Over 100 days on the trail: Manang Valley

Posted on 12 Jun 2018

Dust lingers in the air and gradually settles onto the pines, the road and into my hair and eyes. The car that drove by honked to let me know it was coming but the speed remained the same, fast for a bumpy, dusty mountain road. What once was the Annapurna Circuit Trail in many places is now a road.

The walking isn’t bad as traffic is low and consists mostly of motorcycles and four wheel drive vehicles that act as buses to ferry passengers from the upper villages to bigger towns below, but we’re now on the dry side of the mountains and the road and trails often have a thick layer of dust.

We pass a formation known as Paungda Dada rock which looks like a 1,500 metre high skateboard bowl with smooth rock that has shed layers which slide to the river at the bottom forever keeping the bowl smooth and clean.

At the top is a giant block pedestal, known as the gateway to heaven; the sun and clouds play above the rock making it appear as though the gateway is opening and closing.

We’ve reached Manang, which is a beautiful combination of a trekking stop and an old traditional, agricultural village. We have a rest day here and have had a chance to go exploring a bit.

It’s the off-season for trekking so most of the bakeries and restaurants are closed. They're also working on the electrical system so the whole town only has power every other day, so no internet. The Annapurna range is clouded over today so we’ve entertained ourselves with routine tasks like washing clothes, shopping for treats and relaxing.

Old town Manang is a cluster of homes, all seemingly built together with common walls, narrow walkways, and are made of rock held together with mud; and their roofs of stone are sealed with a sand and mud mixture to keep out the rain. This area escaped the earthquake damage so there’s no building activity we’ve seen in other districts. Instead, the construction here is mostly new commercial lodges. The old homes have lots of character but look very vulnerable to earthquakes.

I did manage to hike up a very steep hill above Manang to a Buddhist Gompa or small monastery; even with the mountains not being out, the view was magnificent. On the way down I met two women carrying big baskets of supplies up the mountain to the Gompa. They spoke a little english and told me they live there and were on their way home. They wanted to know how old I was and when I told them 65 they proudly told me they were 68 and 70. Wow, how impressive is that!

Manang is the end of the road for vehicles. From here it’s up and over another pass, Thorong Pass, to Muktinath and the end of the fifth section of the GHT. Two more sections to go.

Vince, Ken, and Bikash

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