Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Annapurna Ciruit Trek: Day 10

DAY 10: Thorung Phedi High Camp to Ranipauwa

Apologies for the long delay in posts. I have slacked, and really have no excuse for it. However, today's post has a highlight that goes beyond the goal of crossing the Thorung La pass. Some people may not believe that, but considering who I am trying to raise money for, it ties right in.

After waking at around 6:00 AM, I went for breakfast. First of all? It is extremely cold. At 16,000 feet? There are also dangers from the altitude. I felt a little nauseous, but otherwise was good. After getting ready, I started to look through all of the stickers and business cards that lined the walls that advertised the trekking and tour companies. I asked about leaving one of the cards I made for this blog. Initially they mistakenly thought I worked for World Wildlife Fund. When that was quickly cleared up, I then spoke with the owner of the lodge for about 20 minutes. The story he then told gave me chills.

The day before I had arrived, at around mid-day, a baby yak had fallen from the short cliff face on my left that I walked past as I reached the top. Well, it startled the people that work at the lodge, and they went to check on the animal. It had unfortunately died, but the wounds that were in the yak weren't from the fall. In fact, the wounds were made by another animal. Not from another yak, as yaks are also not too commonly living at such a high altitude. The wounds were from a carnivore, but there is only one large carnivore within that area: a snow leopard.

Taken in Manang

Usually snow leopards are found much farther west at the time of year that I was there. The thought is that a handful of snow leopards followed a food source that moved east. How did this happen, however? Was the snow leopard a cub that was newly out on its own, and simply make a mistake or was unable to carry the weight of the baby yak? Did the baby get away and unfortunately fall? It's strange to see snow leopards at that elevation during a time where it gets colder, so to me, it speaks of desperation, by the animal. When the owner of the lodge told me of this story, and about his own personal reverence for the animal, as well as for most wildlife, it gave me chills and I had a smile broader than probably any during my entire trip.

After putting off leaving for some time, I set off. It was about 7:30 AM, and I had to stop procrastinating. I started off. The year before, it took me approximately three plus hours to make it to the Thorung La. This year, it took just less than two and a half. At a point only maybe twenty minutes before the pass, I passed a sight I saw a couple times the year before, also: someone vomiting. The altitude is something that not everyone takes seriously. The day trip to the ice lake outside of Manang helped me cope, despite the slight symptoms I felt.

Turned around and captured this image of a lone trekker behind me.

I then did it. I reached the Thorung La Pass. 5416 meters up. 17,700 feet high. I have friends that skydive. I admire that. It's something that I want to do, someday. What amazes me is that at an advanced level in skydiving, people jump from around 14,000 feet. What makes me smile and go "wow" is that I have twice stood at an elevation where there is over three miles of solid ground underneath my feet. An elevation that is almost 4,000 feet higher than friends that have jumped out of a plane. When thinking of it in this abstract way, how can one not be proud of what they have done?

You'll never walk alone, indeed!

Now comes the part that could possibly be even harder: going down. After going up about 1,700 feet, that morning, I now had to go down approximately one vertical mile. 1,600 meters down. 1,200 of that would be in the next two hours. This can be absolute hell on ones knees and back. After a pit stop where I had a brief chat with the mountain bikers, again, I kept plugging along. Despite there being fewer trekkers, this year, I knew that getting to Ranipauwa soon was important. Get there too late, and you could be searching in desperation for a room. This holds true even moreso for solo travelers, as many rooms are made as doubles, and one person spends less than two.

I arrived in Ranipauwa at around 2:00 PM, which is rather early. Of all places, I ended up staying at the Bob Marley Hotel. You read that right! After taking a hot shower, which was the only one I would take during the entire 16 days of the trek, I used the time to relax and plot out the remainder of the trek. After meeting again with the mountain bikers as well as the two german gentleman I had run across on two other occasions, I relaxed over a movie on my tablet, and went to sleep. The next day was a big one, as it was second only to the trip to Chame with regard to distance.

Cost: 2000 Rs
Approx. distance trekked: 11 km
Next up: Ranipauwa to Marpha