|Lamjung peak, at 6:00 am in Chame
Chame to Bhratang (2850m), 7km, 2 hours
|Bhratang to Dukhur Pokhari
Bhratang to Dukhur Pokhari (3240m), 6 km, 1.5 hours
The surroundings change constantly on this trek, but in some places the change is really stark. The path between Bhratang and Dukhur Pokhari continues by the river, but the pine forests are less dense here. Part of the trail is cut on the side of a cliff, so although the views are great, I would not recommend looking down and walking at the same time. The path climbs steeply in some places, especially after you cross the old bridge. The air is filled with the scent of pine cones, and I cannot help but think that very soon, the road will come here too, and it will bring with it fat Punjabis, and there will be candy wrappers here on this path, next to the pine needles.
But all that is in the future. Maybe they won't come. It was beautifully bright and sunny day, perfect for walking, and no one can think morbid thoughts for too long in such a lovely place. We had lunch in Dukhur Pokhari at a teahouse where things were really slow, but they usually are, in this part of the world. But we were making good time and did not mind so much.
Dukhur Pokhari to Lower Pisang (3250m), 6 km, 1.5 hours
This is a dusty path through tall pines and rhododendrons, and does not ascend at all. You walk for about an hour and a half in complete silence and wilderness, interrupted by the occasional herd of mules, cross a couple of streams, and find yourself in the busy village of Lower Pisang. There are many good teahouses here, and the one we stayed in, the Eco hotel, was very comfortable. They lit a wood fire for us in the dining area, around which we sat, talked and dried our clothes.
|Urgen Chholing Monastery, Upper Pisang
|"Want to take it easy, or want to be tough?"
I woke up with my left shoulder hurting so bad that I spent 20 minutes convincing myself that it wasn't angina. I have large bruises on both my shoulders, and putting my face out of the sleeping bag into the bitter cold is agony. I decide to swallow my pride and give my sleeping bag to the porter. Aditya's headache has continued through the night and he hasn't been able to sleep at all. We have our first acute mountain sickness (AMS) casualty. He decides to descend and finds a porter to accompany him down. Abhilasha and Asheesh leave for the upper trail to Manang at 7.30 a.m., and Sekhar, Nisha and I start on the lower trail at eight a.m.
The upper trail goes through Ghyaru and Ngwal and has much to recommend it - it is sunny and offers great views of the Annapurna range. But it is also the tougher one, with steep ascents through the major part. Asheesh and Abhilasha raved about the delightful sights they had seen on the way, but it did tire them out.
The lower trail, on the other hand, turned out to be a dream. It ascends so gently that it seems not to ascend at all! It passes through Humde, where the Manang airport is being built and Bhraga, where you can get some great cakes and a really memorable yak steak. We had lunch at The New Yak restaurent where you can also buy and swap books. Bhraga to Manang is another gentle half hour walk.
Manang. Doesn't the word itself say how wonderfully romantic the place would be? I fell in love with the village at first sight. It's surrounded by views that are even more screensaver like than the rest of the trek. Half of the village is the tourist hub, with every convenience money can buy. Do not miss the Manang culture museum or the projection hall, the former for a feel of the 'manangi pride' and the latter for a once in a lifetime experience of watching a movie at 3600 metres above sea level. The moviehall has a fireplace, and they serve you ginger tea and popcorn as you watch the movie.
But keep walking, Manang is more than just these bells and whistles. Without warning, the street turns a corner and you find yourself transported back in time where Manangis live like they've lived for centuries. The architecture is unlike anything you have ever seen, the alleyways look like only black and white pictures should be taken of them.
I'd like to come and stay here for a month.
Day five - Acclimatization in Manang
|Abhilasha with the Praken Gompa monk
We watched "Seven years in Tibet" at the projection hall that night.
Day six - Sunday, 20 Nov 2011: Manang (3600m) Yak Kharka (4050m), 9km, 3.5 hours
.....to be continued.....