Nepal, Day 12: Thorong La Pass

2018_03_30_005abThe day starts at 4:15 a.m. Inside our room we still have temperatures (slightly) above 0°C. Opening the door, we stand in glistening snow and the water ton outside has turned into a giant ice cube.

After breakfast, we start slowly (“bistare, bistare”) on the steep, snowy path uphill. Ignoring the head lamps of my hiking companions, I soak in the atmosphere of white landscape, shimmering stars above and first rays of sunrise on the peaks. My camera decided to be out of order, so I am forced to enjoy more and photograph less.

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First Stop only after Day Break – still beautiful

I am hilariously happy to be here. To make it through the snow, follow our guide and set one foot after the other on our way to the pass. The thunderstorms of the recent night have left us with 50cm fresh snow, presenting so much of a high alpine scenery that it would suite even the Himalaya. Oh yes, in fact it is the Himalaya…!

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Snowy paths on 5.000m

The preparation of almost a year culminates into the trek of the day. Good mood and maximum strength are with me for the first hours. I am full of energy, make jokes and enjoy the hike like best holiday practice. We pass by the Thorong La High Camp, stop every so often for a sip of water from our bottles and continue our way up.

It is somewhere around 5.200m altitude when the strangest sensation hits me: Like walking through a curtain, my world (or myself) instantly changes: Within a second, I feel sick. I have a headache. I cannot keep up the group’s paste and need a halt every 10 steps.

Breathing feels normal while suddenly it is incredibly exertive to walk. Fortunately, the path is not very steep anymore, and I hear that “only 150m up” are in front of us until we are expected to reach the pass. At least that is what our guide claims…

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Looking a bit tired? Before judging, try it out: How do You feel on 5.200m?

Typical height symptoms, even the light version, indicate a recommended change of direction: down would be best now. I am more than willing to go down, right after the pass – sure enough, I will NOT turn back before! Hence, I clench my teeth and go on.

I think of absent friends and mentally borrow their forces: Visualizing the swimmer – huge  and full of strength –, I borrow his muscles and gain some more metres. The dancer with the massive thighs: I make them mine for the time being and get somewhat further. The Northern guy from the sea, always so optimistic – I take over his optimism and continue my way. The bartender with his nonchalance – adopting it, I ignore any indisposition. And so it goes. All brightened up by the picture I had in mind throughout the entire trek, figuring Sabine and me on top of the pass.

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Still some Way to Go…

Another girl of our group fights the same symptoms (started around the same height) and, conjoined in exertion, we struggle on and on. Even though it seems endless, about an hour after the start of the hardest part, we finally make it.

Welcome to the Thorong La Pass!

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Sabine welcomes me and fortunately has no problem at all. She even jumps up and down for pictures and is all in a good mood. I find a low wall that I can lean upon for a minute and just hope that we will descend soon. I can’t remember having ever felt so exhausted in life – not even back in my triathlon era. Holy Moly, this is something!

At least, I am still standing.
I am here on 5.416m.
I have no severe problem and when a camera is looking my way, I am able to stand straight and even smile.

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Done! 😊

Having started at 5:00h a.m., it took us 1.000 altitude metres to get here. At this point, 1.700 m lay down at our feet. With the snow and aslope ways, it will take us hours and hours until we even reach our destination for late lunch.

Making a long story short, every metre of the -1.700 altitude difference is annoying and exhausting – no wonder after eight hours en route without restoring breaks or eating or other shallow needs. Eventually we reach Muktinath in the afternoon, a place of pilgrimage for Hindus with great significance in the South Asian subcontinent. The Hindu temple comes along with a small town and the “Hotel Grand” for tired tourists. Right after a short nap, I am fully restored for lovely dinner (Yak steak! Beer!) and for the acknowledgement of our success: We made it!

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Known it all along – Hurray!!!

I would have preferred to pass the pass with no difficulty at all. Yet, struggling hard for a goal and finally succeeding has its own, delicate quality – it will take some time until I might be confronted with anything harder.

Whatever problem may occur in everyday life, it will hardly keep up with this particular personal experience.
Wanna annoy me? Nice try, but I have been on 5.416m and even the Yeti has been scared!

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Nepal, Day 11: Up (570m), Down (90m), Distance (quite some)

Isn’t it great to have the toilet outside at some distance? Not long after sunrise I get up and stumble clueless over rose and golden light on white peaks – the charming view sort of crossed my way even before I had the eyes fully open.

