Time to reach higher altitudes again to get closer to Thorung-La... and search for a perfect apple pie in between of course;)

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April 14th 2013
Published: May 11th 2013
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D7 – Chame to Lower Pisang (3,200m)

A new year was starting that day in Nepal – and it looked like from one day to the other I have aged quite a bit as they were celebrating year 2070 (Hindu calendar)! So officially I became a granny – 90-year-old granny for that matter! 😉 Still it didn’t seem like there were going to be any celebrations taking place around here. I asked Prem whether people were doing something for new year here and he said that it was very family orientated holiday – families would just spend time together, maybe went to a picnic but that would be all. It certainly is a very different way to celebrating New Year comparing to what goes around in Europe, as there it is simply another excuse to spend money and have some drinks… Ah well…

You could certainly feel that we were getting higher as the mornings and evenings were becoming quite chilly. And the further up we went it was going to get only colder. We were told in the morning to put some extra layers on just in case. It seemed to be a pretty good advice as shortly after we left Chame the skies became all grey and with no sun it sure wasn’t too hot. Slightly different scenery again that day, as most of the morning we were walking through a dense pine forest. We made it to the tea break place just before the rain again but this time it looked like it wasn’t going to stop raining anytime soon, so everybody just layered up in some warmer clothes and waterproof (or semi-waterproof in my case) jackets and we set off to Pisang. I really didn’t mind the rain that much (that much are the clue words here!) but since I didn’t take out the gloves my hands were absolutely frozen from the rain. Also I was getting slightly frustrated as the views were pretty amazing as usual but it sure wasn’t that easy to take photos in this weather – I certainly didn’t want to get my lens all wet and it already was getting all foggy... So was trying to hide it under my raincoat somehow only to get some funny looks and comments (thankfully mostly from my group though) as my belly seemed to have grown in size a bit making me look quite... well pregnant (I say due to the size of my camera close to giving birth even! 😉). At some point it even started snowing! It didn’t last too long but said enough about the temperature… Thankfully the snow and rain were gone after a while and the skies started getting clearer once more… And once we left the forest some amazing views started appearing behind our backs again – as surely mountain peaks covered in snow are always a great sight to look upon!

Once we got to Lower Pisang we left our stuff in the guesthouse and set off for a little acclimatisation trek up to a monastery in Upper Pisang. It definitely feels harder for me to breathe at the altitude above 3,000m and it sure takes more energy to walk above this level – I really do feel the difference! Pisang lies just on the side of the hill and it certainly looks different to other towns we passed by along the way. The buildings are not as colourful as in previous villages, they are simply made of stone/bricks with no paint on the walls at all. It’s nice to see that not only the scenery is changing around us, but the villages are becoming diverse as well. It was a bit of the climb to the Gompa, so again had to catch a few breaths here and there. Once we reached the top we went inside the monastery – they feel so peaceful and spiritual always! Beautiful, very detailed paintings on the walls, the pictures of Dalai Lama hanging here and there, the whole inside so colourful! Really love these monasteries!

The evenings were getting much colder at this stage so an idea of a hot shower was flying through our heads on the way back to our guesthouse, but it quickly faded away as somebody said there was no hot water at all… Well it sure was an easy decision for me, no shower then! I lasted a week without a shower on the Everest trek, so a few days without one here wouldn’t hurt either! I seemed to be a centre of entertainment when I ordered an apple pie for dinner again! 😊 Ah well… since there was no shower, I had to cheer myself up somehow right? 😉

D8 – Lower Pisang to Manang (3,540m)

It sure was a cold night but thankfully with extra blanket it wasn’t that bad. I was just hoping that the other guesthouses further up would have some spare blankets as well, as otherwise I could be in trouble... Well I guess I would just need to layer up a bit more… It was nice to wake up to blue skies again and even nicer to see more snowy peaks appearing all around us once again – like Annapurna II! And we could see it just from around the corner of our guesthouse! And the views were only meant to get better that day!

