Day 5 Stats:
Starting elevation: 10,970 @ Upper Pisang
Ending elevation: 11,590 @ Manang
Net gain: 620
Total hiking ascent: 2,090
Total hiking descent: 1,470
Dal Bhat meals: 2.5 1/2 meal being what we were so graciously offered in Nawal to participate in the Lucky Day feast. One being the worst we have had and 1.5 being the best. At least there was more good than bad!
Cost for teahouse for 3 nights (board, dinners and 1 breakfast for 2. We we had to indulge in the fried yumminess on the street for most breakfasts!): 2,880Nrs ~$26 USD
The first half of Day 5 felt like a Nepali fairytale. At dawn, Rob and I were awakened by the sound of a gong from the monastery above as the monks began their morning prayers. We stayed in bed for a bit and watched the clouds reveal the snow covered peak and ridge line of Annapurna II. It glowed in the morning sun and looked nearly fake as it sat so high in the sky. We were finally getting a clear view of the majestic mountain that has been hiding behind the low hanging clouds we hiked under through the valley yesterday. The sounds of the monks playing drums above us ushered me out of bed and onto the balcony where I meditated and did a few sun salutations for the morning to prepare my mind and body, all under the glowing Annapurnas. It was the best way to start what was going to be our most physically challenging day of the trek thus far.
Leaving Upper Pisang we both hoped to encounter the smell of fried onion balls or doughnuts to pick up as snacks for the road. Little fried nosh is a very common Nepali item in the morning, but we were only been fortunate enough to come by any yesterday on our way out of Chame, a much a larger village. The doughnut we ate was so fluffy and warm and satisfying we really wanted another to start today. It certainly would have helped us as we made a grueling ascent right out of town. We were climbing STEEP switchbacks 1,200 ft straight up a mountain. Moving from 11,000 to over 12,000 ft first thing in the morning had us winded and moving slow. We stopped often and when Rob looked at the map at one point and told me were only 1/3 of the way up I couldn’t believe it. We both tapped into every bit of strength we had and climbed and climbed some more to reach the lovely mountain top village of Ghyaru, complete with stunning views over the valley and pink buckwheat fields. It’s an old stone village and had a charm about it as the many prayer flags flew from the roofs. We crossed through the town and began what we hoped would be a more leisurely hike into Nawal for lunch. Along the way we caught glimpses of Annapurna IV as it too glowed from the sun shining on the snow. The landscape and the air today are both more arid. Huge mountains surround us where you can see the tree line as the evergreens form where they no longer fill the space above. Long waterfalls trickle through the crevices from high above. The trail to lunch has us walking above a beautiful green pasture where we watch deer, horses, and Nepali bharal grazing below us.
Turning the corner into Nawal we each exhaled a heavy sigh. Both at arriving to rest after a taxing morning and seeing how picturesque the village is sitting perched in the mountains, surrounded in buckwheat fields and overlooking the valley. Again, I felt I was in a fairy tale. We strolled into the village and chose to eat at the very first teahouse that seemed alive. I began to feel low energy as we finished our trek to lunch and hoped that some nourishing food and rest for my feet would build me back up. As we sat down we heard the chanting of monks and Daddie Gizmo asked if he could peer into the room where it was coming from. We both did and saw half a dozen monks seated on cushions playing instruments and praying. We were told that today is a Lucky Day and all the village people were coming to the teahouse we had chosen to eat their special meal. While listening to the music and chanting emanating from the room behind us, in front of us were the older women preparing for a feast. Tearing lettuce for salad, grinding curry powder, washing vegetables and dishes and more. The atmosphere felt very special and we soaked in the opportunity to be included in this moment. As our food was served so were plates of Dal Bhat for the monks and the women. Huge pots of rice, potato curry and papa (the homemade thin cracker that accompanies this dish) were brought to the courtyard area to serve everyone. We hadn’t ordered Dal Bhat for lunch, but our hosts were so gracious to offer us a bowl of the potato curry (the best we have had so far!), local salad (lettuce with a very spicy dressing) and papa. It was so unexpected and kind for them to include us in their festive meal. Lunch was delicious and special and we left the teahouse knowing we just had one of our most cherished moments of the trail so far.
Unfortunately, lunch did not give me the energy I was hoping for. I think the altitude wore me down today and I moved quite slow the rest of the day. Daddie Gizmo was only a little faster. For all of our climbing in the morning, the afternoon began with a huge descent where we lost nearly everything we had gained. We hiked down through loose sand and gravel and then a fairly flat trail through the mountains. Fortunately, the scenery continued to inspire us to move our feet forward as we neared Braga. We planned to spend 2 nights in this village to acclimatize to the altitude, but all the lodges were closed for low season. Instead, we enjoyed a tea and Coke for a little boost to get us to the next village of Manang. Thankfully, only another 25 minutes. Daddie Gizmo informed me before we left Braga that he was “not much for this world” and was ready to settle in for the day. We pulled our tired bodies into town about 4, the latest to date, and found a suitable teahouse with a room that has a great view. After two necessary showers, hand washing our laundry and bellies full of fried rice we climbed into bed with the pleasant knowledge that we were sleeping in tomorrow.
The following day we visited the village doctor so that Daddie Gizmo could get some relief for the stomach issues he has been dealing with for the past week. We were relieved to get the medicine he needed very easily and quickly so that he could rest and recover. And surprised that it was all free. Feeling depleted and erring on the side of caution for more time to rest and rehydrate, we opted to stay a second full day in Manang. The second day, I ventured out and explored the village, crossing the river and hiking around Gangapurna Lake. It was a nice quiet place to meditate while the sun was shining in mid afternoon. Even though I set my alarm for 5 every morning when the sky is normally the clearest, I didn’t get any wide clear views of the hiding Himalayas. Instead, I saw it was cloudy and snuggled back up for an hour or so. It’s the rainy season and we traded expansive Himalayan views for cool cloudy days, minimal trekkers in trail and low season costs. Plus, the timing was perfect! So, any peak I get of those beauties makes my heart skip a beat. All in all, Manang served us well for purposes of acclimatization, rest and relaxation. Plus, it’s a big enough village that we were able to score our fried samosas and Tibetan bread from the local purveyors for breakfast nosh again. Tomorrow we are going to take it easy and only trek another 2 hours to a higher village, Khangsar, where we can further acclimatize on the way to our side trip to the one of the highest lake in the world, Tilicho, resting at over 16,000 ft high.