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THE LAND OF NONRANDOM MEETINGS
OR rINGED BY aNNAPURNA

Chapter 1. LONG WAY TO KATHMANDU
Chapter 2.
KATHMANDU AND ITS PEOPLE
Chapter 3.
JOURNEY FROM SUMMER TO WINTER
Chapter 4.
BETWEEN TWO SUMMITS
Chapter 5. SLEEPY PARADISE
Chapter 6.
MOVABLE FEAST
Chapter 7.
ACROSS THE HALF OF THE WORLD IN SIX DAYS

CHAPTER 3.   JOURNEY FROM SUMMER TO WINTER

Mountains always surprised me that during some days there one could get to the ice zone from tropics and observe summer turning into autumn at first and then into winter. The area of Annapurna is the most remarkable in it. Besi Sahar is situated in subtropical zone, Thorung La pass is the kingdom of snow already. This was the main reason Id chosen this route for the trekking. After we had got permits, each for 2000 rupees ($30) in ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project organization) office, we bought tickets to Besi Sahar.

On arrival at Besi Sahar at about 2 pm we, unlike most of the tourists, decided to start for the trek at once and not to stay there for night. We spent night on the bank of the river Marsyandgi nearby a small Hindu temple.

Beginning of the trek. God be with us... (or not...)

Beginning of the trek.
God be with us... (or not...)

In Bahundanda village we learnt how to make an order in local restaurants. As it is much more difficult to understand spoken English than the written language it goes like this: they bring you the menu, a notebook and a pencil. You decide yourself what dishes and in what amount you want. Be aware that you have to write them in the same way as they are written on the menu (there are plenty of grammar and spelling mistakes; we had counted 6 variants of writing the word omelette ). Then you count yourself how much you have to pay, they even can give you a calculator.

As for the restaurant business there we can say that any dilapidated hut, even just a metal stall has a proud name of a restaurant. Though, the writing of this word is varied too (like in the case with omelette).

Still in Bahundanda the restaurant keeper said something about Yulias bravery after she had noticed her backpack. It turned out that people in Nepal go to the mountains with a porter or a guide. That is why so many people admired us, Yulia in particular, who had a huge backpack, too. But sometimes the porters can make a disservice as it had happened to the Canadians we met on the way.

Not far from Syange village we found a good place for a tent under the bridge over the river. The point was that near it there was a requiring payment camping ($1 for a tent), and we managed to put the tent for free. I have to mention that we never paid for the tent and I think that it is smut to take money for it. Soon a woman came up to us and asked if they could put their tent near ours. Of course we said that everyone could do there what they wanted as it was free ground.

So we put up our tents together. But her husband was not lucky in it and there occurred some fights between them. When it was getting dark a kind of local beggar, it could have been a herder, came up to their tent and addressing to the porters started claiming something. Soon we heard our neighbor talking to that man in a loud voice. We got interested and went out to check what the reason was. From their conversation we learned that this ground was prepared for mules pasture. And on this account the herder actively, I would rather say aggressively demanded their putting up in the requiring payment camping. Apparently, it belonged to him.

Weve spent the night under this bridge

Weve spent the night under this bridge

All this time the husband of that woman kept silent sitting at the tent. Seeing despair the woman was in we decided to take part in that conflict. Telling it shortly using all dirty words we knew we explained the herder that we all had paid for the permits and could do there what we wanted unless otherwise. Whether he did us any harm we promised to make problems for him after our getting to the nearest ACAP office. At last, thanks to Heaven, he realized there was nobody to throw him any cash. He went away to his mules bursting loudly. So, if the Canadians hadnt had the porters, the locals wouldnt have come up to them as they did not know English.

After the herders leaving the concert began. Now our Canadians were sorting out their relationship, discussing the husbands behavior during that conflict. Then he tried to light the primus stove, slowly and with difficulties. This couple didnt let us sleep. They had been fighting till late night. Apparently, the reason of their conflict was not only in the tent putting up and lighting the primus stove

On the way from Syange a huge dog was seeing us off. It was waving with its tail very friendly. Dogs in Nepal are a special topic. They are like in constant nonstop nirvana, slow, lazy, without any aggression and curiosity to the passers by.

We were spending evenings playing cards. When we got bored with the cards, Dima and Pasha tried to play backgammon, but it was boring too. That is why we used to drink tea with some alcohol and chat. Yulia and Pasha had fresh impressions on Mongolia and China. One could understand from their talks that the Mongolians were the best and the Chinese were the worst. To tell the truth, I had my own plans for Mongolia, and their talks made me longing for it.

My favorite drink in those hot days was cool lemon, water with juice of a lime. It is awfully tasty, especially after a days walk with a heavy backpack. Somewhere in Tien-Shan I would drink cool water from the springs all the way, but here I was afraid to do it. Life in the mountains is very active here and consequently the water is not very clean.

