Annapurna – Thorong-la Pass an Enthralling Journey
The great Himalayan range has undoubtedly heightened the pride and glory of Nepal and Annapurna region is significantly one of the most beautiful trekking destination in the world. It is a paradise for adventurer and nature lovers. The mighty mountains, waterfall, glacieral lakes, diverse flora and fauna and of-course the encounter with local inhabitants , Yak , mountain goats makes it an enthralling journey to captivate once in your life time. My journey started on this beautiful region crossing one of the highest pass , Thorong-la 5416 m with a group of 8 British trekkers from a Bucket list company Uk, accompanied by a guide , a Sherpa and Porters. Apart from having done some of the famous treks in Nepal this one particularly had always been on my bucket list and now when i was venturing into the wild , i was like “Wow! now this is it” , a rush of blood ran though my head with curiosity and excitement. We were heading to the mountains for 12 days , fleeing from civilization and into a more pristine environment.
Thursday 14 March – Early morning aaround 6:30 AM we boarded a coaster and made our way to Besisahar to Syanghe.
There was a road block / strike caused by Maoist Front Biplop party but it did not dither us from making our way to Syange . Though we were quite stirred and a bit scared if we would get stopped by the agigating party is did not happen so. There were very less vehicle were plying the road and eased out out way to reach our destination ahead then the expected time. It was the most free road ride for all of us and we were right there at Besisahar for Lunch. The district used to be the main starting point of the trek but now the road has been built up-till Manang. The road from hence onward is very rough and only Four wheel drive is accessible. Our luggage was transferred to a jeep and we headed for 1.5 hour ride for our night haul at Syange(912 m). We were welcome by a beautiful Syange waterfall.
15 March- Now normally when you are on a trek you usually have your breakfast at 7 AM and start trek 8 AM. Today is a day we start our walk and everybody was eager and excited. As we commenced our hike we came across a sight of a fisherman retrieving fish from the net and a freshness of a nice waterfall spot was a slight breather to make our climb up. We settled for lunch at Chyamcha. Lunch preparation was slightly delayed due to different individual items. The guides and porter were all involved to get the food ready. As we waited we were all entertained by looking at the rock face, fishing birds and monkeys.The trail climbs slowly into increasingly narrow canyon, crossing a suspension bridge and continue ascent past canyon descending from rock barriers we reach Tal. The place is a beautiful flat meadow with several settlement of Bhutia and Gurung caste. Spent an overnight Tal keeping ourself warm with, hot tea and water.
As we walked yesterday I realized that the sole of my trekking boot was peeling off. This is a very frustrating situation I really dread of as i knew we had to trek up to more snowy place. My only alternative was to put on my runners and keep the shoe ready for the final 2 days to make the crossing. Packing wisely is indeed very important for trekking.
Our next destination today was Danaqui. A quite Gurung settlement situated inbetween the valleys. A leisurely walk in the hoods and there we were at Dharapani at noon. Lunch were served as usual like spring rolls , momo, chowmein, fried rice and we made our way forward to our night stop. A distinct view of Mt. Manaslu 8156m and snow covered hills and slopes looked drastically elegant. Most of us took time taking a hot shower and doing some minor cleaning. The guest house had a very homely environment where the owner had a wife and a 15 month old baby. Babies are after all the cutest and simpliest soul and everybody had fun watching the child play . Dinner is usually around 6 to 6:30 pm ; nice meal , nice walk, nice rest and a day all to look up for tomorrow.
The fourth day was fairly a short day walk about 4-5 hrs. We pass by Tebang to Thankchowk village (2865m) just out of the main route to Chame where we stopped for lunch. The village remains unspolit as not many tourist ply this way. Thakali peole live here and dont speak English. They are very friendly and hospitable people and you can even spend a day here to learn more about their culture and tradition but our destination was ahead. We come across a police check post and furthur up about half and hour you reach Chame where you rest and prepare for tomorrow. A welcoming surprise here was a nice hot spring. That was very relaxing.
During the trip we went through a number of villages and magnificient views but more were coming. From today onwards we were walking mostly on snow. As we walk by the coniferous forest we saw our first Yak, which indicated us that we were now at an altitude. Futhur few hundred feet upward we had a good surprise of an exquisite coffee shop and a farm house. Most of us stopped to grab a coffee and a doughnut. The way upward was absolutely breath taking with magnificent view of Annapuran 2 , Swardagari Himal and Pangdi himal. After lunch the group started of ahead of me going to upper Pisang where we haul for the night. Now on this section there is Lower Pisang and Upper Pisang route. Trekkers prefer to stay Upper pisang for its exquisite view. Since the group had made their way ahead of me i missed the trail and i found myself walking on the lower side which was extremely muddy and treacherous. Few weeks back an avalance had killed a trekker and guide at lower section so this thought made me intense as I walked past the route. Feeling lost it took quite a while for me to reach the guest house. I reckon Upper Pisang place to be an ideal location and one can stay couple of days more basking in the sun with spectacular view of Annapurna Himal. No sooner we rushed up to a Gompa before the sun set. The monastery is being rebuilt since 1999. Each family of Pisang community had to make a financial contribution and some of them who could not afford ,volunteered giving 54 days of their time. The sun shining on my face, cold light wind fluttering, the scent of incense coming from gompa, the stunning views before my eyes, all danced to perfect harmony as the sun slowly disappeared beyond the mountains.
