Keep your pack light.
The bus trip for Kathmandu was ok for the first part of the trip but after we changed busses at Dumre the last part of the journey to Besisahar wes horrible. I had to nurse ny pack on my lap and there was about 60 people crammed onto a bus built for 40 max. It was meltingly hot! Once in Besisahar after an 8.5 hrs journey I got my TIMS stamped at the checkpoint and set off.
I planned to walk to Bulebhule but my pack was heavy and I only trekked to khude in two hours. Most Trekkers on the bus either stayed in Besisahar or caught jeep or bus further up the trail but the walking was lovely on reasonably flat ground through fields near a river.
The tea house at Khude was basic but ok.
Over the next few days I settled into my routine of going to bed early, getting up early, walking in the cool of the morning and trying to get to my destination lodge before I melted in the heat. The scenery is stunning the whole trek but I really enjoyed the sub tropical vegetation and the benefits of the fruits I could still buy, eg bananas.
I typically got passed by faster walkers during the day but mostly on the steep uphill sections. Somehow when I was settled in camp for the afternoon/evening they would come in some hours after me. Long lunches I guess.
The average day of walking varied in the lower stages from 5.5 hours of walking to 8.5 hours.
After the first four days of getting my pack carrying legs I felt tired but ok when I got to my lodge for the night rather than shattered. By now the scenery was opening up with less tall trees, dryer climate and mountain vistas around every corner. The stay at Upper Pisang with views across the valley to Annapurna 2 was a highlight. The high trail up to Ghyaru, Ngarwal and then down to Braka and Manang was tiring, lots of ups, but rewarding with fabulous views from ancient villages. This days altitude gain and subsequent loss I believe helped me to acclimatise well for the pass.
Manang was larger and full of Trekkers but the bakery goods more than made up for the crowds. There was a mountain bike race series occurring while I was there which added to the spectacle.
Leaving Manang after a rest and acclimatisation day I found the shorter distances easy, even at the increasing altitudes. The ups kept getting harder but somehow my legs were coping and each night hurt less and each morning felt less affected by the previous day’s exercise.
I finally got to high camp on day 9 at about 11am. The owner was reluctant to let me have a room to myself and I had to share for the first time on the trek. By 3pm the lodge was full and some Lat,e Trekkers were negotiating to sleep on the floor rather than go back down the trail. Costs in high camp were the dearest I encountered on this side of the pass but that is understandable at just under 5000 metres. It was trying to snow and the temperature was about minus 2. I was warm enough in my sleeping bag with the provided heavy quilt over the top. In fact in the night I had to push off the quilt as I was too hot.
People started to get up and leave at 3am! Guided groups mostly. I was up and breakfasted by 5, I couldn’t sleep anyway with people talking outside my room. It was of course still dark and snowing lightly. The walking was soft underfoot but not slippery and all I had to do was follow the line of headlamps going up the trail and use mine pointed down at ,the ground to see where to put my feet.
I reached the top of the Thorong la pass 5416m at 7.30am and it was freezing. There was a cold wind blowing and the wind chill factor was high. The sun was out but the temperature was about minus 10 degrees. It was minus 5 inside the little hut/cafe which is there.
Down, down, down! After a mammoth 5.5 hours of down I stumbled/ hobbled into dirty dusty Muktinath, walked through the temple complex and finally found an overpriced hotel room which I again had to share with my new Russsian friend that I had shared with at high camp. Dust covered everything in Muktinath and after a celebratory beer and some popcorn we decided to bus past the next couple of dusty days of road walking and head further south. At the bus park the next morning I bought a bus ticket all the way to Phokara for $20 as I decided to rest and recooperate by the lake with soft beds and real coffee and lots of beer. A 12.5 hour bus ride later and I was in Pokhara, dirty, dusty and feeling as though I had earns my beer.
When I planned my trek I read lots about that t,he trip was spoiled by the road. On the eastern side of the pass there were times when I agreed but the walking was still lovely and the scenery divine. The traffic was not great and I could ignore the minor inconveniences when the cars went past. On the western side the dust caused by the constant traffic of pilgrims going up to Muktinath was appalling. Muktinath, Kagbeni and Marpha were grey. I didn’t question my decision to bypass the trek down once when I saw Trekkers covered in dust and having to walk in masks, shawls, scarves etc just so they could breathe.
Is the circuit ruined? Having not walked it before the road was built I can’t answer. I thoroughly enjoyed the first ten days of trekking from Besisahar to Muktinath but I don’t believe I would have enjoyed the walk from Muktinath to Tatopani. The NATT trails on the eastern side of the pass keep you of the roads for the majority of the walk. Less so on the western side.
My decision to cut short my trek gave me a couple of extra days in Pokhara which I loved as well as gave me time to do a short 3day trek on the outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley which topped off my fantastic trekking holiday in Nepal. Happy trekking.
- Backpack, Headlamp, Sleeping Bag, Sunglasses
Room costs on this trek varied from $1 to $6 per night. I was not offered free accommodation for eating in the lodge once as opposed to almost every night on the Everest trek last year however the room charge was so small the overall daily costs on this trek were lower then EBC. Travelling by bus as the most efficient way to get to Besisahar and down to Pokhare meant that I could afford to fly back from Pokhara to Kathmandu and avoiding one long bus trip.