It became pretty hot in the morning, this time the sun wasn’t the main cause of it though, it was just the steep trail that raised my blood pressure and made me sweat a bit more than usual. 😉 Much slower pace than the days before as well… Again we were walking along the river and were surrounded by beautiful views and some mighty peaks as well – Annapurna II in the back and Pisang on the right side of the trail. Then a pleasant walk through some more pine forests and it was time for a tea break in Humde – you can actually catch a flight here but have to check it really carefully as there are only a few per week (depending on the weather as well of course). Besides the airport the first thing that caught my eye in Humde was a bakery just at the entrance to the town! There was a woman sitting right in front of it with a tray full of fresh pastries. Hmmm… I was tempted but thought that surely there would be more things like that at our tea place. Sadly there were no pastries there, but my mind was set already and just couldn’t let it go so went back to the bakery. 😊 Got a few laughs when I got back to the tea house as bought two pastries while everybody else had only one piece (it just was too difficult whether to take a cinnamon roll or a chocolate pastry, so just took both! 😉) Once you feel like having something and it’s just in front of your eyes, what’s the point in resisting the temptation right? 😉 Honestly looking back at the Everest trek I’m quite sure I wasn’t eating enough there, hence the energy levels were pretty low as well, so this time decided to stock up on food a bit while I still had appetite as the plan was not only to make it through the pass but all the way to Pokhara, and there were quite a few days of trekking left… Or actually the plan was not to get sick again… But then you can’t really control it, can you? Ah well… time would tell…

Shortly after we left Humde, the scenery started taking different shapes again as this huge space suddenly opened up ahead of us and we could see amazing mountain ranges all around – Annapurnas II, II and IV seemed to have appeared out of nowhere right in front of us! Simply breathtaking! Sadly the pictures don’t do justice to the panoramas all around… You could just sit there and stare at the mountain range forever... We just couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather that day cause if we had a similar day to the one before we wouldn’t have been able to see anything at all…

We continued walking next to the river all the way to Manang, again beautiful open areas all around, fields full of horses, few stupas here and there and lovely villages full of bakeries (yep! Everybody from my group made sure to point them out to me, haha!). We got to Manang just in time for lunch – I was surprised to see more variety on the menu – Mexican food, burgers… not to mention apple pies, apple crumbles, carrot cakes, chocolate cakes and brownies – it turned out we had a bakery in our guesthouse! Oops! I sure was in trouble! 😉 And all my buddies knew that also! We had free time after lunch, so most of us went for a walk around Manang. I was pretty tired and slightly dehydrated (yep! Not drinking enough water again! Will never learn!) so just decided to chillax at our guesthouse. Somebody said that we could take hot shower in here, so quickly ran for it, but whoever spread this rumour either used the whole hot water himself or was just exaggerating quite a bit as the water was nowhere close to hot, not even warm actually, ah well… it still felt good to be clean (especially that it was pretty dusty on the road that day). The afternoon flew by and soon it was time for dinner. Seeing all these cakes on the menu before I knew what I would be having after dinner without even looking at it again. Hmmm… Apple crumble… And it sure was a great choice! It was absolutely amazing! One of the best apple crumbles I’ve ever had! Well breakfast choice was pretty easy for me then… 😉

D9 – Acclimatisation day in Manang

I was one of the first ones to show up for breakie and it seemed that I was there just in time as it looked like there were only 3 pieces of apple crumble left. There were a few unhappy faces around because of that… First come, first served, right? Straight after breakfast we set off for our acclimatisation trek to a nearby gompa. It was another beautiful sunny day and shortly after we started walking up the narrow, dusty trail, incredible peaks appeared right in front of our faces again – Annapurnas II, III, IV and Gangapurna! Absolutely breathtaking panoramas all around! Also you could see the whole Manang up from the trail – all the houses built in the same way, all made from stones with flat rooftops and poles with prayer flags stuck on each of them, what a lovely town!

