Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Day 01 (Pokhara – Besisahar to Bahundanda)
I woke up today at 05:20, got dressed, and packed my bags before heading out in to the foggy morning and walking to the Tourist Bus Park in Pokhara. I then waited about a forty-five minutes for the bus to depart that would take me to my starting point on the trail: Besisahar. The bus stopped several times along the route to pick up passengers and at one point the bus was completely full with many standing in the aisle (the lady sitting next to me had a toddler with her and throughout much of the journey the toddler’s head was resting on my arm – there wasn’t much space in the bus). We drove through valleys and many mountainsides were terraced with rice paddies. I also met two men from Andorra on the bus who were beginning their trek today as well.
After about four hours, the bus reached the end of Besisahar; the remaining passengers departed, I grabbed my bag, and got ready for my trek. I took a shortcut at the end of town, a trail that led down to the Marsyangdi River; I then crossed the river on a concrete bridge and continued on the dirt road, heading north. I was keeping a lookout for the alternate trail through rice paddies recommended in my guide book so I wouldn’t have to stay on the road the whole way to Bhulbhule, but I never did see the trail marking; so I stayed on the road, having to move to the side each time a bus, jeep, or truck passed by. I crossed a suspension bridge over the Khudi Khola (a tributary to the Marsyangdi River) and then continued on, finally reaching Bhulbhule, which was a nice village with stone tea houses and a cobblestone path passing through.
After Bhulbhule, I hiked on, passing a number of construction areas. At this point I was having second thoughts about doing the Annapurna Circuit; it appears that the new roads built have really spoiled this portion of the trail; luckily it did improve some after I crossed the Ngadi Khola (another tributary to the Marsyangdi); after crossing the bridge, the dirt road turned on to a jeep trail and I didn’t see anymore vehicles passing by for the remainder of my trek today. I followed the jeep trail up through more rice paddies and then followed an actual trail that led through the paddies and up to the outskirts of Bahundanda; I stopped at one restaurant for water since my camel-back had run dry a half hour ago; I also treated myself to a Snickers bar. After that rest stop, I continued uphill, back on the jeep trail, to the main section of Bahundanda, located up on a ridge. Sadly, along the way, I met three children who begged me for money, leading me to believe that the Annapurna Circuit may indeed be spoiled from its popularity and hoards of tourists (this trek would’ve been great to do last century, but roads and the designation of “best trek in the world” has sealed its fate; of course, I have about seventeen more days left on the trail and it’s bound to vastly improve after today; actually, when I reached the outskirts of Bahundanda, my previous sour mood had gone away and I really started to enjoy the trek, and I had my camera out more often than not). Once I reached the main part of Bahundanda, a woman met me on the road and showed me to her hotel and restaurant; I looked inside the room (two beds, clean sheets, and light) and I agreed – especially when she told me the price, 100 rupees (roughly one USD), but she does make up for it with the food on the menu, where the prices are a bit higher than Kathmandu; of course this is a remote area, so there should be some increase despite the jeep trail. I then hung my sweaty clothes up to dry, relaxed in my room, and researched tomorrow’s leg of the trek. I also walked around town to take photos, but this only took about ten minutes on account of it being really small (they did have a very decently sized school though). At 17:00, as the sun was setting behind the mountain range, I ordered dinner from the hotel’s restaurant – I had a water, red bull, Tibetan bread with honey and jam, vegetarian momos, and fried potatoes (the food was actually great and I imagine I will really enjoy this aspect of the Annapurna Circuit). During dinner I talked with the patriarch of the family who runs the hotel and he told me that he likes America and Europe, that is, the standard of living, people, and government; he also asked “Why government?” as he pointed to the light that had just gone out (Nepal is notorious for electricity and water frequently turning off); indeed, Nepal has a long way to go to raise the standard of living for its citizens; although, all governments take and take from their people, but some take less and offer more, lest they want a revolt on their hands; like any sensible man, I understand that that a limited government and free market capitalism is best for all, and will put a country on an accelerated path toward progress and prosperity. After that political discussion, I finished my meal and went back to my room to rest my body after a long day of traveling and hiking.