The Manaslu Diaries: Days 12-13

March 17, 2018: Day 12
Bimtang to Tilche
Altitude: 2300m
Hours: 5.5
Distance: 20km

As much as one would like to say all is well now that we’ve made it down the pass, there was some drama last night. We were heading to our little cabin to call it a night, when we heard yelling. We saw one of the guides who had gotten very drunk, harassing a woman, hitting her around her middle, as she screamed back at him, struggling. And out of no where, our guide Tek the hero steps in to help her. The other guide kicked Tek and they really got into it, the woman too – she wasn’t sitting back while this guy caused trouble at her tea house. I initially thought there was a chicken involved because there were feathers everywhere, and I thought perhaps he was stealing a chicken and they were trying to stop him? But it turns out that the one guide had grabbed Tek’s jacket and ripped it, causing the down filling to spew out everywhere, feathers filling the air. At last Tek got him down and one of the porter’s, Chen Ho Susan came out and helped to hold down the struggling drunk guide. He had to be held down for a half hour while he screamed and hollered. And then cried. And then puked. And then was finally dragged limp to his bed. Good lord! I guess he let his celebrating get out of hand and he drank too much Raksi, the local moonshine. Some people just shouldn’t drink. He was of course deeply ashamed the next day and didn’t even remember what had happened. I was just glad Tek was around to help the woman!

Anyway, it was a cold night, but I slept so good! Finally, a full eight hours! Dear spirits did I need that. I guess it’s not surprising I slept so well after 12 hours of hard trekking through the snow at that altitude! Sadly, the Dane who got snow blindness was in a bad way this morning. He had an eye cover over his eyes to keep light out and was screaming in agony, which was terrifying to hear. He was unable to even take himself to the bathroom as he was totally blind and in such pain. They say it is like having a thousand slivers in your eyeballs… ouch. Being blind, in absolute torment, a days trek away from a road by foot.. he needed a helicopter to come and take him out and get him to a doctor. We all wished him the best before taking off.

Today we said goodbye to many of the trekkers – from here on out we would be back to our small trekking groups, going at our own paces, seeing some of them at tea houses, but many had different itineraries than us, so we may not see them again. But we didn’t have to say goodbye to Maybe! I thought he would stay, as he had met another pup friend here, but sure enough, he was up and outside waiting with all the trekkers in the morning, ready to go! The trek was gorgeous. 1500m down, down, down through messy spring forests along the river, at long last seeing Rhododendrons in bloom! It was stunning – one of my favourite walks so far as we were still surrounded by the snowy peaks as our backdrop. I had so much energy! I really am an entirely different trekker when I sleep, which I know from my experience doing the Salkantay pass. I was practically running all day, no one could keep up (except Bhim of course even with his 20kg bag!). I was a new woman! It felt damn good to finally feel amazing, rested and full of energy. I walked alone most the entire day and loved it. I was able to snap a bunch of scenic photos and enjoy my solitude and go my own pace. We made it to Tilche and had a private room with an attached bathroom…WITH A WESTERN TOILET! I nearly cried. Talk about luxury! And I had yet another perfect sleep, a full eight hours!

March 18, 2018: Day 13
Tilche to Chymche
Alt: 1430m
Hours: 6
Distance: 19.5km

The trek yesterday was so beautiful… until the very end of the day. We left the secluded forests and white peaks behind for a much more travelled trail – a road in fact. It felt weird to come out of such epic wilderness and remoteness for 12 days from the Manaslu trek and then join up with the well travelled Annapurna circuit. This circuit is the most popular trek in Nepal after the short Poonhill trek, which means it is full of trekkers, and far more developed and busy. We saw trekkers about every 20 minutes, and endless villages and tea houses. It was so strange and I can’t say that I was a fan. I’ve never liked that feeling, to be back in civilization after time spent in the remote wilderness. It’s jarring. Today’s trek was even worse than the end of yesterday. Much of it was on a dirt road and we had to move for jeeps constantly. We were a few days in to the start of the Annapurna circuit heading in the opposite direction of all the trekkers – it just so happens to be the way the Manaslu circuit ends, unfortunately. We trudged along downhill, knees aching, dust filling our eyes and mouths from all the jeeps – just wanting the day to end. Nothing really exciting at all to report on this walk.

We arrived into Chymche around 4pm and got a beautiful, brand new tea house with cement walls, sparkling clean rooms and … HOT WATER!!! It was a dream to to finally have a hot shower after 12 days. It was glorious. I only had soap to wash my hair, but it was better than nothing; however it felt like my hair was even more greasy afterwards! I wasn’t going to carry shampoo and conditioner on this trek and add weight to my pack, so I only brought a small hotel size bar of soap with me. However, I found that you can buy tiny one use shampoo packets in the cities and those wold have been a dream right about now!

