|Kali Gandaki river bed|
The first part of Annapurna circuit trek logically ends at Muktinath. It involved climbing up the Marsyandi valley from Besisahar and cross Thorung La to reach Muktinath in Kali Gandaki valley. While this took 10 days the other half involved climbing down the Kali Gandaki valley to Naya Phul. The second half needs about 7-8 days.
But this has changed with road construction along Kali Gandaki valley. Less number of people prefer walking on this stretch. There are few detours but most of the time one has to walk along on this dusty road giving way to vehicles. Trekkers now have multiple options.
- Flight from Jomsom to Pokhara. This is the most favorite option for Indian pilgrims visiting Muktinath. It just takes 20 minutes from Jomsom to Muktinath on flight. But weather and winds at Jomsom are unpredictable and flights cancellations are normal.
- Bus/Jeep from Jomsom to Beni. The distance is about 120 km on extremely bad roads. It takes 7-10 hours depending upon the mode and the vehicle. From Beni it is another 90 km to Pokhara which takes 3-4 hours. The roads are good.
We took the road option. There was a direct bus to Beni that departs Jomsom at 7AM. This was ideal for us else we had to change vehicles at Ghasa and Tatopani which would elongate our journey time. We reserved our seats on previous evening. The reservation counter and the bus stop are opposite to Airport. Foreigners (including Indians) have to shell out more money for Bus tickets.
It was one of the most uncomfortable journey we had. The bus departed late (common in Nepal) and moved slowly (bad roads). There was confusion in the seats as they allocated same seats to multiple people!! Unfortunately it was our seat that was also allocated to others but fortunately we had seated before them. Somehow the conductor managed to adjust.
At one place, a lady in the bus wanted to do some shopping and the bus stopped for 10 minutes!! In another place we had to wait for a passenger for 30 minutes. Twice we (and other trekkers) had to get down and register ourselves at check post.
|Goat being carried on Bus|
The only solace in this backbreaking and cramped travel was the scenery around us. Waterfalls were numerous which kept was engaged for some time.
Finally, at 3PM the bus pulled into the dusty streets of Beni. This was the place that was attacked and temporarily seized by thousands of Maoists in 2004. Things are peaceful these days with Maoists in the Government.
On our arrival in Beni bus stand, we were ushered into Pokhara bus by over enthusiastic bus agents. The bus was full and seemed to move faster on asphalted roads. But somewhere half the journey, the bus was partially full and the driver declared that he would not continue until he gets more passengers!! With nothing to do, we loitered in the streets hoping that the driver would find some passengers. It was too much for an Australian gentleman who had endured this journey from morning. He just got down and jumped into a Taxi that was going to Pokhara. The fare quoted by Taxi driver was astronomical but he just did not care!! Something in Pokhara was pulling him like a magnet!!
The driver’s effort was futile and he reluctantly continued to drive. It was 7:30PM when we landed in the bus stop of Pokhara. It was a long day. Crossing Thorung La was must easier than this bus journey.