The following day we set of for Manang. Right after out breafast we come across an hour steep uphill walk to a village called Gyaru (3670m), an exceptionally picturesque and charming village perched on the south face of the mountain. I was mesmerised by the beauty of this traditional village and the surrounding enchanting scenerio. The snowladen trail made our pace of walk slow and we arrived late about 1:45 PM for Lunch at Ngwal. After crossing the streaching upper Manang valley, walled by Annapuran 1,2,3,4 , Gangapurange himal and distant loose sharp rock peak barriers we finally arrive Manang District.
Manang is so enchantingly beautiful and is located at a confluence of two important destination , one crossing Thorong’la Pass and the other reaching Tilocho Lake. The enticing beauty of lake also generates the flow of trekkers to embark solely on Tilicho lake trek. It will take atleast 3 days to reach the lake.
On arrival at Manang I had sprained my foot while sliding on a slope surface. I had landed uncomfortably and knew instantly that my foot is going to give me some problem. So you never know what can happen up in the mountains and do not try stupid things that might hurt you. Our guide had a First Aid kit and i used Spray and relief ointment and bandaged my foot to give a proper rest. Slept the night away hoping to heal my foot faster.
Trekkers usually stay 2 days in Manang to acclimatize and i was very much relieved to have a proper rest for my foot. Today was late breafast and a leisure day for sightseeing to some of the century old Gompas. Myself tried walking with a support of walking stick and visited Himalyan Rescue Association (HRA) post and met with the manager Mr. Gobi Bashyal. He was very keen to show us the newly developed post the office, oxygen machines, and care unit. They even had a High Attitude Sickness free talk by a foreign doctor always at 3 pm. They had opened the Heath post just a week back to cater to the increasing number of tourist venturing this Spring season. The manager asked us to join and the group i was with had a short course on Altitude Sickness. Here at Manang you can even have an option to visit Ice lake (4600 m) , Milerepa cave 4800m for acclimatization. As evening drew the weather changed and became frantically cold , with snow shower late till night.
We woke up to a clear morning , all blanketed with snow and more chilliness. There we were all geared and ready to make our way ahead to Ledar(4230m) our next stop. The trail was a bit hard to hit because of my sprained foot and now my added rucksack made it even harder. Like i knew it i was left pretty behind the group but this did not stop me from progressing slowly. It was a short day of walk at a high altitude and we were already at Leder around 2:30 PM.
The next morning we all left for High camp (4900 m). We started trek at 7:30 AM and by 10:20 AM we were at Phedi (4450m). There were quite a few numbers of trekkers of different countries flocking to Highcamp. The straight up hill climb after lunch was tedious and your breathing becoming heavier as you push your selfup. Finally after 2 hours of climb we reached the Highcamp and really feeling the altitude. I felt so relieved once we reached highcamp and it was freeing cold. There is a view point up 100 m and it is a nice walk up to get an excellent view of the mountains. . We all had to sit next to a dimely lit fireplace some reading books , some looking at maps and others gossiping.
Apart from the group i was with , we had one who was a heavy weight and was making a very slow progress, so our Sardar had planned to put a leading guide , her and me to get a head start early in the morning at 4:30 Am. At temperatures reaching -10 at night it was now freezing cold and you had to put on your warmest clothes. i have to say i just could not sleep properly the night.
Next morning we started out climb with out headlight beaming across the white surface and the trail ahead could not be seen as the wind had covered up the section. There are poles to give you a sense of direction but it is not too visible. We gradually made our ascent in the dark. The chill wind blowing across your face and with the mask on made my breathing heavy. This climb was a bit intense and terrifying , sensing if you miss a step and tumble down you will freeze to death. At about 5:30 some trekkers went past us and aslo our group caught up with us. Our Sardar now was with big lady and we accelerated our way up slowly. We reached the high point section around 11 AM. The famous board at the pass was all covered with snow and only few lines of prayer flag was fluttering intensly. There was this tea shop which was such a life saver. Strong cold wind was blowing and staying in and having a hot tea was so warming. I simply could not fathom that we had finally reached, some were even crying. A sense of exhilaration bursts upon me and and i could feel everybody was proud of their achievement.
The hard part was eventually over and now the sun was up and easy down hill walk but the snow and my leg made it a bit tedious never ending tiresome descent. After having lunch we finally made it to Muktinath, a religious site for both Hindu and Buddhist followers. As we descended we were greeted with a splendid view of Dhaulagiri and Tukuche peak.
Next morning i paid my homage at Mukinath , took a cold plunge at the pool and across the 108 water sprouts. This was definately one of my very challenging trek for me so far. Reassured , we headed down wards to Jomsom for our very next flight in the morning. Every journey is an experience and this has been an enthralling experince of my life. They say Nature is the best healer and teacher. and with it i have learnt to know more about myself.
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