Monday, July 6, 2009

Annpurna Circuit: Part 5

Muktinath to Kagbeni

The wind is blustering outside as if it would like to cleanse us all from this earth; but instead the prayer flags are being shredded, the muddy river is rippling and the hay is blowing into faces and up noses.

The hike from Muktinath this morning took only a few hours. It was a rather desolate trek down a winding, dusty road on which we would sometimes have to hop to the side and wait for impatient, packed, white jeeps to speed by, honking even though we clearly weren't in their way.

The terrain reminds me most of Nevada, except perhaps with even less vegetation growing here. I saw only one hint of life on the way, a tiny lizard skirting its way across the road to again hide itself amongst the rocks and sand.

There are several lodges and little shops, one with an authentic-looking 7Eleven sign, in this village. The architecture reminds me of a that in a Mexican town, with colorful outer window dressings, wood piping and white exteriors.

After trying the dense Kagbeni bread with some mushroom soup we ventured out into the wind and walked to an overlook of the muddy, sluggish river. But after reaching the other side of the village, with debris blowing up into our faces, Purna had had enough and we returned to Shangri-la (the name of our lodge).

Kagbeni to Marpha

Thus far, today was my least favorite hike. The wind was gusting directly against us the entire time and we had to constantly jet to the side of the road to avoid oncoming jeeps and motorcycles, which left a cloud of dust in our faces. My nose is so dried out it feels as if the slightest twitch will set it to bleeding. My face is unevenly tanned as the winds kept blowing the flaps of my hat up, so I appear rather like a charred alien at the moment.

The terrain -- in a word, austere. Dusty riverbeds, dry, rocky roads, sun beating down, gusts never ending. We hit the town of Jomsom around 11am, a fairly large town but not much to it. There was much construction going on and many lodges, as several treks in the region start from here. It also has a stone slab road running all the way through it, but nothing to distinguish it from any other dusty, gray frontier town. From Jomsom it was another hour to Marpha.

Tried some of the regionally popular Marpha Apple Brandy. Let's just say I wouldn't recommend it, unless you're feeling desperate and there's nothing else around.

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