Never Stop Exploring – Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 11

Finally we are on our last trekking day at the Annapurna Circuit. It has been a long hard 10 days especially the preceding few days and we were all looking forward to what we assumed to be an easy day. It started off that way with us walking on a motor road after leaving Muktinath.

We visited a Nepalese Temple along the way and the ladies went crazy shopping at one of the many little shops along the road. Then we came to this amazing postcard perfect scene.For the most part of the morning we were walking on the road but somewhere in the later part of the morning, we veered off into the mountain and started walking along some loose chip stone ground.

After lunch we continued walking along the river and at times in the river bed itself!

And that was when our easy day turned out to be one of the most tiring day because of the wind! The wind came strong and fast whipping out the sand and stones from the river bed and hills. Our mask, hairs were no protection against the dust generated and there were many times when we couldn’t even walk forward but had to stop to let the gush of wind pass through. All of us inhale so much sand and dust that for many of us, 4 days after this epic journey, we were still coughing and draining dirty mucus from our nose!

But finally after a hard struggle, we reached Jomson! 18 km for the whole day over 7 hours. And with that, we came to the end of the Annapurna Circuit Trek. 

The 11 days have been challenging. It is not a walk in the park and requires endurance not just to keep moving day after day but to endure the heat, the cold and the basic accommodation which city folks like us might not be used to. But it was still fun especially doing this with a great bunch of teammates. The members are already talking of Everest Base Camp next year. But will I want to do it again?

Never Stop Exploring – Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 10

We woke up at 4 am to move off to the highest point in our adventure – the Thorung La Pass! After breakfast we moved off at 5 am. It was still dark and we had to rely on headlamps and torches for the first part of the climb.

If it wasn’t so damn cold, we would all have stayed to enjoy the view as the sky starts to brighten slowly.

But we had no time for that as there were many other trekkers going up on the narrow path and we had to push on before the strong wind set in. And bit by bit it got brighter although not easier..And we press on and on. Some of the us were laboring under the double whammy of the cold and altitude and we were moving very slowly. And I think we actually envied those who decided not to tackle the wall and rode horses up! But we push on and finally!Yes we made it! The highest point of our trek at 5,416 metres and I dare say, the highest that I will ever possibly climb to. By now the wind was howling and after a cup of tea in the teahouse shack at the summit, we made our way down to Muktinath. 

Of course it being downhill, it was a much easier walk and we picked up some pace although we still stop often enough to take photo and of course to pee although it was kinda tough for the ladies considering the open ground.

This is the last suspension bridge that we were be crossing and of course we had to stop to take a group photo.

And finally we reached Muktinath!We had started at 5 am and it was barely 3 pm. We had descended 1,600 metres in slightly over 4 hours and covering from the time we set off from High Camp to here a distance of almost 18 km proving again that going down hill is always much easier!

This is Muktinath a little town that is actually like a big religious place with a temple and many shrines.

Because it was still early, we toured the temple and its surrounding before checking into our hotel Although we still have one more day to go, our guide told us that the trek is considered over and so we assumed that the next day will be an easy day but little did we know………….

 

 

Butterfly @ Nepal

Apart from birds, the other creatures I was hoping to see was butterfly. Fortunately, although I had not much luck with birds apart from the Snowcock, I had better luck with butterfly. Right from the word go, there were butterfly. Not a lot but enough to satisfy me because almost there were many lifers!

First butterfly was when we were still travelling in the van and had stopped for lunch. After lunch and walking around, saw this flying around. I only got 2 shots but it was good enough.

Common Nawab

In the carpark of the makan place, got another one flying around. Couldn’t get it the best few time but luckily another tourist pointed out where it flew to and bingo. 

Oriental Common Leopard

Singapore has this but this is my first photo of it though. 

The next day was when the floodgate open. So many different butterflies along the trails that I often lagged behind the others as I stopped to take photos. For this reasons, much as I like to take better angled photo or chase after them for a better shot, I had to just shoot off a burst and then hope for the best as I chase after my mates. But still I am pretty happy with the results. These are 3 of the more interesting butterfly

Tabby

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Never Stop Exploring – Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 9

Today we start our climb to the highest point in our journey. We didn’t start too early though. At about 8 am when the sun was already out when we set off.

It was a hot day and it didn’t help that we were most of the time out in the open.

