Monday, 12 November 2012

Marvelous Mountains

Day 5
Lower Pisang to Manang
16 km
7.30 am - 3.15 pm

Our 'Power Breakfast' - buckwheat
pancakes and honey
We finally found our 'power breakfast' – buckwheat pancakes with honey.  They were delicious and loaded us with energy for the upper pass as we decided to tackle it since the skies were clear.  The first hour was great, meandering through pine forests and only gently ascending, but it didn't last and we soon arrived at the steep section of the route.  For a solid hour we climbed but we both called on the energy from our pancakes, put our heads down and tackled it well, impressing ourselves at how fast we actually managed to get to the top. 

Stuppa at the top
We stopped to enjoy the view we'd earned and found a table with unobstructed views passed the stuppa and temple to the snow capped mountains beyond.  We relaxed with a coffee each and two small apples that we'd purchased on the way up the hill from a lovely old lady selling them from a cane basket on her back.  We were very happy that we'd decided to take the high pass as the views were worth the effort it took to get up there!

How do you like them apples??

Enjoying the view

Our company at lunch - cute until he
wanted to follow us to the loo!
However, as tends to be the case at altitude, the winds were very 'refreshing' and encouraged us to keep moving soon after we'd finished our hot coffee.  The path wound it's way up and down the edge of the  mountain until two hours later we reached the flat stoned village of Ngawal.  We saw the town in the distance when we rounded a bend and decided that instead of eating in the town we'd stop at homestyle cafe about 1km before the town as the lady's place was empty, her prices were good and her 3 year old son was very cute!  Fortunately, lunch was a remarkable improvement on the day before and we were glad that we'd provided the lady with some business for the day as everyone else we saw continued onto the village to eat.

From Ngawal it was a long, steep descent that took us almost two hours and the weather was closing in the whole time and just before reaching Bhraga we had to pull out the raincoats and bag covers.  The blog we'd been reading ('Kathmanduo') recommended stopping in Bhraga for their delicious apple pie, but since the weather looked like it was going to get worse we were worried about stopping and being caught in a proper storm.  But it seems that the bakery had planned for this and it had a 'heat it up and it take away' sign and the pie looked too good to refuse, in fact so did the brownies, so we took a slice of each and ate as we continued to walk.  It was a good recommendation from Kathmanduo as the desserts were delicious and gave us some needed energy for the arvo's walk.

Even in the town we still have to give way to bulls!
It was a good thing we didn’t stop to eat though, because as we hurried onto Manang the light rain turned into sleet which consequently turned to snow.  20 minutes later we arrived and by then it was snowing heavily so we quickly hunted around for some good accommodation.  In the end the one place that we thought looked out of our price range was the best deal and had an en suite as well (and by en suite we mean our own private bucket shower and squat toilet...)  We booked ourselves in at the Hotel Himalayan Singi for two nights as we needed an acclimatisation day in Manang to try and avoid suffering the effects of altitude sickness.

Since we had an entire day in our room the following day we decided to wash most of our clothes, although with the freezing conditions we weren’t too sure if they’d actually get dry before we needed them.  After decorating our room with dripping but slightly less smelly clothing we headed down to the restaurant where we warned ourselves by the dung fire while waiting for dinner.  (Although the dung they were using wasn’t quite dry and just as everyone got comfy around the fire it exploded from the moisture in the dung and quite a few people hit the ground thinking a bomb had gone off!)

It turns out that it was our lucky night not only from the entertainment of the dung explosion, but also as they’d just killed a yak that morning and yak steak was a special on the menu and Dave decided that fresh yak steak was too good an opportunity to turn down so he ordered one for dinner.  It arrived in style on a sizzling plate, laden with meat, sauce and chips and it tasted as good as it looked – we highly recommend trying it sometime!

We played cards for a while after dinner in the warm common room until we braved the cold run through the now heavy snow to our room.  We hoped that the next day would be clear so that we could go for a small hike to help with the acclimatisation, although we were also looking forward to a sleep in after so many early starts! 

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