Departing the next morning, we see white peaks of significant height all around us. “Significant” in this context is more than my front-yard Alps ever can be – the 6.000-m-mountains here have a similar look, but the magnitude is just a scoop more.
The scenery presents itself in excellent picture mode: a bit of a waterfall here, a bit of a jungle there and some tourists in between just to underline the dimensions.
When planning the trip, Sabine had easily convinced me that spring is the best time for the Himalaya because of the flourishing rhododendron. We heard about whole forests blooming in pink, giving the land a mystical flair – and here it is, our first rhododendron tree!
One single tree stands patiently among conifer and in direct neighbourhood of two more rhododendron, nearly touching out to the trekking path. With its blossoms looking slightly tired, we only take one or two pictures and remain keen on seeing some more. As its natural habitat ranges between 2.400 and 3.000m, we expect today being the great rhododendron day! Ah, expectations… Once more we will learn that best in Asia is always to let loose and free your mind of precise expectancy.
At lunch break we hear that those three blooming trees are all we will get of the rhododendron – but before that we are rewarded with our first glance up on 8.156m. Not only that the Manaslu is high and luminous white – it is genuinely beautiful with its double peak in thin air.
Our path continues up through conifer forest until we reach a small, almost idyllic village. Just when I think: “The view from the roof top terrace over there must be…” our group comes to a halt for early lunch. The sun is intense and heats up the cold air. The roof top comes along with two climate zones: T-shirts + shorts in the sun, winter jacket and warmers under the parasol. Apart from such details, the best spot is clear: in front of the postcard panorama!
Then something unexpected strikes me off-guard: I lean back in one of the plastic chairs and for about 15 minutes I sit still and look at the Manaslu. With tears in my eyes. Hard to tell, what overwhelms me: The sheer knowledge that I look at one of the 8 highest spots of our planet? A piece of earth that almost touches the universe… A landmark so rough and far from any other place that only a handful of manic climbers ever set foot on it. It is massive and impressive. Or perhaps it triggers a deep longing for the Yeti, who knows.
It is only after lunch when I notice the rest of the mountain chain that enfolds the village. While I did not fancy having it so close, it is a stunning sensation seeing it almost within reach. Eventually, the most dawdling of lunch pauses comes to an end as we continue our trekking route (rope bridges included as if for my personal distraction).
Later I am grounded again and impressed by the mounds of pine needles, all manually collected for local cattle sheds – and yet the day comes up with another highlight that forces its way through the tree tops. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me proudly present the Annapurna II:
While we nearly lose two of our group members along the way, it proves
- 14 is a high number for hiking groups, hard to survey when turning left or right and leaving the main route…
- …however, the inner dynamic of our clique works fine, ensuring that all 14 members reach Chame, today’s destination.
Our lodge offers a hot shower (not per room, but rather one for all) and right after Sabine’s quality testing, I manage to sneak in before further hiking companions reach the door. It is the best shower within days (1st: existing, 2nd: comfortable enough) and I take the chance on a full maintenance, hair wash included.
A walk through the village guarantees dry hair within 30 minutes thanks to the strong but cold wind. Located on 2.670m, the houses look more solid than in lower regions and Buddhism dominates the stupas and temples.
At the far edge of Chame stands a small, open stupa with vivid paintings under it’s roof, showing the story of Buddha’s holy life.
Today was full of wows and impressions and mountain views. However, my personal base line of the day as for the whole trek is:
Me. In the Himalaya.