It is part of the Annapurna Circuit ritual.
The rules dictate that to avoid mountain sickness we must drink liters of water. Following them almost always means sleeping with a full bladder and waking up once, twice, three times for uncomfortable trips to the bathroom.
From Chame that this torment was repeated. It made the nearly ten hours of rest we were already taking a lot less refreshing. At six in the morning, we are in a kind of seventh sleep. Mila, the person in charge of Mount Kailash guest house, knock on the door. We had asked him for hot water. When we open the door, there he is, with two big steaming buckets at his feet.
A cold and white dawn
We got up startled and with effort. We wish you good morning and thank you for your cruel punctuality. We took advantage of the packaging, ventured into the frigid dawn and took a look at the ghostly panorama from the porch outside the room. A dim light blued the valley ahead.
We rub our eyes and inspect him once more. The bluish color did not match the tones in which we had said goodbye to Pisang shortly after sunset. It was a whiteness disguised as a twilight that, during the night, had taken over the surrounding villages and mountains. When we finally come to ourselves, we sound the snow alarm and react accordingly.
We messed up, we put together the necessary photographic equipment on the rolled-up sleeping bags. We dress as much as possible, already wearing gloves and hats. We went up to the panoramic terrace, also covered with snow.
The sun was beginning to shine on the supreme peak of the mountains onwards, at 7937 feet of Mount Annapurna II, the sixteenth elevation in the world. It illuminated a threshold haze caused by the incidence of light on the icy summit, reinforced by the snow that the wind forced from the exposed edges.
The dawn spreads over the top of that section of the mountain range. A little later, it hits the slopes below and, little by little, the houses of Pisang installed at its foot and in the thalweg crossed by the Marsyangdi, the river that continued to accompany us.
The Gentle Warms of the Sun and the Bath
Dawn soon passes this side of the river and blesses the steep Upper Pisang where we enjoyed it. In a flash, the village regains its senses. Crows out of nowhere flutter over white roofs and fluttering Buddhist banners, struggling for their preferred landings.
Some inhabitants emerge from the depths of stone homes to appreciate what the new day brings them. Almost an hour later, the solar blessing also reaches the top of Mount Pisang, behind us, and opposite Annapurna II.
By that time, we remember the hot water and the baths we didn't get to take. We return to the middle floor and look for Mila. “Don't worry, I've warmed it up again” soothes us as soon as we pass by the kitchen.
We gained courage, got into the meager shower compartment, undressed in goose bumps and indulged in soaping interspersed with tepid showers that we poured over us from a small bowl.
The Morning Coziness of Mount Kailash
Having passed the passage from the icy end of the bath to the comfort of winter clothes, we sat down at the table and attacked the porridge with apple and honey that the host had just served. At the same time, we took advantage of the return of electricity to charge as many batteries as possible.
Aware that we were still her only customers and that her business was under control, Mila sits down next to us. Conversation starts, we realized that the inn didn't belong to him, that the old man wasn't even from Pisang.
A Mount Kailash it was the result of the initiative of Bhujung Gurung, a younger and more adventurous native who kept a series of photographs of himself on the walls of the inn, always bearded, on horseback and in other types of adventures. Mila and her family had simply taken advantage of Upper Pisang's growing notoriety and the opportunity the tea-house had provided them.
Above and Below Upper Pisang
At that time, we knew little more about the town than the winding ramp to the Mount Kailash which, combined with the excessive weight of the backpacks, had devastated us on arrival. As such, we left them redone in the bedroom, shouted a goodbye to Mila and set out to discover.
We climb a few additional meters into the village. We point to the Buddhist temple that the terrace highlighted earlier had revealed to us. Once inside the precinct, we realized that he was in the hands of a solitary monk, too focused on his morning religious tasks or used to the peace of the retreat to waste time with us.
The priest lights a ritual fire in a tower chorten elemental, of piled stones. When he does, he retires to some annex and we don't see him anymore.
Curious as it is in its nature, a crow suspects that fire may be of some use.
It lands on a prayer flag pole a few meters from us and, for a moment, monitors our movements. When he intuits a more than probable lack of benefit, he disbands.
The Last Moments in Upper Pisang
We realized that the sun's ascent to its zenith, melting the night snow and discovering the modern and uncharacteristic blue roofs that, to the disappointment of any photographer, the Nepalese got used to using. We went down to the heart of the village.
We follow the footsteps of a native who releases the yaks from the corral, takes them to drink water and sets them free for the usual pastoral stroll. We peeked at some other streets, houses and nooks. We greet three or four inhabitants, the few we have come across.
Ten in the morning had arrived, the time for us to be on our way. Okay, back to Mount Kailash, we sealed our backpacks, put them on our backs and said goodbye to Mila.
We walked, motivated, towards the edge of the village, we went around its mani wall of prayer wheels, crossed the exit/entrance stupa and made our way to the trail Annapurna Parikrama Padmarga, aimed at ghyaru. The Ngawal and Braga.