Not far from village Tal

Not far from village Tal

On the bank of Marsyandgi, not far from village Tal we celebrated Celtic New Year, Samhain. Due to Americans, it is known now as Hallowe'en. On account of this holiday we cooked tasty supper: boiled potatoes with canned meat, mayonnaise, summer sausage and some cognac. So we celebrated it properly. But it was difficult to peel the potatoes, as it was just the size of a walnut.

Next day we passed the subtropical zone and got into the zone of the temperate climate. There was a real autumn, a bit chilly, with yellow leaves and frozen earth. Now it was much easier to walk and breathe.

It was a splendid opportunity to try the green fodder and take up to picking up as our ancestors did. Only the apples we picked up were not wild, but from the country. But this fact didnt make them taste worse. On the contrary, there is something from childhood in picking up the apples. You have to get through the fence, still ripe apples and run away with these treasures unnoticed.

Annapurna II

Annapurna II

And the apples were perfect, I must say. Their splendid taste and juicy consistence made them more like a drink than food. The locals make wine on these apples, and it is nothing but not very strong home-brew.

Approaching Pisang we met a group of Israeli guys one of which could speak Russian. Judging by his pronunciation we could say that he was out of practice and didnt communicate in Russian much. And we were right. It appeared that Nathans parents moved to Israel when he was a little boy. Having served in the army, he set off on a half-year journey. He said such trips after the army are widespread in Israel. Thats a good tradition to be envious of. Besides, after the army activities all these crossings and passes were for them as easy as a pie. By the way, the Jews were the only people on the trek, to say nothing of us, who did it without porters and guides.

It should be said that they turned out to be quite friendly. The group we met at the pass (about 12 people) was forming chaotically from singles and couples. We repeatedly met all this company at the descent as well as in Pokhara.

Temperate climate caused us some inconvenience. It was becoming more and more unpleasant to spend nights in the tent. Cold and frozen we would hardly wake up in the morning. At night the temperature was below freezing and in the mornings the tent was all frosted over. Our sleeping bags designed according to the label and shop assistants assurance for minus 10 degrees centigrade could not even save us from zero temperature. We decided to sleep with our clothes on. All the same it was bitterly cold.

The road to Manang

The road to Manang

At that time we began to make a fire despite all prohibitions. Honestly speaking, I just cant picture mountaineering tour without a fire because it embodies not only warmth but also comfort and some kind of ritual. I believe fire makes all the travelers feel comfortable and secure. And when some crackly wood burns and turns into a warm and blazing fire, the stones and logs you sit on are becoming softer and softer and you are tempted to stretch out on them. Usually when people experience these moments they are either looking for a cigarette or flask. It depends on their predilections. Then they are staring at the fire adding wood as if not wishing to part with comfort of a warm room.

Such our evenings were near Thanchok and Pisang settlements. Then we were heading for a more arid region. Some miles away from Pisang the vegetation in the river valley was rather poor. We were descending to the valley leading to Manang. It was easy to walk and besides the landscape was almost flat. And on the left one could watch a fascinating picture an enormous mountainous theatre between Annapurna 3 and 4.

Incessantly arguing over with Yulia which civilization contributed more to the world Western or Eastern, we approached Manang. Not approached but entered it through the gates. Apparently, we were so involved in a lengthy dispute that we hadnt noticed the city.

At a height of 300 metres above Manang

At a height of 300 metres above Manang

In Manang we were going to stay at a hotel (here at the mountains they are usually named lodges) and spend there a day or so to acclimatize. Though, Pasha and Yulia announced in unison that it was impossible to acclimatize per two days. All in all it was good to stay and have a rest. Besides, everybody wanted to wash.

We put at a hotel we spotted first Yeti. As we didnt manage to wash straight away, we were said hot water had already stopped running (we came at 3 p.m. ) we made our way to explore the city. The western part of the city is the most interesting because there inhabitants live. You can see there narrow streets, low entrances leading into enclosed courts, prolonged and high stairs In the eastern part there is a great number of curiosity shops and hotels. The city is so dependent upon tourism. When we found out the prices for Internet and telephone calls we were killed on the spot. One minute call with Kazakhstan cost $13, an hour in Internet $20. We discovered a couple of places where one could eat at a moderate price (for local mountainous standards). Though, we did not notice any foreigners in these places. Though it was delicious, particularly good were momo with chopped buffalo meat (not minced meat as in other cafes).

Passing by another restaurant I noticed a note with films titles (The Lord of the Ring among them) and realized I had stumbled on the local cinema. Having appointed the time with the owner for 7 oclock in the evening and discussed prices and repertoire, we darted to the hotel for beer and whiskey to make our leisure unforgettable. The cinema was situated in a small restaurant cellar, the seats and floor were covered with yak skin and the whole building was heated by a furnace where wood was crackling agreeably. After watching The Lord of the Rings -2 Manang became more mysterious and fairytale.