We stopped for two short breaks on the way – first at a big stupa and then higher up on the hill with four smaller stupas again. We made some group shots in here and straight after headed to the monastery. It was a pretty steep climb, but thankfully a pretty short one. We were supposed to get a blessing from a ‘Hundred Lama’ up in the monastery – apparently he’s called a Hundred Lama because he takes 100 rupees for a blessing and besides he’s pretty close to becoming 100 years old as well as he’s 94 at the moment. Sadly he was sick and was recovering in Kathmandu at the time we were there, but eventually we were greeted by another monk which was replacing the Lama at that time. Each of us got a necklace and a blessing and later on we just sat in the room with the monk, had a cup of tea and had a chance to ask the monk all sorts of questions about Buddhism. I say we got lost in translation a bit in here, as the monk seemed to be talking and talking but once Chandra started translating the responses seemed pretty short, which brought a few laughs in our group of course. It sure was a unique kind of experience and I can say that I definitely feel a bit enlightened already. 😉

Once again we had plenty of free time after our short trek. I was thinking first of going for a walk to a nearby lake that was visible from high up on the trail that morning but as usual got way too cosy once we got to our guesthouse so gave up this thought pretty quickly. Besides it was high time I did some laundry, so at least had a good excuse to stay in. Again fell for the same rumour about a hot shower… yep! Will never learn! It sure was 'refreshing'! But then it looked like the next two nights there would definitely be no shower, so it was worth it anyhow!

There were quite a few people in the dining area sitting around, chatting, playing cards, reading, just chillaxing really. Again I had a lot of time to think (simply too much free time on my hands) about the past few years… So many things had happened in between… So many ups and downs, lots of tears but then as much laughter (especially the last few months). It sure was good, being so far away from all the past, to look at that time from a different perspective now, look at the decisions I made at the time and lessons I have learned in between. Obviously there was no end to learning yet and don’t think there ever would be, but I felt I finally was on a good path. I remembered how only a few months before I was dreading doing this trip on my own. But at that moment I knew that I was in the right place now, whatever answers I was looking for, I didn't feel like I needed to get them now as I knew I was going to find them sooner or later. I knew this trip made me a bit stronger already and it was only the beginning, so I was sure there were more good things and experiences coming my way… Guess the monk's blessing was working already. 😉
tough work!tough work!tough work!

especially that it was pretty cold and some of the men were working in sandals!

D10 – Manang to Yak Kharka (4,018m)

Another day of trekking, another day of beautiful views… When you think it can’t get any better, well… you’re just damn wrong! Every day on this trek just brought more and more amazing panoramas… Once we were leaving Manang, I started regretting a bit that I didn’t walk around it as it sure was a very charming town. The old stone-walled buildings, narrow alleys – simply beautiful! And it was set right next to the mighty Annapurnas! Perfect location! Most of the time throughout our walk that day we were able to see amazing views of Annapurnas II, III, IV and Gangapurna again. So it sure was difficult not to stop now and then to make a few photos or simply to stare at these incredible peaks.

Again the further up we went, it was becoming slightly more difficult to breathe, so the pace was getting slower and slower, especially on the steep parts of the trail. Still everybody seemed to be feeling great! Pretty strong group we had! When we were getting closer to Yak Kharka it started becoming very windy and pretty cold as well – only a small reminder of the cold temperatures to come! We just couldn’t believe it was only early afternoon when we reached Yak Kharka as it sure felt as if we were walking the whole day and it should’ve been dinner time already. The altitude and cold weather was slightly getting to us as the energy levels were definitely going down. Even though an idea of a short acclimatisation trek seemed quite horrendous, still we knew that it was only for our good, so straight after lunch we went up the hill to beat the altitude. After a couple of group shots the spirits lifted again and we even got the extra energy to run down the hill (just like mountain goats, according to Dip). 😉

D11 – Yak Kharka to Thorung Phedi (4,450m)

