We had gone to bed at eight at night. We woke up around seven in the morning.
There were eleven hours of invigorating sleep more than deserved and that came with another blessing. Despite his drunken rant from the night before, Don was already on foot. Everything indicated that he was in a position to follow.
During breakfast, we realized that we were going to continue alone. Tatiana, one of the two German girls, and Cris, one of the two Brazilian boys, were not feeling well.
We still contemplated staying, out of solidarity and love for the group, but we had already dragged ourselves an exaggerated amount of time in Pokhara, preparing the walk.
In addition to that we felt in perfect condition, eager to conquer the Thorong La gorge, to continue, in tranquility, on the other side.
In agreement, after breakfast, when we noticed the group's deliberation in the sun, we said goodbye.
Without major dramas or ceremonies, concerned with transmitting confidence that everyone would resume walking the next morning and that, as had happened before, we would meet again later on.
Then, we inaugurated the route of almost 7km, with an elevation of 400m.
On the way to Thorong Phedi
We pass a small herd of yaks that contribute to the meaning of Yak Karkha, a term translatable to yak corral.
We see their sharply defined silhouettes against the snowy mountains of the annapurnas.
On our right, the large Chulu West (6419m), one of the high mountains, but conquerable without any technical requirements.
We reach Churi Ledar (4200m) and its teahouses.
When we entered the first one, we found Don in a pleasant chat with the owner, familiar with whom he had not contacted for a long time.
We stopped. we drink one milk tea. We talked a little with the two, took some pictures of both and with both.
We go on, just us. Don tells us he would be chatting with the lady, that he would pick us up. By that time, we had no reason to doubt.
Another Safe Water Station
Shortly thereafter, we came to one of the “Safe Drinking Water Station” of the circuit.
A young Nepalese woman welcomes us.
From what we saw through the window that framed it, the interior of the establishment had an unexpected Nepalese charm.
It was made of yellowed wood, filled with shelves lined with acrylics or colored paper where a panoply of terms and kitchen utensils were kept.
We spent a little time with the ladies, who were already used to the passage and curiosity of foreigners, even the more meddlesome, like us.
We said goodbye, replenished with fresh water, prepared for the steep ups and downs and meanders, deepened by the Jharsong Kola River, which were to come.
Two Bridges over the Jharsong Kola. an indecision
At a certain point, from a height, we see the rail fork. Continue towards a suspension bridge above the stream. And by another branch, more sinuous and deeper, that crossed the river by a wooden bridge.
With no signs to advise us, we opted for the last one that would allow us, photographing hikers crossing the suspension bridge, with the mountains in the background.
We almost regret it. The lower rail reveals a loose, slippery pebbled surface.
The care it demands of us quickly irritates us, apart from the fact that, for some as-yet-unknown reason or perhaps just because the newcomers imitated the option of previous hikers, no one wanted to cross the suspension bridge.
Luckily, for good physical condition, these were almost our problems.
The First and Unexpected Symptoms of Feeling Unwell
After crossing the river, we started to feel a slight dizziness, which we had never felt before. We also still had fuller bellies than usual and supposed, with porridge and fruit, a mistake that in the morning we forgot to avoid.
As the altitude increased, the oxygen that the blood carried to the brain diminished. The unfinished digestions aggravated the dizziness.
We believe in the least harmful reason, attentive to the hardships of other hikers we passed.
Mountain evil had already toppled them, held their companions back from them, frustrated, submissive to the duty of taking them back to lower lands.
It wasn't the first case. Nor would it be the last.
As we feared, we have a different anxiety. We arrived at the top on the other side of the river, at the entrance of another teahouse.
In addition to tea and a range of snacks and products, “Deaurli” offered hikers a structure of stone benches with a panoramic view over the zigzags of Jharsong Kola, the trail we had taken to get there and the vastness around it.
We saw all this and the annapurnas above.
What we didn't see was Don's sign nowhere on the trail. The “I'll catch you” that he had answered when we left him was far from being fulfilled.
Don's Exaggerated Disappearance
while serving us new milk tea, the owners of Deaurli realize we're upset, but they think it's because of some friend who felt bad.
When we show them the reason, they open up a strange explanation that reveals the ethnic rivalry in which Nepal and that highland of the Annapurnas, in particular, live.
We are told that Don must have been of a certain ethnicity that was not native to the area but that he moved more and more there, in search of money from the tractors.
They add that this ethnic group lacked a sense of responsibility and that, almost whenever there were problems with the Nepalese, it was their fault.
We had no idea what ethnicity Don belonged to. The drunkenness of the night before had left us with the idea that it could get us into trouble at any moment.
We waited almost an hour at the panoramic point, much longer than we needed to recover from the climb and drink the tea.
At the end of that time, finally, we see a red dot, in the distance, approaching. Minutes later, we identified Don's coat.
We noticed that the charger was almost running.
When he climbs up the hill and arrives at us, the owners of Deaurli, charismatic figures from those parts, give him a slight that doesn't need any complement on our part.
Don apologizes to us. He promises he wouldn't be late again like that.
Just drink water. Get ahead of us.
The Ultimate Treacherous Slope
A Nepalese knight we've already spoken to in Yak Karkha, in a fur cap and dark glasses, appears, greets us and gives us some advice. “the trail, from here to Pedi, is the most dangerous.
There is a risk of landslides and, if cattle are grazing on the top, they can take it with smaller stones”.
We appreciate the warnings. With no alternative, we face the risk. On Don's heels.
Tens of meters ahead, a sign with the inscription "Landslide Area, Step Gently”, confirms the warning.
The trail furrows the slope above the river, in a narrow V valley, with loose earth on both sides, littered with boulders that had already slipped and, over time, caused victims.
We proceed in a silent speed mode, never stopping. It took us almost twenty minutes to get out of the risk zone, to the left of Jharsong Kola.
When we did, we ran into Thorong Pedi's reward.
The Solar Entrance to Thorong Pedi
The village appears to us walled, with an entrance portico that identified Thorong Base Camp.
As opposed to High camp, complemented with other promotional signs, from “fresh bakery","real coffee” and, of course, “Apple Pie".
Hasty walkers opted to stretch the rope.
They progressed straight to High Camp. The climb was only 1km. At that distance, it ascended 400 meters.
It was one of the steepest on the Circuit.
Still waiting to make sure that the dizziness and headache were due to the heavy breakfast, we were in doubt.
In order to avoid the overcrowded hotels, we went up to 4540m, the top of the village.
We entered a certain New Phedi. We took a look at the facilities and sat down in the heated room, looking forward to a rest and a real meal.
We were choosing the table when we met Sara and Manel, a couple from Porto that, without knowing who they were or where they came from, we had already seen out of Manang.
We sit with them, we chatter. We talked about everything all afternoon.
In that time, the room was filled with newly arrived walkers.
The End of Day Blizzard that Whitens the Mountains
The weather had changed.
A windy blizzard covered the Jharsong Kola valley in white. Those who arrived came in, tired and cold. He was looking for a spot next to the salamanders that heated the room, from a certain point onwards, in vain.
If, at first, we, as well as Sara and Manel, were hesitating as to whether we should go up to High Camp soon, the sudden bad weather decided for us.
At 20 pm, with the Nepalese employees from New Phedi turning off the salamanders, we go to bed.
The plan was to wake up at three in the morning and see what the weather was like. If the snow had stopped, if the sky was clear, we would go up.
At least until High Camp.