Over the Hills Brings the Taste of Yaks

Annapurna Circuit – Part VII: Pisang – Manang (3250m-3540m)

We were getting higher and higher (Upper Pisang is 3310m), and the evenings were actually rather cool, so I finally found the need to actually crawl into my sleeping bag at night. Except none of us were going to get a good night’s sleep that night because of an annoying barking dog that kept at it for the entire night. When we woke with weary eyes in the morning and found the dog fast asleep in the morning sun, we all gave him the most evil looks. Once we got on the track after a nice breakfast, we quickly put our disturbed night behind us.

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We quickly climbed up to a vantage point with a panoramic view of the great Paungda Danda Wall. We all stopped there for a break and enjoyed the morning sun.

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Our porter boys and the young assistant guide are all good buddies. I really enjoyed chatting to them. Most of them are attending university, and being porters helps them towards their tuition fees. It’s really nice to hear them talk about what they want to do in their future, and realising they are really not very different from western boys of their age.

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After the break, we descended onto a wide valley plateau. There were clouds drifting around the tall peaks (Annapurna III range) around us. While we walked, Ashok taught me how to sing the famous “resham feriri” song. It’s now nearly a year since out trip, and the song still enters me mind every now and then.

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We approached Manang around mid day, and settled into our lodge where we’re staying for two nights. Tilicho “Hotel” is considerably flasher than our previous lodging. Our room even has a private squat toilet attached! For lunch, we discovered yaks on the menu. Many of us tried yak burgers, while I went for the “local specialty” of yak curry with buckwheat.

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The buckwheat was cooked into this lump of thick glue, and I was not sure how I was suppose to attack it. Ashok absolutely loves this and ate about 3 times as much as what’s on my plate. I copied him dunking pieces of the buckwheat glue into the curry, except he was eating with his hand like all Nepalese do, squelching the gluey dough as he ate. It was nice in an interesting way, but I simply find the quantity a gluttony. And let’s just say I wouldn’t mind if I don’t ever get to have it again. I had a bite of Kiwi Bir’s yak burger, and that was very good.

After lunch, we all chilled out in the lounge area for a little, basking in the afternoon sun. Then I washed our sweaty clothes while Kiwi Bird filtered litres of drinking water for us using the little ceramic filter we brought with us from New Zealand. This has become our daily routine since we left Kathmandu, and we are getting quite efficient at it.

Kiwi Bird and I went to the lounge area again and found the porter boys hanging out there. I asked them about the lake in Manang I was told about, and they all offered to take us there. They said it’s only a short gentle walk to the lake, so we all just set off in our jandals.

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We walked along little dirt paths and ended up at the Gangapurna glacial terminal lake. We hung out at the lake for a while, chatting and enjoying the afternoon sun. When we got back to the hotel, it was just in time for another group walk with the guides. While setting out, there was this group of kids playing in a courtyard. For some reason, they all decided to come and give me a big group hug. I wasn’t carrying any money, but kept my hands in my pockets with the camera in one because I was slightly worried of their intention. None of them tried to grab for my pockets, so they must just be very friendly. Perhaps they thought I look like one of them, because no one else from the group got the same treatment from these kids. (I was the only Asian in our group.)

ManangD1_15 We climbed up behind the township for a view around Manang and discussed where to go for the next day. Even though an extra day in Manang is considered a “rest day”, the idea is we should still hike up a few hundred meters and down again to acclimatise.

ManangD1_14 ManangD1_16That evening, many of us had yak in our dinner. I had a yak stew, but it sadly had tons of MSG and very little yak… Brian “splashed” out and went for the yak steak, which cost him about the equivalent of $10 (USD), instead of $3 for the usual fare of daal bhat. Many of us also had “seabuckthorn” juice, which is made from these little orange berries on a kind of thorny bushes. Apparently it’s very tart on its own, so vendors always add a lot of sugar to it, making it very sweet at the same time. It’s apparently very high in Vit C, but I simply find it way too sweet to my liking.

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