The first four days of the trek left me exhausted almost every day. The hiking portions have been more than I have ever been used to and secretly I wonder if and how I will make it over the pass… Although I never figured NOT getting by, I do know that there is a fair chance I might not succeed.
Above 3.300m, a few of our group members start feeling the height. Some are short in breathing, some sleep with a bit of breathlessness, some have a headache that refuses to clear away. However, best is to carry on and picture Sabine and me in a common hurray-pose on top of the tour. And decline any other option.
We settle down for breakfast and play it cool, proved by the light snow and by the oven only working in the evenings. We leave Pisang and pass by sort of an open temple with a concrete platform: the local funeral place, regularly used for the burning of dead bodies.
Passing by flourishing cherry trees, we approach a holy lake that looks like being cut-out from the Canadian mountains. Legends are about five ducks taking care of the lake and about a magic tree with an emerald heart. I may have forgotten the details, but will keep the memory of this enchanting area in Annapurna Himal.
Once I cut my eyes loose of the lake and turn around, I am stunned by the view on Annapurna II. Just there, just around the corner, just looking down at us… Looking down? Seeing it for real shows nothing but a beautiful mountain – but when looking at the photograph of it, there suddenly is a face included in the flank.
Twenty minutes later we reach some mane stones – from the holy lake to sacred stones with holy letters carved in or painted on them. The wider the landscape, the more people seem to stick to belief, religion and traditions. Meanwhile, we follow our path that now leads up in steep serpentines until we reach a small stone hut with plastic chairs outside: a typical tea house. Only that we are not here for tea but for the stunning view on Annapurna II again.
Still, we continue the steep way up. I am relieved that today I feel strong and full of energy when reaching the lookout on 3.800m. Here, we meet further tourists around another stony tea hut with a lovely Nepali lady selling Yak cheese and further delicacy. With greatest nonchalance I manage to snatch the last piece of apple pie before I sit down on one of the banks. The atmosphere up here is somewhat between outdoor and esoteric. The bright sun and the gorgeous view cheer everybody up, leading to a loose gathering of smiling travellers all around.
This is not what I had in mind, just because I never figured seeing the Annapurna with only 6 km of distance. I feel like embracing the world and sparkle and shine like snow in the sun.
Facing the Annapurna II (7.937m, without bragging) makes me enthused. I still find it incredible that I am here, for real. Spontaneously I resume the Annapurna II being my new top 1 favourite mountain, relegating the Alpspitze to a mere 3rd position (Manaslu being No. 2).
Eventually, we have to leave this wonderful spot and go on with our trek. While I get all excited about the Himalaya, the peaks, the landscape and the food, our co-guide takes it all relaxed.
We pass by some stupas until we reach a high plateau in all shades of brown and grey. Buckwheat fields are supposed to spread out around us, yet it is all dead and dusty with to date being prior to the rainy season. While the landscape enfolds its facets at our feet, a vulture floats through the air with just some metres of distance. Left handed lies the river Marsyangdi, flanked by a massive mountain wall and overlapped by the Annapurna Himal. Suddenly a helicopter passes us by, flying at half of our height below our feet – while still the altitude above doubles our current position. I understand that my camera is unable to inhale these crazy dimensions and make them visible – might be due to the camera or simply due to the outstanding region we are in.
In the afternoon we reach Braga, a small village 20 minutes East of Manang. Our lodge is of the comfortable kind with groggy bathrooms attached to the rooms and German bakeries just around the corner. So far we have followed the river up to around 3.550m and Khaddy draws a sketch of our surrounding. Of course, it only contains peaks of 6.000m and above – anything lower does not even get a name around here.
All sketches or pictures do not give more than a rough hint on how fantastic the Himalaya mountains are…
… or how huge the dimensions. Every day we (Sabine + me) congratulate ourselves for having planned, booked and started the voyage – resulting in us being here now.