The dog Maybe, had followed the Aussie’s today as they left before us, and he ended up staying in a village behind us, Goa. I was heartbroken to not see him and be able to say goodbye. He was such a special part of this trek! Anyway, I suppose I could at last reflect a little on the other people we met on our trek, instead of just always talking about the dog!

The Danes: an older couple from Denmark. At first I was put off by the woman as she was being rather high and mighty and condescending about how we were ill-equipped (because we kept complaining about how cold we were), but she redeemed herself by offering Jan an extra pair of wool leggings and playing cards with us. Her husband was very quiet and she, outspoken. He ended up getting sick at Samdo two days before pass which made the pass day a real struggle for him.

The Other Danes: A father and son team that we met at Shayla for tea time. Very nice young guy, his father, terribly quiet; I don’t know if I heard one word out of him. The son was around my age and was the one who sadly ended up with snow blindness on the day of the pass. Both ended up sick with a stomach bug at Samagaon.

New York and Holland: A couple, he from New York and she from Holland but both living in Mexico City. He got really sick in Samagaon and never recovered until the day after the pass when he was miraculously cured. He swore it couldn’t be altitude sickness, even though it was all the symptoms, and it disappeared as soon as he descended. Holland rubbed us a bit the wrong way, but NY seemed pretty chill. He did however dive me crazy on the pass descent on the snow slope as he caused a major bottleneck by refusing to step aside and let everyone pass.

The Aussies: There were four of them, Father, daughter, her uncle and her friend. They were really gung ho, but the friend got sick at the start of the trek and you could tell Pop’s was disappointed. They stayed back a day to let her heal and then caught up by crushing two 25km days… ouch! So hardcore! They were quite nice and we enjoyed their company – though I could not understand a word the uncle Trevor said – straight outback ! Trevor had the same suffocating problem I had at Dharmasala. I was glad to know I wasn’t going crazy and others felt the same awful feeling.

Japan: Middle aged fellow from Japan who was partnered with Ireland (not by choice) -see below. They both signed up as solo trekkers and got paired up. Japan was… aloof. Being a bit cold and arrogant, we felt bad for poor Ireland. Japan was a bit high and mighty and kept a lot to himself, but sort of followed Ireland around. He seemed to think he was the ultimate mountaineer- and he was indeed very experienced, but no one cared to have it rubbed in their faces. We were all amateurs here other than him.

Ireland: My fav of the crew! He was around my age, salt and pepper hair, a giant, and the most wonderful accent. Witty and funny. He was with Japan (their agency paired them, as solo trekking is not allowed on this circuit) and he was such a good sport about being paired with an aloof stranger. We felt bad for him because you spend all day long trekking with your trekking partners, and then usually eat all your meals with them. We decided to befriend him so he had an out, but he did just fine solo as well. I loved having him around for the humour (and the accent). Like the rest of us, he had some struggles with the altitude as well, but made it just fine!

Doc (Germany): Okay so he wasn’t a doctor, he was a professor (our next guess) but he looked like Doctor Malcom to us so thus he was dubbed. He was an old man from Germany with the thickest German accent ever, the kind of accent people put on when trying to sound super German. He was trekking alone and kept much to himself, but chatted a wee bit to others with his bit of English – a really lovely fellow who seemed to have an excellent time!

There were a few others, but these were the main crew that we saw time and again during our two weeks. You spend the majority of your trek with yourself, your guide, your porter and and whoever you decided to go trekking with. You see other trekkers pretty well only at the end of your day at the tea house, although sometimes you stay in different tea houses so you can go days without really seeing the others. But you do tend to see the same few faces over and over and on the day of the pass you spend the whole day together as they want everyone to trek together that day for safety. So you don’t really get names, you get nationalities and this is how you end up knowing the folks on the trail with you. The day of the pass really bonded everyone; the intensity the night before, the exhilaration the day of, and the celebration afterwards. It was a very different experience from my shorter Salkantay trek in Peru where I was with a group of 15 people and we all spent the entire time together- eating together, walking together and sleeping together – so you really bond closely on that kind of journey. This one was much more individual, but I loved it just the same.

Our crew, the Canadian’s, were of course the best! Always the last to leave, super laid back, crafty, and always in good spirits even when we felt like death! I couldn’t have asked for a better group to do this great adventure with. Not only of course my partner Travis, but his wonderful and travel savvy Aunt, Jan, who is the perfect travel companion- laid back and full of stories, laughter and knowledge! And of course, Tek and Bhim our amazing team that got us through all this!

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