Trekking Around Annapurna (3/3)
Night is passing without a hitch. We have a quick breakfast and a paracetamol tablet around 4AM then leave the camp in total darkness. Today is The Day and excitement is felt. Everybody is tired but thinking that in a few hours we will be Up There gives us wings.
Last climb: Thorong-La pass
The climb is tough and carried out in absolute silence. I am cradled by the feeling of my quick but regular heartbeat and try to remain focused on my breath. In effort, we tend to shut ourselves into an inner world, a sort of bubble isolating the mind from all the harmful sensations. And right now, this is happening to every one of us.
As day is rising, we are astonished by the show happening behind. Mountains wearing glaciers, each more impressive than the next, are soothed by an intense blue light, a kind of light I did not know about the sole existence. It is like in a dream and as the sun shyly pierces through the clouds, the snowy summit upstream unfolds in a golden dress. This show only lasts for a short and precious instant before the clouds cover everything. At this moment I keep on thinking that as short as it was, the 200 km walk and all the sufferings endured so far represent such a low cost for an incredible experience like this. The short distance separating us from the top of the pass is quickly forgotten as our minds are still hypnotized by what they just lived. Here we are, on the top of the pass. We succeeded!
We stay for quite a while on the top before walking down in a thick fog giving a mystical atmosphere to the morbid and silent landscape. As the sky unveils little by little on Muktinath valley, the magical vision of a desert coming out of nowhere shows up. This day has been truly blessed!
The Muktinath shock
The city in itself is a shock. After having destroyed our knees on the 1700 m height difference, we are once again immersed in civilization, in sickness and in health: Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries but also horns, motorbikes noises and souvenir shops… It is a place I would like to leave as soon as possible but my mates, as well as all the trekkers we met on the trek, want to stay here overnight and celebrate. I must admit that I am not against a hot shower and a few liters of beer, even if it goes beyond my vision of a trek — by the way far from being finished. Too bad, I yield. Tomorrow I will leave in the morning to enjoy the surrounding villages with my friend Nicolas, also not very enthusiastic about the idea of staying here.
We then cross the typical villages of Mustang with their Tibetan style. Here, no tourist can be seen (except from us). Life is a bit like it used to be during middle-age, except that a few electric wires line the cobble-stoned paths we are walking on. Enthralled, we walk among goats and their kids, snaking in houses, frightened by the tall white men carrying big bags.
This is a sweet sensation to get lost in these little sunny streets, surrounded by whitewashed walls and houses and smiling inhabitants. I want this moment to last forever, even if we have to cross rivers over makeshift bridges and are lucky enough to avoid being dampened by the content of a toilet, flushed above our heads. We have spent a day in the past before separating: I decided I wanted to sleep in one of those villages.
Ending the adventure?
Tomorrow, after a walk through the desert, we will meet again and decide what to do next. There will be no way to stop us as we want to continue this trek, walk towards Annapurna base camp to complete this 400 km trek of about 1 month. But this one is another adventure…