ANIL THAMAN is Managing Director of Captain Outdoo...
Paul Ramble gives you a no-nonsense guide to the Manaslu trek
The trek starts at a slightly awkward location and I had to take the early morning local bus from Kathmandu to Dhading, and then from Dhading to Arkhet Bazaar, which really gave me the feeling of entering into the Wild West of Nepal. Alternatively you can take the direct local bus from Kathmandu to ArughatBazaar. Arriving late in the evening in ArkhetBazaar or Arughat Bazaar, the choice of hotels isn’t varied and in terms of quality they are rather similar — sparse but comfortable — with the room prices ranging from 100 to 500 rupees a night. Foreigners need to have acquired their MCAP permit in advance as there are permit checks on the way.
What to expect
The first day departing on the trek from Arkhet Bazaar you are walking in the riverine valley of the Budhi Gandaki, the mist swirls above the pounding mighty waterway that is making its way to the floodplains. Surprisingly, you are only at around 900 metres above sea level, which made me apprehensive about reaching the Larke La pass which is at 5,100 metres. You start in the heart of Gurung culture, who are primarily farmers and live off the fertile lands of the valley.
Over the next 10 days I followed the meanderings of the river which is the primary path to get to the Larke La pass, I got the feeling of the mountains gradually swallowing me into their depths. I walked over hours of sandy beaches while looking up at the towering sides of the valley to catch glimpses of snow peaks towering further on and sometimes climbed up the sides of the valley.
By the fifth day you start letting go of the trappings and expectations of the modern world and really start getting in tune with nature, waking and sleeping with the sun. As we continued our gradual ascent I came to a fork in the trail and to my right and East was Tsum Valley, long considered a ‘baeyul’ or hidden land, home to the Tsumbas, whose main livelihood is trade with the Kyirong region of Tibet, which lies across two passes at the head of the SharKhola. I spent the day turning west towards the entrance of the Nubri Valley which is where I entered a land that is completely different to what I had left.
Here the culture is predominantly Tibetan and we entered gateways with Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the strong evening winds. The Nubri valley trek is in complete contrast with the Buddhi Gandaki valley. The snow peaks surround you; yaks skittishly break into a fight out of nervousness which generally sent me running up a tree or on a high rock. People have stopped saying, ‘Namaste’ and instead gaily shout out, ‘Tashidelek’, women now wear colourful aprons, and snotty nosed little lama boys skip down mountain sides in red robes. As you trek through this beautiful valley past ‘chortens’, walking clockwise around ‘mani walls’, passing under the shadows of the massive silent hulks of monasteries which house hundreds of monks, you look West and see Manaslu at over 8,000 metres and the eighth highest mountain in the world, it finally sinks in that you are truly are in the Abode of the Gods, or is it the lack of oxygen?
To my right and North I was pointed out the frozen snow covered passes through which trade between Nepal and the Tibetan plateau is done. At the foot of Larke La pass is a glacier and my fellow trekkers woke up at four in the morning to cross the pass, however, I needed my coffee and waited till six and got to Bhimtang by midday — slightly petrified, as on the way I had spent most of my time on my butt sliding down precariously too near the edge of the mountain numerous times.
The view is gorgeous with a beautiful glacial lake on the way down, but Bhimtang’s beauty was what took me by surprise, here was a little settlement where I felt the beauty of the Himalayas took on a different definition, maybe it was the time spent in the mountains and the joy of hot water showers or a decently priced beer — I’m not sure, but I promised myself to go back.
What to eat
I spent my evenings eating daal bhaat tarkari, dhedo and sisnu and every now and then Buffalo sukuti. Meat is not in common supply as I wasn’t on a package or organised trek. In the Nubri valley I had my first daal bhaat with Yak meat, accompanied with the ever present, and potent, rice rakshi (rice spirit). An occasional warm rakshi is definitely recommended in the upper reaches of the trek — a simple boon in the Abode of the Gods.
If the trek isn’t organised by a company you can buy an up to date map of the Manaslu region which points out where to stay from any decent map shop. The prices are extremely reasonable, and only in Dharmsala at Larke La, you will find the prices slightly steep.
The author works as a freelance NLP/Soft skills trainer and a supply chain manager. He loves riding around Kathmandu on his vintage bike and travelling to beautiful, challenging destinations.
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