We set out from Pokhara to explore the wilds of the Annapurna region, one of the most popular trekking routes in the world. What made this area famous was the Annapurna Circuit, a 20 odd day mission circumnavigating the entire Annapurna massif. However new roads, particularly that up the Kali Gandaki river in the western part have changed the dynamics of tourism in the area, perhaps as some say spoiling the classic trek, but also opening up new opportunities that we aimed to make the most of. We headed straight for the dry lands of Mustang, in the rain shadow of the Annapurnas where the hills are big and brown and the people use spring water to create green oases of crops and fruit trees amongst the eroded hills.
|A creative route choice saw a family ford of the Kali Gandaki|
|Mum was starting to stride out up the braided river bed|
We caught the bus from Pokhara to Jomsom, with a one night stop over in Ghasa. Not quite as easy as it sounds as this road as well as being controversial is just a little dodgy. Jomsom is a great little hub with an airport, fresh apples and plenty of places to spend money. We got out of there quickly heading upriver to the amazing old fortified village of Kagbeni on the border of the Upper Mustang restricted area.
|The Kagbeni monastery with rock strata behind|
|The Orchards of Kagbeni and towards Muktinath|
|Nilgiri rose snow capped above layers of brown hills to the south.|
|Troglodytes once lived here|
|Autumn colours - Little monastery on hill|
|Approaching the walled village of Putak|
|The Stewart family in Putak|
|View from guesthouse - with mountain we later climbed|
|View back down to Jhong after evening stroll - looking as much as it has for the last thousand years|
|Dhaulagiri on right above gap of the Kali Gandaki|
|First light hits Jharkot - Jhong in foreground|
|Nearly time to go down|
We also saw a flock of blue sheep, the first since Kanchenjanga, they were still there when we went down and we watched then scuttling around the steep terrain. They always stay close to cliffs so they can escape any snow leopard attacks. I can't really emphasise enough the beauty and photogenicness of this little area. There are so many things going on. Here are a few more photos to perhaps make the point.
|A New Monastery near Muktinath|
|The Stewart family leaves Jhong|
|Lubra is near the orchard in the distance|
|Rock walls that make you feel tiny.|
The village was fantastic. It was harvest time and it smelt like rain. The "Super-organism" of the Tibetan village was burning energy. All around the landscape there were massive bundles of grass moving around, supported by little bandy legs. Ladybirds is not perhaps the right analogy, but you can probably understand where I am coming from.
|Our hosts for the night|
From Lubra, we headed back into the main valley of the Kali Gandaki, but stayed on the true left to avoid the metropolis of Jomsom. The track down the bank was interesting, up and over little ridges with great views of Nilgiri and its forested slopes. We even arrived in Marpha in time to watch the World Cup semi-final at a bus stop - but one that sold apple cider and dried fruit...superb. If you go to Martha stay in the old town which is off the main road, we fell for one of the outer places and there wasn't quite the vibe. Marpha is one of the towns that has been hard done by by the road as many trekkers now end their trip in Jomsom, its well worth a nosy though. I had big ambitions to get to 6000metres by heading up Dhamphus peak on our rest day but neither my fitness or the weather were conducive to action. The 6000 metre threshold will have to wait for another time.
|Heading down river - Dhampus peak at centre|
|Watching the rugger|
|Me, Gem and Sam in Marpha|