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Last Trek Report

TREK REPORT – Manang, February/March 2009

Lake at the base of the Gangapurna Glacier, Manang
Lake at the base of the Gangapurna Glacier, Manang

At Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport Jan, Kerrie and Alan looked pretty fresh having only travelled from Bangkok. Frank and Roger (Raj) seemed pretty relaxed flying in from Delhi an hour later. Apparently, India was more of a trial than a delight and they were both very pleased to be in Nepal. Dorje and Mangal took our guests out to Kopan (the Benchen Gompa was full up with devotees) while I waited in vain for our sixth member. I must have misread his email because Dennis never showed up. Eric, my partner, was already in Kathmandu so, over a candle-lit dinner (by necessity) the seven of us got to know each other – very pleasant company.

Sunday was the usual pre-trek circus. Passport photos for permits, trekking gear purchased, money exchanged for rupees – all interspersed with pleasant spells at the Weizen for refreshments. The guides took the group for a stroll around the old bazaars of Kathmandu while I found a couple more rucksacks and did the ‘admin thing’. Great having Eric along to help. Another ‘romantic’ dinner at the Shambala Resort after some pretty hair-raising taxi rides.

TREKKING – Day 1: Our driver finally found us out at Kopan and by 8.30 we were on our way. This was Maha Shiva Ratri – Shiva’s birthday, so kids stopped the bus for money over and over and over again. An hour below Besi Sahar a row of red-clad women sat across the road to form a ‘banda’ or strike. A local man had been killed while illegally connecting up to the electricity (the pole fell over). His family wanted compensation. 2 hours of negotiations later we were away but arrived in Besi Sahar too late (5 pm) to walk out to Bhulbule. Overnighted at the Mongolian Hotel, always a pleasant experience, and had a look around town in the evening.

Day 2: We took the jeep to Bhulbule next morning in order to get back onto our original itinerary – not wishing to repeat last season’s stay at Ngadi. We had lunch at Ngadi and they assured us the rice rats were just a seasonal thing!! It was a lovely, sunny day but a long hot climb up to Bahun Danda at the end. The rain clouds gathered, it started to spit but it held off pouring until we were settled in the Super View lodge. Frank and Raj were way ahead of us all day and appeared to have had a few beers by the time the rest of us arrived. Big sleep.

Manang Trek
Manang Trek
Manang Trek
Manang Trek

Day 3: The landscape looked great, freshly washed by the first rain in three months. Farmers looked happy. Through the steeply terraced rice fields it’s quite a long walk to Shyange for lunch – but they make great chips. I think we all ‘got horizontal’ while waiting for the food (always a slow process in Nepal). Met old friends along the way and gave out photos (thanks Carol). The afternoon was quite tough on the newlybuilt (well, all right, half-$ nished) road. It was steep, dirty and exhausting. The recent rain and overcast conditions meant it was a lot less hot and dusty than last season. All tired on arrival at Jagat, though Frank and Raj had ‘been there for ages’. The lodge is a bit of a ‘work in progress’. Access to our upper- floor rooms was via the steepest of stairs (a ladder really). Still, the rooms were spacious, the beds were big and the bucket showers were excellent.

Day 4 of our trek was one of the hardest. It is very pretty along the river bank outside Jagat but the trail soon starts to climb. Up, up, up for a rather long morning tea-break (45 minutes). Frank and Raj were already miles ahead. Took our lunch at Chamje where I dressed a very bad leg wound. After lunch it was a real slog up to Tal. It’s rather exciting along the cliffs above the Marsyangdi’s raging turquoise water below us. The sound seemed like thunder at times. Well, maybe it was thunder because it started spitting rain well before we got in. Luckily, it was no more than that. The heavens didn’t really open till we were safe in our lodge. More big beds with thick mattresses – and excellent rice pudding.

Day 5 is uphill again, naturally, but not quite so savagely now. The morning broke clear and sunny with glimpses of Lamjung Himal. Just teeshirts this morning and a long leisurely lunch at Dharapani with two adorable puppies (Tibetan Mastiff) which Eric wanted to take home. A pity he didn’t as the dogs were poisoned by someone a few days later. The afternoon was a lot easier with extensive ! at sections on a well-made but unused new road. We reached Danakyu in good time, just before the rain started. A bit concerned about how much snow might be on the ground higher up. A round of Khukri Rum with Coke, a small coal brazier (our first fire) warmed up the atmosphere. We made some good friends in Anita and Nicole from Germany, Orr from Israel and a very German guy called ????? (suggestions welcome). Frank was in fine voice as we relived the era of movie musicals after dinner. We couldn’t stay awake long enough to enjoy our own boys singing and dancing but went o% to bed with their music lulling us to sleep. Since it was Lhosar (Tibetan New Year) they were soon joined by A LOT of rowdy locals.

It was a very pleasant walk from Thanchok to Chame, mostly downhill on another new but unused jeep road – except for a couple of mountain-bikers. This time the rain did catch us as we slogged through the last hour of pine forest. Still, the jackets worked and the little cabins at our lodge were very comfortable. The 44 gallon drum-sized stove in the dining room did a great job and all our new friends were there – Sonya, Orr, etc.

