Looking into upper Mustang on the road from Muktinath to Jomsom
Its amazing how quickly the climatography changes. For the first 10 days I found myself in tropical rain forest, then high alpine environments. Now, only two days after crossing Thorong-La, I am in an arid desert. It was not to last long however, because only 5 hours walk from this point, the climate becomes alpine once again.
Nilgiri South Peak from the village of Tatopani, meaning (hot water) There are hot springs in town
Mules in full Tibetan headress on the trail from Jomsom to Tuckche
Between Jomsom and Ghorapani I didnt take many pics. Since I was now headed downhill I was really motoring, making great time, being fit and well acclimated. The scenery on this stretch is nothing spectacular, but since the weather precluded me from having great views up the Manang Valley it just seemed like the same old stuff. I was more than ready to get to Ghorapani and see the massive Himalayas up close and in person........
Here in Tatopani I am back down to to an elevation of 1200m (4000 ft.) Its about 85 degrees F again during the day and very humid. I'm ready to start heading back uphill to the cooler temps and spectacular views. The weather is finally starting to clear which is a nice change after walking in the rain for almost 2 weeks straight.
The impeccably clean village of Ghorapani in the heart of Maoist territory. 2750m (9000 ft.)
I hiked from Tatopani to Ghorapani in one day. Its not very far, but its an ascent of over 1600m (5300 ft.) and the trail is very steep. Most of the way you are climbing large stone steps, I dubbed this day the "stairmaster from hell." But, the rainy weather of the Monsoon is starting to clear, and there are some jaw dropping vistas, the likes of which you will never see in the Rockies or Sierras of North America, or the Alps of Europe. These mountains are big!
My "donation" to the revolution
In Nepal there has been a Maoist revolution going on for a few years. It gained great strength when just a few years ago the king and most of the royal family was murdered. (some suspect the king's son was the culprit) The king's son assumed the throne and immediately dissolved the Parliment and nullified the constitution, creating an autocracy. Many civilians have died in the battles in cities and in the outlying villages, although most of the average locals I talked to hate the new king as much as they hate the maoists. Its a sad state of affairs. Needless to say, when you trek into Maoist territory they will demand and entrance fee. However, they are not stupid and realize that tourism is an integral part of the economy and although they extort money from you, (about 10 bucks if you negotiate with them) they tell you that your safety is guaranteed while in Maoist country. In fact, I found this to be true. A few days later when I was leaving Ghorepani headed for Chomrong I was very concerned, for several years ago there had been incidents of trekkers getting beaten to within an inch of thier lives and robbed of all their possesions. On the trail I met by a group of armed maoists and the leader wanted to see my "permit." When I showed it to him I told him that I was concerned about thieves in the forest. He responded that I should not worry and I was completely safe because the thieves that had been hurting the tourist business had been "dealt with." I cant help but think that the Maoists rounded these guys up, took them into the forest and shot them. I had no problems on the way to Chomrong.
Majestic Dhaulagiri (8167m - 26,800 ft.) from Poon Hill, yes its over 30 miles away and still dominates the skyline.
Annapurna South (7219m - 23,700 ft.) from Poon Hill. Looks to be a little breezy at the peak!
Looking south to the Indian lowlands from Poon Hill
Just behind the village of Ghorepani about 500m higher is Poon Hill. The short hike up the hill is rewarded by a stunning panorama of the Annapurnas (which youve just walked around) Dhaulagiri and the Indian plains. The tourist thing to do is wake up before dawn and hike up the hill to watch the sunrise on the snow covered peaks. The views are indescribable and pictures dont do them justice.
Another view of Dhaulagiri