This is now the third day of trekking and the mornings are feeling a little colder and crisper, so it’s important to get out right after the sun has risen so there’s plenty of time to walk in the warmer temps.
In keeping with the original trail, which does take a little longer to walk, we have the opportunity to trek through more little villages for leisurely breaks. Across the valley what looks like a thin ledge carved out of the mountainside is the road that transports people and goods.
From a distance the jeeps traveling the road almost appear to be literally on the edge of the cliff as they meander along.
Another epic suspension bridge crossing with sweeping views of the Marshyangdi and surrounding valley. If you’re scared of heights you’ll eventually get used to these crossings-you have too! There’s no other way!
After reaching Dhranapani, an important crossroads and trekking permit check-in office we agreed to just make this a lunch stop rather than an overnight stay and move a little further up the valley to Danaqyu village where we’d spend the night.
This an important crossroads where the Manaslu trail meets up with the Annapurna Circuit. The Mansalu area was affected by the earthquakes of 2015 but things have since normalized. The Nepalese army along with help from locals and NGO’s have cleared away the fallen rocks from the trails over the past year. Prince Harry was even seen in this region in 2016 trekking and pitching in to help rebuild a school that had been damaged.
Horses and goats on the side of the road and crossing paths with other herd animals was a sign we were nearing our stop for the night-Danaqyu.
Dhranapani is a major crossroads for trekkers on the Annapurna Circuit and the Mansalu trail so it’s nice to kick back in a little village that has less traffic.
Because there so many spots like Danaqyu on the Annapurna Circuit with great lodges you could trek this trail a few times and have a completely experience. This season following the devastating earthquakes was quiet to begin with. It would be another night in a lodge as the only guests.
The next day’s destination was Chame, the administration center of Manang District. We had some climbing to tackle as our first challenge of the day, over 450 meters up to Timang. The promise of views of Manaslu and Annapurna II was motivating and helpful on a climb first thing in the morning. More bridges to cross, and animals like big yaks to yield to.
It’s hit or miss whether you’ll see any of the Manaslu massif. On this day we missed. Mansalu is the 8th highest mountain in the world, first summited by Japanese mountaineers in 1956. Just as the British have claimed Everest as their mountain, the Japanese consider Mansalu a Japanese mountain.
But just before our lunch stop at Koto on the way to Chame we caught the first glimpse of Annapurna II, at 7937 meters, the second highest peak in the 6 mountain range. It was a magnificent site and a wonderful welcome to this part of the region.
The Annapurna translation from Sanskrit means “full of food” which makes sense as the normal translation is Goddess of the Harvests or the kitchen Goddess, the mother who feeds.
Chame is the headquarters of Manang District, which is the least populated district in all of Nepal, with a total count of over 6500.
Many Manangies are also traders having been given special permission by King Mahendra in the 1970’s to trade in Southeast Asia. Customs duties were waived and many now reside mostly in the Kathmandu Valley. They import electronics, watches, and other items and are allowed to export goods like precious stones, metals, and herbs among other things.
The largest ethnic group in Manang District are the Gurung people, who over centuries have adopted Tibetan Buddhism, the signs of this are evident in the village with Buddhist stupas that hold relics and the remains sometimes of lamas, and mani walls for prayer.
The next day we left with Lower Pisang village as our next destination.
Not far outside of Chame we came across what I had been observing especially in this part of Nepal-signs of a new era of tourism, with young Nepali entrepreneurs bringing new ideas from the outside. Like this Apple Orchard using the latest strains in apple production.
I spoke with the owner of this large orchard, Samraj Gurung about his inspiration for this new breed of apple orchard.
After a tea and some fresh crisp golden delicious apples from Samraj’s orchard we were back on the trail.
Hari my guide, who is Gurung himself joins in with a local senior for a mid-morning Buddhist chant.
We’re now at Dhukurpokhary, home of the Paunga Danda rock wall, or gateway to heaven. A massive mountain of stone thatt literally looks like a giant wall reaching towards the sky. Locals believe that all souls of the deceased must ascend Paunga Danda after leaving their bodies.
Our stop for the night Pisang. The area consists of a lower village at 3200 meters and an upper more traditional old Tibetan style walled village at 3300 meters. The lower village has more lodge choices and shops so we opted for a night there.
Mani walls, the stone walls made of tablets with the inscription om mani padme hum, meaning “jewel in the lotus” are found everywhere here.
Pisang reminds me of Nepal’s Upper Mustang Tibetan/Buddhist region and Tibet itself, environmentally and culturally.
Many residents leave for the Kathmandu Valley or other places during the winter months but we’re still able to see some traditional village life, spinning prayer wheels, and the smell of juniper burning as Buddhist offerings.
Next time on Far East Adventure Travel Trekking The Great Annapurna Circuit, Nepal continues.
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