Day 3 – May 5 – Top of the main Kali Gandaki valley

Leaving Kagbeni, the trail enters the restricted area that requires a special permit costing $50 per day. Originally intended to limit numbers and impact of trekkers on the culturally interesting and militarily sensitive border region, the permits now have become a simple moneymaker for the corrupt Nepali government. Still, it keeps out the hordes of college-age trekkers that flood the Annapurna trails.

The walking was again along the flat Kali Gandaki floodplain, although we increasingly had to climb side hills in places where the river ran right up to the edge. Around mid-morning we passed the stream that drained the valley we crossed on the last few days of our Dolpo trek. We could look up and see the trail where it crossed the ridge 1600 meters (one mile) above.

The sandstone cliffs in this area were dramatically different from the Himalayan mountains to the south. Natural and manmade caves have provided shelter since prehistoric times.

Lunch was at another walled village overlooking the river. Another male fertility figure stood at the north entrance. Water was plentiful, as the village had diverted a stream to feed the town and its irrigated fields.

We ended the day at Chele, a small village at the head of the valley. Here the river comes out of a narrow slot canyon markedly different from the floodplain below. The canyon is narrow enough that no trail can go through, so we will spend the next few days climbing over a ridge on its west side.

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