100 days of trekking

Posted on 12 Jun 2019

It's day 100 at Bimthang where we were camped in the open field along with the horses and mules. To avoid the loss of our washstand soap again, we were each given a bar to keep under the fly sheet of our tents.

The new construction here was noticeably predominately wooden. A big stack of freshly smelling wooden planks strongly hinted at local production from the trees on the hillsides. I could see no gap in the trees.

The sound of Nepal has changed from a cock crowing to an electric planning tool.

During the day the clouds eased, giving a good view back of the snow-capped peaks in the early morning from the first bridge. That bridge is now a few hundred metres downstream from 2017, to avoid the land sliding area on the west bank.

The haze has reduced, mainly due to the rain, rather than location. We can now see three hours ahead. En route I accidentally stepped into some fresh mule dung, which stuck to the sides of my boot. I tried to wipe it off with my stick, but only succeeded in dirtying my stick. Later, after a rest stop, I picked up the wrong end of my stick, getting the muck on my hand. It was some time before we came to a stream to wash everything. It's easy for muck to spread, so vigilance, care, some tissue and hand sanitiser can come in handy.

The road from Dharapani through Tilije has not advanced one metre in the last two years. It continues to be mainly used for collecting firewood. Though a lot of the scarring caused by the road construction has now healed.

We eventurally arrived at Dharapani at 1900m at 4pm; tired but not drained with 3000m of descent in one and half days. The warning light on my right knee had cpme on.

We camped by the road and they replaced my fly sheet with a new one. The original one had developed a couple of tears near the top, but no water was getting into my tent and I had not said anything. World Expeditions is like that. The time when the helicopter flight came to take Dennis, it packed some new gaiters for the porters whose gaiters were falling apart. Great to see the team is always well looked after.

How has 100 days of strenuous walking affected me?

The blood vessels on the top of my feet, and on my arms seem more prominent at the end of the day. Judging by my waist belt, my weight is probably roughly the same.

For the first half, weighing before/after at the Radisson, it remained 72 kg. Three days later, I started the second half at 73 kg. The appearance of my legs remains the same, floppy looking, not the tight bulges that the Nepalese have.

The team baked me a celebratory cake for the 100 days, which was much appreciated. Having worked in production in a cake factory and seen about 10,000 tons of cake, I can now only eat one slice, but I do enjoy that slice.

Day 101: Walking on the road for most of the day, it's noticeable that traffic has increased from 2017 to a ballpark 100 vehicles/day. The main problem is the dust, making me carry the lens cap for the time lapse camera in my hand, and putting it on when necessary.

The vehicles are mostly Indian Mahendra Bolero 4WD, 4 door, white, sometimes grey, usually a ute (utility vehicle) with roll bars at the back for extra passengers to hold onto, or sometimes fully enclosed with a 3rd row of seats at the back. Other vehicles are Indian motor bikes with serious bull bars, and 4WD light trucks with excellent ground clearance. The trucks carry steel reinforcing rods sticking way out the back, or ridiculous amounts of black plastic pipe. Somewhere under that would be bags of cement.

The Boleros carry gas bottles, bags of rice, and packets of noodles. At Danaque, there is a Chinese hydro power station construction and a trout farm has been constructed, complete with solar panel water heaters, but no fish yet.

We had lunch at Tamang with an easy arrival at Koto at 2pm at 2700m. Just before arriving at Koto, Padum showed me a water powered mill in action, with a stone wheel grinding millet grain. These days they use a steel turbine wheel, instead of wood.

Koto is the turn off for Naar and Phu. Apparently, this region is being considered to be included next year’s GHT. It would extend it by a few days, when already on the 150-day visa limit. It would also mean including another 5000m pass, this one with a steep descent. One wonders how they will sell it: “Try the new improved GHT, with added toughness. Now an extra 5000m pass just at the point when you think you might actually make it.”

Anyway, at Koto, Chris indulged in her second shower in two days, and I indulged in washing two shirts at once. We both indulged in recharging electronics stuff.

