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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Around Annapurna #5 – Dayhikes in Manang

Most trekkers spend an extra acclimatization night in Manang, and we decided to spend three! There are so many great day hikes to do, and the kids LOVED the quad room we found… It was quite large, and had luscious views out the window of the Gangapurna Icefall. We were so overjoyed, prancing about the room, that we HAD to stay longer! (In that very room, while fiddling with battery chargers, Marcin and I managed to blow out the power for the entire hotel, and then fix things with duct tape, a ski pole, and the help of a nice Dutch trekker…)

Paul lived for a couple of weeks in Manang back in 1996, co-leading a summer service trip with Betty-Ann and 12 high school students for Global Routes. Our project was to build a trail & traditional wooden bridge across the outlet stream of Gangapurna Tal (lake), so that the locals could open a tea shop on the ridiculously scenic lakeshore. It would be owned collectively, and proceeds would benefit a community fund for local schools…. Well, that was the plan back then!

So our first hike was over to Ganga-Tal to see “Daddy’s bridge.” I’m pleased to say that it was still there in great shape, as strong and sturdy as the day we completed it 14 years ago. Of course, we built it under the supervision of 3 village carpenters, so they did most of the tricky work! Our students hauled thousands of heavy stones, carried freshly cut tree trunks 1,500’ down from the forest preserve, hoisted beams into place, and placed stone and wood exactly where the local experts directed us…. It’s still a sweet bridge! The tea house did get built once we’d departed, but its windows are now broken and it isn’t being used. I couldn’t find anyone in Manang, either local folks or ACAP officials, who could recall when, or what, had happened to that project. Ahhhh well…

We also hiked up to a sweet viewpoint way above Gangapurna lake, sipped hot tea, and watched the avalanches blast down the vertical icefall… The lateral moraines on this glacial canyon are astounding! Back at the lake, I took an icy plunge, and the kids (...and Karen!) discovered goooey silty mud to enjoy…

Another great hike was up the opposite side of the valley, to the ancient cave hermitage site occupied by “Lama Tashi.” He’s 90-something years old, and hasn’t left the spot for 40 years or so…. Fortunately his daughter is a nun, who treks down into Manang every week or 2 for supplies. They’re well funded, as many trekkers come up for a visit, and he blesses them and says a prayer for their safe crossing of the Thorung La… for a donation, of course! They keep a lovely garden, perched on this cliff side dwelling, with more eye-popping views out across the valley… a very lovely spot, especially if you’re going to pick one for a 40 year retreat!

We also enjoyed strolling around the town… Despite the sprawling growth of trekker’s lodges, gear shops, “german” bakeries, & coffee cafés, the old parts of Manang still look like they have for hundreds of years. The medieval stone alleys are still fantastically fascinating and festering, chock full of wandering animals, prayer wheels, and snot-nosed kids laughing and playing. It’s a wonderful place to wander, and with our kids, we get invited inside constantly… up on the roof to check out the harvest, into a courtyard to see the sheep, beckoned over and to compare Lupin’s height with the local kids… Manang is still a great place to eat, explore, acclimatize, relax with a cinnamon roll or 2, and savour the remarkable mountain landscape! There is even internet access… for a steep price!

We’re also prepping for crossing the Pass! We’re feeling great… strong, happy, healthy (except for Dad’s stuffy nose!), and optimistic. We hired a kind quiet porter named Prem to carry the girls packs for the next 3 days, to make their high-altitude crossing as successful, and enjoyable, as possible. One more lazy day, and then we head UP to the highest altitude our girls have ever experienced….

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