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Sunrise on Annapurna II

Looking south, I see the Annapurna. Looking north shows Yak Peak and Thorong Peak. Looking straight, I see shaggy oxes: Good morning, yaks.

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Good Morning, Yaks!

After 10 trekking days, guess what we will do today? Hiking. Uphill. Not before long our recent home-for-a-night is left behind, covered with fresh snow like frosting on a cake.

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From 4.000m on, cold air and frozen ground remain our companions. Astounding enough, today is the first day that requires more than a t-shirt, even around noon. No wonder that water supply only exists as a singular sensation in each lodge: Located in the warmest part of the building (not far from the kitchen), where inhabitants, porters and guests meet at the one and only tap, brushing their teeth before bed-time. Less useful but more of a beauty is the frozen waterfall we pass by:

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Despite the cold air and thanks to our ongoing sun subscription, the outside tables are yet inviting enough for tea breaks (sort of a contrast to the dark, smoky interior of the rural tea houses). Next to our co-guide Chanda I do feel (and look) a bit like an explorer, heading for undiscovered treasures that are to be found either around or within each traveller that enters the Himalaya.

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Early afternoon comes along with our arrival at the Thorong Phedi lodge – the last stop before pass-day. The owners are sort of alternative, cosmopolitan hipsters: Him, Nepali with dread locks and a black hat + her, migrated from America, looking for the simple life (and probably for the big love she might have found in him). Add some reggae music and trekking tourists from all parts of the world, flavour it with a subtle jumpiness and you have the atmosphere of Thorong Phedi.

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Everybody here is up for the way over “the biggest pass of the world” (quoted on the official Annapurna-map). Most of the tourists have hope, but no idea of how they will react to altitudes above 5.000m. Turning back is always an option, but never welcome (not even for the two out of our group who were courageously reasonable – better save your life than your ambitions).

For the first time, I feel either the nervousness or the height, resulting in a pretty unquiet night. Hence, I lay awake a lot and count the numerous snow-thunderstorms that roar around us, making me grateful for little details:

  1. Fred has been and still is my best buddy for the nights, keeping me warm even around 0° (no surprise for a sleeping bag with a maximum of -43°, though).
  2. It is unlikely to meet bed bugs, mosquitoes or any other annoying blood-sucker around here.

The night is short and ends with a bit of surprise at 4 am…

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Instead of counting Thunderstorms, I should have (mentally) counted Yaks…

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Nepal, Day 10: Up (720m), Down (200m), Distance (12 km)

Today, “get up” is more than breakfast options and another hiking day, it means that we enter serious height levels. Beginning on 3.550m in the morning, the upcoming night will be beyond the threshold of 4.000m above sea level – for whatever sea level this may refer to.

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While local farmers work hard for their living, our group enjoys another splendid-sun-day with a panorama that ranges from 3.500m to 7.500m and from the inhabited valley to the top of the world. The first tea break offers a wide view back to where we used to be just the other day, including the lake of the Gangapurna glacier.

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4.000m Altitude Difference between the River and the Mountain Peaks

Later, we reach Gunsang and stop for hot sallow thorn juice and humility, the latter caused by the (once more) overwhelming confrontation with Annapurna Himal.

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Having a Break on 3.990m

Slowly approaching Yak Peak and Thorong Peak, Gunsang is a turning point of the trek. From here on we leave the Annapurna II, III and IV behind, curving further North towards the high pass Thorong La. With a bit of regret we look back several times along our way and admire the shimmering triangle of Annapurna II.

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See the Overhanging Snow below the Peak? Not before long we will watch an Avalanche of it come down, Resulting in a 200m-high Snow-Dust-Cloud

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Hard to catch, yet visible for the focussed Eye: Avalanche on Annapurna II (left part)

Later we come across a drove of ibexes. Just as all other animals we meet in Nepal, the flock remains totally relaxed as we pass by, ignoring our excitement. Obviously, living in the Himalaya makes everybody relaxed, Capricorns and ibexes included.

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Another rope bridge and some stony, dusty way bring us to Yak Khara. Sleeping on 4.018m means no alcohol, not even for beer-used Swabians. Instead, we drop our backpack and go for a small extra-tour with 200 altitude meters up and down, promoting the height acclimatization. Afterwards we are grateful for hot water and tea when gathering around the yak-shit-oven (fed with yak-kacke due to the lack of trees in this region).

