The Himalayas, my big dream

Normaali

Manaslu Circuit in 12 days

The 8156 m high Manaslu at sunrise from Lho.

This is a blog post about my first ever trip to see the biggest mountains in the world. I did a 12-day trekking tour on the Manaslu Circuit route in Nepal, in March-April 2018. My plan was to join a group but as no one else signed for that date; I got a private guide and porter. The text below is almost word-to-word from the diary I kept during the trek. That diary turned out to function as a kind of friend to me, a comfort to sometimes very shifting emotions that a solo traveller can have. My whole trip lasted about 2,5 weeks, from the 28th of March to the 14th of April, including all flights and transfers. I spent two days before and two days after the trek in Kathmandu. For others considering this or other similar treks, there are a few tips and ideas in the end. This post is long, but I felt it is most useful as a whole story and not split into a few smaller ones. Hope you enjoy the ride!

 

Far away from home

Kathmandu, 29. -30.3.2018

Life as usual in Kathmandu.

I had traveled for almost 34 hours from my home in Pyhätunturi, Lapland, Finland to get to this strange city coloured with a pale yellow hue. The city is situated in a valley surrounded by big mountains, but due to this very dense yellow hue, more precisely dust and pollution, the mountains were nowhere to be seen. After some less official border control checking, I got outside to be greeted by my trekking company Discovery World Trekking representative, who gave me a flower garland, greeted me and took me to my hotel. Soon the journey continued to the trekking company’s office to sort things out. I tried to look decent, as I didn’t quite feel so. I hadn’t seen a bed or washed myself in two days and had slept for maybe 8 hours in total.

Pigeons chasing rice at Durbar Square in Kathmandu.

”This is my rice, don’t come any closer.”

Later on, I headed out to see the city and as the air quality was as bad as I had dreaded, with my breathing mask on. My hotel was situated in the center of Thamel, which is the part of city with all the tourist shops, but also all the trekking gear stores and also thousands of shops for the locals. I thought that there is no such thing in the world that you couldn’t get in Thamel! As a result of walking around, I got to see so much, I didn’t know what to think. There were poor and sick people, loads of garbage and pollution but still bright colors all over, magnificent beauty and temples, sweet and friendly children, strangle electrical solutions, noise, smells… I sure was far away from home! When returning to the hotel, the ATM took my credit card. I was too slow to retrieve it from the machine. There was a moment of cold sweat and number of escalating thoughts. I was alone in the other side of the world with no credit card and very little money. After this brief crisis I pulled myself together, managed to get some money with my Visa Electron and realised it might all be ok!

Fruit shop keepers in Kathmandu.

The next day I rushed to pack my bag, it had to be taken to the porter later that day. I felt ashamed of the amount of stuff I was going to take with me. When trekking, I was used to carrying everything myself, the food, the tent etc. I had never had a porter. And also as the circumstances in the Himalayas were totally unfamiliar to me, I had no idea what I would really need. So I had quite a few things… After packing I headed straight to a trekking gear shop that a Spanish climber had recommended me the day before. Everest Hardwear is a small company in Thamel that manufactures trekking gear, especially down garments for Everest climbers. The shop is located in a quiet alley with no other stores and the company’s “cutting department” is just outside the shop entrance. I was lucky enough to get to visit their “factory” a bit further away, a relatively small room where two men and two women were sewing clothes. I was told that the workers get paid about 2000 NPR for one down jacket, which will take them less than one day to finish, a down one piece will take them a whole day. I bought one expedition-quality down jacket (13 000 NPR, bright yellow, my favorite colour!) and two thinner down jackets (about 8 000 NPR each), as I had orders from my friends. I had heard that down jackets is one of the things you should buy in Kathmandu, and after today’s shopping’s I agreed! I spent around 250 USD for three quality Kathmandu made down jackets and I was very happy to pay it all, as I knew the money would go to local workers.

Someone praying for you in Kathmandu.