Eric and puppies at Dharapani
Eric and puppies at Dharapani

Day 6: The clear morning revealed gorgeous peaks. Lamjung Himal down the valley and Annapurna II up ahead. It’s a very steep climb out of Danakyu but only for about half an hour. The trail then flattens out through a beautiful forest of Rhododendron, Beech and Chestnut, with a perfumed under-storey of Daphne. The red rhododendrons were in flower and the smell of Daphne was overpowering. Moist and mossy, soft underfoot – real Hobbit country. The woods open onto high pastures where horses are kept and the trail winds through the fields to Thanchok, a cluster of medieval-looking wooden houses. Huge bulls grazing on the trail could have been quite frightening in a different setting. Lunch was in a rather cold, drab teahouse but Mangal and Lahar rustled up a great lunch of veggie noodle soup (our favourite) and way too many chips, with the help of their kitchen-boy Bharat.


Day 7: We did a quick round of the internet café and shops and made a fairly late start up the hill for Pisang. The trail out of Pisang looks innocuous enough but it wears you down with its slight but persistent gradient. It’s over two hours to the first tea stop at Baratang and we needed a good long break. Alan and Eric opted to go ahead (Frank and Raj were well ahead) and get our lunch order in at Dukri Pokhari. After half an hour Alan was back, certain that Kerrie, his wife, couldn’t possibly make it up the steep section up the road, just after the bridge.

Kerrie wanted badly to continue and we assured Alan that the steep section he could see from the bridge was indeed brutal but very short and the rest of the trail was much less demanding. I bribed Kerrie with a Toblerone and she really fought to get up that ridge. Great e% ort Kerrie! It is lovely in the pine forest at the top but hard to enjoy the scenery when you are gasping for breath. This is 3,000 metres plus and the altitude had just become a major factor. It was such a long hard pull up to Dukri Pokhari that we decided to stay the night and catch up with Raj and Frank later. The lodge was ‘rustic’ to say the least but the cooking was surprisingly good and the stove was a little ripper. Inconvenient was the kindest thing you could say about the toilet.

Day 8: Having called an early halt the day before it would have been too difficult to make it to Manang as per our plan so we opted to stay at Humde, halfway between Pisang and Manang. This is usually a pleasant lunch stop at the immaculate little Snowland Lodge and I had often wished I could stay there. Very clean rooms and facilities, cute dining room with ‘hot table’ and a cosy and welcoming kitchen. It was indeed a very long day for some trekkers. It’s a big long pull up out of Pisang, gradual but endless, then about 10 kilometres of gradual downhill and flat. It was a VERY BIG DAY OUT.

Day 9: Didn’t need an early start today as we hadn’t so very far to go. It was nice easy walking with stunning views but the group were all feeling the altitude a bit. So it was ‘one foot in front of the other’ for a few hours and, inspired by magnificent scenery, we made it into Manang for lunch – that’s over 3,500 metres. Well done gang! Caught up with friends Nicole and Anita. Frank and Raj had a great day. They arrived the night before so were ready to ‘do it all’ today – so they did – fuelled on Sprite by the sound of things. The rest of us opted for a shower and a visit to the bakery for hot chocolates and Danish pastries. Eric even scored a hot apple crumble with custard at another bakery. Well done you.

A never-ending stream of people, possibly invited by Frank, poured into our dining room for singing and dancing this evening. Firstly from our own porters, led by Kaji on guitar and Dorje on Madal, then by one of our guests (from Perth) who sang and played songs from Crowded House and U2. She had a unique and lovely way of singing which bespoke some professional experience as a performer. It was back to Nepali folk music and Pan ko pat for a stomping and cheering end to the night.

Day 10: A restful morning with a long lie-in and breakfast taken at leisure for a change. Frank and Raj headed for the hills again, to Kangsar, while the rest of us took a slow stroll over to the lake at the base of the Gangapurna Glacier. It was a fabulous shade of turquoise. We saw a few eagles and a couple of small avalanches. Khaji easily won the stone-skipping contest. Went to the cosy little movie theatre, heated (intermittently) by a yak-dung fire, to see ‘7 Years in Tibet’ AGAIN.

Day 11: On the eleventh day of our trek we headed back down the trail on a fine, clear day with the peaks shining against a deep blue sky. By mid-morning a strong wind was in our faces and we were glad to pile into the sheltered sun-trap of the Snowland’s courtyard for lunch. There’s a short climb back over the ridge from where the whole Manang Valley is laid out in front of you but we didn’t linger in the cold wind on the ridge. As soon as we dropped down behind the hill it was a comfortable, downhill walk back to Pisang. The little cabins were cosy and we had a couple of drinks round the fire with new Israeli friends Nurit and Udi while Khaji got his guitar out.

Day 12: It didn’t take very long to reach the first tea stop at Dukri Pokhari so we kept going before we had a break. It took a fair bit longer than we expected and we needed a veggie noodle soup at Baratang. We stopped for another quick bite at Chame but by then it was 3 pm so we didn’t hang around. It was decided to have a crack at making Timang, our planned stop, but to bail out at Thanchok if we had to. We made it but only just. It was 6.30 in fading light when Kerrie, Alan, Jan, Eric and myself stumbled (quite literally) into Timang. We felt like crying when we saw that our rooms were UPSTAIRS!

