Cycling the Annapurna Circuit, Part 3 : Reach for the Top

We’d make it to Manang, we’d checked into a great hotel with a private toilet, essential to us as we were still ill. We’d sorted are washing and it’s been sent to be laundered and we were sitting back drinking tea and coffee and generally feeling rather proud and looking forward to our day off, yes day off, that’s what it said in our itinerary “rest day” to be precise, a whole day to do absolutely nothing !!!
Wrong, wrong, wrong !!!! Our guide Roshan, bless him, had other ideas so at 8.00am on our rest day we set off for Yak Kharka with our bikes, no kit, on a four hour trek up hill, the aim being to leave the bikes there and walk back. A total of eight hours, 900m ascent and 900m descent, great !!
It was a long slog, the way up the weather was good and lunch when we arrived was excellent, the lodge took the bikes and we locked them up before setting off back to Manang. The weather on the way home was not so kind, it rained, it turned cold and we were knackered, partly from the fact we’d been on the go now for 11 days and partly from the eight hour trek but mainly from the altitude, it really saps your strength. We arrived back at the hotel weary and went straight to bed for a few hours before getting up for dinner and instructions for the following day, we hit the sack early, a fear of what still lay ahead was preventing a full and fitful rest !!
The morning came far to fast and breakfast was slightly subdued as we were to walk the four hours back to Yak Kharka, this time with our panniers, we were not looking forward to it one little bit !!
We did have time to take a few photos before leaving Manang, I think you’ll agree it was worth the effort….

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The road out of Manang takes you through the old village, narrow flag stone streets, steps reaching for the sky and stone built houses, comfortable and somehow permanent…..

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Despite only carrying two panniers my breathing was somehow laboured and I knew that if I was finding it tough it meant Naomi was behind finding it even harder, despite this we both kept trudging up the hill and very soon were high above Manang and looking back to where only an hour before we were standing looking up with apprehension!!! ….

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Progress was slow, the altitude was making it hard but with views like this we were again inspired to keep going…

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After a couple of hours we knew we’d be able to stop, the previous day had shown us a great place at almost exactly half way and the second half we knew would be easier as most of the altitude had already been gained. We feasted on good coffee and fresh muffins and tried the local Seabuckthorn juice, not my cup of tea but apparently very good for you. The Israeli Trekkers who’d given us a cheer on the way into Manang stopped at the cafe and we cheered them in, another great moment followed by hugs all round and hearty congratulations for making it so far !!
We left them at the cafe as we started the second part of our trek, leaving the cafe behind us….

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As I said the second part was slightly easier but the scenery no less impressive and we were starting to breathe easier, Roshans trick was beginning to pay off…..

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Soon enough we entered Yak Kharka and were shown to our room, lucky for us we got another private toilet, things with us still weren’t great !!

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Our room at the lodge, clean, basic and warm, it’s all we needed from it. Dinner was great as we met up with quite a few people we’d been seeing on route, it was quite an occasion, all speculation about the days to come and the Pass itself, how would we all fair, would we get sick, would we need to retreat back down. The whole conversation sprang from the sad news of a French trekker who’d sadly died of altitude sickness, this brought home the seriousness of our situation, it also makes you paranoid and every little problem is magnified and you second guess yourself, fortunately there were no more fatalities on our trek.
The morning came and it was bright and clear, I checked out of the window and the white tops looked magnificent, I roused Naomi and we went to join others who were taking photos, this was not to be missed….

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Back in doors for breakfast and the plans for the day, Roshan had decided that I was fit enough, strong enough and bloody minded enough to take my own bike and panniers to Phedi, or Low Camp and from there a porter would carry my bike to High Camp and then on the last day to the Pass my bike would yet again be carried for me while I would take my own panniers again.
Naomi who was finding altitude a little more demanding was offered a porter for the trek to Phedi and was pleased to accept the help although I think that if she was entirely fit and time was not such an issue she would have been able to get at least most of the way unaided !!
The altitude gain to Phedi was about 900m again and believe me it was probably the most physically demanding 3.5 hours of my life, I was following Naomi’s porter and stubbornly refused to get to far behind, perhaps a little bit to stubborn !!
There was a bridge crossing at the bottom of a very steep hill and as I looked up the even steeper hill on the other side I quite literally questioned my sanity, I could not imagine getting my 40kg load up the hill, there were loose stones, hardly anything to get hold of and I was still wearing cycling shoes. As luck would have it a slightly older Israeli gent was walking up behind me and would not pass me, instead he talked to me, encouraged me, applauded my efforts and step by step I carried, dragged and cursed my bike up that sodding hill followed by a smiling Israeli gent and then to my enormous relief was the top and a coffee shop, I actually let my bike fall in a heap and sat on a wall and wept, sheer bloody relief poured out of me, I done it, I’d actually done it and I was nearly broken but not quite !!!!
Naomi’s porter and bike were already there and as he sat there smiling at me I don’t think he had any idea how hard it was for a westerner to do what I’d just done, we actually found out that the porter was deaf and dumb but his sheer enthusiasm for his job gave you the sense that if anything happened he would be more than able to take care of you.
Naomi and Roshan came up the hill about twenty minutes later, Naomi was looking good, I think her breathing was finally getting better, she gave me a huge hug, brought me a coffee and told me how immensely proud of me she was and that she had no idea how I managed to get my bike up a hill she could barely walk up, I shook my head and cried on her shoulder muttering that I had no idea !!!
The rest of the trek to Phedi was much flatter, although there were a few areas where I needed to pick up my bike and run due to landslide warnings, it was still tough much much easier than the first section and pretty soon the lodge at Phedi grew large on my horizon and I knew that I made it !!

