Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Actually, Yes. The Pilgrims Are Stopping For Apple Brandy (Annapurna Circuit Day Ten)

Date: May 1, 2011
Start: Muktinath
Finish: Tatopani. Walked from Muktinath to Jonsom
Distance (Walking): 21 km (5 hours)
Distance (Driving): 45-50 km (5 hours) In Nepal, you can walk almost as fast as you can drive
Elevation (Walking) 2700 m (Jomsom, descent of 1060 m)
Elevation (Sleeping): 1190 m (Tatopani);

After a brief, but helpful, outdoor yoga stretching session we left Jomsom at the late hour of 7:37 AM. It was our latest start during the entire hike. Perhaps it was due to the terrible veggie (the only veg was sliced cabbage) omelet and partially boiled eggs Jesse and I had for breakfast.  Nevertheless, we pushed on and the descent from Thorong-La Pass continued. The air was thicker, the pitch was gentler, and the scenery turned from a barren rockiness to grasses, small bushes, and picturesque terraced crops. 
A short, and dusty, morning yoga class
Love the green terraced fields
Surprisingly green
But as quickly as the greenery had appeared, it disappeared.
And as before, we only had each other (and the other Supertrekkers) for company.
We passed a (new!) Hilton.  Sadly, we were not staying there.
But they did have Fanta!  Delicious carbonation.
Today was also the day we saw firsthand how the rocky, unpaved, and barely passable road Nepal is building will destroy this trek. As we walked along the jeep path our attention had to be divided between the gorgeous scenery, our foot placement, and dodging jeeps, motorcycles, and trucks and the small (and sometimes medium) sized rocks that fly out behind them.  And then there is the dust. Each passing vehicle trails behind it a cloud of dust that the gusty wind then whips into your hair, eyes, and mouth.
Beeeeeeeeeep, Beeeeeep, Beeeep.
It was like being in India again, only we were on foot.
I was jealous of the people in the jeep.
I must have blocked all memories of Nepali jeep rides.
Not to worry though, I would be reminded in just a few short hours.
A long road with a heavy load.
From left to right: Jesse, Kate, Sarah (Actually, Not.)
It was a long, dusty day
As we descended and drew closer to Jomsom, the path flattened, allowing large
dump trucks to join the mix of motorcycles, jeeps and other obstacles to be avoided.
And the wind whipped even harder through the flats.

It blew so hard it was difficult to walk
Ted, however, stood his ground.  And let his locks blow in the wind.
These rocks do not make for easy walking.
They are also deadly projectiles.
After fighting through the wind and dust and vehicles we made into Jomsom.  And, sadly, after another disappointing Nepali meal, we said goodbye to Charles and Kate who opted to fly to Pokhara. The Meshkovs & Martens on the other hand, would go overland. The flight takes 17 minutes and costs $90 USD. The overland route requires four separate buses totaling 12-15 travel hours for $22 USD. And of those hours, 100% of them would be spent jammed into dusty, smelly, and Nepali-sized seats.  Not the best decision we ever made to save a buck.
Welcome to Jomsom.
Final Supertrekker lunch: momos.
Nepali dumplings that we decided were the best food item available but simultaneously mediocre at their best.
Kate held them especially near and dear.
UPDATE: Kate has not eaten a momo, dumpling, gyoza, empanada, samosa or any other pastry wrapped meat since the trek.
So, we said goodbye and prepared to head to the bus station, but Shiba assured us that there was no rush.  Shiba had purchased us special tourist tickets, and by paying twice as much (approximately $4 for the five hour trip) the bus would first collect all the Nepali passengers at the bus station, and then make a special stop, directly in front of our restaurant to pick us up!  And, just as he promised, as we finished up our food and pop, the bus pulled up with the entire back row reserved for us.
Those of us with time, but less money, we loaded up on the bus.
Four seats and our people.  Things were looking pretty good.
Charles, Kate, and their new friend, are all upset at the Supertreker's separation.
Come back!
Hit the road, guys.
Knocking out five of the twelve of so hours would make the following day much much better. Plus, we would over-night in Tatopani, famed for its natural hot springs. The ride was unexceptional - in that it was bumpy, bouncy, and overstuffed with Nepalis.  This included a large Nepali man who hunkered himself down in our four-seat back row.*  During this ride we also learned another benefit of having a guide.  The bus stopped at a nondescript shack for about 20 minutes.  While this is not odd in the this type of travel, we had Shiba explain to us that the stop was for the pilgrims to buy apple brandy!  Because, of course, we were in Marpha, Nepal, known world-wide for its apples and apple brandy!  Maybe Neapli-wide.  I jumped into the fray and tried to buy some of the famed goods, but was totally boxed out by the pilgrims.  Shiba saw my failure and made us the purchase.  The dried apples were good, but it had been a while since we'd had any fruit, let alone dried fruit, so we waited till we were closer to a bathroom before sampling them.
Delicious dried Marpha apples.
Best quality.

We arrived in Tatopani and gazed and gawked at the absolutely stunning view, with a sole mountain peak soaring above clouds, touched by the late afternoon sun. It was awesome.
The sun touched the peak right as we arrived in Tatopani
We watched it disappear into dusk
After regrouping we headed to the hot springs in our boxer briefs (Dave & Ted) and leggings, bikini bottoms, and sports bras (Jesse & Sarah, OK the girls walked over in rain jackets and pants, but they did hot spring in their unders!) we joined the many Nepali and Indian pilgrims in the warm relaxing water. And our legs needed it. They were sore, sore, sore. When we left the hot springs our eyes were also sore from seeing so many Indian men in their tighty-whiteys, tighty-grayies, and even tighty-biegees, which look frightening nude on an wet Indian man at dusk. Having come as close to a Jacuzzi as we could we retreated to the Old Kamala lodge for a final dal bhat dinner and some pop with Shiba.
Resting our weary legs in the Tatiopani hot springs.
Also available at the hot springs - a haircut.  Surprisingly, Jesse was not interested.
The next morning would bring a new world to our Nepali travel experiences.  It would be far less tranquil and serene than the view from our hotel...

* Ted will angrily recall how I swapped seats with Shiba and was comfortably sitting in a twoser with a small Nepali man.  Not to worry though, I'll get my comeuppance tomorrow.


  1. "Tighty-beigee" is my new favorite word.

  2. @Maggie - I only wish I had some photos. An Indian in tighty-beigees looks frighteningly nude.


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