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The star of the day had been Annapurna II, not only because of the avalanche we witnessed, but also due to the fantastic hatched structure that becomes visible when looking closely through binoculars (Thanks, S.!). When trying to figure the tectonic plates’ movement that continues to fold up this wonderful mountain chain, my mind fails. All I can state is that it is okay to feel small in opposition to the Himalaya.

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Nepal, Day 9 – Part 2: Manang and the Monastery of Braga

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Manang

What looks like half-finished buildings of untreated stones is in fact one of the larger villages on the track. Manang is milestone of the Annapurna circuit where all trekkers come through – and it is famous for German bakeries. Looking back now I damn myself for not having taken pictures of the fantastic pies and cakes they produce here. All I can state is: be sure that you try at least two or three sinful products and never be shy to enter all bakeries along the way, inhaling the sent of butter, sugar, baked apples and cinnamon.

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High Noon

Apart from food, the “town” does not look spectacular. Unless you are fancy about Wild West desert atmosphere, that is. Along the way you will stumble over temples, stupas and mane stones every once in a while, filling the dry earth with spiritual enlightment.

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Between Manang and Braga, backed up by Annapurna II

The neighbouring village Braga is dominated by a Buddhist monastery built half way up the hills. Between apple pie and dinner we head up to the cloister, taking care of body and mind all the same.

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Braga Monastery

As usual, the cloister consists mainly of one square room with holy books stacked up to the ceiling. Colourful decorations, pictures of holy Lamas and uncounted Buddha statues accomplish the scenery.

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While the local priest tells a bit about the ascetic monk who founded this place, my mind starts wandering from past events to life, the future and all the rest. I think of big-hearted friends that have died too soon and of the ones left behind. I remember others that struggled with socializing skills and responsibility and I think of the things in life that count in the long run. Must be a bit of dust in my eyes, while in fact I don’t care: if not shedding a tear in a Buddhist temple on top of the world, then where? I let loose, not thinking about tomorrow, nor about trivial things such as job or money. If Nepal / Himalaya journeys come at the price of esoteric influence, fine by me. (Later I check: still pretty nail polish on my toes. Still no batik clothing in my wardrobe. Probably the esoteric impact is not of the severe kind, yet welcoming all the same.)

The relaxed Joker Day around Manang has been an excellent step embedded in our trek. Bistare, bistare (“slowly, slowly”) I get more and more settled into the surrounding – even more with delightful Dal Bhat dinner coming up this evening in our lodge.

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Spiritual Life in Annapurna Himal

Nepal, Day 9: Up (344m), Down (344m), Distance (9 km)

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Today is joker day: We leave our luggage in the lodge, enjoy a late breakfast and combine sightseeing with a bit of a hiking tour around Manang.

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Between Braga and Manang

Before getting lost in mountain names, here comes the orientational glossary: Annapurna II is the most beautiful mountain in my world that we half-rounded these days. Annapurna III really gets me later that day when…  Well, we will see. Gangapurna is the one with the impressing glacier spilled down in the shimmering lake at its feet. This being set, we can start the walk through a brown-grey mountainous landscape.

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Half way to our first destination, we see holes in the stony walls across the river. Most legends are anchored in truth and thus I believe that we do see the temporary home of an ascetic Buddhist that once meditated here for years. The monastery in Braga still is fond of this guy who became a monk throughout meditation, giving shelter to deer and other animals.

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Looks like Home

Compared to the past days, the first part of today’s tour is a walk in the park (only less green, that is). Our first stop is an accumulation of stupas and prayer flags located in the centre of a 300° river turn, facing the lake emerging from the Gangapurna glacier.

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We stroll around like happy children on their playground, knowing that there is no extensive challenge today. It is easy to love life with the bright sun and colourful flags all around.

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As for acclimatisation, there still is some way uphill for us. But what are 300m when being used to 1.000? Hence, I hop on light-hearted and full of energy until our group reaches a platform that overlooks the lake and the valley of Marsyangdi.

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Gangapurna + Glacier

The place is enchanting with a small hut of untreated stones, surrounded by seven-thousand-something-peaks and (of course) full of prayer flags and mane stones.

