Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

November 2004 - The Annapurna Circuit - Day 8

Monday 8 November
Pisang to Manang
Itinerary: DAY 8 Manang (3,351m) Passing some prayer wheels we ascend gradually to a pass from where a wide Manang Valley comes in full view with peaks of Chhulu East on the north and Gangapurna in the south. After a short descent from the pass we follow the valley to an airstrip at Hongde (3,322m). We are now in the alpine zone with scattered scrubs of juniper. Due to the poor soil here only one crop per year of wheat, barley, buckwheat and potatoes grow. After lunch we continue to Manang via the village of Braga (3,505m), which houses the oldest monastery in the area (about 500 years old), perched high on the valley cliff. (5 - 6 hours walk). 

[Diarist: Sue]
It was slightly below zero when I got out during the night, frost on the tent but a beautiful starry sky. 

At 6 am, the usual routine, and I get out of the 4-season sleeping bag at the last minute. Painful hands resulted from air-drying them after washing them, and rubbing by Mary helped to resolve this. 

It was really chilly waiting for breakfast, but while we ate porridge, scrambled eggs and apple pancakes, the sun hit the tent and a gradual thaw began. 

This campsite was quiet, away from the river, and dominated by the snowy peaks of Annapurna II and IV. Today's is a short walk to Manang, and we start in down jackets, soon to remove them in the sun. The dirt track rose through shady woods. Quite a few people on the trail, including porters. On the north facing slopes, the first patches of snow, which Sanjeev tells us fell on October 17th and 18th. The waterfalls are now all frozen.

On the hillside the other side of the river is the medieval Tibetan village of Ghyaru at 3670 metres. Above us, its brown buildings blend in well on the brown, barren hillside.

Striking camp at Pisang, below Annapurna 11

A rise brings us to a superb view point, Norodhara. Looking back, Pisang Peak, and forward down the valley to Hongde, where the airstrip can be seen. Coloured prayer flags flutter in the breeze and a Twin Otter comes in to land. In the distance, Tilicho Peak (7134 metres), and the valley floor covered in pines.

Two pictures of the same tree beside the path to Hongde

Hongde airstrip, and Tilicho Peak

Bridge into Hongde, with Annapurna 111

Dropping down, a frosty path, before the trees are changed for scrub, then a wide level track heads to Hongde. It seems strange to have telegraph poles next to the path! 

Mules pass again, and today horsemen appear for really the first time. They move along at a fast trot.

Hongde flags

The village of Hongde has a long mani wall down the centre of the main street, and soon after this we stop for lemon tea at another sunny rooftop restaurant. From this eyrie are superb views of Annapurna III. Our trekking permits are checked at a police checkpoint at the end of the village and we continue uneventfully. Around us are wind-sculpted rock formations that dominate the scenery around the village.

Hongde mani wall

Hongde teashop


Leaving Hongde

The next section was stunning - Annapurna III and IV are 'just' to our left, albeit 4000 metres higher. The valley is wide and there are pines and scrub. 

Ahead is Tilicho Peak and behind, Pisang Peak. The sky is azure blue and cloudless again all day. Just after the few buildings of Mungji, a Himalayan griffon landed close by, then soared off again after close inspection through binoculars.

The path beyond Hongde, with views to Annapurna 111

Views from the path beyond Hongde

View towards Manang

Chorten and Tilicho Peak, nearing Braga

Braga was reached at about 12:30 (3505 metres). It has a 500 year-old monastery above Tibetan style stone houses built on the steep hillside. We notice the altitude during the climb up steps to the monastery, after having waited a few minutes for Manesh to find someone with a key. It was a fine place to linger, looking down on the white gompa and across to another village, then on to the Annapurnas across the other side of the Marsyangdi and fields. The sound of bells and flapping prayer flags was memorable.

Views from Braga Monastery

Shoes were removed before we stepped through a dark doorway and into a room about 12 metres square, lit by a skylight. It was very colourful, with coloured flags hanging down, painted carved wood near the edges, and walls were cabinets with two rows of statues behind glass - the lower teachers, the upper one gods. A Buddha sits at the front, with the senior monk's chair to one side. In front of the Buddha, a 24-hour flame burns and offerings sit. Thanka paintings line the walls high up, some faded with age. Behind the Buddha, lots of prayer books line the walls.

At Braga Monastery

To reach the upper floor, we climb wooden ladders - tree trunks with steps cut into them. Two beasts guard the entrance to another smaller room where a large Buddha sits, with gold hands and coloured dragons behind. This, apparently, is a very good example of a monastery, still used twice a day by locals.

Despite the morning's gentle walk, lunch was welcome - curried potato, paratha, tuna, carrots in cinnamon, and coleslaw, followed by pomegranate, eaten in a room with a sunken floor, covered in stones, on chairs cut from trunks, with small tables. It resembled a council chamber! 

Only 40 minutes walk to Manang remained after lunch. Despite the sun, the wind was cold - no shorts for any of us today. Manang, at 3550 metres, is quite a metropolis, and it is where trekkers stay for a day or so to acclimatise before going higher. So we have a 'rest day' tomorrow. The main street where the hotels are is wide and it looks like there are furrows where it is not paved.

Braga village and monastery

At Braga

Mani wall between Braga and Manang

We spot the yellow tents in town at 3:10 pm and enjoy a few minutes sun on the tent before it goes, and clothes are pulled on. We look across at Annapurna III and Gangapurna, and the huge Gangapurna glacier. The tents are pitched on dust, which has blown across the trail at several points today. kicked up by wind, people and horses. 

Washing water at 4:00 and tea at 4:30, then Martin and I stroll through darkening streets to the end of town, through stone buildings. 

Dinner was at 6:30, with a few surprises. Tomato and garlic soup with poppadoms, then rice, carrot and cucumber salad, beans with cumin, and pizza with cheese, mushrooms and tomato. A warm pudding of custard and peach slices. Hot drinks followed. To our amazement, hot water bottles were produced and were secreted under our down jackets. whilst a few Uno hands were played. Sue won today. 9 pm to bed. 

Today's Stats:
Start: 3205 metres
Ascent: 500 metres
Descent: -155 metres
Finish: 3550 metres
Time: 7.5 hours
Stops: 3 hours
Walking time: 4.5 hours

Bridge near Braga


summitboy said...

Did you meet anyone heading for (or returning from) Pisang Peak? I've read it's a do-able trekking peak...

Phreerunner said...

So far as I can recall, we didn't meet any peak baggers on this trip.