Have you ever considered a hike thinking about the height you will cover instead of the distance? You may never have done it. Nothing happens. We had not seen a walk – or trekking. We left that to the climbers. But all this changes when you are in a country of climbers and when the walk is between 8,000 meter high mountains. We are talking about the Annapurna base camp trek. Would you be able to walk a kilometer vertically from 2,700 meters above sea level to 3,700 in one day?
Get to Jomsom to start Annapurna base camp trek
When you fly into a small town in a remote area, like the mustang in nepal, you realize many types of airports. Jomson has because, despite being small, it is the district capital. The plane that connects pokhara airport with jomson airport looks like a bus. Not only because of its size, but because it reaches the runway, approaches the terminal, opens the door for passengers to get off while they take out their luggage – little because there is no space on the plane either, you leave everything in pokhara and take just the basics – and, without the pilots leaving or moving the plane, the next batch of travelers enters.
Inside the plane, the surprise is even greater when you see that the seatback has to be raised and supported with your body or that there is no cockpit beyond a curtain open almost all the time. But, when the stewardess – yes, there is one – passes by offering candy and cotton … Cotton? Before you have time to think about what you want the cotton for, the propellers turn on and the thunderous noise inside the plane makes it clear what the cotton is for, for your ears.
After a journey between mountains
We do not believe that this little plane could pass over them, remember that we are talking about the highest mountains in the world, you arrive at the Jomsom airport. Almost as similar to any other airport, you have seen as the plane you arrive at any other in which you have ridden. When we returned, we discovered that the walk-through metal detector was a kind of curtained fitting room in which passengers were searched one by one. At least, that was the theory because the guards’ hands moved little from their pockets.
The Mustang is one of the most inaccessible places in Nepal. Okay, you might be thinking, if they came by plane … I mean the upper mustang, the old kingdom of mustang near the border with Tibet. Getting there is not within reach of anyone without preparation, training, equipment … So, we walked through the lower mustang in the Annapurna region.
Before leaving the airport, you have to pass the first control. You need a permit to walk in this area – or it was when we went – and a policeman sitting at a desk is writing down everyone’s data. It would not be the last control: at the tourist office, they keep a part of the permit and, before leaving jomson, you have to go through the police station to re-register. Even if you think you have to go to many places, jomson is a small town with a main “Street” where the tourist office, the police station and all the hotels, hostels, hostels and restaurants are located.
It seemed straightforward until I discovered that on the trekkers’ society permit, someone had decided that my year of birth was 1930 … And of course, that got a bit of attention. Eternal youth or typical mistake? It was a typical mistake. But it could also be that he was sneaking someone else’s permission, which was not the case.
We planned to reach the Muktinath temple in a couple of days… have we ever fulfilled a plan?
Walking in the Annapurna
What landscape do you hope to find almost 3,000 meters high in the Himalayas? We did not have a definite idea: snow, cold, wind … Only the wind was fulfilled. The sun began to sting almost as soon as we left jomson and we followed the bed, practically dry at the time, of the Kali Gandaki river, the ancient route used to exchange goods between Tibet and India. To this day, it is still widely used by refugees from Tibet fleeing to Nepal.
Things looked good, the wind kept us cool and the sunscreen and the cap did their job with the sun. Thus, in about two hours, we reached a town where we rested and ate something less than half an hour from kagbeni, where we would have had to spend the night to continue the next day. Already? Two and a half hours of walking? We thought the same thing … We were euphoric – maybe the purity of the oxygen at that height had something to do with it – and it seemed like a waste of time to stop before noon.
What would you have done? We asked the guide if we could get to Muktinath in one day. His answer left us confused: “I can .” that was clear to us, but what we asked was if we could …
Nepal vertical kilometer kali Gandaki river bridge
“Adventure is an adventure and here we have come to ride. “We must have said something like that to convince ourselves. The fact is that when the road forked, to the left the river and kagbeni and to the right the mountains and Muktinath, we turned right. Not without first stopping at a restaurant to eat, because the guide told us that it was four hours – optimistic? – of walking and there was nothing between that point and the town of ranipauwa, next to the temple.
The concept of vertical kilometers exists as a regulated sport discipline and, in addition to the obvious gain in height, the distance traveled cannot be greater than 5 kilometers. Okay, we walk more, about 18 or 20, but it was our vertical kilometer.
Nepal vertical kilometer Annapurna guide
As we climbed, the wind also increased. A basic tip: long pants and a long-sleeved shirt if you do not want the sand that the wind blows up to destroy your skin. Because this is a desert, rocky, but desert.
Four or five villages later – each and everyone was the last one according to the guide every time they appeared on top of a hill – Sara wanted to kill the guide and, later, sit in the middle of the desert to rest and let god be what I’d like. Things got complicated …
The fact that I am writing this clarifies that we do not freeze to death in the middle of the night in the Annapurna. And the fact that we have continued traveling makes it clear that there was no murder. As always happens, when things are about to explode on a trip, the solution appears. In this case, ranipauwa appeared and, a few meters away, the temple of Muktinath. Temple that we would see the next day because it was already closed and because we just wanted to lie down and rest after another seven hours of walking.
In case you’re wondering, yes, it was worth it for the landscapes –you have already seen the photos– and for the Muktinath temple –which we will show you another day–. And yes, you can get to the temple by jeep, which is how we got back.
The news that came after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal on jomson was that it was not very affected and no deaths. Tourism is essential for Nepal, do not rule it out before finding out if it is possible to visit the places you have in mind in your travel plan.