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It takes some time, but then it slowly dawns on me: We crossed the river and climbed up some mound. The mound is part of a severe mountain. Looking straight south, there is more of it. No valley, no ravine in between, it goes all up and up until…. Unsure, I ask Khaddy and our guide assures me: Yes, this is indeed a lower platform (around 3.800m) of the Annapurna III. If I continue my walk straight south, the next turning point will be on 7.555m!

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As for thin air and disbelief, the camera is unable to get the picture straight: Getting in touch with Annapurna III

It takes a while until this information settles into something real, something seizable in my head. It helps to look down on the lake. And over to Manang with its rural houses. And to my companions around. Then take a deep breath and get the focus on the Annapurna III behind me – now it looks less huge, right?

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me – in Annapurna Himal

Eventually we turn around and head for Manang for lunch. How can a day with a bit of a promenade offer so many aspects (Himalaya impressions, cultural aspects, religion, food, …)?!

…to be continued…

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What looks so close (and in fact, is) is the Gangapurna (7.455m)

Nepal, Day 8: Up (746m), Down (485m), Distance (18 km)

The first four days of the trek left me exhausted almost every day. The hiking portions have been more than I have ever been used to and secretly I wonder if and how I will make it over the pass… Although I never figured NOT getting by, I do know that there is a fair chance I might not succeed.

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Above 3.300m, a few of our group members start feeling the height. Some are short in breathing, some sleep with a bit of breathlessness, some have a headache that refuses to clear away. However, best is to carry on and picture Sabine and me in a common hurray-pose on top of the tour. And decline any other option.

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Fresh Morning in Pisang

We settle down for breakfast and play it cool, proved by the light snow and by the oven only working in the evenings. We leave Pisang and pass by sort of an open temple with a concrete platform: the local funeral place, regularly used for the burning of dead bodies.

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Funeral Place

Passing by flourishing cherry trees, we approach a holy lake that looks like being cut-out from the Canadian mountains. Legends are about five ducks taking care of the lake and about a magic tree with an emerald heart. I may have forgotten the details, but will keep the memory of this enchanting area in Annapurna Himal.

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Once I cut my eyes loose of the lake and turn around, I am stunned by the view on Annapurna II. Just there, just around the corner, just looking down at us… Looking down? Seeing it for real shows nothing but a beautiful mountain – but when looking at the photograph of it, there suddenly is a face included in the flank.

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See the face? The stiff look down on the rest of the world?

Twenty minutes later we reach some mane stones – from the holy lake to sacred stones with holy letters carved in or painted on them. The wider the landscape, the more people seem to stick to belief, religion and traditions. Meanwhile, we follow our path that now leads up in steep serpentines until we reach a small stone hut with plastic chairs outside: a typical tea house. Only that we are not here for tea but for the stunning view on Annapurna II again.

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Look, I am a big girl, reaching out high!

Still, we continue the steep way up. I am relieved that today I feel strong and full of energy when reaching the lookout on 3.800m. Here, we meet further tourists around another stony tea hut with a lovely Nepali lady selling Yak cheese and further delicacy. With greatest nonchalance I manage to snatch the last piece of apple pie before I sit down on one of the banks. The atmosphere up here is somewhat between outdoor and esoteric. The bright sun and the gorgeous view cheer everybody up, leading to a loose gathering of smiling travellers all around.

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This is not what I had in mind, just because I never figured seeing the Annapurna with only 6 km of distance. I feel like embracing the world and sparkle and shine like snow in the sun.

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Facing the Annapurna II (7.937m, without bragging) makes me enthused. I still find it incredible that I am here, for real. Spontaneously I resume the Annapurna II being my new top 1 favourite mountain, relegating the Alpspitze to a mere 3rd position (Manaslu being No. 2).

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Eventually, we have to leave this wonderful spot and go on with our trek. While I get all excited about the Himalaya, the peaks, the landscape and the food, our co-guide takes it all relaxed.
We pass by some stupas until we reach a high plateau in all shades of brown and grey. Buckwheat fields are supposed to spread out around us, yet it is all dead and dusty with to date being prior to the rainy season. While the landscape enfolds its facets at our feet, a vulture floats through the air with just some metres of distance. Left handed lies the river Marsyangdi, flanked by a massive mountain wall and overlapped by the Annapurna Himal. Suddenly a helicopter passes us by, flying at half of our height below our feet – while still the altitude above doubles our current position. I understand that my camera is unable to inhale these crazy dimensions and make them visible – might be due to the camera or simply due to the outstanding region we are in.

