The prospect of reaching Upper Pisang (altitude 3250 m) was quite exciting, in additional to the obvious reason of continuing a great trip, because it would be the first time I would cross the 3000 threshold (I'd never climbed mountains outside Romania), and while it might seem small-minded to look at things as trivial as altitudes (especially when they aren't truly impressive) when in the grand scheme of things, you're undertaking a wonderful journey, surrounded by amazing sights and great people, I still couldn't help also take satisfaction in things as meaningless as numbers; it only added to the great pleasure I was already having from merely looking around.
Morning brought with it breathtakingly beautiful views of Manaslu and Annapurna II (which I've not been able to photograph properly, alas), icy white pinnacles piercing the clear, sapphire blue sky (I think I'm getting the hang of these nuances!). The morning routine of breakfast, packing, Dawa waiting for us to finish getting ready once again repeated itself, and you can pretty much assume it would persist all the way to the end. Of course, the reason I'm mentioning it with barely perceptible smugness is because, uncharacteristically timely of me, in most of these days my delay would be minimal, so I'd usually be right down there with Dawa, waiting as well, which suited me fine, because more often than not I'd get to see some interesting or other; today's sight was a platoon (or squadron or company or whichever term fits more appropriately) running down the village road in morning training; apparently there was a military base nearby, which I found surprising, having naively associated the Himalayas with peace, tranquility and all that crap. Of course, the reality of an actual country with actual borders and an actual military presence makes more sense.
|It was way too early for a kid that small to be awake!|
Also, while I was waiting outside our teahouse for the others to come down, Stuart&company, who I believe had spent the night in the previous village, went by us; we would see each other again a couple more times today, before reaching our respective destinations, after which it would be a good while until our next, unexpected meeting.
And so we left Chame, disappointed to see on our way out a banner announcing an archery festival starting the very next day, a spectacle I personally would have greatly enjoyed seeing.
|The exit from Chame. Had I less weight, more time, more talent and more creativity, I might have taken a more impressive shot.|
As we progressed, the sights, which were beautiful to begin with, grew even more spectacular, with Annapurna II towering silently to our left, far away and across from the deep valley created by the Marshyangdi river. We walked by green, wheat fields, swaying calmingly in the wind, and, when the trail left the road, crossed through tall forests, decidedly less deciduous, dominated by pines (probably - my differentiation of coniferous trees leaves something to be desired) and eventually made a small stop next to a large apple orchard. Damn shame we were in the wrong season for fresh apples.
|Green fields, green forests and blue skies, and a small stream to boot. What's more to wish for?|
|The wind melodically swaying the wheat.|
|As in the previous day, we passed within eyesight of several waterfalls.|
|Coniferous trees clearly started dominating the forest.|
Although the natural landscapes were what I wanted most to see, I was also impressed with the temerity with which the Nepali had build their road to Manang, nearly carved into the cliff, maybe 3 meters wide intimidatingly steep drop down right at the edge.
|And yes, this is a two-way road|
The entire Annapurna trail also included many river crossings, all of which took place over suspended, but very solid and trusty steel bridges, some of which several dozens of meters long, a not unimpressive length to hang high above a gaping ravine or a raging river.
Walking those first two days through such awe-inspiring sights, both natural and man-made, although not exhaustingly demanding, did take a slight toll on me, with backpack bearing down on my shoulders and the cold I'd probably caught in either the planes or the airport reaching its apex in intensity. I had a few concerns prior to starting the whole trip due to a herniated vertebral disk I suffer from, which gives me little trouble most of the time but had become somewhat more acutely problematic just a month or so before leaving when I'd (once again) injured my back during some exercises. Thankfully, by departure it had healed almost entirely, and though a tiny bit hesitant at first, by the second day of walking I realised that, apart from the minor discomfort (which was to be expected from the weight and lack of training), carrying the rucksack brought no further injury to my back, which is one of the things I'm most grateful for in the entire trip.
|The electric pole and lines might detract slightly from it, but it's a damn impressive sight regardless.|
|And closer by, crossing one of the suspended bridges|
|The nearly ubiquitous prayer flags|
Eventually we reached the lunch place, and much like the previous day, the weather was taking a turn for the worse. Stuart and the Russians caught up to us after we'd ordered our food but, intimidated perhaps by the nearly gluttonous appetites we'd (well, I'd) demonstrated the previous day, decided to keep walking for a while more before stopping for lunch.
|Though our acquaintances form the previous days didn't join us, we were not without companionship for lunch|
By the time we finished eating, the wind had picked up considerably and two light showers had already started and faded away. We left and continued uneventfully on our way, reaching Upper Pisang just as another drizzle was starting.
|Some flowers that particularly fascinated Nicu. We've still been unable to find their name.|
|Lower Pisang through the rain, with clouds obscuring Annapurna.|
We had dinner, swapped enjoyable stories with a French group around the stove, and went to sleep eager to see what Annapurna II and III, which were completely obscured by clouds the whole evening, would look like the in the clear, blue morning.
|An innovative way of using beer bottles.|
|Spirits high around the stove.|