Elevation loss: (Ghasa-Tatopani) 6,594’ to 3,904’ (-2690’)
Estimated miles: 15km/10m
We woke up early in Jomson with the hope of taking a Jeep to Tatopani, where the famed hot springs are located. This was a long distance but was not expected to be any trouble as off-roading Jeeps for hire were a common site on this side of the trail. We knew our first Jeep would take us to Ghasa, supposedly only a few hours away, where we could then transfer to another Jeep to Tatopani. Easily a day trip. But it was raining.
And it had rained all the night before. And not like a New England steady rain. It had down-poured monsoonally all night long. Except for tropical storms blasting into New England I am not sure we had seen anything like it.
But the Jeeps were still running, despite the apparent road conditions we had walked by the day before. So we crowded into the back of a Jeep with 4 other passengers and made it about 1/4mile to the river. Which was completely flooded and had wiped out the road. Just great.
We asked the driver what the plan was, and he said that we would “wait”. Seeing that crossing on foot could be dangerous – we could hear the bone chilling thud of boulders hitting each other in the river – we realized we had no choice but to wait, or go back to Jomson and do nothing all day. After a little while the river slightly changed course, allowing there to be less water on the path we needed to cross. Just a few stones here and there and we should be able to drive over it. So, what I would like to say was everyone (but in fact was far from in, several tourists, noteably females, must have felt they were above helping and would rather watch everyone else help construct a crossing for them) from our Jeep and other Jeeps began tossing stones and building up the eroded river bed. About an hour later we crossed and we on our way again.
We came along some areas where the road had slightly eroded out, or a stone wall next to the road had collapsed and spilled its contents onto our path, but these obstructions were cleaned up in 15-20 minutes. By now we realized our REI/Sierra Designs “mini-package” rain coats weren’t worth a damn, and we were soaked through, as it was still raining.
Then it happened. The big one. We came across a landslide that had taken out the road. It was only about 15’ wide, but had scoured out a deep path in the middle too, making our road go up sharply 7 or 8 feet, then plunge down deeply, and then rise again 7 or 8 feet before continuing on its original path.
So we all got out, again, and began clearing away the mudslide with the best tools we had – our hands and feet. It was still raining, so it was messy, cold, and progress was slow. Eventually two buses caught up to the end of our line of jeeps, and they were equipped with a shovel, pick axe and metal pole. This made the going a little bit faster. Several very large boulders had to be dug out and removed in order to get the mud piles moving, while the road had to be rebuilt and buffered on the cliff side where it had washed out. It took several hours.
At last we thought the road was ready, and the first Jeep hit it with speed and almost got stuck in the middle but made it over. The second one narrowly made it, but it deepened the middle area enough that we were worried if anymore Jeeps attempted they would bottom out over the last ridge. Before we could flatted the area more the third Jeep tried and low and behold he got stuck (see above). It took almost a hour to get the Jeep out. Finally our driver got through as well, and we were on our way again.
This time we made it to Ghasa, with only a short hike and after playing musical vehicles on the other side of a river, only to find out that there were no more buses to Tatopani for the night. Since we really, really wanted to get to the hot tub, we decided to walk. It was 3:30pm.
And so we walked 15km in just over 2.5 hours. At least it was all downhill. That night when we got into our bathing suits would be when I first realized just how much weight I had lost over the course of this trek. Not a bad thing, but no wonder it hurt to sleep on my side! Its all down to bone now. And the hot springs were amazing, the best way to end a cold and miserable wet day. Much of the day had looked like the cover to “The Heart of the World” by Ian Baker (a great read if you have not yet).