Tiger Balm Tales vol. 14
It was as if a huge weight had been lifted from our brains. For the first time since we started hiking the Annapurna circuit – I was free of worry and it was a beautiful feeling. It’s amazing how much anxiety the Thorung La pass can cause internally and how it’s gone as if a magician waved his wand and made it disappear into thin air as the audience in my brain gasped in amazement. We had the hard part behind us, now we could simply enjoy our remaining 7 days on the trail.
After an exhausting day of hiking the pass the previous day, I woke up practically giddy without a worry in the world. Miraculously we both felt pretty good mentally AND physically. Our bodies weren’t sore thanks to all of that Tiger Balm! I took a hot shower, and washed my hair. Plus, three days after I had dropped our only tube of toothpaste down the toilet, I was finally able to purchase toothpaste in Muktinath; yeah for clean teeth!
However, there was one important task we would have to do today – reorganize our itinerary. Since it had taken us more days than expected to get over the pass due to sickness, we now had to reorganize the 2nd half of our hike to get all the way to Pokhara in 7 days without killing ourselves.
Over a hearty breakfast of fried eggs, toast, and bacon we spread out our maps on the wobbly table, consulted our hiking guide book, and discussed a new itinerary with Bishnu. We needed to make up at least two days somehow on our schedule. The one thing that would make this possible was a motor. Unlike the previous sections we had just hiked, on this side of the pass there were some roads and jeeps carried tourists and supplies from village to village. I had a lot of mixed feelings on this intrusion of motorized vehicles on the circuit – but for the time being, I was happy to have the option of 4 wheels.
We decided that instead of hiking, we would take it easy and take a jeep to Jomsom thereby making up one of the days we had lost. Bishnu went to the Jeep stand and helped us purchase out ‘tourist tickets’. To ride the jeep to Jomsom it costs tourists 500 rupees (6.75USD) and it cost locals 150 rupees. However the Jeep doesn’t really operate on a schedule, it leaves when it has enough people to fill it; hard core supply and demand at work. So we went and waited…and waited…and waited. Eventually enough locals came by and filled the Jeep. Dad and I were the only tourists and they kindly took one look at my dad and put us in the front seat; a version of business class I suppose.
We started the bumpy ride down the mountain-side jarred back and forth but happy that for once we were off our feet. Dad and I were still in our post Thorung La pass delight – chatting about all kind of things. The terrain had made another massive change again into a wide, flat, rock-filled valley that looked like hell to walk through. The Jeep sped by other hikers sending dust flying and hikers trying to cover their faces as they continued their march through the rock valley. This just solidified our happiness about our decision to drive today!
Jomson is one of the largest towns on the circuit. A regular metropolis…it has an airport. In fact, most people fly into Jomson and then do short treks on the Annapurna circuit from there if they have limited time. However, after coming over the pass, it was evident that thanks to the airport and the development of roads, this side was much more touristed; I didn’t like it. Sure, it was nice to have some semblance of civilization, but the remote feeling was gone.
We took advantage of modern conveniences and sent emails back home to family letting them know we survived which would allow my mother to breath again.
We went to coffee shops and ate cinnamon rolls, we took our time and strolled down the ‘street’ in the new part of town (aka – touristville). We watched planes take off and land behind our guesthouse as the runway was right in the middle of town. A perfect afternoon of rest.
We even ran into old friends. People we had hiked with on the other side of the pass were in Jomsom and everyone went out of their way to come say hi to Dad and find out how our summit day went. Other tourists, Nepalese guides, as well as porters were happy to see that Dad made it successfully. They would shake his hand vigorously and slap his back in congratulations. I wondered for a moment if I would’ve had this attention if I had been alone…yeah, probably not. Father’s are like puppies…they are cute and innocent. Some American hiking friends even bought us beers as we sat and celebrated our accomplishments together.
The day was slow, easy, and needed. The next day we would be back on the trail…