Climbing above Manang

Annapurna Circuit – Part VIII: Manang (3540m)

On our second day in Manang, I jumped out of my bed at the break of dawn, stuck my head into the kitchen and asked for my morning pot of marsala tea, then snooped around the lodge until I found a set of stairs that led to the roof top. On the other roof top (a different lodge) across from me was a German fella with his impressive looking camera on a tripod. We had a quick friendly chat and watched the sun filling into the valley.

manangd201 manangd202

The clouds kept coming and going, testing patience. I fetched my pot of tea (in a thermos) from the kitchen after the German fella left, and drank the hot sweet tea in the morning sun on the roof next to a water tank.

manangd203

For a while, Annapurna II revealed itself, and it sure looked very windy on the top at 7937m.

manangd204 Continue reading

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.

ManangD1_21

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.

ManangD1_22

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.

ManangD1_17

After the break, we descended onto a wide valley plateau. Continue reading

A Day of Riddles Under Paungda Danda Wall

Annapurna Circuit – Part VI: Chame – Pisang (2710m-3310m)

Pisang2

Street through Chame

Kiwi Bird had a headache and felt dizzy just before dinner time in Chame. He’s worried he’s suffering from altitude sickness, because at the elevation (2710m) we are, some people may begin to suffer from altitude sickness. Our lead guid, Ashok, thought he might just be dehydrated, and got him to drink lots of hot lemon drink to rehydrate. Though seeing we are only going to get higher and higher for the next few days, and our doctor back home did advise taking Diamox prior to ascending to 3000m, Kiwi Bird decided to start taking his.

Diamox is somewhat viewed as a “wonder drug” for altitude sickness. People seem to still debate how it really works. One girl from our group already started days ago because she knows she gets affected by the altitude beyond 2500m. Most of the people in our group carry some, but many are unsure about when to take them. Everyone’s doctors seem to give different advice too. Our doctor recommended taking them preventatively, but other people’s doctors say to only take them if symptoms occur. But then none of us really understand what symptoms are alarming, and what are normal. Our guides told us most people will get mild headache and dizziness at some stage, even themselves. All the porter boys told us they get light headaches higher up, and if the ache is not severe, it’s perfectly normal. The general advice from the guides is “drink plenty of water (4 litres a day!), go slowly, and think positively.

Pisang6

Path carved into the cliff face between Chame and Pisang – just a typical Nepali “road”

Continue reading

Sharing our Way with Donkeys to Magnificent Fields of Pink

Annapurna Circuit – Part V: Darapani – Chame (1900m-2710m)

I woke nice and early around 5am in Darapani. I’ve been waking up early since arriving in Nepal. It’s the jet-lag’s doing, but I’m loving waking up early. No one else from the group seemed to be up, and I wandered to the narrow swing bridge across the Marsyandi river, stood in the middle of the bridge, and just watched the mighty river flow. The village was still mostly sleeping, so I had the whole bridge to myself without any traffic coming or going. Finally, an old lady came, so I walked across the bridge and went to the little stupa and just stood there, watching and soaking in the early morning sun coming up from the misty, lush green narrow valley to the east. Eventually a stream of labourers started to walk pass me and giving me curious looks, so I finally decided to go back to the lodge in case any one is missing me.

Buffalo meat drying over traditional Nepali clay stove

Buffalo meat drying over traditional Nepali clay stove

Once I was back, I ordered a pot of marsala tea, which is something I’ve started as my morning ritual since we started on the track. I also poked my head into the kitchen – something I love doing – and discovered these curious looking strips hanging over their traditional clay stove. The cook told me it’s buffalo meat, and let me took a photo of the kitchen. Around that time, Kerry, my marsala tea drinking buddy had finished his morning stretches, and we sipped our tea together in the very colourfully decorated dining room. Nepali are very colourful people, and they love decorating the rooms with colourful plastic flowers. In Darapani, the tables had these peculiar looking mini trees of brightly coloured pom-poms. I asked our guide if they were suppose to resemble any flowers, but he said it’s just decoration. We saw a lot more of these decorations during the rest of our trip.

Following the river up and down

Following the river up and down

Continue reading

Strong Will, Cat Porridge, and Ridiculous Loads on Foreheads

Annapurna Circuit – Part IV: Chamche – Darapani (1385m-1900m)

One of the big river confluence in Marsyandi valley

One of the big river confluence in Marsyandi valley.

We’ve been following Marsyandi River for the last two days, and will continue to follow it upstream for another 4 days, to an altitude of ~3600m at Manang. From Chamche, we continued to climb steadily up the deep valley carved out by the mighty white water of Marsyandi river. On our way, numerous waterfalls adorn the cliff faces rising either side of the valley. We and the guides took the walking track, while our porters followed the very primitive rocky ways the Nepalis call roads. Looking at the “road”, we all felt a huge sense of admiration for Nepali’s determination. Many sections were tediously carved out by sheer man power.

The "great Nepali road" build from sweat, blood and sheer determination between Chamche and Tal. The vague red dots are our porters.

The “great Nepali road” build from sweat, blood and sheer determination between Chamche and Tal. The vague red dots are our porters.

Shortly before noon, the valley opened up near the settlement of Tal (1700m), where we enjoyed our lunch under the shade at a little lodge. Most of us were all carry our jandals in our day pack to relieve our feet from the boots during our hour-long lunch break. Our meals, again, were selected from the standardised “tourism board approved” menu. Spelling mistakes were common, and finding the most amusing ones had become a bit of an exercise for our group. Continue reading

Cliff Hangers, Waterfalls and the Best Nepali Apple Pie

Annapurna Circuit – Part III: Ngadi – Chamche (890m – 1385m)

I woke up early in Ngadi and wandered to the bathroom with my toothbrush. Prem, our assistant guide, waved at me and gestured for me to turn around. I obliged, and was greeted with the view of a snow capped mountain peeking behind the closer range.

The first big peak we saw on Annapurna Circuit

The first big peak we saw on Annapurna Circuit

Yay! The sky cleared! After a nice breakfast (we ordered what we wanted from a simple “Tourism Board Approved” menu the night before), we set off in the sunshine, making our way to Chamche. For the first part of the day, we were walking on a very primitive “road”, which we all rather walk then being in any vehicle. There were also very primitive bridges when we come across streams. Many times, when the washout wasn’t too bad, we’d just tread over the shallow stream. The condition really wasn’t bad for a track, but rather “unconventional” as a road.

Our trail/road passed many cliffs

Our trail/road passed many cliffs

We travelled across many simple bridges on our way

We travelled across many simple bridges on our way

Continue reading