Day 13: We tried to get off earlier this morning to give ourselves a better shot at Tal. It seemed reasonable and we expected to be there by 4 pm. There were so many delays from donkey trains and roadworks that it was very slow going. We needed a fairly short lunch break at Danakyu and Eric and myself just caught up with Kerrie, Alan and Jan there as they were getting ready to leave. The trail down to Dharapani was a bit rough and Eric was terribly hurt by the news that the two puppies had been poisoned by some evil-minded locals who had ‘issues’ with the owner. It still seemed feasible to make Tal by 4 pm but then it started to rain. And it rained and it rained and it rained. I quite liked it with my hood off and the rain keeping me cool but I don’t think it was everyone’s cup of tea. Good to be back in our familiar lodge in Tal though we did meet some adventurous (foolhardy) types heading up the trail from Tal at 5 pm while it was raining heavily – with the nearest lodge two hours up the road and dusk at 6.30???

Nepal WomanDay 14 The steep descent from Tal was much easier going downhill but still required great care to navigate the rocky trail. Still, this was our fourteenth day on trek and our legs were strong and we had all become much more sure-footed. After a quick cuppa at the bottom of the hill we were off to Chamje for lunch. It was packed to the rafters – I hadn’t seen this many Germans in one place since, well, Germany. There were about 30 people in our teahouse but luckily we ordered just before they arrived. Kerrie had not had her best morning. She did say ‘I’m fed up’ when asked how she was which I think showed remarkable restraint. She was quite happy for the lunch to take as long as it liked. It was twilight as we trudged the last dusty kilometres into Shyange. The ‘proper’ shower with real hot water was a treat. Our boys went into the village to party but we were far too tired to join them. Slept with the windows wide open to let in the warm night air. Went to sleep with the sound of the river rushing just below us and a full moon shining in on us.

Day 15 Kerrie, Jan and Raj (feeling a bit under-theweather) opted to take the jeep with all the luggage and the porters to Bhulbule today. Alan strode out with Frank while Eric and I dawdled behind all day. Lahar and Purna even took our day-packs which made the walking pretty easy, apart from Bahun Danda which is a ‘bastard of a hill’ no matter which side you approach from. Frank had consumed ‘a few’ by the time we arrived and there was a hysterically funny exchange between himself and a German guy who had heard that Frank had just ‘finished a book’. It turned out he meant ‘reading’ not ‘writing’. He wasn’t a publisher!

Day 16 Today we commandeered a minibus which took us all the way to Pokhara. It was Holi the Hindu festival which is a welcoming of Spring, and a celebration of the triumph of good over evil. Everyone buys coloured powders and gets a huge laugh out of smearing it on your face. By the end of the day we were all totally splattered and our boys got lots of female victims from the safety of the bus window. There was a lot of singing and clapping as we rolled along on a warm afternoon. We cleaned up a bit for lunch and thought we were safe towards the end of the day but our hosts in Pokhara just got us all over again as we stepped off the bus at the Lake Diamond Hotel. Hot showers, real bread, fresh coffee and clean clothes – heaven!

Trekking Group
Trekking Group

Day 17 Relax. Relax. Relax. There was boating on the lake, there was shopping, there was a great dinner and a cultural show in the evening. Nice easy day.

Day 18 On the road again, this time in a nice, big, clean bus. We followed the scenic route back to Kathmandu with a good lunch en route at the little oasis called Riverside Springs Resort.

Eric had to take a ‘sickie’ today so I took the rest of the volunteers into Thamel for a look around Durbar Square and some more serious shopping. Miraculously, Eric was well enough to join us for a whopping pizza dinner at the Roadhouse in Thamel but we were all happy to get back to our quiet suburb to sleep (after yet another hair-raising taxi ride). Somehow we saw the lovely old stupa at Boda but, as I write this journal, I can’t for the life of me remember how or when!

Frank and Raj went off on more ‘secret men’s business’ today which naturally involved heaps of serious trekking up and down hills. Kerrie, Alan and Jan didn’t have to leave until the afternoon so we sat in the French Garden Café reading the local papers in the sunshine and took a little time out to see the library and teaching projects I am involved with. Postscript: Having a quiet breakfast ON MY OWN in the Weizen the next day when who should stroll in but Frank and Raj. Have since run into Sonya (from Chame and Manang); she crossed the Thorung La successfully (though she looked very thin) and Yuri, the Russian guy from Manang (also successful) who is sitting at the next table eating momos and salad as I write this up.

Thanks for coming folks. I know it was a lot harder than some of you expected but the way you hung in there does you credit. I hope Chitwan was good for you, Frank and Raj, and that you survived your Delhi transit. Look forward to catching up with some of you when I am back in Melbourne and Kerrie, Alan and Jan, when I am next in Perth. Thanks again for being such a great group. Love, T.

Acknowledgements: Frank Jones, Desktop Dynamics, Geelong (editing & layout).

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Read also trekking report – 2006 and 2007