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Annapurna Circuit - DAY 4

Breakfast at the teahouse prepared us all for another long hike today, but nothing prepared me for what could’ve turned out disastrous for me. The clasp on the hip belt of my brand new backpack was broken. It wouldn’t fasten properly, which meant it came loose within seconds, and as any hiker can tell you, you can’t carry a backpack of that weight with all the weight on your shoulders. Panic is a mild word for the emotion that overcame me, but thanks to a level-headed friend the consternation in my mind was soon calmed and a makeshift clasp fashioned out of a carabiner. My gear – although it was as comfortable as i could hope for – was failing me. Yesterday i'd found gaps in the lining of my three month-old hiking boots, and a serious blister was forming on my one heel. Today one of the most vital parts of my backpack failed. i prayed that the rest of the gear would hold up.

By now a rhythm is setting in: eat, walk, eat, walk, eat, sleep. After a relatively easy morning hike, a steady incline brings us to a large apple orchard at the foot of some Himalayan cliffs. We stop at Bhratang Tea House for an apple break and continue onward. As we pass through some villages, it’s clear that the crop has been harvested. Everyone is drying everything – corn, apple, chili, to name a few – in preparation for the winter. The colours of fall surround us in both the expected and unexpected places along the route. We are introduced to the rhythm which guides the lives of the people of Manang. It seems slower than the lives we are used to back home, and at the risk of idealising this, it is fair to say that it appeals to me in many ways.

Now my favourite rock formation appears and grows closer: Swargadwari Danda. It looks like an enormous wooden salad bowl lying on its side, displaying the beautiful wood-grained texture to the admirer. But to my disappointment, we cross a bridge to the other side of the river and start upward on another shortcut, leaving behind the road that winds along the foot of this corner (literally) of the route. The track continues to grow steeper and steeper. We enter pine forests and climb and climb and climb. We pass tea stalls and craft stalls by the dozen. Ekraj feels weak and stops for a snack and one of our team mates joins in, eating a samosa. Eventually we join the vehicle road again, then the road levels out a bit, and we stroll into Dhikur Pokhari for lunch at Hotel Gangapurna.

After yesterday’s long wait, we enquire as to which dish would be the fastest to serve, and consequently we all order Dal Bhat, Nepal’s most famous dish of rice and lentil soup, accompanied by curry and poppadoms. The lady who had had a samosa on the way declines lunch and spends some time with new friends, discussing their options for trekking to Tilicho, a beautiful lake high in the Annapurna trail. With full tummies we continued north west with yet more picture-perfect countryside vistas: yellow autumn forests and white mountain peaks and milky streams flowing in the riverbeds. By now we had already passed Lamjung Himal (6,983m). Annapurna II (7,937m) and Annapurna IV (7,525m) beckons to our left. Although the peaks are a bit obscured by clouds, we’re encountering the sights we’d come here to see: the Himalayas. These peaks are still roughly 10km away from the track, still it towers over us and we feel oh so small.

Soon we see Upper Pisang beckoning on a hillside in the distance, and we’re encouraged to continue, because it means that Lower Pisang is close, too. We stop by the roadside for some photos (among which an “s” in the river, which i hope will soon be a staple in my collection). This turns into some silliness with selfies and more, and although it cost us some time, some of our favourite memories of the trip is planted on a bridge somewhere below Pisang. Grey clouds that herald some serious cold weather start to gather above, and by the time we enter the settlement of Lower Pisang, it’s miserably cold. We find a place to stay and head out immediately towards Upper Pisang, as we won’t have time for that tomorrow. It feels like an authentic Manang village. The stone buildings have clearly seen many seasons change and an ancient way of life continues here, albeit with some modern intrusions. We return before dark and settle in for the coldest night yet. By the time we reach the dining hall, the lady who hadn’t eaten lunch today is as hungry as a lion and orders Dal Bhat ahead of us. Ironically, her dinner is served much later than ours. This is the second time we encounter an extremely hot dining room, but we’re thankful, because the bedrooms are bitterly cold.

Day 4 Planned: Ngawal to Manang

Day 4 in Reality: Chame to Lower Pisang

Day 4 Distance: 19km

Day 4 Walking Time: 9 hours

Day 4 Altitude Gain: 540m

Days Behind: 1

Day 4 Budget pp: $25

Day 4 Cost pp:$18

Accumulated Savings pp: $31

Lessons for next trip:

Your body needs food. Don’t skip meals. Order enough to carry you to the next stop.

Other articles in this series include:

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