On our 4th hiking day the daily routine becomes a habit: Wake up and change into hiking clothes. Condense Fred down to merely 5% of its size. Go for coffee, wait for breakfast serving. Then out and off we go, straight to Chame’s big mani wheel.
The route starts easy enough, but my bones and muscles are sort of tired after all the 1.000m up treks of the past days. Hence, I am delighted when we stop for tea and cake at the apple orchard along the way. Here, 3.000m above sea level, some corporation established a luxury tea house among apple and peach trees in what seems to be the lower part of the Himalaya.
Summer season is short round here, thus the trees are still bald and skeletal. Starting skeptical, the taste of the apple pie turns out to be mouth-watering delicious and immediately makes it on the list of desirable food (in addition to mo mos, yak cheese and dal bhat).
Conserving the precious calories, we try not to move too soon too fast. Hiking pro’s know that food and drinks are best enjoyed in plain sun and alike company.
Right after the orchard, the landscape becomes penurious. The dark rock walls look like a scary movie setting, every so often mixed up by occasional rope bridges over the Marsyangdi torrent framed by gaudy prayer flags.
Right hand we see a humpy mountain with a diagonal fracture, known as the way to Pandite in Nepali culture. Western musicians would call it the stairway to heaven I suppose. Legends acknowledge that people on the swell to death take this way up as if to accelerate their ascension to higher spheres.
By now our path is enfolded by six-thousand-something mountains, all covered with snow up high. Clouds approach during the afternoon and it is hard to tell where peaks end and the cloudy sky begins. Together with the clouds we reach Upper Pisang and focus on rough, yet accurately built stone houses.
I try to imagine how rural folks live here – and fail. Most of the houses have neither glass nor insulation in their window frames and I have no clue how they manage to get by in winter times. We barely see any people in the alleys, but you better watch out when strolling around: all of a sudden, some half-ox, half-yak passes me by with only inches between us.
I better get going before his buddies appear and push me out of the way, hence I hurry up to the monastery on top of the village.
The Buddhist temples we have seen so far have all been colourful, tidy and welcoming and the Pisang cloister is no exception. The ceiling is formed like a cubic mandala, complemented by Buddha statues and pictures of the most important monks all around in the rectangular room. We are invited to take a look around, donate a bit (only if we like, no duty), take pictures, possibbly pray; shortly: Come as we are except for the shoes that are to be left outside. No wonder that Buddhism easily spreads out worldwide, it is the most welcoming and uncomplicated religion I ever found.
The golden monastery contrasts our lodge rooms. Still, they are more than welcome, given the fact that we face some rain drops for the first (and only) time of our trek. Even before the rain turns into snow, we are grateful for any kind of building with a roof and a bed (and a hole in the ground called “toilet”).
With fading daylight the temperatures drop below zero degrees and we all gather around a small oven that tries hard to heat up a radius of hardly a metre, left alone the entire dining room. Time to change from summer clothes to my winter wardrobe with warmers, fleece jacket and several layers of merino wool.
Tonight, we sleep on 3.300m and feel the cold of the higher mountains. I am grateful for Fred, keeping me warm and cosy all night long. Probably I should be curious about the upcoming days. I might let my mind wander and think of the peaks we will see and the height we are going to reach. But with 3.727m altitude difference (all up) and a bit more than 75 km distance all done in the past four days, I fall asleep almost instantly. Lucky me that I sent prayers and wishes up to higher beings during our monastery visit earlier today – eventually it will reach its addressee, strengthen my forces and cheer up the weather.