Monday, June 24, 2013

Trekking the Annapurna Circuit: Last (Lost) Day!!!

This is the last (6th) of a few blog posts that are after-the-fact transcribed from my trekking notes. Some are more complete posts, some are more thoughts along the road as Sister2 and I take on Nepal for a month!

Day 10

We spent our last day trekking completely lost. A last lost day that included going up and over a pass, through a canyon, down a rock scree cliff face, Oregon Trail-style across a river, through gale-force winds and sandstorms, and A LOT of rage.
The view made it worth it.
It started out nice enough. We breakfasted on delicious Tibetan fried bread and honey and milk coffee on the roof of our hotel in Mukinath, and around 9:15 started what we expected to be a nice gradually downhill leisurely final hike.

On our way out of the town, we caught up with another group of trekkers and fell into line with them -- our first mistake. Because when you're cruising along in a group, collective wisdom (or lack thereof) kicks in, and people (me and Sister2) stop looking closely at road signs.
The view from our window in Mukinath.

We started up a pretty steep hill, groaning all the way (still SO SORE), but we accepted it, assuming that this was just an uncomfortable blip in the net-downhill trail.
We soon reached a spectacular pass and took some pictures that were totally worth the climb.

Leaving Mukinath.

Then down down down we went, our quads and calfs screaming from remnants of yesterday's (and the day before's and the day before's) exertions.  Sister2 and I have concluded that jogging (baby steps) downhill is equally as hard as walking but twice as fast, so we left the other white people in the dust and skittered our way down the mountain.

We were following signs to Lubra, and reached it around lunchtime. And after lunch is where true disaster struck. We left the town and started walking along the river, but we didn't see any blue trail markings, so I scampered back to ask directions to Jomsom, our day's (and trek's) destination. "Yes yes Jomsom, river." Alright, if she says so. 
Damnit Lubra!!!
We walked along the riverbed for 15 minutes or so, still no markings, until we saw a suspension bridge waaaaaay up above us. (This was especially odd because the way into the town was SO well-marked. We realized after the fact that Lubra wasn't supposed to be on the trek at all, and clever entrepreneurial villagers marked the way into their town super-well so that people like us would come. And clearly they didn't care to mark the way out...)

Uh oh, I think we're supposed to be up there? Damnit we got wrong directions!!!
(This happened in India sometimes too...for inexplicable cultural reasons people would rather give wrong directions than say they don't know. And us unsuspecting tourists get screwed.)

So we backtracked to the village to ask again. This time we were pointed along a hillside trail. A trail that took us through thorn bushes, and eventually petered out into nothing. NOT AGAIN!!! At this point we were frustrated, hot, tired, had spent an hour trying to get out of this stupid village, and were threatening to punt a chicken and drop-kick a wrong-direction-giving villager at the soonest opportunity.

We saw what appeared to be the correct trail about 50 meters below us, and unwilling to backtrack again, we started slip-sliding down the steep rocky scree face.

That trail was A trail...though not really the RIGHT trail. We stood looking across the bridge and saw something that looked like the correct trail on the other side of the river far below, with our fellow trekker friends making their way along it. I'm not going to lie, at this point obscenities may or may not have been screamed into the Himalayan wind...

Riverbed of death
"What's the easiest way to Jomsom? Oh cool well we're bad-ass so clearly we're taking this completely different and way harder way on purpose -- no big deal," we joked to each other to keep our rage in check.

We followed our trail along the cliff for a ways, and eventually made it to the river. Phew. Home free! But soooooo not.

The river's erosion cut off the trail, so we had to take off our boots and Oregon Trail-style ford the rocky current. Final obstacle? Kind of...

And then, joy of joys, we were on the jeep road to Jomsom! And it was an epic wind tunnel! Along a sandy and rocky river between cliffs! Whose legs and faces and any and all exposed skin don't need an arduous hour of natural exfoliation?!?!

We put our heads down and hiked as fast as humanly possible through the desolate landscape, dreaming of the Snickers bars we'd splurge and treat ourselves to upon arrival in Jomsom.

We are now at our final Annapurna Circuit Trek guest house, showered, wind-burned, and ready for our early-morning flight to Pokara tomorrow.

Though the last day was far more epic than expected, trekking the Annapurna Circuit was such a fun and beautiful and amazing experience! I will blog a detailed how-to-do-it-like-we-did post soon because I now have so much wisdom to share on the trekking front, and I think everyone should try this!