I went to see how Lila was feeling. He said that he was getting better, but his voice was still a bit hoarse. I had a chat with Yuva and we both agreed that if Lila doesn’t get better by Manang, then we will ask him to descend and return to Pokhara. He could hitch a jeep ride from Chame, and get to Pokhara within a couple of days. We would get a porter in Manang to help take us over the Thorung La until Muktinath, and the porter could possibly return to Manang within couple of days. Yuva and I would be able to manage from Muktinath on our own.
With that settled, breakfast was Tibetian bread and tarkari (a vegetable dish) and coffee. I chatted with the owner a bit. He was a cheerful guy and he said that he much prefers to live in Upper Pisang, and stays for extended periods running the lodge, while his wife goes and spends time in Lower Pisang. He said that he enjoys the longer sunshine that Upper Pisang experiences.
We set off at a leisurely pace after I paid my bill and said my goodbyes to the lodge owner.
From Upper Pisang, the route hugs the hill side, as we make our way down, down, down, and then a gradual ascent on the hill opposite. From the crest, you get a nice view of the villages of Upper Pisang. Too bad that in Dec, everything was dry and brown – the houses and the terraced fields.
We spotted Pasang and Qixing in the distance. Lila and I yelled at them, and upon hearing our screams, they paused and tried to spot us in the distance. This is how it happens on the trails. You meet other trekkers and you end up stopping at the same lodges for lunches and dinners, if they would be keeping a similar pace as you. In this case, Pasang and Qixing seemed to be more or less trekking at my pace.
We soon reached a line of chortens, from where Ghyaru could be spotted high up through an ascent via switchbacks. Just the sight of the switchbacks wanted me to take a break, which we did. Hydrated ourselves, passed around a Snickers bar each to everyone and we started the arduous climb. A third of the way, we stopped for a breather. The views of Annapurna II and III were spectacular, and so was the wind eroded cliff sides and the views of the river flowing down below.
We continued and next stop was at a small tea shop before Ghyaru. I usually stop at these solitary teashops even if I don’t need a break. I usually have a chat with the owner, have a drink, thank them, bless them, and then move on. It doesn’t cost much, maybe a dollar at most, and is a good way to recharge as well as contribute directly to the person running the teashop. Its hard work for them, and the least I can do is to offer them a bit of help, in return for their services.
As we reached Ghyaru at 3670m, Yuva had forged ahead, and was met with calls from Pasang, who had gone to some lodge (think it was Annapurna view lodge or something like that). Lila and I followed suit. The view was nice, and we sat in the courtyard, while Lila decided that its best if we had lunch here. We ordered a Thukpa, which took forever to be prepared. We chilled out in the meantime. It was getting too warm outside, so we went inside and watched some videos on my phone.
Thukpa came and it was quite ordinary. We rested for a while, paid up, and then took off for our post-lunch trek to Ngawal. We were taking it slow and easy and the idea was to enjoy the trek. I am not often treated to such views and altitude, so I would be making the most of it. The weather was perfect, clear blue skies and nice n warm. The ffive of us trekked together. As always, I would bring up the rear. We went downhill from Ghyaru, and then up hill again. As we reached the crest after passing some chortens and some kinda entrance, followed by a mani wall, I saw the other four waiting for me.
Decided to take a break and indulged in some cheesy photo taking.
From there, it was a comfortable 30-45 minutes walk to Ngawal. I loved the village, it had a good feel to it. The Japanese guy and his guide had decided to stay at the very first lodge that was open (it’s a few minutes before the main village, just before the long wall with the Tibetian prayer wheels). Think it was Himalaya view or something like that. There were a few other lodges and houses being built before that, even as we trudge downhill from the crest, to the plateau where the rest of the village is situated. I think that that lodge would be better suited for night photography, as you can set your tripods outside the lodge and also request the lodge owner to switch off the light at the entrance. (From where we stayed, as I shot from the rooftop of our lodge, this Himalaya view something lodge would be to my east, and I had to be mindful of stray light from the Himalaya view something lodge in my compositions)
We walked past that lodge, past the long wall with the Tibetian prayer wheels. I suppose everyone knows by now that be it prayer wheels or mani walls, when we walk past them, we should keep the prayer wheels or mani walls to our right (so, walk to their left).
Once we reached the village proper, we settled into the lodge called Peaceful Hotel. Lila knows the “didi” who runs the place. What it means is that he gets special treatment (*wink* *wink* Rakshi)
We got our rooms and went up to the terrace. Most of the terraces are made of mud and a wood frame, so don’t expect a great deal of stability and everytime you walk on the roof, there will be mild vibrations. When shooting at night, please be mindful of this, so that you don’t just ruin your own composition, but also the composition of other fellow photographers (if any). My other gripe is to do with headlamps. If you know someone is photographing at night, please do them a favour, and don’t shine your headlamps at full power onto their face and blind them and/or ruin their composition with the stray light. Rant ended.
I went back to my room to change into my clothes for the night, open up my sleeping bag, put the batteries to charge – everyday chores while on the trail. After sufficiently protecting myself from the cold and the wind, I took my cameras and went up to the roof to catch the last light of the day and make a few images in the blue hour. It was spectacular. The moon had already risen, even while I was in the room, and I had made some images with my 7D & 70-200mm lens then.
I was feeling good, no signs of AMS, and other than the minor aches and pains and general tiredness as part of the trek, I was doing quite fine. We ordered dal bhat, and sat in the kitchen warming ourselves up with the fire that was burning. After dinner in the dining room, I went up and put my cameras to work. Satisfied that everything was functioning the way it was, I decided to catch some shuteye.