Not all days trekking are enjoyable.
Behind the pretty photos, there’s an untold story. Extreme cold, altitude, hunger, thirst, fatigue. Weeks of walking without showers or clean clothes. The mental strain of constant decision-making about safety, routes and weather conditions. It all takes a toll and makes it harder to stay motivated as the days pass.
But sometimes, everything’s out of your control, and you just have to grin and bear it. Like when the trail has not been signposted. That’s what happened when I trekked from Larjung to Ghasa — the most frustrating day of the entire Annapurna Circuit.
I’d started that morning as fog shrouded the valley. To avoid the dastardly road, I crossed over the river on the seasonal bridges made from wood scraps. The trail ascended through thick forest, past villages that looked very poor. This was because I was now off the main trekking route, away from the tourist dollars.
I stopped beside Titi Lake and checked the map, surrounded by the peaks of Annapurna, Nilgiri, Dhaulgiri and Tukuche. It was a remarkable setting. But I’m ashamed to say that I was starting to feel bored of the mountains.
The next village was Konjo, a place which was rumoured to practice human sacrifice. There were vague stories of a cave and chicken being used to trap a man who was then eaten.
I decided not to linger and crossed over the dry riverbed. The trail then turned into some dark woods, inexplicably ending at a logger’s camp. Old men and women were trying to fell a tree with a rusty saw. They told me to leave in a manner that didn’t require knowledge of Nepali.
After quickly backtracking, I found a path to another village. Run-down and squalid, it looked like it had fallen out of an HP Lovecraft story. This would have been a lovely village during the Middle Ages, but times had moved on. People from Alabama would’ve felt right at home.
The trail forked outside the village, both directions looked equally implausible. The path I took soon dissolved into dust, the light markings indicated that it hadn’t been walked on in a long time. This was probably the wrong way, but I wanted to be certain. The path dropped sharply downwards, ending at a raging section of the river. I had no choice but to drag my body back up the hill, extremely frustrated.
I returned to the medieval village and spoke to a woman who understood English, or at least gave a good impression of this. She pointed in the other direction and said it would take “maybe one hour” to reach Ghasa.
If my time in Nepal had taught me anything, it was not to trust locals with their time estimates. They often often underestimated the time required so that you would feel happy. Nepalis also walked with superhuman speed. There was no way that I would make the journey in one hour. But I hadn’t expected to reach Ghasa three hours later — exhausted, starving, and angry.
I found a lodge in lower Ghasa. Staying there was a local man who was also a teacher. He complained to me about Nepal’s problems. “We have no development, no industry, no democracy, we rely too much on imports, and we have bad roads. But at least we have natural beauty, until our politicians sell it all!” I was inclined to agree with him. Especially about the roads. I still remembered my 300 kilometre bus ride from Kathmandu to Kakarbhitta that had taken 17 hours.
The next day’s walk was tedious. I was close to civilisation now, and it showed. The remarkable scenery was long behind me. It had been replaced by acres of farmland and dirty settlements. Any tranquility was spoilt by the busy road and heavy engineering works.
By the time I arrived in Tatopani, I was seriously considering ending the trek and taking a bus to the closest city. This was a critical moment. I’d been planning to head to Ghorepani and then trek to Annapurna Base Camp, the starting point for people climbing the world’s most dangerous mountain. This would take me at least another week. I knew that I’d regret not doing this, but my motivation was so low.
That night it was so warm that I slept without my sleeping bag for the first time on the Annapurna Circuit. The next morning I sat outside and ate breakfast, making my decision as the sun licked a distant mountain-top. I’d keep trekking to Annapurna Base Camp, but would try to do it in just four days.
First I had to reach Ghorepani. This required 1,750 metres of vertical ascent, the biggest climb of the trek. It was a relentless slog through rhododendron forests blooming with pink flowers. I was exhausted when it finished.
Ghorepani had a strange atmosphere. There were plenty of day-trippers roaming the streets who had come here by car. They were clean and showered, dressed in jeans and sneakers. Covered in grime and dirt, I felt like a soldier who has come home from the frontlines to an unappreciative public.
Everyone retreated inside as a terrific thunderstorm rolled in, serenading the gloomy valley. I had an early night and rested my depleted body. For tomorrow I’d be ending the Annapurna Circuit — and starting the long climb to Annapurna Base Camp.
After I trekking from Larjung to Ghorepani, I joined the trail to Annapurna Base Camp, which you can read about here.
You can find more about my trek around the Annapurna Circuit at the links below:
- Annapurna Circuit: Besi Sahar to Bahundanda
- Annapurna Circuit: Bahundanda to Upper Pisang
- Annapurna Circuit: Upper Pisang to Manang
- Annapurna Circuit: Manang to Tilicho Base Camp
- Annapurna Circuit: Trek to Tilicho Lake
- Annapurna Circuit: Shree Kharka to Thorung Phedi
- Annapurna Circuit: Crossing the Thorung La
- Annapurna Circuit: Muktinath to Kagbeni
- Annapurna Circuit: Kagbeni to Larjung
- Annapurna Circuit: Larjung to Ghorepani
- Annapurna Base Camp: Ghorepani to Machapuchare Base Camp
- Annapurna Base Camp: ABC to Ghandruk