After our pathetic first two days on the Annapurna Circuit Trek, we were fully expecting to see some of the people from our bus ride again, as they lapped us on their second go around 230 kilometer loop. To avoid that, we set the town of Ghermu as our goal for the day. It was only 9 kilometers down the trail, but that was 7 kilometers more than we covered on either of our previous days. It was still far less distance than most people cover in a day, but for us, it was a very lofty goal. Besides, there was another problem to deal with.
On the way to Ghermu we would have to pass through the town of Bahundanda, which lies on a saddle at an elevation of 1310 meters. We were currently at 890 meters and our destination Ghermu lies at 1130. I know none of you want to deal with the complicated math, so I’ll summarize the results: we were in for some climbing.
Now obviously, we knew in the backs of our minds that a trek that begins and ends around 800 meters above sea level and crosses a pass at 5400 meters will likely involve some climbing. But that was all theory. On this day we would be hit by the hot, sweaty, exhausting and thigh destroying reality of taking a walk in the Himalayas: we would have to walk up a little hillside.
But first, we needed to eat. If we were going to burn a bunch of calories, we obviously had to make sure we had more than enough to burn. A big breakfast helped, but a rainstorm an hour or two into our day helped even more. It gave us an excuse to take shelter in a little tea house that just happened to serve a pretty amazing apple pie.
We didn’t know that at first and were just planning on having a cup of tea while waiting out the rain, but once we saw the pie on other people’s plates, we had to have some. We also had to have a chocolate pancake and a cheese quesadilla made with chapatti instead of whatever they’re usually made with. By the time the rain let up and we gathered our bags to head out, we were pretty stuffed and not at all happy about our impending ascent. If that tea house had had available rooms, I’m pretty sure we would have crashed there for the night.
Instead, we kept going and soon hit the dreaded climb. It turned out to be a beautiful hillside of terraced rice fields dotted with little farmhouses and crisscrossed by stone fences. At the top of the hillside we could see Bahundanda sitting on the ridge. Looking up at the village from the bottom of the valley, we knew we had a torturous hour or two ahead of us.
By now, the rain clouds had disappeared completely and the hot sun had us sweating before we even took the first step. In the end, the climb was just as hot, dusty, tiring and miserable as we expected; but, to tell the truth, it was also quite enjoyable.
That was mostly due to the beautiful scenery, but also helped by the fact that we stopped every 50 meters to dump our backpacks on the ground and rest our aching shoulders and legs. Whenever we rested, we were passed by local farmers casually flying up the hillside carrying giant baskets of wood, rocks and various other things that looked like they weighed more than our three bags combined. It was not good for the ego.
Luckily, I had my camera, so I could pretend I was just stopping to take pictures of whatever happened to be in front of me. That didn’t explain why I had to drop my backpack every time I snapped a photo, but I’m just going to assume no one noticed that.
Eventually we made it to Bahundanda at the top and pretty much collapsed in a heap in the town square. As we lay there, mangy dogs came up to sniff us and local kids prodded us with sticks to see if we were alive. After ten minutes or so, we managed to stand back up on wobbly legs, just in time to see another trekker enter the square after the long climb.
Except this one had a huge smile on her face and wasn’t even out of breath. She started asking us questions about the town, since, having seen us reach the top ten minutes earlier, she assumed we had taken a look around or done anything other than lie motionless in the dirt. She turned out to be American and had begun her trek that morning, setting out from the same town we had left two days prior. She was looking to buy a phone card in town, before setting off for the next one where she would spend the night.
It should come as no surprise that we hate this girl. If you’re reading this, screw you with your muscles and your functioning lungs…. On a positive note, talking to her had given us the motivation we needed to press on to Ghermu, as she was heading there herself.
Did anyone buy that? Didn’t think so. In reality, we didn’t for a second consider even discussing whether to continue walking. That little rainstorm had given us the perfect excuse to cut short our day (after all, it could rain again at any time, despite the clear blue skies…) and we weren’t about to let it go to waste, so we simply looked at each other and wordlessly split up to check out guesthouses and find a comfortable bed for the night. And to lay motionless on for the rest of the afternoon.
However, in an incredible display of stamina and sheer willpower, we actually spent the next few hours sitting upright and playing cards while eating more food and drinking a bunch of tea. That’s right, even after a day of climbing through a little farming community a near-vertical cliff, we still had the drive and energy to sit.
Series continued in part 4: Trek to Jagat and a Rant Against Guides on the Annapurna Circuit