March 6 Day 6 Manang to Lake Tilicho Base Camp
At 7:15 the chocolate pastries came out of the oven and I was there for the first one, along with a cappuccino which made for a decidedly cosmopolitan breakfast. It also led to an early start. Had 15 km with a fair amount of altitude gain, so thought I better head out early, but while lingering over my coffee I watched as the Manang locals going off to work, many carrying the now familiar back baskets equipped with shoulder straps and the tump (forehead) band. They carry everything in them– firewood, tools, compost–wonderfully utilitarian objects in a place where everyone must always be involved with moving goods from here to there. The woodcutters could bring a load in with a truck, but often there are no trucks, so they each shoulder a large log (not in the basket) and carry them where they need to be. I found my way out of the town through a series of gates and twisting alleys. Everyone I passed was praying, some fingering prayer beads. Soon I was on my way climbing to a path that leads up the river eventually to the lake. Parts were narrow and steep, some were on a narrow dirt road. Just outside Khangsar a man was driving cattle down the path and greeted me with a loud “namaste.” He had a smile missing some teeth but full of affection and asked if I was walking to the base camp. I replied yes. He pointed toward the village and said “tea,” then pointed to his red coat. I looked at the town and could see a red hotel building. We both laughed at our effective communication, and I walked on, disappointed to find the hotel closed. My march continued up some steep slopes then past an old closed gompa. Most of it was corrugated steel, but it was strangely beautiful, fading yellow and red paint. Just past were two large closed hotels near a cliff and two magnificent birds. Too big for hawks, at first I thought they were vultures, but one swooped down and I could see clearly its feathered head and hooked bill. When one landed I saw its feathered legs– they were eagles. The latter part of the trail crossed a series of scree fields which reminded me of trekking on New Zealand’s South Island. Much of it was narrow and loose but I was still confident from my long trek. Nearing base camp I hiked with Kyle and Will, an American and an Englishman, for the last stretch. There were two hotels. I had lunch in one and tried to get a room, but because there was a large influx of trekkers the proprietor wanted to overcharge me for a bad room. When I protested he just laughed. I ended up joining Kyle and Will in their three bunk room and spent the afternoon in the dining room talking with them as the temperature dropped and it started to snow. We wondered if the trail will be open tomorrow but the locals say it should not be a problem. My plan is to hike up to the lake then head back to the one hotel that was open back past the scree fields which should put me in a good position to make it to Yak Karka the following day. Finally they made a fire in the wood stove to heat the dining room. In went some rotten chunks squirted with kerosene which did not really catch. He reached into a large bag for dried cow dung which soon warmed the room, a circle of people around the stove: seven Nepalis, one Chinese, three Americans, one Belgian, two Brits, and a Dutchman– a veritable UN.
T. Hugh Crawford