Day 102: A warm then hot and windy dusty day along the road to Pisang at 3500m. It was tiring. We passed that enormous famous curved rock face just before Pisang was mostly visible, with only some cloud at the top. Camp was in the same place as 2017, a quiet little field under pine trees, pinecones littering the place, with a view of Annapurna 2.

We pitched the tents upside-down to dry them. One nearly blew away. Drying in the hot dry windy Himalayan air only takes a few minutes.

Day 103: The plan was to do the upper route to Manang, avoiding the dust of the roads, and giving views of the Annapurnas, but nature had other plans. At about 2am a mild thunderstorm, with the thunder reverberating for 5 seconds. The problem was the rain though; light at first, then getting serious at dawn. We thought, “this is going to be a miserable day”. I tried my cheap, lightweight Daiso umbrella, but the handle had broken off in the red bag. Still usable, but I was eventually going to cut myself on the jagged end, so I discarded it.

Padum picked it up, and with his Swiss army style penknife and the World Expeditions all-purpose pliers, inserted a wooden peg, and gave it back to me. I’ll have to keep it in my day pack.

Suddenly the rain stopped though fluffy clouds still lingering on the snow-capped peaks. With the dust on the road now dampened, we went back to plan A. The rain had actaully cleared the air, and the views excellent.

Braga, the old village built on the hillside, around a green, and was in decline when I first saw it in 1980. Well now, it is an ancient monastery housed in recent buildings with several new stupas. The remaining houses are battered down. There are plenty of colourful flags, which are commonplace, even the big apple orchard at Brathang. We camped before Manang at 3500m at midday in clear windy weather and finally got to wash my fibre pile top. I went into “town” to visit the bakery, but the bakery was closed. I only saw four other trekkers, but a lot of construction.

Day 104: A beautiful day, warm, bright and clear sky with hardly a trekker to be seen. A road beyond Manang is being constructed towards Tilicho pass, and over to Jomsom. So, in the future you could really cycle the Annapurna Circuit. 

We had an easy gentle climb to Yak Kharkha at 4400m, looking back at views all day of Manang and its green cultivated fields above, and across to the snow capped Annapurnas. It was magical.

Day 105: An easy day to upper Thorong Phedi at 4800m blessed with another day of beautiful, clear weather. Just before lower Thorong Phedi a mountain goat 50 metres away was unconcerned by our presence. At upper Thorong Phedi I walked up a little hill to the right where I was greeted with a mesmerising view of most of the Annapurna range and light clouds milling around its tops. Has anyone traversed across all of that? Would a cable car traversing it be technically feasible? I thought to myself. To my right was the Thorong La pass with its sentinel minor peaks and below me the little settlement itself with our tents. I sat down, and tried many times to capture it on video; until a growing chill forced a retreat - stopping every few steps for one last look before heading to my sun warmed tent.

Day 106: Away at 5.50am with not a cloud in the sky. It was chilly but we had a brilliant scenery of snow-capped peaks, with a moonscape foreground. The only other trekkers were two arriving at the top at 5400m.

The usual long descent had my knees begging for a break at the tea shops on the other side. A rhubarb drink later, then a gentle walk to Muktinath at about 3500m, made me only slightly tired. I must be getting used to this.

I decided to head to the Bob Marley bar to find someone who would disbelieve me having walked so far, but no-one said a word to me. Instead, I wandered around Muktinah where a big religious statue stood under a pavilion on top of a hill overlooking the town.

We were then joined by Sue, a New Zealand landscape gardener, for the Dolpo stage. Chris will be leaving shortly. Chris did the New York marathon last year. She explained how for big events you have to qualify with a good time at a recognised event, and that may only allow you to enter a ballot. Or perhaps you could pay a hefty fee. She has a pair of gloves with the name of the five boroughs of New York written on each finger and thumb. Her ambition is to run in the five big marathons, New York, Boston, Chicago, London, Tokyo, at one a year. Wishing her the best as we bid farewell.

- Brian

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