Day 8 -- Pisang to Manang
Today we got a taste of reality. A commotion at another guesthouse meant that a man had been brought down from a higher altitude very sick. We're talking he couldn't move his arms. Lots of confusion and milling about ensued and for some reason a helicoptor wasn't being called. Pancha and I left; we couldn't do anything as everything was already being done. Later we heard he died.
It was a very hot, dry day, but it gets very cold up here at night. Pancha and I both feel pretty terrible from the colds so we took the shorter, easier option to Manang, a large village people use to acclimatize before going over the pass. It's a strange village filled with signs that trekking has made an enormous impact and change on the culture. Would you expect several movie theaters boasting fireplaces at 3,800m? I sure didn't, although they seemed to tempt lots of people taking a rest day to get used to the altitude with showings of "Seven Years in Tibet", "Into the Wild" and "Hang the Over".
I feel so sos os osossososososooooooooo lucky to be here, but seeing how distorted these peoples' lives have been from the tourism also made me want to banish all of us from trekking. It's a double-edged knife for sure, and there are good and bad parts, like the Annapurna Conservation Area Projects that help develop clean water, women's co-ops and wildlife conservation. It just has a weird vibe here. Since there are so many people trying to get over the pass, from here on it's kind of difficult to get rooms, but it should be fine.
Luckily besides the cold I feel great at the altitude, so we're going to just go a few hours up to Ledar tomorrow instead of a rest day. We took a mellow walk to an awesome glacial lake across the river, see the picture of Panch and I by the lake in an earlier post for visuals. The mountains are STUNNING.
Best part of Manang: I saw my first live yak. YAK ATTACK!
Day 9 -- Manang to Ledar
Another cold and beautiful morning. The ground was still frozen mid-morning in the shadowed areas of the mountainsides covering all the red-leafed rose bushes with crystalline designs. The hike today was actually very easy and relaxed although deceptive: we climbed 720m in altitude. We are now at about 13, 700 ft...is that what 4,300m is?
We spent the day with Tim (from Boulder area) and his guide Raju and we successfully got the last room in the tea house in Ledar. The four of us did an acclimatization hike after lunch (you guessed it, dal bhat!) up another 500m to see some more snow capped peaks and YAKS! Pancha chased a baby yak and a large, majestic silver yak with his hair blowing in the wind chased us away! See jumping picture.
Day 10 -- Ledar to High Camp
We all felt great today altitude-wise and I could start smelling through my nose today, so we all decided to push on to High Camp instead of staying at intermediary Thoroung Phedi after walking about an hour. We did get some nice cinnamon rolls and chia there, then plodded up about 500m to High Camp, 4,900m.
It's snowing tonight and my room has large cracks between the walls and windows through which the breeze flows. I only have a sleep sheet but I've been fine with the blankets the tea houses have so far...the only way I stayed warm enough here was the water bottle filled with hot water next to me!
I started feeling the altitude today (we're over 15,000 ft. here) and didn't want to eat and have a small headache.
I met some really cool people from California who all gave me lots of tips about S.E. Asia. Brian and Laurie are married and quit their jobs to travel for a year. Wow, let's talk about that for a while! Their porter is really cool too and we are all planning to stay at the same tea house tomorrow too.
Day 11 --High Camp to Muktinath: Thoroung La!
Well, we woke up at 4 am to get ready for the pass. The tea house was madness so early, so many people trying to get breakfast and head out early so they wouldn't get caught in extreme wind on the pass. Tim, Raju, Pancha and I set out around 5am with headlamps and a line of people strung out along the snow-packed track up the mountain making a glittering trail ahead and behind us.
It was very dark to start with but by the time we got to a small tea hut to re-charge with chia the sky was getting lighter. It was COLD: I wore all the clothes I have to bed and hiking. We made it to the top in about 2 1/2 hours, alright! We drank some tea, ate some cookies and took pictures, I jumped up in the air to 17,770 ft. then we high tailed it out of there because we still had another 4 1/2 hours until we got to our destination of Muktinath, all straight downhill. Thank you Pancha, for that stick! It saved my kneezles!
We arrived at the edge of Muktinath and passed through the village temple that was both Buddhist and Hindu. There are 108 water spouts around the Hindu temple that people ran through touching all the water, which was holy. Then they dried off and went into the temple. I got to come back later that day alone and explore more, but at that point we just wanted to get to the hotel and eat!
It was the last day of a festival celebrating brothers and sisters, so all the Nepali guys in our hotel proceeded to drink raksi and sing and dance all around the tea house and then the streets of Muktinath. We saw the first cars and motorbikes since Besi Sahar...strange! Another first (at least for the week) was a nice hot shower! Mmm!
The village is seated over a beautiful valley which is really dry, it reminds me a bit of Utah. There are trees all over the valley in the villages and along the irrigation ditches, but other than that it is dry and barren. We are now in Mustang.
Day 12 -- Muktinath to Marpha
Long walk today. We left Tim, Raju, Brian and Laurie and Lex, another friend from California, because they were taking a rest day then flying from Jomsom, a large town with an airport we went through today. I'm kind of bummed to leave them, we did Thoroung La together! But there will be more friends along the trail.
It was so windy after lunch in Jomsom and dusty too; it's very very dry here and we have to walk along the dirt road for a few days so when cars pass we have to stop and wait until we can breathe again. We both had bandanas over our mouths and noses to protect our lungs, but the wind was insufferable! I even lost my bandana my mom had given me in middle school to the whipping wind...aw.
The good news is we are in apple country, which means lots of delicious apple crumble and apple whiskey, which I have now tasted!
Day 13 --Marpha to Ghasa
I think this is the longest day for me. We were up early and stopped shortly after we started at a non-descript gate that was locked, which upset Pancha and he proceeded to rattle the gate until a man shuffled out from between the apple trees to let us in. We were visiting the Marpha Distillery.
We quickly saw the three rooms they used to make the apple whiskey and brandy, and apricot brandy (thinking of you Rebecca!). The barrels and tubes were held together by strips of cloth in some places, a huge fire was heating vats of liquid and the alcohol was being processed, at 7am. Pancha bought some whiskey as gifts and some dried apples and we got to pick a kilo of fresh apples from the storage room that was filled with green and red apples! They are the most crisp, delicious fruit I have ever had! I guess apple trees do well here in the dry climate of the mighty Kali Gandaki River valley.
The dal bhat for lunch was the best I'd had so far, but the long downhill walk was really tiresome and my legs hurt pretty bad from the pass and no rest days, but that meant a short walk tomorrow to Tatopani where there are hotsprings!
Day 14 -- Ghasa to Tatopani
YES I love Hot Springs! Tato means hot in Nepali and pani means water. These people are sensible. I really like this village, it is warm, there is apple crumble and we got to do laundry and have a cold shower (ironically)and soak in the hot springs, which are hot! There are two really cute goats tied up on the land of our tea house that like to be scratched behind the ears. Pancha burst my bubble by informing me they had very short lives...they would be eaten.
Really enjoying the time here, we soaked in the evening in inornate concrete pools by the river and I felt so clean! It's hard to believe the pass is over and we're almost done trekking.