Annapurna Circuit Days 17-18; Chhomrong to Deorali to Pokhara:
In Chhomrong on the morning of Day 17, I sat out on the ledge restaurant enjoying a steaming hot cup of Masala Tea, watching the sun come up over Machuputre shining on Annapurna South. Mikas, the owner, came out and told me that the weather is changing; that more rain and snow are forecast for the higher elevations.
Well this was enough for me, feeling a bit worn down after the tough Thorong La Pass crossing a few days back. Having already been up to Annapurna Base Camp(ABC) in 2014, made for an easier decision to head down towards Pokhara.
So, after bidding goodbye to the hotel owner, Mikas, I began the steep 1 hour descent to Jhinu. There one can partake of the natural hot spring along the Modi Khola River. After a good half hour soak in the soothing hot waters, I continued on through Jhinu crossing one of the longer suspension bridges in the world at 287 meters/941 feet.
Crossing the bridge I was halfway across when I saw a caravan of donkeys entering the bridge on the other side. If today was my first day, I would have turned back but I can be as stubborn as a mule at times and decided to press on along the rocking narrow bridge. There were 16 asses coming in this ass’ direction. It was tight at times and there were a few times where I was smashed into the right side of the bridge but eventually making it to the west side of the river.
Following the Modi Khola River south, a couple of black dogs joined me for some pleasant walking in the lush green countryside. Reaching Landruk Village required a tiresome ascent but lots of fun as I passed some smiling children.
Just before the top two small kids of 5 or 6 years old, barred my way with their hands out and grabbing my stick. Laughing, I mimicked Gandalf’s command, “Thou Shall Not Pass!” but nobody got my joke. Evidently the dogs did not like it either as they stayed with the children of Gandalf.
In Landruk on the top of the ascent and beginning of the trail there was a teahouse with a balcony overlooking the Modi Khola Valley and the Annapurna Range beyond, which made for some great scenery while wolfing down some noodles and eggs, with a coke.
After the meal, the weather was pleasant and so I kept on walking longer than planned to Deorali, where I relaxed outside until the clouds came and enjoyed a last dal bhat dinner before calling it a night.
Day 18 Deorali to Pokhara via Phedi:
The walk was mostly downhill and then at Phedi a steep descent below to the valley where I could catch a bus to Pokhara. Reaching the ridge in Phedi and starting the final descent, I recognized this as the same spot I came out on after my first Nepal trek 35 years ago. This was March though and the valley was relatively dry. In 1987, I walked in September during monsoons and the valley was a vibrant lush green with the river splitting into many rivers as it flowed. Also, there were hundreds of people walking down the river with goods to sell at the markets in Pokhara. There has been considerable development on this side of the valley over the years so it is certainly more crowded but more people taking busses, cars, scooters etc.. than days of past.
Unlike today, in 1987, there were no roads and consequently, our trek was not over and I enjoyed walking with all the locals into Pokhara for a few hours. This time I hopped on 3 different busses taking an hour to get to Lakeside. Progress, I suppose.