March 9, 2018
Though some people may not consider title a valid one based on the upcoming description, it was one heck of a trip. The friendly old woman we met during treacherous climb to Ghyaru, the august view from Manang, and the feeling of achievement on reaching Thorung La Pass still makes this one beautiful trip.
Early morning on the verge of dawn, readied bags carried to the Balaju Bus Stop. Breaking through the dust and crowd of vehicles, we reach our starting point Besi-Sahar. Hungry yet dedicated, we bargain for our ride to Chame (costed us Nrs. 12K for Trax). Four hours from then, damned snowy tips of hills start teasing us. We are really hyped. About an hour on the bumpy ride, we come across this huge fall, and it was pretty amazing. Despite the neck-aching ride to our destination, we get to view this amazing Tal Bazaar. The best part was its location*, between the hills, on the river bank, with its own personal fall on back (This place needs its own separate 3 days tour). The rest of the road was still bumpy, with glances of wild honey combs, more falls, more snowy tips. Finally we made it to the Chame at about 8 PM. Dinner at hotel was Ok-ish; our hunger subsided the taste everyday. Here we requested for hot water, Rs. 700 for big thermos was the response. Narayan Dai revolted because this place had an ease of access to transportation and water, and in the morning we felt glad to find the cost of water was not added to our bills.
Early morning at 4.30, we woke to find out the Annapurna stands high and can be seen from the balcony. Sipping the tea, we spent some time appreciating the Annapurna.
At 6, our trek begins officially, and our destination: Upper Pisang, though we couldn’t pinpoint exactly where we will be staying then, because we had planned to take the Lower Pisang as our trail, but local people claimed Upper to have a better view and we were anything but disappointed to have changed our decision.
Walking opposite the Marsyangdi river, we leave Chame. Every direction you look at, you can’t help but be happy and get sucked into the serenity. The entire way, Annapurna 1 is behind us. Dusty path is wide enough for trax to easily pass.
Two hours of slow uphill walk and this mountain consumes us with its super flat white face. About an hour or two later, we came across the DhukurPokhari (Dove Pond). Since our trek was planned on winter, it was dry. But the green lake that came after it proved that it would have been a beauty if we had come at a proper time.
On we went into a nice local gompa; beautiful, neat and just in the right location. Locals in that area told us we were closing in on Ghyaru, and will only take two hours to get there, and one more to Ngawal. We always increased the estimation of locals by few hours. Yes, we got to the foot of hill to Ghyaru, and and when we got there, we realized that Ghyaru was difficult-ish uphill from the bottom.
With an ascent to 3320m the view was majestic. You could see the trail of the lower Pisang from here, which seem to be walking through the jungle seeing so much less than what we could see from the upper. During the ascent, we came across a nice tea house and its wise owner. She was nice enough to offer us more tea for free and also wise lessons on dealing with forth-coming hotels.
She exclaimed about how she had a trekker come to her hotel 3 times while to enjoy the same trek and each time brought different family members along with him.
At Ghyaru, after almost 9 hours of walk, we stopped at small gompa and we could see Annapurna 1, 2 and 4. There we stayed at Yakru.The owner were really nice, we chatted a bit after the dinner sitting around the kitchen firewood.
Regular hikers can make it to Ngawal on the second day. It’s a really nice and beautiful place too. In fact, every place on this trail is mesmerizing, so for the sake of length of this article, will strip down to bare bones.
While keeping Annapurna 2 at our side, we reached Ngawal at about 9.30. There was a big ringing bell that we spent some time to appreciate. And also those kids with red chicks were adorable.
We carried our own snacks to save money. So, before mid day, we usually stopped at a place to sit down and fed our hungry stomachs. We had snickers, noodles and Oats biscuits to properly share for 9 days.
Down the hill we went to reach Mungji. That was probably the place, where Upper Pisang and Lower Pisang’s trails meet and head together to core Manang village. On one side snowy faces while the opposite, dry rocky faces, we realized Manang lied not so far.
On reaching Braka, there was an old wooden bridge above the Marsyangdi river. We ran to it like kids run to swing. We spent some time taking off our worn shoes and rest the feet in that cold water of Marsyangdi. We played a competition of who can dip the longest, no memory who won, not me. While there, a big herd of sheep came hurdling to the river to drink water while there neck bells chanted. And finally at 2 PM, we got into Khangsar, Manang. We could see Bhote kukur in a medium-sized town filled with mostly foreigners chilling, strolling and chatting. We reserved our rooms in a hotel, took off our bags, and stayed in the sun soaking up the heat as much as we could. After some rest, we decided to go to see the glacial lake Gangapurna.
While there, we walked up to the glacial source of the late to see how it looks and feels like. Well, all we saw were gravels, pebbles and sand. Well glacial lakes don’t work as I expected. We stayed until sun went down, making memories, making fun, throwing stones in the lake and returned to realize local houses on the far end of the tourist point. Though incomplete and imperfect, the crude beauty of those houses was still vivid.
7 AM Monday, we left our hotel, headed towards Ice lake. This was an exciting trip uphill and crucial one for us as well, so that we could acclimatize to what we were going to face in the upcoming days. The lake was situated at 4600m and while climbing uphill, you get to see whole Annapurna. We split into two groups, one took the ridge of dried river to climb, while other took the face of grassy hill. Either were steep and barely walked, because the actual walking trail was up from Braka.
