Late yesterday our guide Lillee arrived from Pokhara, it was a great reunion for Jules and him, they had met the last time Jules was in Nepal. Before he arrived Jules and I looked at the very limited options for getting to Besishar, the starting point of trek. We made some inquiries and the best option was a private car for about $200. After going away and thinking about it, I asked if there were any shared rides. He then told us of a minibus that a group of Israeli trekkers had hired and three seats were confirmed for RS 4500.
We had a good night’s sleep in Besishar. A guy was going up the valley with a load of supplies and Lilleee arranged for us to squeeze in the 4×4 twincab with some locals. The driver stopped at the far edge of town and picked up some locals and off we went, four across a back seat built for three at a pinch and three passengers in the front. I still don’t know how he changed gears!
After about three hours we pulled into our first real Annapurna village, Sayange. Perched on the steep slope of the valley and sitting just above the Marsyangdi River, it’s a typical village of the trek and my first real taste of the region. The handful of teahouses and homes are all brightly painted and very quaint. The jeep pulled up at a larger teahouse and we piled out, this was our final destination. The teahouses all use the same menus, with set prices, this is to stop profiteering. Of course this doesn’t stop there being variations in the quality of the food. I had a wonderful pancake and instant coffee, Jules had omelettes, not a bad brunch in such a remote location.
And so the walk began. Every now and then there are truly gruelling steep climbs: you get to the top gasping for air. After much up and down climbing we came to a ridge that overlooks Tal and before us was our days destination. Towards the far end of the village, we got a room with hot shower for RS 400 at the oddly titled Mona Lisa Hotel. Hitting the road early next morning, we were soon leaving Tal behind.
Along the way, we passed through a number of pretty little villages. In these villages, a smile is returned with a smile, a nod, a hello or namaste. Sometimes some English words are exchanged. The walk onto Bagarchhap (2160m) was pretty uneventful. We chose a teahouse for the night that looked a bit like Nepal meets Switzerland.
The walk from Bagarchhap to Chame is like a walk through paradise. The look and feel of the villages change, the buildings are lower, more often built of stone and the pathways are stone paved. The people also look more Tibetan, a little shorter and more heavy featured. People are very friendly and little children are fascinated with us.
We woke up to find the weather had improved and it was time to start our trek into the fabled Nar Phu valley, one of the truly remote regions of Nepal, edging towards the southern border of Tibet. First we back tracked to Koto, the entry point to the valley, had our special permits stamped and then it was down a non-descript path and across a swing bridge.
As we approached Dharamshala, the path became a narrow ledge and passed behind a waterfall, in the monsoon season it must be a hard crossing. Then over a little bridge and it was into the Singenge Dharamshala (3280m) campsite. By now, I was feeling the first signs of altitude sickness, my hands and feet were tingling, I had a slight headache, my fingers and certain other extremities had gone purple, to top it all off, my appetite had plummeted. We cooked some noodles by the teahouse fire then settled down for the night. Jules decided to sleep in his tent, claiming it would be warmer. The night was freezing, there was a tiny amount of snow and it rained, but we were in paradise.
A good night’s sleep, nowhere near as cold on the dirt floor as I would have thought! My altitude sickness was still going on, mainly now as a slight headache and no appetite. I had some eggs (for energy) and our guide suggested Tibetan bread. This amazing, freshly made flat bread, rises when put in a frying pan and when made this well, it’s like a cross between a pancake and a doughnut..best thing ever!
The plan for the day was to reach Phu, so we headed off asap. Slowly the rewards of the trek start to reveal themselves, a ruined fortress across a narrow gorge, stone bridges, and finally, our first view of Phu (4100m). Sitting on a small hill in a wide valley, surrounded by steep ranges that lead to snow capped mountains, glaciers and tiny trails to Tibet, Phu is everything a traveller looks for but never expects to find. We crossed one last swing bridge, passed some terraced fields, still being cultivated by buffalo and wooden plough, and then we were in Phu.
The above has been excerpted from todaymustbefriday.blogspot.com with the author’s permission. Read more about Dean’s adventures in Nepal here: http://todaymustbefriday.blogspot.com/