11/10/09: Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Day 7: Ghyeru to Manang (4.75 hours)
By our count, there are six signs to look for to make sure an independent trekker is on the correct trail while hiking the Annapurna circuit. In order of importance they are:
- Signs. The ACAP has done a fairly good job marking the trail at many main junctures. Since this is last main town before the climax of the circuit (the 5,416 meter high Thorong-La Pass), up until now we have seen many signs for Manang.
- Trekkers. Pretty much everyone out here is doing the same circuit we are, so if you see a person carrying a Deuter backpack (it’s amazing how popular they are), head that direction.
- Nepalese porters. Remember the guys who carry the absurd amount of weight on their backs (and strapped to their heads)? Most of that stuff is for trekkers like us, so they’re usually heading to the same towns we are.
- Mule poop. It’s hard to believe there’s an amount of weight the aforementioned porters can’t carry, but when there is the millions of mules pick up the slack. Then they poop it out on the trail.
- Trash. It’s a sad-but-true realization, but trekkers leave a lot of waste behind both on the trail and in the towns. Even the trash left in the towns has to go somewhere, so usually there are big piles left to be burnt. Unfortunately it appears that the heavy winds up here scatter that trash about, so trekkers are told to carry all waste with them. Zhou and I have followed this suggestion (minus our used toilet paper), but that doesn’t mean there’s less trash on the ground than when we got here.
- Footprints. It’s like tracking wild game in Africa, only not nearly as much fun. Footprints mean that someone has walked on the path before you, so that’s usually a good sign.
Today we found though that our six step guide to success doesn’t always work – sometimes you just need to get lucky. After descending the entire 400 meters that we climbed yesterday, we saw the path going back up into the hills. It checked out on two of the six points: a trekker coming our way and many footprints, so we put our heads down and started the ascent. Fortunately the trekker was a bit lost herself, and asked us for directions to the nearest town. After doing our best to help, we asked her how far to Bhraka (our lunch stop before Manang). In this lucky turn of events, we learned we had to backtrack about ten paces to another trail, because we were heading off toward Chulu, a separate hike entirely. It would have made for a long day.
Picture of the Day: Mr. Bear – Mr. Bear? What happened to Mr. Turtle? – climbs up Annapurna III. Mr. Turtle has a debilitating fear of heights.