Day 5: Annapurna Circuit
Distance covered: 25.1km
We had a bit of a sleep in today after all of the fuss from the previous day of hiking in the dark and being exhausted. It was about 8.15am when we set off in the direction of Upper Pisang. By now my two small toes were now very blistered from all the walking, and having to walk through a waterfall on the road two days ago. I’d managed to bandage them as best as I could and they felt fine just now.
We took the higher more scenic route through Upper Pisang which had been cut off recently due to the vehicle bridge breaking. This was quite apparent as the town looked like a deserted ramshackle of a town from an old western movie. Most of the groups we had seen today were walking along the main road, I couldn’t understand why a guide would lead their groups along the less scenic route of the circuit. Upper Pisang had beautiful scenery, breathtaking views of Annapurna 2 and the Marsyangdi river snaking through the granite valley below. The old town was decrepit with narrow alleys, a large prayer wheel housed in a white structure and a long set of wheels for pilgrims to spin clockwise along their journey through the town. All of which would not be seen if you took the road route.
The trail continued up via switchbacks to Ghyaru. This was very tiring, the switchbacks went on forever and the wind had increased meaning I almost lost my cap a few times. At Ghyaru an old lady was selling freshly made samosas, which looked delicious. She was very friendly, and didn’t have a lot of custom so we decided to take a break at her tea house before heading off again. The people at the smaller towns were always a lot friendlier and welcoming towards us than in larger more busy stops along the circuit.
We set off again, this time with a 30 minute ascent to an old gompa and then downhill to the next town where we got chatting to a local monk from the nearby monastery and his friend who loved drinking redbull (the really strong version that comes in a small gold can). They were having no issues chatting to Allan and walking uphill, I on the other hand had to stop and catch my breath a few times.
After the monastery on the hill we were downhill for about 45 minutes. It was testing on my knees, and I fell on my bottom once on the way down. A local guy told us that there was “many water, very problem” which we saw when we got to the bottom. I managed to break the wooden bridge that crossed the stream, and I thought I’d lost a few pounds with all this hiking.
We passed through another tiny town, deserted again. The little stone habitats were locked up with chains and the lonely restaurant sign hung gathering dust. These little places were not benefiting from the almighty custom that the new road had brought. It was quite sad.
We passed a Tibetan School where we were joined by a small boy called Karma and his little sister who had a very snotty nose but pulled it off because of her cuteness. Karma didn’t know a lot of English but was happy to practice with us and we learned about his school, the size of each class, what subjects he learned, and which footballers he liked (Messi and Ronaldo of course).
We chatted to them for a while and then picked up the pace to get to Manang before dark.
There was a massive group of hikers ahead of us also heading for Manang. We figured if we could get ahead of them we might have a chance at getting a decent room. We also wanted to avoid staying where they were staying because they would certainly be the obvious priority. Thankfully, when we arrived at Brakha the groups stopped to take photographs of the monastery and get snacks from the bakery. We sneaked ahead and stormed onwards for the last 30 minutes to Manang.
We settled on a simple room on the 3rd floor of the Yak Hotel.