Once over the pass, I had it in my head that we would only be walking downhill from now on. Wrong! While on the first part of the trail we had been walking partly on the “road” (the term being used in the loosest of senses), on this part of the trek we walked mostly on trails which just go up and over one hill and then descend only to rise immediately over the next crest with a combination of steps and gravelly paths to test out your knees to the full. On some days we might only want to drop 200m but in order to do so, we would climb 400m, then drop 1000m and then climb back up 400m again! During this part of the trek, we followed the Kalligandaki river on what is colloquially known as the Apple pie trail because that dish appears on a lot of the menus in the tea-houses.
Thorang-La pass is almost the highest point on this picture
The incursion of the road is a little bit controversial and there are some purists who say that trekking the Annapurna Circuit is now over because of the road which has wiped out some of the trails. Yes it’s true that you do see some hardy vehicles going along the road but not that many and of course the introduction of the road brings better communication, healthcare, food and education to the local population. And of course, the road has not taken away the wonderful mountain views.
After 10 days of walking, we had a break when we took a local bus from Jomsom to Tatopani. Once on the “deluxe” bus (the word “deluxe” being a brand rather than an adjective, given all the broken seats on the bus), we quickly realised just how bad the road was – it was full of pot-holes, was very narrow and we were often extremely close to the edge of the road with a 200m or so sheer drop into the river valley below, which was particularly scary when the bus tried to get through a deep pot hole and tilted at a sharp angle and/or we had to get pass an oncoming vehicle. It reminded me of a rollercoaster ride at a fun fair but unfortunately without any safety precautions: probably the worst day of the trek and not an experience I am in a hurry to repeat.
After that we were back walking again, completing the Annapurna Circuit after a further 3 days. However, as our initial plan had also been to do the 3 day Tillicho Lake extension which we had cancelled due to the increased risk of avalanche and landslide following snow fall, we tacked on 3 further days at the end of the trek, just to make sure we got the full 16 day experience. This took us to some delightful places – all with Tolkein-esque names – like Sikha, Ghorepani, Ghandruk and Landruk and also to Poon Hill which afforded an incredible panoramic view over the Annapurna mountains. Simply stunning.