At Ice lake, the weather was harsher. Black cloud could be seen above and we decided to have our food after or during return but not as planned in Ice Lake. After realizing the steepness, we came back from Braka, the trail back was long but good.
We returned to our hotel at around 5. Hungry us ran straight to the dining hall and had some noodles. In our entire trip, every village we reached lacked electricity. So, we are thankful that we carried a pack of cards with us.
We packed and left our hotel at 7 AM and followed the Marsyangdi river. On turning back, we could see the old settlements densely sat together between the gigantic hills.
We knew what lied ahead and were fairly excited. The snowy mountains gradually shifting their shapes, we didn’t realize we had come so far from the place we started.
We stopped at Upper Shree Kharka at which we would be returning to in the next day to go to Thorungla. But for then, we walked straight to Tilicho Base Camp, our next checkpoint
The trail was showing no mercy with its ups and downs. But along with physical strain, it also had majestic delights of untouched mountains.
After almost 5 hours of walk, we meet the landslide area. At first thought, it felt short and walk-able. But then with twist and turn came another riskier face of it. The unannounced falling of the rocks from tops and with nowhere to hold to even if you slip was, well, dangerous. By the time, we reached the end of this zone, about 40 minutes had passed. And furthermore, the feeling of having to return the same path the other day again was not a good feeling either.
Finally, at about 1:20-ish we make it to Tilicho Base Camp. Behind the hotels, dry rough mountains lay bare; while in front, Snow capped mountains and the source of Marsyangdi River. We had some snacks, roam around here and there until 6.30 and that wrapped our day.
It was a big day; we were going to reach the highest lake in the world, Tilicho. People started early with their head lights. We decided to stick around, because the trail was frozen and slippery, and we did not have enough head lights. Once the light started reaching us, we started our walk. The trail was still crazy slippery and small enough, we had to walk really carefully. The steep hill that followed was a tough one as well. As we walked, we got to witness avalanche in real life. Cracking sound of ice that came from other mountain, and snow falling afterwards was good sound to hear, obviously not to experience. The snow at top was really thick, probably between 1 and 2 feet. After walking about 4 hours we made it to Tilicho. The Tea house was closed and covered by snow. The sad thing was, the lake was white as fudge. But the location the lake stayed on was one good spot to rest your eyes upon. We spent about an hour and decided to return because of the wind that would follow in the mid-day.
As we returned back to our hotel, we had our bags packed and ready in the dining hall. We freshened up, filled our bottles and headed to Yak Kharka following the same treachorous yet beautiful Landslide Area. We stay for quick snack break at upper Shree Kharka and head to lower Shree Kharka.
We reach lower Shree Kharka at around 6.30PM. That evening, snow came pouring and we were lucky enough to not reach TBC that evening instead, because Tilicho would have been a lot harder the day after snow.
As usual, we started early and left after our morning breakfast at the hotel. But then, it was cold and foggy because of the snow the day before. The world looked different covered in snow. Still, we had to make it to Thorungla Low Camp.
After Yak Kharka, the elevation is slow and the trail is much better for the walk. But it was obviously long. On the way, we came across yaks climbing the steep mountains for their fodder. Amazing how they stayed put in such steep faces of hills.
Landscapes were still great the entire way. Some of us even got to witness rarer side of this trip as well.
At around 2.30, we made it to Thorungla Low Base Camp and decided to stay there and call it a day.
Nepalese were barely seen at the place we stayed. The kind young owner at the hotel even provided us free accommodation.
Next day, we had to walk before the sunrise or else face strong winds at the pass. We slept excited about reaching the highest pass the other day.
We woke up at 3 and started packing. We saw people had already started their ascent. We decided to start moving as soon as we packed. The trail was not only dark but slippery, and only thing that lit the path were our head lights. During the ascent, some of us were harshly punished for improper shoes. We looked down, and couldn’t see how big the fall was. All we knew was to follow the footsteps created by preceding trekkers. Slipping, sliding, we finally made it to high camp at around 5.30. We stayed for a cup of black tea. People were enjoying the moment. We decided to wrap our shoes by socks, because it’s roughness prevented shoes from slipping. The sky was fairly brighter when we left the high camp.
After almost 4 hours, we reached Thorungla Pass. Everyone there were super excited. People rolling on the snow, singing, dancing, cheering were all that could be seen. The moment had to be captured. Like everyone else we did as well.
Then came the knee aching downhill. We had to drop down all the way to Muktinath 3700m. We saw distant dry hills of Mustang and village of Muktinath below us, while we were surrounded by snow topped hills. The surrounding grew warmer as we descended step by step, and finally reached Muktinath at 1.30PM, a holy place of Vishnu.
Some of us took bath from 108 taps. The cold water soothed our tired body. After worshipping and getting good rest, we thought of getting to Jomsom. But the scarcity of bus nearly made us stay in a place near Mustang, until a driver showed up telling he was going to Jomsom. On the bus, places passed by quicker giving us no time to exclaim. Walk would still be a better choice. Kagbeni looked really beautiful and so did bare lands of Mustang. And once we closed on Jomsom, our eyes got caught in the wildly growing Cherry Blossoms.
Next day we roamed around Jomsom. We went to see Dhumba lake and on the way back, bought some dried Apples and well-known Marpha. All trees bent to one side clearly showed how strong the wind is there, though we did not stay to enjoy it.
After one good meal, we hopped onto the bus back to Kathmandu.