The Manaslu Diaries: Days 14-16

March 19: Day 14
Chymche to Bahundanda
Alt: 1310m
Hours: 5
Distance: 14km

Yet another uneventful, dreadful day of walking on roads! Jan didn’t sleep well so we had a really slow start to our day and didn’t depart until after 9:30am. And of course, today was the earliest me and Travis were ever ready! It was just a short five hour walk, but the first three hours were awful – all on shitty Jeep trail roads. We ran into so many trekkers on the circuit (we were now at the start of the Annapurna circuit as the Manaslu circuit merges with it), and I swear 90% of them were Israeli! We were playing a game where as we walked, we would all pick a nationality of who we thought the next people we met on the trail would be -without seeing them. Our game came quickly to an end however, as pretty well everyone was Israeli!

The last two hours were much better and beautiful. We are now down in farm country with endless fields and terraces of green. I met the sweetest tiniest new pup and saw so many baby goats – swoon! I was still sad about not getting to say goodbye to Maybe, but would you believe it? We were coming up to a huge suspension bridge, and two trekkers were crossing towards us with a dog behind them. I thought how much he looked like Maybe but that couldn’t be possible – Maybe was somewhere behind us with the Aussies… Or so I thought! It was him! He shakily got across the huge scary bridge, looked up to see us like it was no big deal, graciously accepted my hugs and snuggles and swooning, and then turned right around with us and followed us back over the bridge from where he had come! I was of course ecstatic to see him again and have him following us, but also amazed. This dog has travelled with us for seven days, over 80km through a 5100 metre high mountain pass, sleeping out in a blizzard, and relying on folks to toss him food for his nourishment. Whose dog is this?! No ones. I was sure now that he belonged to no one and was his own master. A trekker of the Himalayas, a local who just crossed the mountains at his will when he found a crew he took a liking too! I almost cried to see him again. He was quite slow and sluggish and looked far too skinny so I gave him some of my peanut butter protein bar and he perked right up. He followed us for a couple of hours in the heat until we reached our lunch spot where he immediately went to sleep. We all shared helpings of our food with him as he really looked like he needed it and then he went right back to napping. We were getting ready to leave and I wanted to call out and wake him up to ensure he kept following us, but Tek suggested we let him stay and sleep and rest. As badly as I wanted to take this adventure dog home, to ensure he was always well fed and had a warm place to sleep… I wasn’t going home. I was going to Japan next. And so I reluctantly let him sleep. Besides, perhaps he loves this mountain life! Maybe the dog was truly a special pup and such an integral part of the trek for me. My heart will always feel full of happiness and yet a have a small ache in missing him whenever I recall this adventure. Whenever you are sweet Maybe, may your tummy be full and rubbed a plenty!

March 20: Day 15
Bahundanda to Besishahar
Altitude: 760m
Distance: 17km
Hours: 6

Hardest. Day. Ever. I’m not even kidding. My body and mind both decided to finally just give up. We were walking on the worst road – a dusty garbage filled jeep track – no trails today at all just shitty road and it was our last day. We learned that most people don’t even trek this section – they get picked up in jeeps earlier on somewhere just after Tilche – and damn do I ever wish we had done the same! Had it been up to me we would have hitched a ride on the first bus that passed us by! But poor Jan didn’t want to get in a vehicle on these unforgiving roads as she knew she wold get sick again, which I completely sympathize with. Also, I kind of liked being able to brag that we were the only ones that walked the whole way.

So walk we did! We walked the horrid road, every one of us hating every moment of it. I was so hot and dusty and tired, I just wanted to lay down in every puddle I saw to cool off and rest, like some angry hippo. I resisted. Barely. My feet were scorching hot, and aching terribly. My legs were stiff and cramped and felt like dead weights. The heat was oppressive and the air was filled with jeep trail dust that filled our lungs and nostrils.

Our place last night was the worst tea house we’ve stayed in thus far. Wretched dirty, horrific bathroom and rude staff. I think this also contributed to our sour mood. The breakfast roastie was so bad I couldn’t even stomach it at all and had to go without breakfast. And when I went pee at 2am there was the biggest spider I’ve ever seen in my life – the size of my hand outstretched – no lie! It was horrifying! And then of course I went back to bed and dreamt about it. How I was able to squat pee in that room with that thing so close I will never know. I think I was so tired and out of it that while the spider registered in my mind, I couldn’t give two shits about it – I just wanted to get back to bed and sleep.

So while we were damn happy to get out of there, sadly the day of trekking was awful too, but… alas we made it!!! Besi Shahar was a bustling town – not a village. Paved roads! Stores! And we stayed in a HOTEL!!!! Our own sit down western toilet and a hot shower! Oh god it was so glorious. We freaking did it! And to top it off, we all had the best dinner – no more tea house menus for us (it was literally the same menu for 15 days!). I had an epically delicious veggie burger with fries and nearly died of happiness it was so good. We sorted out the money, paid Bhim and Tek the rest of their fees and went to bed happy. We had done it, we had trekked the Manaslu circuit!

March 21: Day 16
Besishahar to Pokhara
Distance (by bus): 105km
Hours: 5

Alas – no walking today! We caught what was supposed to be a micro bus, but what was the regular old public bus, to Pokhara. Luckily we were the first to be picked up so we were able to get seats neat the front. The ride was an adventure and experience for sure and yet I somehow slept for most of it. Which is really surprising because Nepal road are horrendous and people drive like maniacs. I guess I was just so exhausted from the trek that I was trying to recover; my body knew it was over and could finally relax. We were booked into a really nice hotel – The Coast – at a whopping $40CAD a night -which is steep for Nepal, but we wanted to treat ourselves for a couple nights after our trek. It was lakeside, clean and came with a delicious breakfast buffet and the staff are really stupendous. You’d be paying $150 a night for a place like this in Canada. We needed to be pampered after the trek, so fuck the budget for now – treat day, as we say!

And so we come to the end of our epic adventure. 185km of trekking in 14 days. An elevation gain of over 4300m from our starting point to our highest point in the Larke pass. Rain. Snow. Blizzards. Freezing temperatures. Landslides. Avalanches (at a safe distance!). Multiple illnesses. Sleep deprivation. So much Dahl Bhat….But also… Sunshine. Outstanding scenery. Vibrant culture. Warm locals. And most of all, exceptional company. How grateful I am to have been able to share this adventure with Travis and Jan. We made a heck of a trio and were made only better with the addition of our inestimable guide Tek and his brother, Bhim, whom without we never would have made it because we never could have carried our own heavy pack all that way! Their guidance and most of all Bhim’s ever present smile and positive attitude were such a joy to have on our trek. This is without a doubt the most exciting and extraordinary thing I have ever accomplished- because I do see it as an accomplishment. I had to overcome debilitating anxiety (and panic attacks) and push my body into extremes to get through. And am I ever happy I did it! I understand now how people get addicted to mountain climbing. There is no way to express what it feels like to reach a summit or a pass at a high altitude and feel like you have conquered something- not the mountain of course, but yourself, as Edmund Hillary said. You doubt yourself and you feel like it is impossible, like you can’t do it, and yet, against all that doubt, you succeed. You conquer your own fears and doubts. It is a powerful and beautiful feeling and one I cannot wait to reach for again. I will be back to Nepal to explore the Himalayas again, that is without doubt. They have etched themselves in the deepest chambers of my heart and in the furthest corners of my soul. And I have left pieces of myself among their valleys and passes. And so, until we meet again….

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