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Looking back on our Morning Trek

In the afternoon we reach Braga, a small village 20 minutes East of Manang. Our lodge is of the comfortable kind with groggy bathrooms attached to the rooms and German bakeries just around the corner. So far we have followed the river up to around 3.550m and Khaddy draws a sketch of our surrounding. Of course, it only contains peaks of 6.000m and above – anything lower does not even get a name around here.

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All sketches or pictures do not give more than a rough hint on how fantastic the Himalaya mountains are…

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… or how huge the dimensions. Every day we (Sabine + me) congratulate ourselves for having planned, booked and started the voyage – resulting in us being here now.

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Nepal, Day 7: Up (878m), Down (350m), Distance (20 km)

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As you can see, there is “Om Mani Padme Hum” written all over the Prayer Wheel

On our 4th hiking day the daily routine becomes a habit: Wake up and change into hiking clothes. Condense Fred down to merely 5% of its size. Go for coffee, wait for breakfast serving. Then out and off we go, straight to Chame’s big mani wheel.
The route starts easy enough, but my bones and muscles are sort of tired after all the 1.000m up treks of the past days. Hence, I am delighted when we stop for tea and cake at the apple orchard along the way. Here, 3.000m above sea level, some corporation established a luxury tea house among apple and peach trees in what seems to be the lower part of the Himalaya.

 

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Summer season is short round here, thus the trees are still bald and skeletal. Starting skeptical, the taste of the apple pie turns out to be mouth-watering delicious and immediately makes it on the list of desirable food (in addition to mo mos, yak cheese and dal bhat).

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Apple Trees on 3.000m, waiting for Summer

Conserving the precious calories, we try not to move too soon too fast. Hiking pro’s know that food and drinks are best enjoyed in plain sun and alike company.

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Right after the orchard, the landscape becomes penurious. The dark rock walls look like a scary movie setting, every so often mixed up by occasional rope bridges over the Marsyangdi torrent framed by gaudy prayer flags.

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from Bhratang to Pisang

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Right hand we see a humpy mountain with a diagonal fracture, known as the way to Pandite in Nepali culture. Western musicians would call it the stairway to heaven I suppose. Legends acknowledge that people on the swell to death take this way up as if to accelerate their ascension to higher spheres.

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By now our path is enfolded by six-thousand-something mountains, all covered with snow up high. Clouds approach during the afternoon and it is hard to tell where peaks end and the cloudy sky begins. Together with the clouds we reach Upper Pisang and focus on rough, yet accurately built stone houses.

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Upper Pisang

I try to imagine how rural folks live here – and fail. Most of the houses have neither glass nor insulation in their window frames and I have no clue how they manage to get by in winter times. We barely see any people in the alleys, but you better watch out when strolling around: all of a sudden, some half-ox, half-yak passes me by with only inches between us.

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No Need to Zoom in when being this close…

I better get going before his buddies appear and push me out of the way, hence I hurry up to the monastery on top of the village.

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The Buddhist temples we have seen so far have all been colourful, tidy and welcoming and the Pisang cloister is no exception. The ceiling is formed like a cubic mandala, complemented by Buddha statues and pictures of the most important monks all around in the rectangular room. We are invited to take a look around, donate a bit (only if we like, no duty), take pictures, possibbly pray; shortly: Come as we are except for the shoes that are to be left outside. No wonder that Buddhism easily spreads out worldwide, it is the most welcoming and uncomplicated religion I ever found.

2018_03_25_056bThe golden monastery contrasts our lodge rooms. Still, they are more than welcome, given the fact that we face some rain drops for the first (and only) time of our trek. Even before the rain turns into snow, we are grateful for any kind of building with a roof and a bed (and a hole in the ground called “toilet”).

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With fading daylight the temperatures drop below zero degrees and we all gather around a small oven that tries hard to heat up a radius of hardly a metre, left alone the entire dining room. Time to change from summer clothes to my winter wardrobe with warmers, fleece jacket and several layers of merino wool.

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… what about Spring Time?

