At some point you have to stop walking. After 17 days on the Annapurna Circuit trek we were on the final stretch. A short day's walk it was too, but very enjoyable in beautiful surroundings. We were walking on our own for much of the three hours it took to leave the Annapurna conservation area, as we would only begin to see those who were starting the trek in the opposite direction later in the morning.
Our surroundings were a mixture of forest and tiny settlements set amongst rice fields. As with most days on the trek, we were back following the river valley and of course there were still some bridges to cross. By this point I was able to cross these without too much of the vertigo inspired fear that I had at the beginning. The track went up and down a bit as we kept more or less in touch with the river, and much of the path consisted of stone steps. Even so the hens still needed a bit of help to do the climb.
By the time we reached the village of Birethani we were seeing far more people, this village is also an access point for those who want to do the trek to the Annapurna Base Camp. It was laso the place where we got our last view of Machupuchare, the "fish-tail" mountain.
One last checkpoint and then we really knew we were returning to a busier environment. After Birethani we walked up a road full of small shops and soon we could hear the traffic noise on the road above us at Nayapul. All that remained now was for our guide to find us the taxi that would take us to Pokhara, our entry point back into the world. It was a weird feeling to be sitting in a car again after so many days. We weren't going home just yet, we still had a night in Pokhara and two days to spend in Kathmandu before climbing on the plane.
I had my doubts before we came to Nepal, I though it was going to be too many days of trekking to maintain the interest throughout. I was wrong, I really enjoyed the Annapurna trek and the changes we saw between the lower parts and the highlands meant that every day seemed to bring something new. The road construction in the region may be making many people think twice about doing this walk, but I can say that in October 2009 we never felt that it spoilt the experience; and I doubt that work has advanced so much since then. Even on those few sections where we walked on the road we saw very little traffic. I have no doubt it's worth it.
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