High in the Himalayas Part 2

Trip Start Oct 22, 2007
Trip End Dec 12, 2007

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Early morning stars retreated behind new morning gray clouds, visibility low; an auspicious beginning for day two. Mood enhanced that morning however with hot mint tea, omelette, and mueslic. Warmed, fortified, I slung my backpack over my shoulders and joined the other early risers up more slick, steep rock steps, out the village and further into the next forest.
By midday, I reached the village of Ghoropani, elevation, 2900 meters (Start of trail at 1000 meters) Dozens of bells clanged, louder and louder, telling me a mule caravan was approaching. This caravan was driven by a family from the remote region of Mustang, a community located on the barren high plains that border Tibet. This trek route is also part of the longer Jomsom trek which continues to the dry zone north of Ghoropani and eventually links with the Annapurna Circuit trek, the highlighted juncture, Thorung La pass, a mere 17,000 feet crossing. Travelers I met who have come from that direction say there is snow already at the pass. The view from Deorali pass, where  now stood, was sufficient for me. A breathtaking summit that separates the tropical wet zone south of the Himalayans from the more arid dry zone to the north. I could see the mighty Annapurna peak, the king daddy of the Annapurnas, from this summit. I checked in at a lodge, saw familiar faces, then stepped back outside. Within minutes, the winds whipped into a frenzy, hurling a steady regiment of whispy white clouds up from the moist south to the peaks to the north, the clouds attaching themselves to the peaks like mistletoe to an unsuspecting tree. A harbinger of a storm? Yet, this was November, a typically dry post monsoon month, with monsoon season normally ending in mid September. Not this year. The monsoons patterns were still in the air, even with winter soon approaching. Is this evidence of climate change? Earlier in Ecuador, August is typically one of the driest, clear skies month yet this year was mostly cloudy with and abnormal amount of rain.
Drought in Southern California...drought in the American southern states...something is changing.
Ghoropani weather sure quickly changed. Within the hour we were bombarded by hail and rain, leaving an extensive dusting of snow in the mountains above in its wake. That evening we clunk close to the fireplace to stay warm, ate delicious mixed fried noodles and drank many cups of hot mint tea. The lodge manager predicted clear skies tomorrow for mountain viewing from Poon Hill, which was a steep 1000 foot hike directly above us. I was wondering which clan of hillbillies migrated through this region to get a name like Poon Hill? Anyway, saying a prayer for clear skies I slipped into my sleeping bag and tried to stay warm.

4:30 AM, people stirring, the word is stars visible, we're going to have a clear viewing from Poon Hill at sunrise. YAY ! Better news...I had a terrific healthy bowel movement, which meant I was completely recovered from my earlier ills. I was elated!
Pre-dawn dark, steep, cold, humid trek up the hill to arrive before dawn's early light on hte mountain peaks. A string of peoples' flashlights marked the trail. Huff, puff, drudge, drudge.
Was it worth it? Absolutely ! Brilliant panoramic view of the Annapurna Himalayans as well as Dhaulagiri, the seventh highest peak in the world. Friggin cold and incredibly special...top of the world baby! We were all well rewarded after two less than perfect weather days.

The journey continued east, toward Tadapani. The same flow of travelers were heading in the same direction so by the third day I had found an extended family. I was the only one traveling solo, no porter or guide....fancy that! Obviously you don't really need either for this trek.

More fantastic scenery, steep initial hillside trail, followed by a precipitous descent on wet, muddy granite steps and twisted tree roots. One funny Japanese lady was on the move with her porter, and could be heard from a great distance as she had attachd a bell to herself. You could hear her say, "Make way for mule lady!" as she buzzed pass slower trekkers.
This trek definitely had its share of extreme up-down, tricky footing hiking conditions. And people who live in these mountain villages carry their goods up and down these trails all the time. More power to them!
Absolutely brilliant close-up views of most of the major peaks from the village of Tadapani, both that afternoon and early the next morning.
Most everybody else venture north, into the valley toward the Annapurna bas camp amphitheater while I headed back south troward the colorful village of Grangdruk. That day I had mostly to myself, bouncing through jungles and hanging out with langur monkeys (black face, white fur, long tail), passing through ancient villages, watching people go about their business in the fields or in their rustic house courtyards, washing, separating rice by beating it from the husks, building a house out of straw, you know, the usual. Lots of "Namaste!" greetings and smily faces.
Dropped nearly 6000 feet that fourth day, starting with winter jacket, stripping down to t-shirt,enjoying hot sun and sweaty face by late afternoon. Stayed in small village that night and early next morning caught local bus to Pokhara. A thoroughly satisfying experience.
In less than two weeks.... Mount Everest !

To view more of my travel photos, visit www.michaelmcguerty.com
To read more of my travel writing, please visit www.pecoskid.com
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