You approach Tal (1700 m) after having conquered another hard piece of trail. The valley is very narrow and deep and there are some quite good views. That's not surprising, as during the first days of trek everything is new, and I could have stood still for hours looking around. I didn't meet many people, and rarely other trekkers. The vegetation changes to fir trees and you feel something is changing. The people in Tal are Buddhists of Tibetan ancestry, the buildings are out of stone with flat roofs. Tal looks like a village out of a "western" movie, and it's a great place to stay. You also have to register at the police check point.
The trail continues in a rather deep gorge, you don't see much of the mountains, as the slopes are very steep and high. You cross another long suspension bridge. The Marsyandi is fantastic, rough and clear, big rocks define the riverbed. When you get out of the gorge you are in Bagarchap (2160 m) and the valley opens again. I walked alone and enjoyed very much the peace around me, no cars, no crowds, no pollution, just me, the river and the mountains (without having to panic about nothing, as every two hours you reach another village).
The route continues through pine and fir forests, always following the Marsyandi river. Very often you see some Buddhist symbols like mani walls and prayer wheels, and the entrance to the villages is defined by a large stony gate. Chame (2670 m) is actually a great place to stay, but in Bhratang you first get a great view on the Annapurna II peak. From now on you walk very close to the principal range and can nearly touch them all the time.
In order to enjoy them most I chose the upper route, a great deal of climbing at an altitude, where altitude sickness can already be problem. Actually you should climb high and sleep low, so this is what I did: I climbed up to 3670 in Ghyaru and finally slept in Braga, at 3450 m. Braga and its 500 years old gompa are fantastic, a little village 500 m before you reach Manang, but with a great lodge and wonderful bakery and the famous gompa. From there I remember spectacular views on the Annapurnas. I opened the window in the morning and stayed still without believing it: magic moments!
Manang is a good place as well. Many lodges, good bakeries, lots of side trips: Khangsar, the glacier lake, the Tsamkhang with the old lama. I spent there more time than I wanted, because I became sick (and cured by the magical hands of the doctors at the Rescue Centre). The surroundings are worth a visit and usually most trekkers spend more than one night here, so you make lots of friends and meet those people you will cross the pass with. It is most important that you don't walk alone above these altitudes, as altitude sickness is unpredictable and can become very dangerous if not early recognised. The Himalaya Rescue Centre holds daily lectures about the risks and what you can do to climb without encountering any problem.
01 After a steep walk the valley opens at Tal 02 The Tibetan village of Tal 03 Crossing the suspension bridge in Karte 04 Nepali children in Dharapani
05 Approaching Danagyu 06 Kind of Tibetan cow 07 View of Marsyandi Valley between Danagyu and Latamrang 08 Annapurna II 09 The village of Upper Pisang
10 Stone buildings in Upper Pisang 11 View on Lower Pisang 12 The way the people get into the house 13 Mani wall 14 The northern face of Annapurna II
15 Detail of Mani Wall 16 Mani Wall and Annapurna II 17 Mani Stones 18 Approaching Ghyaru at 3670 m 19 View on Annapurna IV and III from Ghyaru
20 Leaving Ghyaru 21 Firewood transport in Himalaya region 22 Annapurna III peak 23 Annapurna glaciers 24 Braga Gompa
25 Climbing up to the gompa in Braga 26 The famous gompa in Braga 27 The village of Braga 28 View on the cliffs of Manang Valley 29 Gangapurna glacier lake
30 Marsyandi river close to Kanghsar 31 Marsyandi river looking towards the Great Barrier 32 Sandy cliffs along the Marsyandi river 33 Marsyandi river near Manang 34 Praban Gompa above Manang
35 Gangapurna and its glacier sea leaving Manang
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