Where We Be
Looking down on the quaint stone village of Marpha, famous for its apple pie and apple brandy
Annapurna Circuit, Nepal (Days 13-16)
This is the part of the Annapurna Circuit not many
people hike any more. A dirt road stretches all the
way from Muktinath (the first town you come to
after crossing Thorung-La Pass) to the end of the
circuit -- enough to dissuade most trekkers, since
who wants to trudge along a dusty road while
getting passed by jeeps, buses, and motorcycles?
That said, there is still good scenery to be had,
and quaint villages along the route, and, ironically,
less tourists. So if you have the time, as we do,
and you like to "complete things," as we do, then
why not finish the rest of the Circuit on foot?

After crossing the pass, we took a much-needed
rest day in Muktinath -- considered the holiest site
in the Himalayas by both Hindus and Buddhists,
who often travel great distances on foot to visit
here. We saw the two holiest sites, the first a
sacred pool with 108 brass waterspouts in the
shapes of cows' heads, the second a perpetually
burning flame of natural gas. It is this merging of
fire, water, and earth that makes the site holy.

It would be a shame to miss out on the towns of
Kagbeni and Marpha, located two hours and six
hours south of Muktinath on foot. Both offer cozy
lodges, a quaint atmosphere, and some of the
freshest apple pie and cider you'll ever taste.
Colorful prayer wheel in Muktinath
Around 11 am each day the Kali Gandaki Valley becomes a giant wind tunnel, kicking up huge amounts of blowing dust (thus the "bandit" masks we're wearing!)
One of many temples in Muktinath, the holiest pilgrimage site in the Himalayas for Hindus and Buddhists
I love the colors and textures in this picture of a simple bell at the temple complex
Small statue of a Hindu god set in a niche in the Muktinath entry gate
108 waterspouts (a sacred number) in the shapes of cows' heads pour forth holy water at Muktinath
The sacred waters at Muktinath are said to bring healing and purification
Robin goes barefoot preparing to walk the circuit of waterspouts
After our rest day, we hiked through barren countryside to the oasis town of Kagbeni (hidden in a deep valley ahead)
The view from our Kagbeni lodgings was surreal: bright green rice fields abruptly ending at a gray windswept floodplain, with snow-capped mountains in the distance
Kagbeni seems impossibly green in its narrow valley
This weaver worked outdoors on her loom in Khingar and sold hand-woven goods to passers-by like us
Yak-Donald's Restaurant, offering a wry Nepali take on the double arches
We pass a large herd of goats on our way to Marpha. Ahead of us is a female Buddhist nun (with shaved head) on a 10-day vacation to visit her family in Jomsom.
Fierce winds shred the clouds above the mountains
Dirt road (flat!) on the outskirts of Marpha
Looking down on the roofs of Marpha, held in place from the fierce winds by stacks of firewood
We stayed at the Neeru Guest House (right) in Marpha
Picturesque doorway with firewood stacked thickly on top of the roof
The whitewashed stone houses and narrow alleys of Marpha are picturesque
Patchwork of green and brown squares in Marpha's rice fields
During our second day in Marpha we hiked up to the abandoned town of Old Marpha, past dramatic scenery
Old Marpha is still home to apple orchards that make Marpha, in its words, the "Delightful Apple Capital of Nepal." It's a steep hike to get to this protected plateau.
An incense burner sends up wisps of fragrant smoke as we hike out of Marpha on our way to Kalopani