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Trekking the Himalayas: Episode 4

By Olivia Pedersen

May 21, 2015

Trekking the Himalayas: Episode 4

By Olivia Pedersen

May 21, 2015

The Unexpected Makes for the Best Stories

The day we left Chame, the climate began to change from lush rainforest to arid alpine. It is a truly astonishing feeling to see two completely different climates in one day all due to your left and right feet. As we walked towards our next night’s stay, jeeps packed with passengers, duffle bags, and chickens in cages strapped to the roof, squeezed past us at a snail’s pace. Other traffic consisted of mule trains carrying goods to and from the villages we would soon be passing through. Whether they were coming or going, the most important thing was to stay the mule train out of their way! Although simply a means of everyday utility, the mules’ saddles were adorned with intricate patterns and vibrant colors.

road carved into wall
trekking views

This was my most favorite discovery about Nepal – the color, that is infused everywhere and in everything. I can't imagine the time it must have taken to include that extra detail of color and pattern in some of these buildings and textiles. The teahouses, the monasteries, the mule’s saddles, the prayer flags linking from hilltop to hilltop, and the mani walls; everything was decorated with beautiful color and pattern. It’s just something you don’t see all too often in the United States, as post modernism has consumed most of the color in its surroundings. The contrast between rigid, ominous white peaks cascading into green hillsides sprinkled with color-packed villages is a sight I will never forget.

Prayer flags

The same energy that inspired the bright colors translated itself in the rich flavor of the pastries I enjoyed throughout the trek. If judging only by the amount of charming bakeries we crossed along the way, I could have mistaken my trek for a stroll in SE Portland. They always popped up at the best times, like the day we walked from Chame to Pisang — long with a decent uphill climb. Once we got up the hill, we walked about two more miles, and arrived at a bakery selling fresh pastry and apples, the perfect combination to replenish ourselves before making the final stretch to Pisang. On Day 4, the white peaks of the Annapurna range started to become more visible. Our room at the teahouse in Pisang was the first of several that had panoramic views of luminous white mountains.

apple sign
White Peaks

That evening, we hiked up to a newly rebuilt Buddhist monastery. Sparkling with color, it sits at the top of a hill in Upper Pisang across the river from where you hike in. We went when the monks were practicing their evening prayers. As I listened to the deep chants of the monks, I could feel the whole building vibrating along with them. This hand-built monastery was beyond words, with the complex detail that had gone into its completion, it was like nothing I had ever seen before.

Outside Monestary
Upper Pisang Monestary
Colorful Protection Gate
Protection Gate
New Monastery
Inside of Upper Pisang Monastery

We woke the next day to crystal clear skies and views of Annapurna 2, Pisang Peak, Tilicho Peak, and Annapurna 4. The walk to Manang on day 5 was the most painstaking yet as there was a long stretch of flat land through the valley floor. This portion felt like we were walking in place. I found it ironic that my feet were aching with pain from walking on flat ground when they didn’t bother me all that much going up the Nepali steeps.

Looking out on the Manang valley
Looking out on the Manang valley
Resting in the shade
Break time
Flat Lands
The long flat stretch

Along the way, we stopped for lunch to refuel on some Dal Baht, the traditionally served Nepali dish. As Lokendra would put it, “Dal Baht power good for 24 hours,” and it was. It is a flavorsome dish consisting of steamed rice, lentil soup, and Dal — a spice and herb packed curry. Most places would just keep refilling your plate until you would beg them to stop. After lunch, we hiked up to an ancient monastery tucked into a hillside; at about 1,000 years old, it was said to be the oldest in the region.

Dal Baht
24 hour power
Old House
Nepali Ladder
Outside the Old Monastery
Old House

Despite the highs of fresh baked goods, Dah Baht, and beautiful monasteries, I was relieved when we finally arrived in Manang. I had a pretty wicked cold by this point, and I could tell my body needed a day of recuperation. It was here that we would be taking a rest day to do our first altitude adjustment. The way to adjust to the altitude is to walk high, sleep low. So, starting the day we got to Pisang, we would check in at the tea house, relax a bit, then go on a quick hike to gain an extra 1,000 feet or so, and then come back to our night’s resting place.

After our climate check hike in Manang, we headed to the dining hall to get some dinner. That day the owner’s son had gotten married, and they were celebrating all around us. The similarities and contrasts of the Nepali wedding celebration compared to a United States wedding celebration were interesting to witness. In both cultures, the bride and groom are showered with gifts and given blessings for a long and happy marriage. One major difference that I noticed was that the newlywed bride was in the kitchen helping prepare the wedding meal, while also still preparing meals for trekkers. In America, that is the last thing you would see the bride doing — maybe pouring more drinks to keep the crazy relatives sedated, but definitely not in the kitchen.

Although our extra day in Manang was intended for rest, it was chock-full with nothing but excitement and more unexpected surprises. In the morning, we hiked up to a stupa that bestowed views down the valley of where we had gone and views up the valley of where we were going. Next, we explored Manang, a tiny town but considerably large in comparison to the ones we had already passed through. While wandering the town, we came across a sign with a picture of a snow leopard depicting the sacred beauty that the creature encompasses in the Himalayas. Our guide informed us that snow leopards were rare, and the chances of encountering one were slim.

View from the hike
The view down the valley of where we came from
Lake that feeds into Manang
Gangapurna Lake
Another View from the Hike
View of Manang

Around midday, we decided to return to the teahouse to relax a bit when we were detoured by people flocking to a nearby cliff that led down to the pastures near the river. Ironically enough, we discovered that the cause of all the commotion was one of those rare, not to be expected, sacred snow leopards seeking refuge between rocks in the cliff. The snow leopard had killed one of the horses in the pasture below, and the town’s people were trying to scare it off. I was overwhelmed with all that was going on. It seemed like the whole town had gathered around this trapped animal to catch a glimpse. The next thing I knew, I saw my guide in the pasture below the snow leopard (a couple quick leaps from him, in fact) trying to get a better photo. The leopard finally escaped his crowd of admirers unscathed, and I was ready to finally relax.

Snow Leopard

At this point, we had trekked up to 11,482 feet. The air was starting to feel more crisp and thin, but it wasn’t yet hindering my performance while trekking. My cold was still pretty bad, but I was doing all I could to restore my energy and recover before the big climb up and over the pass. We were only three days away from Thorong La Pass with 6,282 feet of elevation left to gain, and I was praying I’d be recovered enough to enjoy crossing the looming summit.

Read more Summit Like a Boss: 5 Tips On How to Prevent Altitude Sickness
Continue to Episode 5: Over the Pass and to the Desert We Go
Read the previous post Episode 3: Learning the Ways of the Walk

In regards to the Spring 2015 Nepal Earthquakes:

I am deeply grieved by the many deaths and injuries caused by the devastating earthquakes in Nepal. My prayers go out to those lost and to those that have lost friends and family close to them.

It is during tragedies like this that we must come together to help our brothers and sisters that are now at the mercy of the elements. While writing my narrative on trekking the Himalayas, my intention was to bring awareness and understanding to the astounding beauty that inherently lives in every aspect of Nepal. I invite you to join Revant Optics, through Doctors Without Borders or one of the many other reliable relief agencies in providing aid to the survivors and restoring that beauty.

Sincerely, Olivia

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  • Himalaya Destination

    Trekking is one of the finest adventure activity. Benefits of trekking are many to if you are bored pack your bags & explore some destinations of India.

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