Tonight, we sleep on 3.300m and feel the cold of the higher mountains. I am grateful for Fred, keeping me warm and cosy all night long. Probably I should be curious about the upcoming days. I might let my mind wander and think of the peaks we will see and the height we are going to reach. But with 3.727m altitude difference (all up) and a bit more than 75 km distance all done in the past four days, I fall asleep almost instantly. Lucky me that I sent prayers and wishes up to higher beings during our monastery visit earlier today – eventually it will reach its addressee, strengthen my forces and cheer up the weather.

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Nepal, Day 6: Up (934m), Down (168m), Distance (16 km)

Departing the next morning, we see white peaks of significant height all around us. “Significant” in this context is more than my front-yard Alps ever can be – the 6.000-m-mountains here have a similar look, but the magnitude is just a scoop more.

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Between Dharapuri and Chame

The scenery presents itself in excellent picture mode: a bit of a waterfall here, a bit of a jungle there and some tourists in between just to underline the dimensions.

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When planning the trip, Sabine had easily convinced me that spring is the best time for the Himalaya because of the flourishing rhododendron. We heard about whole forests blooming in pink, giving the land a mystical flair – and here it is, our first rhododendron tree!

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One single tree stands patiently among conifer and in direct neighbourhood of two more rhododendron, nearly touching out to the trekking path. With its blossoms looking slightly tired, we only take one or two pictures and remain keen on seeing some more. As its natural habitat ranges between 2.400 and 3.000m, we expect today being the great rhododendron day! Ah, expectations… Once more we will learn that best in Asia is always to let loose and free your mind of precise expectancy.

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Manaslu: eighth highest Mountain in the World

At lunch break we hear that those three blooming trees are all we will get of the rhododendron – but before that we are rewarded with our first glance up on 8.156m. Not only that the Manaslu is high and luminous white – it is genuinely beautiful with its double peak in thin air.

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Closer

Our path continues up through conifer forest until we reach a small, almost idyllic village. Just when I think: “The view from the roof top terrace over there must be…” our group comes to a halt for early lunch. The sun is intense and heats up the cold air. The roof top comes along with two climate zones: T-shirts + shorts in the sun, winter jacket and warmers under the parasol. Apart from such details, the best spot is clear: in front of the postcard panorama!

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Then something unexpected strikes me off-guard: I lean back in one of the plastic chairs and for about 15 minutes I sit still and look at the Manaslu. With tears in my eyes. Hard to tell, what overwhelms me: The sheer knowledge that I look at one of the 8 highest spots of our planet? A piece of earth that almost touches the universe… A landmark so rough and far from any other place that only a handful of manic climbers ever set foot on it. It is massive and impressive. Or perhaps it triggers a deep longing for the Yeti, who knows.

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Guess what: Even more Mountains

It is only after lunch when I notice the rest of the mountain chain that enfolds the village. While I did not fancy having it so close, it is a stunning sensation seeing it almost within reach. Eventually, the most dawdling of lunch pauses comes to an end as we continue our trekking route (rope bridges included as if for my personal distraction).

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Once Sisyphos is done with the Stone-up-the-Hill-Thing, he may start collecting Pine Needles

Later I am grounded again and impressed by the mounds of pine needles, all manually collected for local cattle sheds – and yet the day comes up with another highlight that forces its way through the tree tops. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me proudly present the Annapurna II:

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While we nearly lose two of our group members along the way, it proves

  • 14 is a high number for hiking groups, hard to survey when turning left or right and leaving the main route…
  • …however, the inner dynamic of our clique works fine, ensuring that all 14 members reach Chame, today’s destination.
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Welcome to Chame

Our lodge offers a hot shower (not per room, but rather one for all) and right after Sabine’s quality testing, I manage to sneak in before further hiking companions reach the door. It is the best shower within days (1st: existing, 2nd: comfortable enough) and I take the chance on a full maintenance, hair wash included.

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A walk through the village guarantees dry hair within 30 minutes thanks to the strong but cold wind. Located on 2.670m, the houses look more solid than in lower regions and Buddhism dominates the stupas and temples.

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Buddha’s Eyes outside, giant Prayer Wheel inside

At the far edge of Chame stands a small, open stupa with vivid paintings under it’s roof, showing the story of Buddha’s holy life.

 

 

Today was full of wows and impressions and mountain views. However, my personal base line of the day as for the whole trek is:

Me.     In   the   Himalaya.

[sic!]

