The stunning weather of yesterday proved to be a false dawn, today was cloudy with occasional flurries of snow and, as the wind got stronger, it got increasingly cold. Although the deep valley to the west of Chame was spectacular we missed the big views of Annapurna II which we had been looking forward to.
Walking at around 3,000 metres we are still in an agriculture area and just outside Chame saw a man with two little cows ploughing a tiny field and planting potatoes. It's hard to imagine anything growing given how cold it is but I guess it proves that the weather is usually at lot warmer. I just hope things turn around a bit before we go over the Thurang Pass which is about 2,500 metres higher than we are now.
|Steady stream of trekkers north of Chame|
So today's walk took us along an easy path heading north out of Chame. Chame is the only place to stay on this part of the route and all the walkers on the trail were bunched together creating quite a crowd as we left the village. Leaving the village and its improbable potato fields, it's a steady climb up a broad path into a valley which gets tighter and tighter. After a couple of hours we reach the scheduled tea stop but there is no water so we press on, running a bit ahead of schedule.
Shortly after the abortive tea stop, and on a narrow bit of the trail, the mass of the bikers from the yak attack race catch us up. We watch them crash down a particularly treacherous bit of the trail cheering them on as they go past. The Welsh and Danish cyclists go down particularly well with Carole and Tanya who are from Wales and Denmark.
The trail then takes us back down valley and across a bridge over the river. The valley at this point turns to west and there is a great view of the outer curve of the valley, Paungda Danda, which has clearly been carved out by some ancient glacier.
Climbing up the side of the valley we get to the village of Dhukure Pokhari where we stop for lunch. Like most of them, the tea house offers very little protection against the wind, and we all shiver as we wait for lunch. We pass the time talking to a young Swiss woman, walking on her own (with a guide and a porter), very pretty.
|The monastery at upper Pisang|
Rushing back onto the trail, just to get warm, we head to upper Pisang and the Buddhist monastery. The wind is really blowing at this point and I must admit that tacking my boots off to go inside was a bit of an ordeal. Still it was nice to get a cup of tea and good to be reunited with the French party who had been with us in the tea house in Chame.
Climbing up to the monastery meant we could comply by the acclimatisation rule of walking to a higher point than the place at which we end up sleeping. The monastery is at Upper Pisang and our final destination for the day is Lower Pisang about 200 metres down the hill. We had walked for about 5 and half hours, covered 20 kilometres and gained 700 metres (now well over 3,000 metres).
Had a nice conversation with Jangbu the Nepalese Tour Leader. He has been leading on tours for 8 years and has summited on Everest and other significant Nepalese peaks. Gave me lots of ideas for other trips in Nepal, his favorite is the High Passes trip near Everest.
Being with Jangbu just reminds how good the Nepalese guides are. He has made a significant investment to learn his trade, he went to language school to learn English and also speaks Japanese. On this trip I have already seen guides leading French, Chinese, Spanish and Russian groups all speaking the respective language of the group.
Jangbu by the way is a Sherpa and comes from the region of Nepal near Everest. Nima the second guide is also a Sherpa while Himenta the first guide is a Tamil.
The ethnic breakdown of Nepal is complicated and taken seriously. Jangbu says there are three broad groupings, those who live in the high mountains along the northern border with Tibet and who resemble people from central Asia. There are then a group of people who, like the Tamils, live in the foothills to the Himalyas and finally there is a group of people in the lowlands bordering India, often Brahmins, who resemble people from India. The position on languages is even more complicated - while everyone speaks Nepalese they communicate locally in their own local language often specific to a valley. These are distinct languages, and while everyone understands Nepalese, the distinct languages are only understood by the locals.
What it does mean is that the Nepalese are generally at least bilingual which must help them learn the languages of the bewildering range of people who visit their country