious and lived up to the hype.
After several visits, the internet café finally had enough power to run the computers. I think I might have an internet addiction… we capped off the night having a beer with the Singaporeans. Dan planned on leaving very early in the morning to finish the trek quickly and get back to his bride to be in KTM.
Day 12 – Jomsom – Lete/Kalopani
For only 220 rupees each, Bart and I had a delicious breakfast at the guesthouse. It was seriously amazing especially when considering the price. Eggs, potatoes, toast, coffee, and sautéed peppers. Mmm! I slept horribly last night, something gave me diarrhea (probably the mint tea I had during lunch) and I had a emergency toilet run at like 2 or 3 in the morning, water was dripping from the ceiling onto my bed, and lastly I had to pull out my sleeping bag in the middle of the night because the blanket wasn’t enough to keep me warm. On top of all that I feared another middle-of-the-night emergency diarrhea.
Dan left at like 05:00 to attempt to finish the rest of the trek in 2 days, walking about 12 hours each day. We walked from Jomsom -> Larjung -> Lete/Kalopani, about 6 hours total. Larjung and Khotetanti are beautifully preserved old towns; really old school, slow, and pristine. Just truly lovely places. We stopped for a much deserved tea at Khotetanti.
We got free rooms at the Angel Guesethouse in Lete/Kalopani. The apple pie here is awesome, it’s got both apple and chocolate in it which makes for a perfect mix. After dinner, the patriarch and the orphan (the owner-teacher took her in) started making sausage the real old fashioned way.
Tomorrow it is Belgium’s National Day so we had a beer celebration. We’re headed to Tatopani and its “popular” hot spring as well. 3 days to go till the finish line…