Today we left the huge flat bottomed, pebbled filled valley floor behind us and headed away from the road into really remote countryside. After a bright start the weather clouded over, really disappointing because the walk took us through the gap between Dhaulagiri and Annapurna, the 7th and 10th highest peaks in the world, and the basis for the claim that the valley between them is the world's deepest.
|Early morning views of Dhaulagiri|
The trip notes say that the route chosen has taken us off the main trail but in any event the crowds, and all of the familiar faces, seem to have disappeared. A lot of people finish their Annapurna circuit at Jonsom and the route now feels quite. There are still tea houses, but the one we choose for our mid morning break has to open up specially for us, and the place where we stop for lunch in Kunjo is very small, no menu and only Dal Bhat or noodle soup on offer. None the worse for that.
|Basket making at Kunjo|
We do get a limited, hazy view of Annapurna but generally clouds prevent any views of the big peaks. In the absence of the main show the scenery is pleasant rather than spectacular and gives you more time to concentrate on how hard life is for people trying to feed themselves in these mountains. There is a lot of spring time activity in the tiny fields, teams of oxen dragging a primitive ploughs and women spreading manure or planting potatoes by hand. Manure, a mixture of dried grass and human/animal waste is a prized commodity. We see some houses made entirely of sheets of woven grass and Jungba tells that these were the norm until slightly stronger structures, made from local stone, started to replace them about fifty years ago.
Although farming practices don't seem to have changed much for centuries, mobile phones, even in remote villages, seem to be everywhere.
|Remnants of the Annapurna glacial lake flood|
Just after the primitive but nice lunch at Kunjo we head south again, back towards the main trial. We were walking on a new, machine worked trail high above another pebble filled valley, although the pebbles are now light limestone coloured rather that the grey/black of the Kali Guadaki Nadi. I thought it might be linked but no, it was actually the result of the collapse of a wall of a glacial dam high up on Annapurna in 2007. The resultant flood sent a torrent of gravel and water down the valley for many miles destroying a village and farmland in its wake. Although many lives were lost, surviving villagers were already trying to stake out the boundaries of their original landholding despite the fact that, with a covering of gravel, the land could no longer be used for agriculture.
|Along the new road down to Ghasa|
If women spreading manure by hand on the land and the damage left by the collapse of a glacial dam wasn't enough to tell us what a tough country this is, the rest of the walk presented yet further evidence. Along a tight valley with a fast running river crashing along the bottom, huge landslides carved out great slices from the sides of the mountains. This high up, and with these forces at work, nothing stays the same for long.