“Good morning, have a great day!” The difference in mood the day after the pass was palpable on the trail. Absent was the fear and the somber attitudes. Absent were the ice-cold, altitude-induced sleepless nights. Everyone seemed to be skipping along, smiles shining across their faces as they greeted one another.
Additionally, today had the possibility of being our final day of walking.
Hiking towards the Kaligandaki Valley to Kagbeni were some of the most enjoyable kilometers of the circuit. The landscape looked like it was a painted canvas, the color palette otherworldly. The barren mountains towering ahead were a dusty brown and the sky a vibrant, nearly indigo blue. Yellow flowers bloomed on the trees around us and a tiny teahouse village sat quaintly on the hillside.
The terrain wasn’t particularly challenging, but my body absolutely hated me for the hours of steep descent the previous day. My knees had taken a beating and they weren’t having it. The persistent physical discomfort was wearing me down as I considered whether I would continue a few more days on the trail or head back to Pokhara, the resort-esque town.
After having one last lovely meal with the English brothers, Phillip and Richard, we were in the home stretch. The walk from Kagbeni to Jomson was arduous. It was like what I imagine it must be like to walk through a desert sandstorm: sand blowing violently everywhere. The sharp granules were engrained in ever crevice of my face, ears and mouth. And camera. Not. Pleasant.
After an hour of grueling walking, a shiny beacon appeared in front of us: Jomson! Could it really be this place that we’ve been working towards and walking towards for so many days? It was a long final hour from here. It felt a bit like Dorothy walking along the yellow brick road towards Oz.
Jomson was the most anticlimactic finish to the circuit ever. Where were all of the celebrating trekkers? It was clear that the party had culminated in Muktinath. It was confusing and strange. It was unclear where we should go for… anything. Guest houses, bus tickets, airline tickets… anything! We tried unsuccessfully twice to get tickets for the bus the following day (I had decided, after much contemplation, that my body was calling it quits). We were all short-tempered, sandy-faced and exhausted.
Cassandra and I booked a cheap ticket for the next morning to fly out of the Himalayas and back into city life.
Was this really the end of the circuit?