Nepal, Day 21: Deurali - Phedi
Total distance: 463.54km
Total Ascent: 24251m
Total Descent: 23898m
For the first time on my trek I didn't wake to clear skies. The clouds that I presumed would disappear after yesterday's rain had lingered, creating a sombre atmosphere for my final day.
I took my time getting ready, knowing I didn't have far to walk. It turned out to not be the best decision. Not long after leaving a light rain began to fall, which was fine as long as it stayed light. It didn't.
The first half of the trek was an easy downhill saunter, much of it on a stone pathway. It ended up being easier to walk on the grass next to the jagged path, so I did this instead. The ground wasn't too wet, it wasn't cold, but I was eager to make it to Phedi and onto the bus.
Not long before the halfway point I came up to an unsigned junction - you know how this is going to turn out. I took the route that looked more well developed, but of course this was the wrong path. I ended up a few metres up a hill above a town that I was meant to pass through, where I was required to stop at a checkpoint to show my permits. With the help of fellow trekkers and a guide I passed my backpack down to street level and climbed down a rocky wall, not believing that on a day that I was only going to walk about 8km that I could still go wrong.
As I was showing my permit to the officer, a guide from another group asked if I had any leeches on my shoes. Leeches? I didn't even know there were leeches out here. I quickly checked my shoes but there was no sign of the blood-sucking creatures. I decided to lift up my pants and check my socks just in case. There they were, covering the tops of my socks and trying to dig their way in. I rapidly started pulling them off and flinging them outside, hoping none had penetrated through to my skin. I removed my shoes and socks to find leech-free skin, but they were crawling around inside my shoes. In the end I disposed of at least 10 leeches. I'm glad that guide was there.
As I left the checkpoint the rain started falling heavier, forcing me to put on my rain jacket and cover my head. At that moment a jeep with two officers inside asked if I wanted a lift to Pokhara. With the pouring rain and sneaky leeches the urge to accept was strong, but I was determined to finish out the final 4km.
The rain turned into a downpour. My feet were wet, my pants were soaked, and I was dripping water from every seam of my clothing. In my mind I could out-walk the rain, but this obviously didn't happen. I relented and stopped for a break at a guesthouse. About 10 minutes later it eased slightly, which was enough for me to see out the last 3km.
One guess what my trek ended with: stairs. Over 30 minutes of continuous downhill walking on slippery, uneven stairs. I'll be happy if I don't see a never-ending set of steps for a while.
The end of the stairs deposited me out at the main road, next to a no-frills guesthouse and a few taxi drivers who were quick to pounce on trekkers. It was a bit of an anti-climactic finish, with no sign congratulating me on my efforts, no one around to celebrate with, just me, my wet clothes, heavy pack and the pushy taxi drivers. Within two minutes a bus came along and I jumped on board, my first form of motorised transport in three weeks.
As I travelled to Pokhara I was trying to appreciate what I had just achieved. Twenty-one days, 463km, over 24000m of elevation gained, trekking in one of the most incredible countries in the world. A range of emotions surged through me - I felt relieved, happy, ecstatic, exhausted, accomplished, overwhelmed, proud, sad, lost - and I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do next. All I had to in the mountains was get up and walk. Now I had options, decisions, multiple paths I could take. I think part of the appeal of hiking is the simplicity of it. I knew I would miss it, but I also knew I would be back one day.
Here ends my travels around Annapurna. Now it's time to rest up, eat foods I haven't seen in weeks and start planning my next adventure, whatever that may be.