Along the way we saw many Blue Sheep. Mainly on the steep mountain slope. It just amazing how these creatures can bounce up and down the side without falling.We continued walking for the most part along the bank of the Jasang Khola before we stopped for a long lunch to build up our strength for the final tackle.The last part up to the Torung Phedi and High Camp was tough. 

It was a steep walk not helped by the thin oxygen and we walked very slowly so much so that by the time we reached High Camp, it was 5 pm. We had took 9 hours to walk 10 km! But we were at the 4,925 metre. But it wasn’t enough. Our guide suggested after we had put our packs in our room to take a short walk to the top – just another 10 minutes walk. And I am glad we did – because I saw the Tibetan Snowcock and this wonderful misty view of the surrounding.

The High Camp has got to be one of the coldest place in the region. Entering our little room was like entering a freezer. Everything was cold to the touch including the blanket and sleeping bag. To make it worse, the toilet was outside and to reach it, one had to walk into the open. It was a miserable night for most of us. Our only comfort was that it was our last night at this altitude and after the final summit the next morning we will be going down down down!

Never Stop Exploring – Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 8

After the high of Lake Tilicho, we got to descend a bit. Not much but still it was nice to go downhill through beautiful sights.

This was the view that greet us early in the morning before we start our journey for the day.

Our hike for the day or at least for the first part of the day was through open grounds with not much climb.

But we had to cross back the landslide area again. This is the view from the top where we had climb up the previously.

Our journey took us through some colorful plants. Interesting since this is not autumn or is it?

More of the colorful plants all over the place.

And then we came to this abandoned settlement at Upper Khangsar. 

Everyone especially the ladies were very happy to reach this place because this was like the only area that was not so open and the ladies all rushed to the abandoned buildings to let go. Hahaha

Another view of the settlement with the stone wall around it. Like a mini great wall of China.

More ridge walking. Not as scary as it look and definitely easier than the route up to Tilicho.The view in front of us as we near Yak Kharka, our destination for the dayThe mountain in front of us. Beautiful but lucky we are not scaling that.And finally crossing the Thorung Khola to Yak Kharka.

18 km today. 9 and a half hour. One of the longest but definitely not tough day. 

 

Birding at Nepal

Nowadays when I am travelling I always keep my eyes open for birds, butterfly and moths.  For Nepal, I was hoping to see some exotic birds. I did my research and knew that up in the mountains there were vultures and eagles.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, there wasn’t that many birds spotted on the trek. Maybe I was too tired to look hard. There were of course the common birds like the crow and sparrow. But common or not, I still took some of their photos including photo of what I thought was a crow. It was however only when I came back and look through the photos that I realised it was not a crow but some other bird with a yellow bill. Too big to be a myna and too high up in the mountain. Did some online search and discovered this is a Alpine Chough. That is still a species of crow but at least it is not the usual House Crow or Thick Billed Crow.

There were some raptor flying here and there and I managed to get a half decent photo of this one soaring overhead.

Can’t id it. Could be a Black Kite or hopefully a Steppe Eagle?

But up on the 2nd highest point of the trek, I hit paydirt! At Thorong La Pass High Camp, after a very exhausting climb, instead of resting, when the guide suggested we take a walk up to the highest point there, a few of us went. And lo and behold, a flock of this bird came. At first I thought it was some geese. They made similar sound. But a bird is a bird and so I took a few snaps while trying to crawl up the little knoll in the freezing cold and fading light. And thankfully I got an decent shot out of the lot of snaps. A Tibetan Snowcock! 

Of course I didn’t know what bird it was then and with no internet connection, I had to wait until when we were at the Pokhara Airport when I chanced upon a bird guide book in one of the shop. Bingo! A rare lifer for me.

Ironically where there were no birds up in the mountain, there were more birds at Pokhara. Somewhere out in the streets, spotted a tree with many egrets on it. This is one of them. A Intermediate Egret.

And over at Lake Phewa, I got another Egret. This time a Little Egret.

And over in Kathmandu at the Swayambhunath Monkey Temple, immediately after we entered the place, we got this beauty,

It was still there half an hour later when we left. And up in the sky there were many of them soaring magnificently over the area.

Not a lot of birds but at least there was some interesting sightings so it wasn’t that bad. Consolation is – I got lot of butterfly but that is a story for another time.