The programme planned for next day included walks around Manangs outskirts. We were going to reach Gangapurna glacier, but walking in this direction we soon realized it was a bit impossible. The glacier is really far away and we had only five hours or so to go there and back. We climb up the mountain, took pictures of Manang and the valley from the top. Then we split into groups and walked separately: Pasha with Yulia went on roaming around and I with Dima descended and returned to Manang.

TeaShop above Manang. Beginning of the trek to Tilicho lake

TeaShop above Manang. Beginning of the trek to Tilicho lake

Dima was in low spirits from the very morning when he knew that something had broken down and we had not got a chance for hot water supply. As for me, I was still very impressed by yesterdays movie and local landscape. Thats why my eyes were in quest for something magical worth capturing on film. The towers built of stone, rocky ledges, waving flags and all this beauty is in the background of unbelievably blue sky that borders with the surrounding clay-colour area. And mountains here and there Snow-white tops, glaciers Well, its the plain truth a person sees what he wants to see. But there should be the appropriate conditions. And Manang has everything to make you believe as if you were in a fairy-tale.

It is not worthwhile to buy something in Manang. The city has been dependent on trade from the ancient times. That is why the inhabitants are born dealers who can sell you any cheap junk for an enormous sum of money. And as many others I relented and bought there a Tibetan sacrificial knife for 1000 rupee. It was a real bargain! I did not see such knives anywhere.

One more view of Manang

One more view of Manang

This rule does not apply to yak woolen sweaters which you can buy only in Manang. According to Kathmandu inhabitants the goods sold in the capital are not made of yak wool.

Doing the shopping, we met two girls from Odessa who were heading to another direction. The evening we spent together in a local cafe.

The rule no dinner no blanket (the conditions could varied: no water, no electricity etc) is common in these places. The owners are longing to make more money on feeding tourists but not on dwelling which is terribly cheap. But we were not satisfied with this condition as it was much more convenient and cheap to cook. And it caused some friction between us and the administrator of Yeti. Sometimes you feel you have a lack of words, especially when you want to swear in a foreign language. But I guess repetitive use of fuck and fucking in all possible contexts at the top of my voice finally convinced our administrator that we were not going to pay for the abnormal conditions (we had not enjoyed the promised hot water).

It was the first time we spent night not in the tent but room. The hotel living conditions proved to be awful. We saw no difference between a hotel suit and tent. Perhaps, the wind is not so blustery. That is why later we put up at a hotel only twice once before the pass (it was freezing cold) and another time in Marpha (we needed some washing).

An avalanche on Gangapurna glacier

An avalanche on Gangapurna glacier

The road leading from Manang to the pass is quite desolate and heather-covered. At first we stepped on a flat region graveled with enormous stones. They reminded me the cemetery of Edoras from The Lord of the Rings. Dima suggested a more prosaic explanation of these stones and their employment saying that in such kind of area where you can hardly find a tree people also need to get rid of solid and liquid waste from their bodies. And why not use the stones? I dont know why but I like my theory better.

Having stopped half-way to the pass, we made up our minds to spend the night together in the tent. There were 4 people there. It was fun. There was something rattling and crackling all night long. Whether it was the wind or our tent attracted goats we dont know, but one thing is clear it gave us enough food for talking about yeti and hair-raising tales.

Road to the Pass

Road to the Pass

By the afternoon of the following day we had reached Thorung Phedi. It is a settlement situated near Thorung La. This is a place groups wishing to reach the top of the pass usually stay at. As there was plenty of time we decided to go further to the top camp. We did it to save time on our tomorrows ascent and make descent easier. There at the top we found a crib we could spend the night. Not having ordered supper, we were automatically deprived of blankets and water. But we didnt suffer much as we had sleeping bags and a supply of water with us. The latter we had got from a container in the neighbouring lodge.

Early morning of the following day looking out of our hovels window we could observe the frightening picture (as if we were taking part in a horror movie): crowds of well-equipped people with alpenstocks, which made a terrible noise striking the stones, were crawling up in the moonshine like zombies Thus, it was the begging of the day for those who had stayed at night in Thorung Phedi. Well, that early departure was not logical at all. I guess they mixed trekking with mountaineering, said Yulia.

Congratulations! Thorung La pass, 5416 m

Congratulations! Thorung La pass, 5416  m

Fortunately, Pashas forecast for a bad weather didnt come true and the day we reached the pass the weather was lovely. The storm wind was not beastly blowing to our faces. But even if the weather is good, it takes much time and energy to reach the pass. I should never have thought it would be so undertaking. The more worthy it was the more overwhelmed we were seeing waving colourful flags. The pass had been reached.

At 11 oclock we were at the Thorung La pass. It was a new height record 5416 m. We unwrapped the flag of Avalon and took some photos to prove that inhabitants of Karaganda had been there. We drank up our whiskey cheering To you, to us and Thorung Pass . Then we started descending.

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