November 10-12, 2015: Annapurna Aftermath

Though this post will not be anywhere near as amazing (or as long) as the Annapurna post, the journey back down the mountain and the stops along the way were exciting enough that they warranted their own post!

Miles walked/hiked:            6 (~10km)
Miles transported:           115 (~185km)

Nov 10:   Muktinath (Elev:  3,760m / ~12,335ft) to Tatopani (Elev 1,190m / ~3,905ft)

Getting ourselves down to Tatopani turned out to be much more of an adventure than anticipated. Normally, one just takes a bus from Muktinath to Jomsom and from there switches to another bus directly to Tatopani. But due to the fuel crisis, the latter bus was not running so they put us on a bus to Ghasa, where we were to catch another bus to Tatopani. Great, right? Well, as is the current norm in Nepal (… fuel crisis…), we had to wait for the bus to fill up and asking how long until the bus left provided you with nothing but a head wobble. TWO AND A HALF HOURS and 4 bags of dried apples (direct from the apple fields of Marpha) later, we finally took off for Ghasa. We arrived in Ghasa at sundown to find there were no more buses running that evening. However, there was a private bus just about to leave and at $15/gallon (… fuel crisis…), the driver could not resist picking up some backpackers for some extra cash. But more about that later… let’s start this post with a photo of the delicious Shakshuka (an Israeli staple breakfast, for those who don’t know) we had that morning:

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 10 - 1

Hanging out at the Muktinath bus stop, waiting for our bus to leave (this day consisted of a lot of waiting, hence I found it appropriate to include pictures of the activity of waiting):

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 10 -

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 10 - 3

Made it to Jomsom, where we saw this cool monastery:

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 10 - 4

And this comforting sign:

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 10 - 5


Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 10 - 6

Bumping our way down the mountain.

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 10 - 7

And when I say bumping, I am not exaggerating… there were times when our entire bodies were literally suspended in air (and no, of course there were no seat belts on these buses from the 70s…). I should also note that these drives were NOT for the faint of heart… the buses swung around narrow, bumpy, dirt, cliff roads, with thousand foot drops inches away from the wheels, all the while blaring Nepali and Hindi music to distract the terrified passengers. I put together this little assembly of clips that I feel decently (but not fully, by any means) captures this experience:

We survived the drive down to Ghasa. Now, the bus down to Tatopani was a whole other experience. As I mentioned above, we arrived at Ghasa at sundown, so imagine the above drive description, but in TOTAL DARKNESS. Thankfully, the private bus we crashed belonged to a Nepali film crew who was up in the mountains filming a music video. We didn’t know this at first, as we were all just shoved onto the bus with no explanation, sitting on top of each other and in the aisles. But as the bus was taking off, I could hear Francy in the front of the bus saying “oh, you’re an actor? What kind of actor are you?” Turns out, Francy was chatting with a pretty famous Nepali actor. NBD. I was in the back with Emilia, Milan, Guy and Felipe chatting with the production manager and crew as they were showing us their pictures and music videos on their phones. Yoav and Lauren were chatting with the director in the front, who would turn around and yell at his crew every once in a while because everyone was dancing and singing (and drunk) the entire drive. It was so much fun, we were almost sad to have arrived in Tatopani… almost. But we managed to get a group shot with the crew:

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 10 - 8

Arrived in Tatopani, where celebrations for Tihar aka: Deepawali, aka: Festival of Lights were ongoing in the streets (more on this later in the post):

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 10 - 9

We all got tika-ed!

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 10 - 10

We wrapped our day up with a dip in the hot springs of Tatopani (Tatopani literally means “hot water” – Tato = hot, pani = water). Unfortunately, the group picture we took in the spring didn’t come out too well (understatement), but I’ll include it here anyway as it’s the best we’ve got (and it’s kind of funny how terrible the photo is):

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 10 - 11

BTW… this day (Nov 10) was my birthday. Pretty cool way to kick off my 28th year of life (after completing the Annapurna circuit, no less), I’d say.

Nov 11:   Chilling in Tatopani

We liked Tatopani so much (and barely got to see it that night), that we decided to spend an extra day there to relax, wander around and frolic in the hot springs. Felipe, however, is an animal and decided to continue trekking (2 day hike to Poonhill, where you have amazing views of the Annapurna range). As he and Emilia were commemorating their year-long trip with “selfies del dia” (selfies of the day), they had to squeeze one in before Felipe took off. He left Samsonite to look after Emilia (risky move, Felipe… risky move):

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 11 - 1

The rest of us (minus Milan, who also left that morning to meet his friend in Pokhara) wandered around the town. Stole this incredible photo from Emilia:

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 11 – 2

And spent most of the afternoon hanging out on our guest house’s balcony, drinking apple brandy (bottled in the apple fields of Marpha!) and enjoying the incredible views:

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 11 - 3

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 11 - 4

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 11 - 5

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 11 - 6

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 11 - 7

Before venturing out to the hot springs again:

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 11 - 8

Came back into town to catch Tihar in full force, with much singing, dancing and pure happiness. Check out the video, too:

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 11 - 9

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 11 - 10

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 11 - 11

Nov 12:   Tatopani to Pokhara (Elev:  820m / ~2,690ft)

If we thought our bus adventures were over, we were wrong. Got to the bus stop in Tatopani at 7:30am for a bus that was supposed to leave at 8am. But, of course, the bus wasn’t full, so everyone on board had to negotiate and agree on a price to make up for the empty seats. We finally agreed on a price and were ready to take off! Oh, wait, the keys don’t work? What do you mean the keys don’t work? Oh, they’re the wrong keys for this bus? Well, where are the right keys? Nobody knows? Alrighty then… everybody off the bus and on to another one!… Which FINALLY took off at 9:45am. Woohoo! And less than 5 minutes later…

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 12 - 1

Yup. Flat tire. Good thing we were besties with everyone on our bus at this point:

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 12 - 2

Had a layover in Beni, where we all managed to negotiate a van together to Pokhara. Stopped at a “gas station” (the kid siphoned the gas out with his mouth… what a baller):

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 12 - 3

And we finally made it to Pokhara! See, Felipe? Samsonite took great care of your girl (I made sure he behaved):

Annapurna Aftermath, Nov 12 - 4

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