Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nepal, Annapurna Circuit....Lower Pisang To Manang

To get to Manang from Lower Pisang there are two options. You can carry on following the main trail which follows the valley floor, or you can take a higher route which passes through the village of Ghyaru. Even though the weather conditions were still not looking good as we had breakfast, we decided to go for the less busy higher route. It was a good decision, this would turn out to be one of the best days walking on the trek. First we headed up the hill towards Upper Pisang, from where we got a fine view of the village and the hotel where we had stayed below.

This is the Pisang village school, no educational luxuries here.

Leaving Upper Pisang behind we took a relatively narrow path through the pine trees. Visibility was mixed with banks of clouds marching up the valley. On a clear day we would have expected to see almost all of Annapurna 2 on the other side of the valley. It wasn't to be, this was about as good as it got.

It was disappointing not to be able to see the high mountains, especially as we were now so close. Despite this, the walk was still beautiful and we had some spectacular scenery.

After a while we started to climb again, and more steeply. This was the ascent up to the village of Ghyaru and it wasn't easy, even though the path zigzagged across the hillside. Having already had my altitude warning the previous day I was taking it relatively easy on the climb. On the way up I finally got an explanation for the chalky-grey colour of the river that we had been following since the first day of the trek.

In Ghyaru it seemed as if the whole village was out in their fields harvesting the buckwheat. It's a family enterprise with everyone assigned a separate task. Some of the fields seemed almost impossibly steep for cultivation, any tractors that they ever manage to get up here will soon tumble down to the valley floor.

The village itself is probably the nicest we had seen so far. If you take into account the stunning views that must be available on a clear day, it has to be a hugely impressive location and there is some accommodation here for those who want to stay overnight.

After Ghyaru the walk levelled off and we continued to follow the course of the valley. The landscape was changing again, what lay ahead of us was drier terrain evidently shaped by erosion.

We stopped for lunch in a nice place just before the village of Ngawal, a good choice for other reasons as it began to rain. From here the path descends again down into the valley. The pine woods thin out and we were surrounded by bare hillsides. Shortly after rejoining the main track we came to the village of Braga (sometimes written as Bhraka), built into the hillside and topped with a centuries old Bhuddist monastery which is well worth the visit.

Braga is close to Manang, and the valley widens out at this point. We passed herds of yak grazing, all of which stimulated the appetite a bit as our guide had told us of the yak steak we could be eating that night on arrival. The thought was enough to keep me walking.

It had been a relatively long day's walk by the time we made it to Manang, but very enjoyable, despite the weather. Whenever we had talked to Nepalis on the route they had asked if we were heading for Manang as if we would go no further, so it was something of a milestone on the circuit to get to this village. Manang lies at slightly over 3500 metres and we would spend an extra day here as acclimatisation to get ready for what lay ahead; the walk up towards the high pass of Thorong La.

View Nepal - The Annapurna Circuit in a larger map


Nieves said...

Really very interesting your post about your travel to Nepal, just by chance, today I was reading the news about the Spanish climber Tolo Calataf who died last night in the Anapurna mountains after getting the peak, really beautiful mountains but dangerous. Kind regards!

Graeme said...

I wouldn't even consider trying to climb any of these peaks - I had enough altitude problems anyway. Annapurna has claimed plenty of lives. It just shows that this kind of thing can affect even the most experienced climbers but I can't help wondering whether they are not making things worse with these competitive attempts to climb all the 8000 metre peaks in the shortest possible time; and without carrying oxygen?