In the afternoon I visited the famous Durbar Square and it’s Unesco Heritage protected temples. Everything was so colourful, beautifully shaped and old it was hard to understand, but still normal life went on around them. Religious ceremonies took place here and there, someone less fortunate in life slept in the afternoon heat without any trousers whatsoever; pigeons flew around eating rice that had been sacrificed. I just watched and tried to understand.

 

To the mountains

Transfer from Kathmandu to Soti Khola, 31.3.2018

Notice the ”road” ahead.

The wake up call was at 4:30; the bus would leave at 6:00. We took the local bus, the “bus station” was a strange alley with busses parked side by side, it seemed that no one knew which bus goes where. After a bit of asking, my guide found our bus. When sitting down, someone came in to light incense sticks, soon a man with a box of live chicks came in, Nepali music was put on loudly and the noise and lively ride could begin.

The distance from Kathmandu to Soti Khola, where the trekking starts, is only 140 km but it took us 11 hour with one change. The bus was a four-wheel drive version, and boy, it was not in vain. The “roads” where partly so bad I wouldn’t have even taken my mountain bike there! We took a different route than usual and that made the ride quite interesting! On the way I could see people sowing rice, a goat being slaughtered, villagers having a shower outside and someone driving with a chicken hanging from the motorbike. And the chicks on our bus got some watermelon. A change of bus at Arkhet, some sitting on a bag of rice in a crowded bus, and there I was in the village where my trek would start.

 

The hot “lowlands”

Day 1, Soti Khola 730 m – Khorlabesi 970 m, 16,6 km, 7:17 h, 925 m vertical up, 1.4.2018

Desert like vibes.

It was nice and cool in the morning but soon the heat took over. As a Finn travelling from the middle of the winter it sure felt hot! My guess was about + 25-28 c. About two thirds of the way was along a road, the rest was a path, as we had to do a detour to avoid the road construction work. The Chinese are building a road along the Budhi Gandaki the river valley, the rumour is that they want to get a connection to Tibet and that the road would be built all the way to Samdo. It sounds good for the villagers as the connections get better but bad for the trekkers who want to enjoy peaceful walking on paths. This time, most of the road works ended before Khorlabesi but some parts are under construction a bit further ahead too.

Porters with their loads.

My guide Raj at a police check point with my trekking permits.

The detour was of course a whole lot of uphill followed with the same down. It was steaming hot! But the views were different higher up. The descent back to the river valley and the village was quite steep. I had worries about my knee that was sometimes causing problems when walking downhill. I used my poles, thinking it would help me down, but the knee got sore. On my first day! I was crushed. How was I ever to manage nine more days if it was like this… I tried to paint and draw, as my dream was to have pictures made in the Himalayas, but it was wishful thinking, the flow was not there. Then I started to worry about everything else too, as my bad habit was, plus started to feel lonely.

 

Following my dream

Day 2, Khorlabesi 970 m – Philim 1590 m, 21,9 km, 9:11 h, 1214 m vertical up, 2.4.2018

Women heading to fill their baskets with stones for the village construction work.

The hot kept on slowing me on the uphill parts. In Tatopani (translates hot water) there were hot springs; the running water was steaming despite the warm weather. The valley had been quite narrow so far, but at the village of Dobhan everything widened to a beautiful valley with a sandy river bottom. The view looked surreal and like something from Asia. But oops, I was in Asia! It felt strange that there I was, in the middle of all that beauty, next to those steep slopes and the distant big mountains, following my dream! On the river bottom, lots of mules were returning from higher up, to pick up new cargo. The guide told me that a mule costs around 1000 USD and that they are all from India. It is quite an investment for the locals! Everything higher up in the villages is either carried by people (like the roofing sheets carried by a man I saw yesterday) or by mules. Even though bargaining is usually the normal way to do business in Nepal, it is not recommended here. Even the lodge menus have a text advising not to bargain, as it is expensive to keep a lodge far away from roads.

