Chapter 4 - Anticipation
Tilicho Lake had been the final and highest destinations in terms of side trips before attempting traversing the Thorong Pass, presumably the most challenging portion of our journey, a daunting crossing made slightly less intimidating by the large number of people who succeed it yearly (or so I assume, I've not found any statistics to back this up). But until we had to start seriously thinking about that particular ordeal, we still had to return from the semi-secluded Tilicho Basecamp to the main Annapurna trail continuing form Manang towards Thorong La.
That night, for some reason, had been one of the most restful for the whole trek, so much so that I woke up early enough to have scribbled a few notes in the journal before having breakfast (and I'm only mentioning this because doing anything other than going directly from bed to restroom to breakfast table in any of the previous days had been unfathomable). Despite starting the day as an uncharacteristically early bird, our departure from the basecamp was delayed somewhat by some minor financial issues (or, more to the point, our carelessness in resolving the bill), but before long we were once again on the path towards Shree Kharka, whence, rather than continuing the descent back to Khangsar, we would continue following the bending high trail that eventually met up with the rest of the circuit, between Manang and Yak Kharka.
|A look back the narrow path, with Nilgiri enshrouded behind it|
|Truly, in the shadow of giants. Well, not literally, because the sun was on our side, but you get the point.|
The morning's sun followed us for a good while before partially giving way to some clouds, but overall the day's weather was fantastic. Once again crossing the landslide-area was not without its moments of excitement, especially when we had to stop for a minute and wait for a battery of pebbles, presumably disjointed by some blue sheep or other animals treading high above us, to finish falling down the steep slope in from of us, but soon enough, we were across and Shree Kharka, our lunch break, was within sight. Predictably wonderful views of the valley notwithstanding, what was most impressive on that leg of the journey was seeing a couple of tourists going towards Tilicho with bicycles (!) alongside them, then, further down, a group of locals carrying supplies with the help of heavily-laden horses, and how either of the two above managed to cross the narrow path winding across the sleep, gravelly slope is nothing short of amazing.
|I did not envy them, knowing the path they had ahead.|
|I've mentioned these bridges before, and I must say, regardless of height of length, I always felt safe crossing them|
After an enjoyable lunch in Shree Kharka, we said goodbye to the entire Tilicho area and continued the high path, following an easy descent towards Yak Kharka. The trail went through mostly shrubbery-filled gentle slopes (I'm assuming relatives of the Thuja genus), with occasional trees offering at-times needed shade (yes, the sun persisted to the point that walking around at 4000 m altitude in light clothes proved to be a sweaty business!). This part of the trip reminded me of traveling from Ngawal to Braka, slightly less forested, but equally peaceful and quiet.
We passed through the ruins of Old Khangsar, now abandoned, and circled around a large animal enclosure, where horses grazed on the verdant grass.
|Going right trough Old Khangsar|
|Like I've said before, people have been leaving the mountain villages to move to the city for some time now|
|A view of the whole village|
|Horses grazing, encircled by stone walls and.. thorny bushes? Effective, I guess.|
Eventually the trail reached a high point whence Manang and Braka were visible, as was the path leading from there towards Yak Kharka and where we would be able to join it.
|Finally, a reasonably close, if far from perfect, look at those eagles.|
|Manang visible on the plateau, with Braka a few kilometers behind it. The paths towards Ice Lake and the Milarepa cave go to the left and right, respectively, right after Braka.|
|Nicu admiring the view.|
From there we descended for quite a bit, crossing apple orchards and rhododendron trees (sadly out of bloom).
After a rather long descent, we finally crossed the river, stopped for a quick rest and a snack at the small, riverside teahouse, then climbed back the other side until we eventually reached the main trail between Manang and Yak Kharka.
|Our packs sometimes had to serve as mobile clothes lines.|
|Another one of those Himalayan cocks, or whatever they are, parading around like they own the place.|
|Stoic horses. I guess they'd have to be, given their line of work.|
|A child watching passer-bys from the entrance to a teahouse near Yak Kharka.|
Tempting as it sounded, I resisted the urge to buy yak steak and instead dined on yak cheese with a nicely cooked dish of baked potatoes. Although not as tiring as the Tilicho trip, the day had been long and, shortly after having dinner, we all went to sleep. At 4035 m altitude, this was one of ours last acclimatisation nights, and the high pass was pretty much right around the corner.
|This is, by the way, where Yak Kharka gets the name, presumably.|