ACT Day 15 - Kagbeni to Jomsom

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Onwards to Jomsom

We left Kagbeni (elevation : 2800m) at 08:00, which was the latest recommended time to avoid the blistering Kali Gandaki wind that was bound to build up later that day. All we really had to do before we left the guesthouse was to repack and freshen up, as we decided to skip breakfast and instead have a much larger meal for lunch later on in Jomsom (elevation : 2720m) . The water pressure the night before had also been so low that the upper floors of the guesthouse had had no water at all. As such, we had been unable to make coffee or refill and treat the water from the taps, so the first stop that we made after leaving the guesthouse was to a safe drinking water station (NPR40/litre).

We made our way back to the suspension bridge on the south-western side of town, but instead of crossing it like we did the day before, we continued walking south along the road from there instead. We passed a makeshift football field almost immediately after and saw a large group of child monks playing football--some of them had slippers, whilst some were completely barefoot, and only a few of them had actual shoes on. The road continued to run parallel with the huge Kali Gandaki river but ascended up the slopes just a kilometre on. As we climbed, the views improved considerably, with serpentine waves licking the grey river below and vibrant green pastures across on the other side. The sky was overcast however, and it seemed as if the clouds had absorbed all the colour from the hills themselves. The wind began to pick up on the other side of the rise, and I welcomed it gratefully in the heat of the morning sun.

The cliffs on the left had graffiti scrawled on them from time to time, and upon closer inspection, they turned out to be 'billboards' that were advertising guesthouses. As we walked on, I made a mental note to boycott all of the hotels and guesthouses that had had their names graffitied, as giving them my money would be akin to condoning the defacement. We reached the Kagbeni-Muktinath junction just over 2 kilometres in. The mood was a little sombre by then, not because of the bleakness and the lack of colour around us, but because it felt as if the trip was already drawing to an end. Ekle Bhattee (elevation : 2740m) was reached after 2.6 kilometres, which took us approximately 45 minutes, and not too long after, a massive information board that contained information about Upper Mustang.

Kali Gandaki river

Looking west across the Kali Gandaki river

After the trail ascended to join up with the road once again, we came upon a suspension bridge that was so long that stabilisers (that reminded me of traditional Indonesian 'jukungs') had been added on the sides. The bridge crossed over to Pangling and Phallyak , and was an alternate (and much longer) way to Jomsom that ascended to and crossed over the Windy Pass (elevation : 3435m). We had skipped breakfast that morning, so decided to just continue along the shorter route.

Following the road, however, gave us some decent views of the cliffs across on the other side of the Kali Gandaki river. Pronounced buckling of lines and faults was quite apparent and it made the cliffs a magnificent showcase of the spectacular geological pressures that had shaped them over the eons. The sun was also still behind the hills on our left so walking along the road at that time meant that we were walking in the shadow of the hills; that, and the brisk wind that occasionally gusted upriver ensured that we were kept cool. The hills on our right, however, were lit very brightly by the sun. The wind also made the clouds whip across the sky above us and the shadows that the clouds occasionally cast on the hills, known as 'rionnach maoimeans' in Gaelic, rolled quickly by.

The road then continued across a huge field of rubble, before leading up to a bridge. This was where the trail to Lupra continued east, and was where the Panda Khola flowed into the Kali Gandaki river. The road switchbacked up the hill not too long after, so we decided to take a shortcut that cut across the slopes to avoid the long switchback and some construction further down the road. As we climbed, the wind picked up once again and views of Jomsom were slowly revealed to us. From there, it was a rather unremarkable but fairly straightforward walk to the town.

Bridge into Jomsom

Crossing into Jomsom

Jomsom (elevation : 2720m) turned out to not be too pleasant. The sheer amount of people left the town quite dirty, and the number of vehicles that passed through ensured that dust was constantly kicked back up into the air. The prices of the hotels and guesthouses were also very high due to the constant pilgrim tourism flow from India--one hotel even had the gall to quote NPR1200 for a room! We eventually found a nice place called 'Nandika Guesthouse and Thakali Kitchen', that was in a good location and had basic rooms with attached toilets for NPR400/2. The guesthouse was located just south of the airport and the ACAP checkpoint, which meant that it was also much closer to the point where the buses to Pokhara were to depart from.

We had a simple lunch of vegetable thali (NPR350) with milk coffee (NPR20), before heading back out to buy bus tickets to Pokhara for the next day. The ticket office turned out to be directly across the road from the guesthouse, so after securing our tickets (NPR1000/pax), we went back to the guesthouse to freshen up before taking a long and deserving rest.

*Alone once again: Day 10/15

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Next (Day 16) : The Descent

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The Descent

I was glad that we were to be exiting the Annapurna Circuit by bus, as it meant that the challenge that I had set for myself was to be realised. I had been told that there were syndicates that controlled vehicular access to the roads, and that these syndicates apparently imposed fees on certain types of vehicles, and were even inclined to use force against those who refused to comply. I basically wanted to ensure that my money did not find a way into their hands.

We had also been told that the bus was to leave at 07:00, and to be at the pickup point at 7 sharp, no earlier and no later. I had mentioned that I would be there slightly earlier around 06:50 or so, but was immediately met with the retort, "No! Exactly 7!"..so 07:00 it was. The bus did however end up departing much later, closer to 07:30 in fact, as it made its way around to various points around the town picking people up first. When it finally arrived, we made our way around to the back of the bus and stuffed our backpacks into the tiny and very dusty rear compartment, before proceeding inside and stuffing ourselves into the crammed seats. To be fair, the seats actually had quite a bit of space by Nepali standards, but for a large man like me, no public transport ever seems to provide sufficient leg room.

The view of the Kali Gandaki from the bus window. Loads of space on this side...

The journey was long to say the least. It took us 12 whole hours to get from Jomsom to Pokhara. We departed Jomsom at 07:30, reached Beni at 16:00 (which is where the decent road began), Nayapul at 17:30, and finally reached Pokhara (km0) at 19:00. The journey itself was not as bad as most of the online accounts had made it out to be. Aside from all the time that was wasted getting 'un-stuck' from the deep trenches of mud, the bone rattling 'smoothness' of the road, the countless near-misses by massive lorries, and all the hair-raising turns around corners with long drops down to the Kali Gandaki river below, the journey was not too bad at all!

The views from the windows of the bus were more than enough to take our minds off the bumpy journey. They were a veritable slideshow of the Kali Gandaki--lush green hills that towered over us on the other side of the valley, mysterious silhouettes of pine trees and bamboo shoots each time the mist washed over us, and countless waterfalls that plunged down into the roiling cauldron of a riverway down below.

...but barely any on the other!

When we finally reached Pokhara, we checked-in to 'Hotel Mountain View', which cost USD10 for the two of us per night (NPR1100/2). The place had good ratings and was fairly cheap, but the best thing about it was that it would only take 10 minutes to walk to the tourist bus park from there. The bus from Jomsom, however, had dropped us at km0 which was a fair way away, so we had to take a taxi (NPR300/2) to the Lakeside, and walk from there to get to the hotel. The entire bus ride had been an exhausting ordeal, so all we really did after that was to have a decent dinner of vegetable khana (NPR180) and buff momos (NPR130/2), before retiring for the night.

*Water refil (3 litres) cost NPR30/2
*The bus ride back to KTM the next morning (07:30) cost NPR700 per person

Day 15 & 16 Expenditure

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