A sweet looking lodge at tea break.

Walking on the river bed was a nice change.

As yesterday evening was full of worry, today it was all different. I did some kinesio taping to my knee, focused on every step, did not use my poles in downhill parts (to make sure I step correctly) and the result was no knee pain whatsoever! I think some thanks should also be given to my guide who many times reminded me to focus on the positive, that it will really make it a lot easier. And it did! But as I was happy in Jagat for eating the best tasting food so far in Nepal, delicious spring rolls, I was also worried was I paying a price for it. The stomach was not feeling too good.

My guide Raj.

It was a long day; I was tired and happily going to bed early, with my Finnish translation of Maurice Herzog’s Annapurna book from 1954. I had my guide’s words in my head, “Stay positive and positive things will happen”. Good night!

 

A never-ending day

Day 3, Philim 1590 m – Ghap 2250 m, 24,5 km, 9:56 h, 1501 m vertical up, 3.4.2018

I woke up with a stuffy nose and a sore throat. I could hear my guide’s words from yesterday, “no more cold showers for you or you will get sick”. Yes, yes.. Today we travelled through friendly pine forest, the view looked like from an old Chinese painting. And again I had to realise my stupidity and remind me where I was. These are the same mountains that were pictured on those paintings! On the way we saw local life in many ways, and the higher we got, the more you could see Buddhism and Tibetan life style. In Bihi, we passed two women making a beautiful rug for a soon arriving quest. I got lots of friendly namaste greetings.

A quest was coming, so a new rug was needed.

This small notebook I was writing each day was starting to become like my only “friend”, as there were no other customers to talk to. Luckily we talked quite a lot with my guide. For some reason, I didn’t understand that my Finnish phone would not work here at all. Only the locals have coverage here. I should have bought a prepaid for that. Apparently there are a few villages along the trail that have a somewhat functioning wifi. Not that I need any connection to the outside world, quite the contrary, I’m very happy as it is, but the folks back home don’t know I can’t connect and they have not heard a word of me for these four days in the mountains. I hope they are not too worried!

The pine forest area felt homely.

Today I was even more tired than yesterday. The last kilometres to Ghap seemed never ending! The trail was in parts very exposed, one had to step very carefully. The slopes were abruptly steep right next to the path. There was also one landslide that was less enjoyable. Some stuff was coming down all the time and when crossing the area, the guide said “don’t look down”. I wasn’t going to look down, and later understood it was good I didn’t! A very strange notion for the day was that for the second evening in a row, I did not feel like eating any sweets! And for me that is big news, speaks volumes about how tired I was.

 

The altitude and the water tap

Day 4, Ghap 2250 m – Lho 3180 m, 14,3 km, 7:06 h, 1292 m vertical up, 4.4.2018

A rainy day and curious children.

This morning I had no idea what day it was! I had to check my watch. Holiday! I just took water from a tap that was first used by a crow, and then a cow followed by a pony. The days of water purification have begun! After having seen so much garbage around the villages and realising that bottled water was getting more and more expensive (now 250-300 NPR/litre), I wanted to make a change. I had bad experiences of strong water purification tablets (army quality), so I was not looking forward to my new kind of water. But these tablets were ok; the water was fine to drink as it was. I didn’t even need the vitamin c tablets I had taken to transform the taste to somewhat drinkable.

It was cooler to walk today, as we were getting higher. The clouds were lower, or maybe I was starting be quite high already! The uphill’s started feel heavier, maybe it was my flu, which is very much hanging in there, or then it was the altitude (now at 3180 metres).

The clouds low at Lho.

My room!

