The walk starts gently. Jomsum is a bustling little town which has undoubtably grown because of the small airport. There are lodges aplenty here and shops selling supplies. It’s also a fun place to stand and watch life go by too, but not for too long as there’s a stunning walk awaiting you.
The walk head north along the main street. After a while you cross the river on an old wooden bridge before resuming your northward trek through narrow streets until you reach the top of the town and the impressive Kali Gandaki valley opens up. This will become your friend and constant companion for the next two days. The pre jeep track days saw the route follow the valley bottom for a while before taking a path on the western side of the valley, crossing the big suspension bridge just before Ekle Bhatti. Since the road, or to be fair dirt track, was put through, this old track has fallen into disuse and is no longer passable. The valley floor can be followed for a while but the track is inevitable and there you’ll be regularly passed by jeeps as they make their way north or to the holy Hindu shrine on Muktinath – sadly their drivers don’t slow down for you and end up engulfing you in a shower of dust.
It’s a steady walk and one that allows you to stretch you legs and begin to get used to the altitude. You’re starting the walk in Jomsum at 2720 metres and ending in Kagbeni only 80 meters higher. These heights shouldn’t be enough to give you any altitude problems as such but there are a few short steep pulls to do and it hopefully will be warm! We started around 8 am and had a gentle wind blowing from the south.
The walk isn’t long (10 kilometres). We got to Ekle Bhatti at half ten for a coffee and from there it was an hour’s walk onto Kagbeni. It’s an early finish for the day but it gives you a chance to explore the narrow streets of Kagbeni, its monastery and have a coffee in any number of western orientated coffee shops. Remember you have two weeks of trekking, don’t over do it at the start.
Kagbeni marks the border of the Annapurna Conservation area and it is from here north where you’ll need your trekking permits. In order to proceed you need to go to the office of the Conservation Area which you’ll find on the very northern extremity of the town, by a Police post and a cafe.