DAY 11: Ranipauwa to Marpha
So day 11 was a long one. I woke up early and after an awesome breakfast, set off at around 7:15am. This day, I wanted to make sure I left quite early, as once you get to around Jomsom at noon? The winds will pick up like clockwork!
One of the alternate routes that would have added a day would have been to hike towards Kagbeni. Part of me regrets not doing this, but I honestly wasn't sure how much time I would have, and if an extra day would have been prudent. So I continued on through Khinga and then to Eklai Bhatti, where I had a light snack. At this point, it was about 10:30am, and I had to pick up the pace in order to try and avoid the winds. Once leaving there, I headed to Jomsom. I ran into a Chinese man that I had seen occasionally while trekking over the last few days. During this entire time, there was a small six month old puppy that was tagging along. Now, this pup was following along with us since Ranipauwa. We were a good ten kilometers from there!
The pup was, I believe, part Tibetan mastiff. They're actually quite friendly, in this region, and seemed to really like human companionship. The previous year, another one of these pups followed along from Eklai Bhatti to Jomsom - a good seven kilometer walk. Well, the Chinese man actually took a look at the pup and made a joke about how back home? That would have been dinner! Obviously, it was a joke, and I actually appreciated that someone played up the stereotypes. It was, of course, in jest.
Now before Jomsom occurred the only bad thing I experienced during the entire trip. There were porters for another group trekking along. One of the porters started throwing rocks at the little pup - and laughed about it. I made a couple of comments to the Chinese trekker, and finally snapped at the porter pretty sternly, wagging a finger at him and saying "No!" in Nepalese. Just a few minutes later, as the pup was laying down for a second, the same porter went to pick up another rock and throw it at the pup. I bent down purposely in his way, and got even louder with my displeasure. He still laughed. Eventually, one of the other porters actually picked up the pup and carried him the last bit before Jomsom. It was a pretty horrible thing to see, but it is fairly common in that part of the world. I came incredibly close to grabbing a rock and hurling it at the porter's feet, but honestly, I have no idea what sort of problems that could have potentially caused. I was 8,000 miles from home, and the last thing I should be doing is getting into a fight.
After getting to Jomsom, I parted ways with the other trekker, as I was searching for the guesthouse that purportedly had a certain Jimi Hendrix as a guest back in the late '60's. Complete with graffiti on the wall! The Thak Khola lodge is very beat up. Also, it's rumored to be closing, soon. As a thank you, I gave the owners 500 Rs to simply see the room. I stayed for about 20 minutes to see all of the other graffiti and it honestly was a pretty cool experience! Once I left, I continued into the Southern part of Jomsom, grabbed some lunch, and continued on.
The last stretch to Marpha was an ordeal. The winds had picked up furiously, by this point. Now, every day starting at 11am or noon, the winds get stronger from the South. This is due to the wind tunnel effect the gorge created between Dhaulagiri and Annapurna I that you're actually walking through. Depending on what source you would find, the Kali Gandaki gorge can be described as the world's deepest, at over 18,000 feet! Anyhow, the last few kilometers were quite tough. Walking headlong into the wind and the subsequent sand that was carried with it meant using the scarf I brought with me as a way to cover my mouth. If you're planning to trek this section of the Circuit Trek, do yourself a favor and bring a good scarf. You will thank yourself!
Tashi Lhakhang Gompa - Marpha
At about 2:30pm, I arrived in Marpha. I decided to stay at the Neeru Guesthouse, and they have excellent food! I also ran into the mountain biking crew for the last time, as they were finishing up the next day. While in Marpha, I visited the Tashi Lhakhang Gompa, which is pictured above. Remember, if you walk along the prayer wheels, make sure you find out whether to walk in a clockwise or counter-clockwise fashion. It may not mean much to you, but it means a lot to the people that are there! Once I finished with a big dinner, I then fell asleep after watching "Princess Bride" on my tablet. Not a bad way to end the day, eh?
Cost: 2400 Rs
Approx. distance trekked: 20 km
Next up: Marpha to Kalopani