Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Annapurna Circuit Trek: Day 8

DAY 8: Manang to Letdar

The 8th day started late, which seemed all too normal, at this point. After breakfast I paid my bill for the previous two days and sat with the owner, Karma Gurung, to have a brief Q&A that I recorded on my camera. Back here in the Boston area, the WGBH building looms pretty large in Allston. A friend of mine works there, and was kind enough to give me a tour and introduce me to a few people that worked to helped produce PRI's "The World". The point of my Q&A was to sit and ask a few pointed questions to potentially use for their "Geography Quiz". I still have yet to put that together, as it also would be accompanied by a photo, but the whole instance was about three to four minutes, and I gained some new insight into how the people in Manang also view the issue of climate change. Despite our view of people in such remote areas, they are also aware of our impact on not really our planet, but our ability to live on it. It gave me a great sense of perspective.

After gathering my things, I left Manang at around 9:00am. The first hour and a half was somewhat of a struggle. The high elevation combined with a steep incline made this part of the day the hardest. I reached the small settlement of Ghusang, where I treated myself to some seabuckthorn tea and a muffin. The owner of this small establishment was originally from France, and she had married a Nepali man, and they now lived far from the lights and extreme pace of our society. I have to admit there were pangs of jealousy, but more of a feeling of respect for someone following through with what they wanted to do in life. Many of us seem to forgo that, and instead shoot for what society expects out of us.

Continuing on, it wasn't too long before reaching Yak Kharka. For many, this would be where they would spend the evening. At around 4,000 meters up, it's not too harsh of a change from Manang, which is important. A slow rise in elevation is needed for those that may not have the experience. The previous day's trip to the Ice Lake was the only reason I continued farther along to Letdar.

Letdar is another 200 meters higher than Yak Kharka, so the day's elevation change was close to 700 meters, which one should be aware of. I had to plan on where I would stay over not just that night, but the next. If staying in Thorung Phedi? Yak Kharka would have been perfect. However, with my previous day's side trip, I figured the next night at the Thorung Phedi High Camp wouldn't present too much of an issue. Staying in Letdar, then, seemed to make the most sense.

Letdar was an hour past Yak Kharka. With so few choices of where to stay, I simply hoped that there was available room, since I arrived late relative to many others. Thankfully, the Churri Lettar had room. Since I was solo, I would end up staying in their dorm setting. At only 100 Rs, it was a steal. Soon after putting my things away, I noticed a youngster and decided to give out another set of crayons and a memo pad. The mother explained to me that she was teaching her how to write and speak English. Our culture really is having an impact around the globe. What mattered more, to me, was that it again seemed to make the parent happy. It doesn't take much to make a change, so perhaps that little girl will someday become interested in art or become a voice for people to empowere themselves.

I enjoyed a late lunch and had an early dinner of Daal Bhat. Two plates of this meal filled me up nicely. I would then retire to the dorm, where I was the only person. I was guilty of enjoying a little bit of home before falling asleep. I downloaded several movies onto my tablet, and the one I watched, that night, was Wall-E. The message of the film seems fitting, in retrospect. With the day starting off with the brief discussion about the people revering the mountains as gods and being aware of climate change, ending it with a movie that had such a strong message about how we treat the world just hammered home my feelings of remorse for what we've done. Despite this, it strengthened my willingness to at least try to help fix the ills, instead of just feel sorry for our future.

Cost: 2200 Rs
Approx. distance trekked: 9km
Next up: Day nine brings me to the Thorung Phedi High Camp!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Annapurna Circuit Trek: Days 6 and 7

DAY 6: Pisang to Manang

The sixth day would actually be one of the shortest, time-wise. After waking to grab my clothes and seeing the beautiful shimmer of the snow that had fallen the night before was a great start. After breakfast, I made my way out of Pisang at around 8:30am.

The day was rather uneventful, with the high point being the unbelievable views of Annapurna II, III, and IV after Hongde, where I checked into the police checkpost. Once I arrived in Manang, I looked through the potential spots to stay at. The choice ended up being the Tilicho Hotel, where I would stay for the following two nights. However, on this day, I would make my way up near the Chongarr viewpoint and get a close-up view of the glacial lake called Gangapurna Tal. The meltwater from the glacier below Gangapurna is responsible for this beautiful milky blue water.

Gangapurna Tal

Later in the evening, I attempted to upload a picture online - which did not work - and checked emails. Around 6:00pm, I checked through my pictures on the camera to find that mysteriously none would come up. Thankfully, they had not been lost, but the memory card was useless until I could format it, later. Manang, being the village with practically everything you would need, was where I purchased an 8gb SD card. This would have to do, for now.

DAY 7: Acclimatization Day in Manang

This day was meant to help one acclimate to the elevation. After looking through how much time I possibly had, I chose to not go to Tilicho Tal the next day, but instead head to Kicho Tso - the Ice Lake. The easiest route there is to return south to Bragha, and then follow the markings up to the lake. This was no easy feat, as one will end up hiking around 8 km or so there, not to mention be hit with an altitude change of over 1 km in just three to four hours. The difference between 3520 meters and 4600 meters may not seem like much, but to do so in one day without going back down can lead to significant health problems.

The views about halfway up were possibly some of the most stunning of the entire trek. Seeing The three Annapurnas, Gangapurna, Manaslu, Tilicho Peak, Langtang, and many more was something you just can't forget.

View from about 4100m up on the way to Kicho Tso

About two hours later, I finally reached the Ice Lake, but also now had an absolutely splitting headache, as well as a bad cough. Knowing that getting back down would be the best medicine, I took a handful of pictures and bounded back down. The return trip down was easily just over half the time it took to get up. Once I reached the beginning of Bragha, I was greeted by a little girl of maybe three yelling "Namaste!" quite happily! As exhausted as I was, that certainly helped lift my spirits, quite a bit. An hour later, at around 3:00pm, I was back in Manang, where I took it easy for the remainder of the day. The next three days I would now be far away from anything that would remind me of civilization.

Cost: 4200Rs (for both days)
Approx. distance trekked: 29 km (for both days)