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14 January 2013

The woodwork of buildings inside and out is painted in alpine colors: lavender, pink, yellow, blue, burnt red.

After Chamje we took the trekker’s route away from the road. It was a good choice because of the many 4WDs on the road, and it was on the shady side of the river.

The people who checked in last night passed us on the trail, a Korean couple and their son carrying day packs and Leki poles adjusted to almost shoulder height. I had thought them Japanese. One porter was carrying a giant wheeled luggage. The son said that a Korean speaking guide would be very expensive, and he wanted to improve his English by using it to communicate with his guide.

We had some views of Pisang Peak while climbing steeply, but the river had become a cataract and climbed with us. We passed some bamboo with thinner stalks; Lal said people pick it to use in weaving. Just before the town of Tal, which is at river level, we passed a military garrison surrounded by razor wire that Lal thought housed about 200 soldiers.

Tal is on a flat plain about a few hundred square meters in area. The plain was formed by a landslide blocking the river forming a lake, then the lake silting up. It was noticeably colder than the previous day. There were some conifers growing about 5 meters tall.

Lunch break was at the Dragon Hotel & Restaurant, Tal, Manang, elevation 1600. Hanging from the rafter above the window overlooking the river is a picture of a dragon made entirely from the shavings from a pencil sharpener. The head of the dragon and front of the neck only are done with paint. Brown and red are the two colors depending on which side of the pencil shaving is visible.

Before lunch we were given some of the fried festival bread, like thin pretzels, that I had seen being prepared in Chamje. I ordered pumpkin soup and steamed tuna moma. Tuna is one of the few ingredients used in menu items that comes from elsewhere in a can.

I was in the toilet and had just pulled down my pants when I heard Lal yell “Paul! Langur monkeys!” I quickly pulled up my pants and went out. They were a couple of hundred meters up making their way across the steep hill, about 20 of them. I went back and finished my business.

At Dharapani we passed the confluence of the Dudh Khola with the Marshyangdi, which is the turnoff for the trek to Manaslu. Briefly visible up the valley was a very tall mountain with a small flat top, covered in snow. I said whoa doggy. Lal couldn’t remember the name of the mountain. On the Manaslu trek, for the most part the only food that can be obtained from locals is dal bhat and noodles.

On the outskirts of Bagarchhap we saw the first ice on the road, then got the first view of Annapurna II. Pyramid shaped, foreboding.

Flop

Annapurna II (peak is slightly above top rail of porch)

At the Eco Hotel, Bagarchhap, elevation 2140, I took a lukewarm (barely) shower, soaping up and shaving for the first time on the trek. The drain wasn’t working well so after I finished rinsing I was standing in a couple of inches of scummy water. The flip-flops from the hotel were pushed up to a cement curb by the door. After I was done toweling I stood on the curb, which was just wide enough to stand on without losing my balance, and was barely able to stick my feet under the faucet to rinse them. But I had forgotten to place the razor on the cement curb; it was on the window ledge on the other side of the scummy pond. I had to step back in it, but it was shallower near the edge.

After an excellent dinner of mixed spaghetti I enjoyed a cup of Manang coffee made with coffee, rakshi, with melted yak butter.


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