Annapurna Circuit Finale

Day 13 – Lete / Kalopani to Tatopani

We had an excellent breakfast this morning at the Angel Guesthouse in Lete/Kalopani. The chapatti bread was so good and fresh that I ended up ordering an extra one. After breakfast we set off for Ghasa around 08:00. It only took us about 1.5 hours to get there (the guidebook estimated longer). After a quick tea break we continued onward thru the Kali Gandaki valley, where the river soon turned into a powerful force of nature as it narrowed.

As we descended the environment changed from alpine forest to sub tropical rainforest. The trees changed from pines and firs to broadleaf trees; there were even large bamboo trees and marijuana plants growing just before Tatopani (1200m). Many of the marijuana plants grew to over 2m tall!

After we arrived and settled in we quickly went down to the very soothing and relaxing hot spring. We didn’t stay too long though because the hot water eventually wears you down and makes you incredibly thirsty. And since it was low season the refreshment stand at the hot spring was closed. There is a cold water hose available but thirst overcame comfort.

The internet connection here is slow, but just fast enough to check email. Loading a picture is impossible. Also, mosquitoes are everywhere, it’s highly recommended to either cover up completely (which is unbearable in the summer heat) or to have really strong bug spray.

Day 14 – Tatopani to Ghorepani

Another excellent breakfast this morning: eggs, toast, jam, and potatoes. Bart gave me some of his potatoes (what a guy!) too because he was full. It was all the fuel I needed for the long day ahead. Well…that and a kitkat I picked up at the store across from the Dhaulagiri Lodge we stayed at. The breakfast and the chicken sizzler I had last night for dinner made me feel like Super Mario; for the first time I had boundless energy and was actually in front of Bart on the trail. For the past 13 days I couldn’t keep up with him even if I had tried to. The track today was pretty much an all-out ascent up a hill to Ghorepani (2800m). There were lots of big stone steps in addition to the steep dirt track.

We had lunch at the Annapurna View Lodge in Chitre after a really tough climb. Both of us were sweating profusely due to the tough ascent and the warm weather at the lower altitudes. It was so hard that after about an hour we stopped for soda and chocolate at the Santosh Viewpoint and it was barely 09:00!

It’s really nice to be back at a higher altitude in Ghorepani there are cooler temperatures and no mosquitoes. We’re staying at the Annapurna View Lodge in Upper Ghorepani for the usual low season rate of 100 rupees per room. Hopefully tomorrow there will be clear skies for the sunrise at 05:00 so that we can get a good view of the mountains from Poon Hill. It feels great to know that the final (and hardest) ascent of the trek is over.

As night falls over Ghorepani the serenity of silence is overtly present. There is no river, no donkeys, no motorized vehicles to break the silence. There’s barely any electricity either for that matter. There’s only you and your thoughts, the emptiness of night and silence of dark which allows the mind to wander. Growing up in NYC you never have peace and quiet, here in the Annapurna Himal it’s standard.

Day 15 – Ghorepani to Pokhara

We woke up at 04:00 to trek up to Poon Hill (3200m) for the sunrise views. It was my first time trekking with just a headlamp for light but thankfully the track was easy to follow. Unfortunately for us visibility was shit; we could only see about 10m because a c loud was sitting on top of the hill. On the descent the clouds  to the south clear up a bit revealing the lower hills. The real views came as we were having breakfast . The clouds to the north cleared around the high peaks and the sun came out, bring forth the majesty of the Annapurnas. It was truly amazing to see them on our last day.

The track down to Naya Pul (1050m) was predominately steep stone steps , particularly around Ulleri where we stopped for a snack. Throughout the day we saw lots of day trippers / uber tourists from Pokhara. It was a strange sight after seeing so few Westerners for so long. On top of that, they looked so clean and fresh while were really dirty after 15 days of trekking. I’ve been wearing the same shirt for 9 days and Bart has been wearing the same shirt since day 1. We eventually made it to Naya Pul around 15:30 after lots of slips on the wet stone staircases which wound themselves around endless switchbacks and descents. On final steep climb up to the road in Naya Pul greeted us just as we were celebrating the completion of the trek.

There happened to be 2 buses that were pretty much packed leaving for Pokhara so we hopped on one. We were both sweating a lot from the last climb and it was so tight on the bus so we took out our cameras and had them put our bags on top of the bus. It was such a relief to have the bags on top, it created so much more space for us on the bus, which was not made for someone over 6 feet tall.

Then it started with the lady sitting on the floor in front of me, she puked her brains out while leaning over the 2 people in the front bench such that her head was out the window. Then her 3 kids started puking too. Then a girl in the other set of front seats puked and a couple in the 2nd row puked as well. Then a few more people in the back hurled. It was ridiculous! Then the lady who started it all started eating potato chips, as if that would help, then hurled again on the floor a few minutes later. I moved my foot just in time to avoid the onslaught. By this point I nearly hurled too after seeing everyone else hurl but thankfully she got off with her family not long after she hurled on the floor and the bus attendants grabbed some mint plants from the side of the road and threw them on top of her work to mask the odor. The total ride was about 40 minutes but it was definitely an experience after having been trekking for the last 15 days.

We were dropped off about 2km from Lakeside so we just walked it despite the rain. We easily found the Amrit Guest House in central Lakeside. Since the dorm was empty I took that over a single room (440 rupees/night) and am only paying 165 rupees/night. After we settled in and showered, we had a delicious beef burger, beer, and ice cream. It was a great way to cap off an unforgettable trek.

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