As we were having breakfast the next morning, I realized my brilliant idea of ordering cornbread the night before to snack on throughout the day wasn’t going to work out quite the way I’d hoped. I mentioned in the previous part of this series that the food at our guesthouse in Tal was the best of the whole trek and the cornbread was especially memorable. It was too good—I ended up eating most of it before we even took one step down the trail. I should have ordered it by the kilogram. I still had a bit left though and snacked on it throughout the morning. Even if I had hated every other aspect of the trek around the Annapurna circuit in Nepal, I think I would do the whole thing again just for another taste of that woman’s cornbread. It was that good.
Apart from that cornbread, the next two days of our little walk are somewhat of a blur. By this point in our journey, we had gotten used to plodding along for six hours with a backpack weighing us down and our days were turning into a routine of sorts: wake up, have breakfast, set out and walk for an hour, rest, walk for 30 minutes, rest, walk for 30 minutes, rest, and so on until lunch. We’d repeat the whole thing for a few hours in the afternoon, before finding a nice village in which to settle down for the night.
On top of the days becoming a bit routine, the scenery over this stretch did the same. Don’t get me wrong: the views were every bit as amazing as they had been up to that point. We were still enjoying perfect weather as we walked through tiny Nepalese villages along a turquoise river at the base of a vertical cliff, with green hillsides and white mountains in the distance at either end of the valley, but I guess it just wasn’t all that different from the previous day or two. More than that, it was followed by easily the best scenery of the whole trek.
Add to that the fact that the next stretch of the Annapurna circuit doesn’t contain any drastic increases in elevation, but climbs slowly and steadily upward and you get a few uneventful and not all that memorable days (a few days in our case anyway; other people completed this stretch in one day or even half a day).
The photos I took during this portion of the trek tell the real story. I only have 24 images from this two-day period, while I took several hundred on some of the other days. I rely a lot on my photos to bring back memories in writing this series and 24 photos just aren’t going to bring back all that much. I do remember a few things, though.
After leaving the village of Tal, the relatively wide valley narrowed quickly, as the steep cliffs on either side of us crowded back in, leaving us little space to walk.
We soon had to cross over the river again and continue on the newly constructed road. That made walking easy for the most part, except for one section where a waterfall was pouring down directly onto our path before rushing off the edge and dropping into the river below. We had to somehow skirt around that edge, balancing on wet rocks just above the steep drop-off. More accurately, I had to do this. My friends had thought to bring both walking sticks and waterproof shoes and those things turned out to be quite useful at a time like this. We went slowly, but we eventually got past the waterfall. Not without getting wet, of course, but the days were still pretty hot at this point, so we didn’t really mind.
After that, I remember breaking away from the river for a bit and walking through some fields and a tiny little village. And I only remember that because I took a picture.
From there we continued on and crossed the river twice more, before passing through the towns of Dharapani and Bagarchap. Bagarchap was destroyed in 1995 by a landslide that took out about 80% of the village. The effects of the disaster are immediately apparent, as most of the town is missing to this day.
Somewhere along here we stopped for the night and I believe it was a little village called Danarkyu, but I honestly can’t say for sure. I just pulled that name off the map as I was writing this. I remember arriving in an entirely unappealing town and debating whether we should stay there, since we were all sick of walking. In the end, we continued on to the next village, which turned out to be the correct decision. It was much nicer. Considering that Bagarchap had been mostly destroyed, I’m assuming it was the unappealing option. Either way, I do know one thing for sure: my memory is useless.
The next morning we faced a bit of a climb through a forest of pine and fir trees. And lest you think I’ve been studying up on my botany, the map I’m currently looking at is labeled “forest of pine and fir.” I recall it being a fairly pleasant climb, as far as climbs go and soon we were out of the forest and faced with some beautiful views of this mountain.
From there, we crossed a somewhat wider and relatively flat area, covered in countless small patches of grass, where horses, cows and goats were busy grazing.
The open space didn’t last long and the steep walls closed back in on the valley and shut out the sun. The afternoon chill set in and we quickened our pace. Before long, we found ourselves in the town of Chame, where we were greeted with signs of Nepal’s modernization.
This was the first major town we passed through on the Annapurna circuit and the first time we were offered such luxuries as an internet connection, although I can’t imagine the speeds were good for much besides downloading one email message per minute. I’m sure it was expensive, too. Obviously we didn’t bother.
I was about to write that I remember nothing about Chame apart from the rock proclaiming the arrival of the internet and I assume we had some dinner and went to bed, but my memory actually kicked in for a second. Our night in Chame happened to fall on the birthday of the guy I was trekking with, so we had a huge celebration.
By huge celebration, I mean we had some beer with dinner. And not just any beer, but a locally brewed ale that now ranks first on my list of foulest liquids I’ve ever swallowed—and I was in a fraternity in college. Not wanting to waste any, I actually finished the whole thing for some stupid reason and even drained the other guy’s as well…while he ordered himself a real beer instead. Luckily I had ordered potatoes for dinner and received just what I asked for: a giant plate of potatoes that functioned to soak up the vile brew our guesthouse was trying to pass off as beer and to keep me from wanting to see another potato for a long time to come.
The birthday boy got to wash his beer down with Nutella, because, being Germans, his girlfriend revealed that she had been lugging a giant tub of the stuff up the mountain as a present (now we got why her backpack was so heavy). He was thrilled and didn’t even mind that he would have to carry the tub from now on. Not that he had to carry it for long anyway. He had that thing empty a few days later. Birthday blowout over, we went to bed.
Series continued in part 7: Chame to Pisang: Just Takin’ the Goat for a Walk…