 

Nepal, Day 5: Up (1.015m), Down (410m), Distance (21 km)

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The next Morning…

Another day shows up with 100% sun and tropical temperatures, The trek of today is beautiful, following the shimmering green water of the river in mainly uphill direction. We are surrounded by steep hills in green and brown and witness km after km how the landscape slightly changes: The river turns into a torrent, the valley becomes a ravine and we spot snow on the 6-thousand-something peaks that come in sight.

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… Om Mani Padme Hum …

The higher we get the more signs of Buddhism cross our way. With loud Om Mani Padme Hum we roll the mani wheels, praying for bright weather and a good hiking trek.

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Houses, huts and villages we pass by are mainly inhabited by farmers with a bit of rough land and some goats or sheep.

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Farmer’s Life may look picturesque, but might be Less when actually Living in the Quonset Hut

Not before long the path is merely a set of stairs. I heard rumours about more than 5.000 treads you need to take during the Annapurna circuit and here they are, all laid-out at my feet. With every step I take I learn a bit about myself and the finding of the day is: I do not like them. At least not in the given quantity… However, being part of a hiking group means follow the flock.

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This Obviously is a Before-the-Stairs Picture

Fortunately, the path includes some rope bridges that cheer me up. It is no surprise that I am more of the dancing kind and thus I sway and float over the river.

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Do we need to Worry when the Prayer Flag Decoration is Missing??

On altitude below 2.000m, we meet further animal flocks such as monkeys and sheep. We eventually get accompanied by a handful of cuddling goats that intend to come along for about an hour.

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Making Friends

As the afternoon enfolds, we leave them behind to increase the height between us and the river. It surely needs some uphill way in order to reach Dharapuri on its 1.860m. The highest point of today’s tour is marked by a stone gate that would be beautiful if not for strange tourists in silly poses.

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We reach our “Green Park” lodge in the late afternoon and immediately start the run for the adventurously installed hot shower. Compared to the prior night, we are blessed with almost luxury common “bathrooms” and a nice terrace outside. Even at our current height, it gets remarkably cold as soon as the sun settles behind the surrounding mountains, leaving the outside table abandoned.

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Cold Evenings already on 1.860m

 

2018_03_23_210cThe higher we get, the more I itensify my nightly relationship with Fred, the -43° expedition sleeping bag. Only time will tell how well it will suit in higher levels when reaching 3.000 or 4.000 altitude meters…

Nepal, Day 4: Up (900m), Down (372m), Distance (18 km)

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Ready!

Isn’t life about reality versus expectations? Contradictions and tension? Well, in this context we are blessed with daily distances that surpass our expectations. With a group of 14 trekking tourists it is more than likely that some show up with modern GPS world- and fitness-measurement equipment and it caused a bit of a riot when we learned that the ASI Tour Schedule is barely reliable.

Measures

From a fitness perspective it is hard to believe that not all of us have been amused when it turned out that there is no easy warm up with daily 500-700 altitude meters (up, what else), but rather around 1.000. Some might have chosen another tour or would have exercised harder, especially when the gap between facts and (scheduled) figures will escalate in the next days. So what, here we are and this is only the first day, so let’s start fresh.

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cha-cha-cha / lalalalalaaa

The path starts easy enough in tropical surrounding and not before long we reach the first of uncounted rope bridges. At first, I like them because of their image: Prayer flags, temples and rope bridges are the typical pictures presented on the first pages of every Nepal travel book. As soon as I take my first step on the flexible bridge, I have a wide grin on my face. It is like dancing and best you can do is sway your hips and balance light-footed towards the other side.

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The river will remain our companion, springing blithely below the bridge in shades of grey and green. We constantly walk up through fields and rice terraces, passing by small villages that only consist of three tiny houses or huts.

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The first larger village is good for a tea stop under a tree with more prayer flags than branches. Even with a misty sky the air is warm and the socks are steamy.

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Later during the day, the way gets a bit chewy, but still full of detections: Monkeys playing in a cotton tree. A three-step-waterfall in the distance. A flock of donkeys that passes us by and stoically walks on the rope bridge. And finally we reach our destination Jagat.

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Jagat, one of the largest Villages on our Trek

With eight firm porters, our luggage is there long before our arrival – luxury that we worship every day. No matter how more or less inviting the room for the night might be during the trip, as soon as I lay down Fred on my bed, I feel at home. For the Jagat night coming along with colourful dreams in pink and blue…

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