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At Phedi lodge.

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After the climb up the hill !!

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Naomi and I shortly before heading out of Phedi for High Camp and our bed for the night.
As Naomi and I arrived at Phedi lodge the crowd of Trekkers stood and applauded us in, brought tears to my eyes again, they will probably never know how much that meant to us both !
We ate chocolate pancakes and drank coffee before collecting our bags and heading off up the next 600m ascent to High Camp, the scenery yet again our inspiration….

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Finally after one of the toughest days of my life we finally made it to High Camp, one short night, 600m ascent and for me 1 hour and 40 mins away from the Pass !!
It was decided that we’d dine early, get to bed by eight and be up for breakfast at 4.30 and be walking by 5.00 at the latest, all went to plan, well almost and at 5.30am we set off, porters yet again carrying the bikes and Naomi and myself carrying our panniers.
It apparently takes about 3.5 to 4 hours for your average trekker to ascent the 600m to Thorongla and we were not the first to get going my any means, Naomi, Roshan and myself all set off towards the Pass, resting occasionally as Naomi was breathing hard again, I waited to start with but eagerness to move and keep warm overcame me and I left Roshan and Naomi and set off on my own. I developed a good rhythm and was soon passing Trekkers and even porters, the Trekkers were carrying far less than me and wearing boots, lucky sods !
After about an hour and ten minutes I came upon a German couple, we exchanged pleasantries and I carried on past them, little did I know that they were the last people I’d see before I reached the Pass.
At exactly 7.10am I walked the last few yards towards the plaque that declares you’ve made it and I kissed it, then I dropped my bags and did what any sane individual who’s just arrived at Thorongla does, I did three star jumps !!
Shortly after the German couple arrived then more and more people flooded the area beside the plaque and as we all congratulated each other the bikes came into view shortly followed by Naomi and Roshan, we ran at each other and had a team hug, high fived each other then set about the photos to prove we actually made it…..

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The bikes on the way up !

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Naomi and myself at the top !!

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Naomi, myself and the real hero here, our guide Roshan, without whom we would never have succeeded !!

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Naomi, myself and our two porters who diligently carried our bikes to the top for us !!
Well that’s the end of part three, it was a hell of a trip to get to the top but in the next part, Cycling the Annapurna Circuit, Part 4 : Frustrated Cyclist you’ll read about our trip down and onward to Pokhara and Lumbini.
Thanks
JC

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About John Chevis

I'm a forty something single guy who spent far to long depressed, but luckily for me I found an answer in the form of exercise !! I started running and cycling on a regular basis and now two and a half years later I'm cycling the world !!
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5 Responses to Cycling the Annapurna Circuit, Part 3 : Reach for the Top

  1. navin gurung says:

    John, I am thoroughly enjoying reading your experince to ABC. I think the trip seem bit harder as its bit wrong time “Monsoon ” and I think you are the first tourist who did cycling trip all the way to ABC trek. I am sure you greatly enjoyed trip to Lumbini as its plan and no stip hills….!!! waiting eagerly for part 4 … TC

    • John Chevis says:

      Cheers Navin, your kind and thoughtful words are always welcome and spur us both on, take care and look out for part 4, it may be a while as we leave the comfort of our hotel in Agra tomorrow so no Wi Fi for a while !!
      Regards
      JC

  2. Sarah Fountain says:

    So the next chapter of your adventures ends, i look forward to turning the page! You guys are truly amazing, those roads – OMG – i would have done more than cry!! Naomis poor feet 😦 War wounds! And when you did your star jumps , did you shout – whoooo whooooooooooo! Well done to you both, hats off, bow and all that, sounds really challenging, what a life time memory you have banked. Truly awesome! You will miss Roshan, your rock! You rock! Take care and hope you dont have any more bad bottoms and feet xxx

  3. Sarah Fountain says:

    Oh yes and the bridges….you would have had to have carried me with my eyes shut tight…or Roshan, or a local or a mule would have done! xxx

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