Annapurna Circuit Days 4-6

Day 4 – Tal to Chame

I slept with the down sweater and the sleeping bag on. It was a good decision because I woke up in the middle of the night sweating. Staved off a potential cold and/or fever in the process. After I loaded up on fiber during breakfast to stave off the bad diarrhea I picked up somewhere we got moving at around 07:30. We hiked for about 4 hours before getting lunch, enjoying the fine trekking weather and lovely scenery. At this point we basically left most of the monsoon weather behind us as we moved to the north side of the mountains. Before leaving Tal we stocked up at the trekking shops which carried everything from trekking poles to Snickers bars. I picked up another 1L water bottle so that I could take advantage of boiled water throughout the trek. It’s always a good idea to be able to carry 2L of water at all times.

After lunch came the toughest section of the trek so far, a steep climb to Timang. We spent about 2 hours going straight up. I was moving so slowly I let the donkeys hauling cargo pass me. I think it was the diarrhea making me weak and slow; and I didn’t want to go in the bushes because the possibility of getting a leech on my behind was far worse in my mind. After Timang the trail wasn’t as steep and we strolled into Chame tired but in good spirits. As has been the case since we started the trek, we’ve been able to get individual rooms for 100NPR per room. In the high season it can sometimes be impossible to even get a room because of the number of trekkers.

In Chame there are phone services, internet access (10NPR / min), and even an ATM. But whether there’s power or not to make these modern conveniences work is highly variable.

Day 5 – Chame to Ghyaru

Today’s journey is from Chame to lower Pisang. My strength is slowly returning now that the diarrhea appears to have cleared. Along the way we ran into the 2 girls we saw on day 1 in Bhulebule. They joined us for lunch with their guide; one of them is from Australia and the other from Canada. Sitting around the table we had 1 American, 1 Belgian, 1 Canadian, 1 Australian, and 1 Nepali. It was practically a UN meeting, we had 5 countries from 4 different continents at the table. As an added bonus, the restaurant had fresh mushrooms on the menu. After eating pretty much the same thing for the last 5 days, having a couple of mushrooms mixed into the meal was as significant as the addition of spices to food during the peak of the spice trade.

As has been the case since day 2, none of my clothes were dry this morning but my boots and socks were surprisingly 90% dry. To top off the mushrooms at lunch, the weather today was just perfect. No rain, cool temperatures, and the sun even poked through the clouds for an hour or 2. After lunch it was an easy walk to lower Pisang and it was still early in the afternoon – only about 14:30 – so we decided to press onward to Ghyaru (3670m). Unfortunately ACAP let us down again, the clean water station was closed in lower Pisang. From lower Pisang, there are two ways to get to Manang Village; one is easy – relatively flat – and the other is hard – steep ascents and descents. Ghyaru is on the hard route. The track from lower Pisang started off relatively flat as we crossed the river and headed north. A local guy led us onto the right path which was quickly confirmed when we saw an ACAP sign pointing to Ghyaru.

After an hour though, the path changed from a flat stroll to an extremely steep 350m climb. About 10 minutes in the sun came out and the sweat started rolling off me as if i had just gotten out of the pool. it took about an hour and endless switchbacks at a near 35 percent grade till we reached Ghyaru. At this point I had maybe 100mL left of water so I had to give in and buy my first bottle of mineral water, which at this altitude cost a whopping 170 rupees (a bottle of mineral water in Kathmandu usually runs 15 rupees).

Ghyaru is a picturesque town perched on the south face of a mountain. Only 30 families reside here however I fear that a generation or 2 from now the town may cease to exist since all the young people are leaving for the city. All the houses are built primarily from stone and the town is surrounded by farm terraces. We should be able to have an amazing sight of Annapurna II from the viewpoint but the monsoon clouds are completely blocking the views. I’m hoping they’ll clear up when we reach the pass in a few days. I’m also hoping the sun will make an appearance; the mercury has dropped dramatically to about 7C. My hands are starting to numb and I’m hugging a bottle of boiled water to keep myself warm. Given that we’re literally the only 2 trekkers in the town they’re not going to turn on the fireplace but they let us sit next to the kitchen fire as they prepared our meals. It was a really nice experience to be able to speak with the innkeepers and sit with them as they took turns cooking over the fire. The feeling of absolute remoteness is nearly impossible to come by in most industrialized countries, so this was really a welcome change in addition to sleeping according to when the sun rises and sets.

Day 6 – Ghyaru to Manang

Last night I had to switch beds (I got a room with 4 beds and what would be a spectacular view of Annapurna II in the high season) because there was a freezing draft coming in from outside and also some droplets of rain were falling on my face. It was around 7 or 8C around dinner, it probably fell to about 4 or 5C in the middle of the night. Woke up on my own and to my pleasant surprise the clouds had cleared a bit and I was able to see some of Annapurna II. After 6 days I could finally see a mountain! It was an amazing sight to behold.

After a laid back breakfast we set off for what would be about a 4 hour trek to Manang Village (3540m) around 08:15. The sun came out and it got really hot the further we got from Ghyaru. Bart ran out of water, I went through 1L because of the heat. I’ve been using anywhere from 1-1.5L of water per day so far, so for me to drink that much water in such a short time was surprising.

We got really nice rooms at the Yak Hotel in Manang Village with private baths for 100 rupees per room. Got to love the low season! During lunch I had my first taste of seabuckthorn juice, a locally grown fruit. It tastes something like a cross between mango and orange juice and is rich in nutrients. It was so good I had 2 glasses of it during lunch. I finally got a chance to wash my clothes and have them dry since the air was much drier there and the sun was out. I wore the same shirt, socks, and boxers for the first 5 days of monsoon weather so they were in desperate need of a wash. After the wash I walked around town with my camera and happened upon Bart who had just woken up from a nap and upon a big game of Nepali style musical chairs. It was like the entire town was watching the game. Instead of chairs they used stones which the players had to touch with their feet like bases and a blindfolded drummer (genius!) in the middle.  It was pretty fun to watch as the participants did whatever they could to stay in the game.

On the way back we ran into the solo Korean guy (who cut down from 2 packs a day to 1 pack a day for the trek) and Kalu (the guide for the Aussie and the Canadian) who told us that one of the girls had come down with severe altitude sickness. Bart kindly left his pills with the Canadian girl, who didn’t look well at all. She was throwing up on a consistent basis and was breathing heavily due to the panic. I hope she descends soon and quickly. The group of 3 Americans are also staying at our hotel and after hearing them speak at lunch, I now know that they are not my kind of people. Not sure where in the US they’re from but from what I can gather all 3 of them are douchebags.

I heard them again at dinner talking in detail about shooting deer so now it’s clear to me that they’re both rednecks and d-bags. It all makes sense now!

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