DAY 8 – Pisang to Manang
The road to Manang was right out of the Clint Eastwood movie “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. The first hour of walking was straight uphill. We gained about 1300 ft in altitude and when we hit the top we had an awesome view of the rest of the valley as we headed North into the Himalayas.
We met an Israeli man trekking with his adult son. He kept asking who was the cook in our crew. He joked about wanting to steal him away from us. Apparently his dining experience hadn’t been as good as ours. Our crew remained loyal and refused to give up the identity of the cook.
We arrived in Hongde which was sort of like an old-fashioned outpost. Here we came across the first STOL (short take off/landing) airport and it looked about 300 ft long. We got to see Yeti airlines land a Twin Otter with a 30 knot tail wind! It was a flawless landing. Nepal’s pilots are known as some of the world’s best because of their ability to land and takeoff in the world’s highest mountain ranges (with near perfect records).
After we descended into the valley we found ourselves in a high altitude desert! Right out of the U.S. southwest. Men on mules wearing leather vests, low scrub brush, 2 bulls fighting over a cow, a gimp dog, and lots of wind and sand. Billy kept whistling the theme from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. I think he’s got the porters whistling it as well.
We had lunch just after Hongde airport (about 1 hr) at a lonely little store in the middle of the desert. Nothing around for miles. That was when Billy did his Clint Eastwood “Blondie” impersonation. While we sat around waiting for lunch to be prepared several people trotted by on mules. It was all very surreal. I kept expecting a shoot out at high noon.
The village of Manang was about 2 hours passed this spot. It’s an incredible village. All made of stone and wood and perched on a shelf in the valley. Gangapurna Glacier, only a 10 minute walk away, dominates the scenery. You can even rent a boat and go canoeing on its glacier made lake.
Manang is a Tibetan village. All the inhabitants are of Tibetan ancestry and don’t speak much Nepalese. There’s a 400 yr old Gompa (Buddhist monastery) with a Lama and Tibetan Buddhist nuns all dressed in red robes. Very visually stunning. My boss Tim, back in Alaska, asked me to seek the wisdom of a Buddhist monk in regards to our budget problems. I attempted to enter this monastery and found the door not only locked, but with a big iron gate. I guess Tim has his answer 🙂
We camped in someone’s garlic and marjoram garden (the side not yet planted). The Ultraviolet rays are a killer here! Can’t take off my glacier glasses even inside the tent! Tomorrow we stay here for a day of acclimatization. The altitude here is about 11,000 ft. I got winded jogging just 60 ft.
We spoke with 2 American women who are traveling alone. One of them is a graduate student at a University in Washington. She lived on the other side of the pass for over a year and is fluent in the Nepalese language. She is currently in the country doing an experiment on the viability of using ultraviolet rays for the expedient purification of water in developing countries. They were both very cool ladies.
Tomorrow we stay here for our required day of acclimatization. Altitude is 11,000 ft.