Manang, a dream destination for travelers and trekkers, is a must-visit place and lies on the classic Annapurna Circuit trek. It was in October of the auspicious year 2014, that me and 6 of my dear friends planned to trek the circuit around the Annapurna massif, covering magnificent places like Jomsom, Muktinath, Kagbeni, Thorong-La Pass, Manang and Tilicho.
We started our trek from Besisahar on the first day. Not actually a trek since we took a pickup truck from Besisahar to Chyamje. It was late at night when the vehicle dropped us in Chyamje, so there weren’t many alternatives for us to do that night. We had a delicious dinner and went to our rooms to take rest. Unlike other trekkers, waking up early in the morning and start walking to their destinations, we decided not to hike that early. After getting up, having breakfast and getting ready it was already 11 in the morning. We weren’t used to walking long distances. So, we took short breaks now and then. We passed through amazing landscapes such as waterfalls, rivers, green lands, etc. Passing through such amazing landscapes, waterfalls we were mesmerized by the beauty of different places, which compensated for the difficult trails.
We decided to have some snacks in Tal. After Tal, there were a lot of uphills leading to Chame, the district headquarter of Manang, and eventually Pisang. We had to walk by carrying a torch in a dense forest to reach our destination of the day, Dhukur Pokhari. Dhukur Pokhari, though having ‘pokhari’ (pond) in its name, didn’t have any pond there.
The weather there was a bit colder obviously as we were in a higher altitude. So as to kill both the coldness and the tiredness, the local people suggested us to taste the local ‘raksi’ (alcohol) named as ‘Jhwaikhatte’. That definitely helped us to acclimatize with the chilly weather.
The third day of our trip, we ascended a bit early than the day before, but not early as a lark. The landscape was gradually changing as the altitude increased. We witnessed breath-taking greenery in Dhukur Pokhari, but such was not the case in Humde. Humde was a small desert-like area. The Humde people were very congenial and helpful and we sincerely accepted their hospitality.
After passing a couple of uphills and downhills we reached Manang. The moment we reached Manang, it rained very heavily. The hotels there were all packed. After searching for a long time and getting all drenched in the rain, we came across a hotel which had vacant rooms. We were all delighted. The rain had not stopped which made us worry about our trek the day after. But fortunately the music was really good in the place and we forgot about the rain. We were all exhausted and slept early.
Surprisingly, when I woke up at 3 am the other day it was snowing heavily. It felt like a dream. For some of us it was the first time we were experiencing snowfall. Everyone was really excited about the snowfall. Until we found out that it was not possible for us to move forward to the next destination as the snowfall didn’t stop. We saw that snow had covered everything. And we could not see a single person outside. We spent the whole day by playing some card games and drinking jhwaikhatte (to warm ourselves).
The other day, the blizzard thankfully stopped but leaving a huge 7-8 feet snow in the place. On the contrary, the view outside was quite scintillating. Locals recommended us to descend but we couldn’t stop ourselves from going forward as we saw the mountains covered with glaciers which made the place even more majestic. When we started to walk, the trail was very slippery. The snow was so much sparkling that we couldn’t look to it directly and our feet completely submerged under the thick layer of snow. Consequently, we opted to return back and saw some rescue helicopters in the air.
It was very traumatic to hear from the natives that many trekkers were missing. Some also died due to the avalanche, caused by the HudHud cyclone. That was a shocking moment for us as we didn’t know that the snowstorm was that massive. The disturbance caused by the heavy snowfall in the Annapurna region was already all over the news at that time. We worried about the lack of contact with our families. The rescue helicopter was going back and forth towards Thorong-La Pass and Tilicho Lake.
We reached Humde by crossing an onerous path. The phone network was hardly working. But somehow we communicated with our parents which relieved them. We stayed at the same hotel we stopped earlier, where we met actual survivors from the avalanche. Hearing their stories was interesting as well as heartbreaking.
I must say this trek was an exhilarating experience as well as a memorable trip for us. On the other hand, it was agonizing for some hapless people who were affected by the huge snowstorm. The unanticipated situation made us realize that traveling is fun as well as it gives us real life learning. To sum up, one should be prepared to adapt in any type of situation and make the most out of it.