We thought the drive from Jomsom to Pokhara was bad (to read click here), but the drive to the start of the Manaslu trek made the previous 11 ½ hour, 160km drive look easy. The first 4 hours to Manaslu were stress-free as it was on the main highway to Kathmandu. It was when we turned off this highway that things changed. The road is cut into the side of the mountain with steep 100 m drop-offs at many points. It rained heavily the night before, so the bumpy, zigzagging, dirt road was also a muddy mess. Large transport trucks were ahead of us and created deep ruts in the mud. At times these ruts were deeper than the clearance height of the jeep. The further we got, the worse it was. We got stuck in the mud several times and at one point our jeep spun-out in the mud and came to a stop with one wheel dangling off the cliff. After carefully sliding out of the jeep, it was decided that the jeep couldn’t continue. After a stressful few minutes deciding what to do, a crazy looking bus came bouncing up the road. It was a souped-up bus that is built for these roads. It had a beat up, 30-year old passenger bus body with 8 massive wheels (4 in front, 4 in rear), a high-powered engine and no shocks. We were skeptical that this monstrosity would fare any better but, with music blaring, the bus rammed its way through the bumpy, muddy road taking the hairpin turns at high speed. We bounced around on our seats and felt like we were on a 20 k, 3-hour Monster Truck ride. It was the worst drive we’ve ever been on, but after 10 hours of travel that day we made it to the starting point of the trek.
For details on the trek click here
Manaslu is the 8th highest mountain in the world at 8,156 m. We did the Circuit trek which goes around Manaslu crossing one high pass, Larkya La. The trek begins in the jungle so first three days of the trek were very hot and humid. The trail follows the deep, narrow gorge of the Buri Gandaki (River). It travels along both sides of the valley with many river crossings on high suspension bridges.
There are many tropical trees and plants along the route, many we’ve never heard of, but we did see mango trees, ferns and wild marijuana plants.
By the third day the valley widens, and we got our first glimpse of the surrounding high peaks including Sringi Himal.
As we got higher, the vegetation began changing. Gone were the mango trees, they were replaced by wild yellow raspberries (which we ate), pine and rhododendron trees and bamboo, but there was still plenty of wild marijuana. We also saw amazing water falls. They begin high up on the cliffs above and make dramatic falls, hundreds of meters to the river below. They were breathtaking. We passed many small Hindu villages with fields growing corn, barley, buckwheat and potatoes.
The trail is part of an old trading route to Tibet and the further we went, the closer we were to the Tibet border. Because of this we started to see more Tibetan Buddhism influences with mani walls, kanis (village entrance gates), prayer flags and chortens. We saw mani stones with intricate carvings of Buddha in various postures which is different from mani stones other parts of Nepal.
The homes were also different as they were made of stone. Many were damaged in the earthquake so there is a lot of new-home construction. The Nepalese government gave the equivalent of $3000 USD to families who lost their homes. Most villages had posters with instructions and diagrams on how to build stronger homes.
Shortly after we left the village of Namrung, we saw the peaks of Manaslu and Naike poking out at the end of the valley. The views got better and better as we moved up the valley.
By day 5, the villages became more interesting. The stones homes higher in the valley had not been destroyed in the earthquake so we could see the original architecture. They are usually one long stone structure, one or two stories high with a shared wall between like townhouses.
Villagers in this area have very hard lives. Their villages can only be accessed by foot and supplies arrive by mule. During the monsoon season they are completely cut off. Food and supplies here are expensive by Nepali standards and fresh fruits and vegetables are difficult to find. They have very few modern amenities or even modern tools, yet they do have a few modern, non-essential items. We saw men breaking up granite boulders with crude sledge hammers and women spending all day breaking rocks into gravel with small tools, and then they stopped working and picked up their cell phones to text a friend. The contrast between their antiquated homes and tools with their addiction to cell phones was very strange. The modern world is coming here, but it will be a long time before they have a truly modern life.
Part 2 of the Manaslu Circuit including pictures of the beautiful Mt Manaslu.
To see our pictures from Annapurna click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGL5XQNaWm8
For pictures from Richard’s Everest Summit click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFmsecd6yN0
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