It really got to me how high up we were when I had to go to the loo in the middle of the night, as once I got back to my bed, it took a while before my breath came back to normal. Except the heavy breathing and a need to take a few deep breaths now and then, I was actually feeling very well and except a few minor headaches in the group everybody else was feeling pretty good as well. No Diamox needed whatsoever! And it hit us that day, that the next day would be the big one, the one we were waiting for all these days - we would be going over the Thorung-La Pass! So exciting! But a bit scary at the same time as it sure was going to be a long day…

But then we had one more day of trekking before reaching the Pass… Again it was a very pleasant day, sun was shining, mountain ranges all around us, we even saw a few yaks on the way. There were a couple of steep stretches again, especially before the tea break but after the break the trail all the way to Phedi was flat – there was one tricky part of the trail here though as we were walking through the landslide area. It sure looked pretty scary, one rock could trigger quite a disaster I’d say but we all made it safely across. Again we got to Phedi in the early afternoon and soon after lunch we headed for a short climb to acclimatise. Nobody really felt like doing the walk, but still it had to be done. It actually turned into a bit of fun even as we had a little snowball fight on the way. I got a few hits and obviously was looking for a revenge, but my aiming seemed to be slightly off – surely it must have been the altitude! 😉

Since it was pretty cold outside and in the rooms as well, everybody just gathered in the dining area. The moment we got back from the short trek my head started hurting a bit (which I hoped would go away – as it did the previous days so why wouldn’t it happen now?). Unfortunately my small headache turned into a huge migraine by the time we were supposed to have dinner. I took some aspirins but they didn’t seem to be helping at all, so I guess it was time to turn for help to our guides. Prem was straight away at my side and was asking me all sorts of questions suggesting I had first symptoms of altitude sickness. At some point he said that if the headache didn't go away, I would have to descent to lower altitude, either to Yak Kharka or at least half way there. This meant that I would need to come back the next day to Phedi and then do the pass the day after, so would basically be one day behind the group… It all sounded so disappointing! And what’s more I felt very disappointed in myself actually – I probably should’ve taken Diamox when I was still feeling good and maybe the headache wouldn’t have occurred then… but then who knows… Suddenly all the guides and some porters were around me talking in Nepalese with worried faces – my faith was being discussed and I didn’t even have a clue what was happening… So I simply broke down – tears just started flowing from my eyes, couldn't stop them at all… I just didn’t want them to give up on me so fast… I really wanted to do this and was hoping that I would still be able to… Finally they came to a decision – I should take Diamox immediately, have some water and garlic soup and another decision would be made depending on how I would feel after that... I got some pretty scary head massage from Shitaram as well – they say he could do magic, maybe there was a seed of truth in that as he squeezed my head so hard that it hurt my eyeballs, I literally thought they would come out through the back of my head, but then at least the pain was moved elsewhere so maybe that was a part of the magic? 😉 The garlic soup and Diamox seemed to have done the job as well as the headache seemed to be a bit less strong shortly after. The guides were pretty happy with the results and said that no worries, they would get me through the pass… somehow… I just hoped that I would be able to do it on my own… First needed some rest so headed straight to bed after my lovely garlic dinner. We were waking up at 3, so there was no time to waste anyway… I was falling asleep with one thought in my head - just hoping there would be no headache in the morning…

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13th May 2013

hey Anna
no i wkoncu wyjechalas:-) a my juz w domu po 19 miesiacach:-( gdzie teraz jestes?co jeszcze przed toba? znajdz nas na FB: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Beata-Tomek-Globetrotting/186528848076412 polecimy wszystkim twoje blogi;-) Buzka, B&T
15th May 2013

no hej! Ano w koncu sie udalo wyjechac :) Teraz jestem w Chinach, w Lijiang, spotkalam dzisiaj doktora Ho i od razu mi sie przypomnial wasz blog! :) Na facebooku was znajde dopiero jak wyjade z Chin niestety... Wy juz w domu? Ale za to jaka mieliscie wyprawe, super blogi i niesamowite zdjecia! Naprawde wspaniala przygoda! Nicc tylko czekam na kolejne wasze blogi! :) Pozdrawiam serdecznie! Buzka! :)

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