On the way, in the village of Lihi, I got to sit in the kitchen where everything happens. I got to see the local woman preparing my lunch on open fire. It was was nice, and I felt at home. It was getting quite cold already. The locals have no heating in the houses, except this kitchen fire. None of the rooms in the lodges have any heating either, and sometimes they can even be a bit windy, as the constructions are not that weatherproof. Some of the lodge dining rooms have heating. At the moment I am in my room and I can see my breathing vaporising, it is so cold, but I am very happy and warm as I now could take out my new yellow down jacket I bought from Kathmandu.

Me enjoying my time with this lady preparing my lunch.

I can hear some drumming from higher up; there is a praying moment in the nearby monastery. The clouds swim low, but I was told that if it is clear in the morning, I should be able to see Manaslu from my window!

 

The giant was staring me in the eye!

Day 5, Lho 3180 m – Samagaon 3530 m, 7,2 km, 3:05 h, 562 m vertical up, 5.4.2018

This is the giant that made me speechless, Manaslu before sunrise!

It was difficult to try to keep my breathing warm and the sore throat from getting worse during the cold night. Even though I didn’t feel so energetic, something woke me up in good time before the early alarm. I got up from my bed and looked out of the window. I couldn’t move for a while, I just stared, my jaw dropped, straight at the hugely massive and white Manaslu peak. The big mountains peaks had been hiding so far, but now this 8163 metre giant was staring straight at me. I put on my jacket, took my tripod and headed out just wearing my thermal underpants. The sun reached the top quickly, and in a matter of minutes, the pinky orange light was brightening towards the white day light. What an incredibly magical moment!

Lho before sunrise.

A yak with his ”earrings”.

At breakfast, I suddenly felt weak and a bit nauseous. I was sure this was it and asked my guide if I should start the altitude medication now. He reassured me once again, saying that “don’t worry, be confident and it will be ok”. And he was right, again. The clear weather and the huge mountains all over made me cheerful. The uphill’s sure were starting to get heavy, the going was really getting slow. As the day proceeded, so did the clouds. Apparently it was very common for the mornings to be clear but in the afternoons the clouds and winds would appear.

As we arrived to Samagaon quite early, I had time to explore the village. I saw the local women weaving beautiful textiles. I thought that I would like to buy a memory from these villages high up on the mountains and the Tibetan style woven aprons were so colourful, I decided to find one for myself. There was this one yard where a woman was weaving. I looked at her for a while, then she noticed me and started to communicate with a sort of sign language, she didn’t speak English. We agreed that I wanted to buy an apron, and she fetched a bag full of them. The spread them on the ground, I chose the nicest one and in the process, all of the women nearby had gathered around, trying to communicate somehow. Everyone had a good time; the air was filled with laughter and lots of hands trying to explain things. The only words in English were the price, “four thousand”. I was happy to pay it all, and walked back to my accommodation smiling.

It was all starting be just fine (except for my flu and the sore throat), I got some decent drawing done! Tomorrow would acclimatisation, we will stay here for a second night.

 

Slow-motion hiking

Day 6, Samagaon 3530 m – Birendra Lake 3872 – Samagaon, 7,8 km, 3:56 h, 436 m vertical up, 6.4.2018

It was below zero in the night, the ground was frozen in the morning. And so was I, didn’t sleep very well because it was cold. This morning I felt the flu badly. The other doubts appeared again. Why was I here all alone? It seemed that I was constantly shifting between good and not so good emotions. But the not so good emotions bring out the great moments; they wouldn’t feel so good otherwise!

The program for the day was to hike a bit higher to acclimatise. The destination was Birendra Lake filled with ice blocks from Manaslu Glacier. We climbed to the lake and a bit higher, to 3872 metres, which was about the height where we would be staying the next night. The climb felt really heavy, I was so slow. I had to have a very steady pace; no extra manoeuvres or the already difficult breathing got a bad turn. Sometimes it felt I was not moving at all anymore! But I got on with the journey and the lake was stunning, with no wind, the lakes turquoise water mirroring the big mountains above it, including Manaslu. From higher up, we got a stunning view of the huge Manaslu Glacier and witnessed two big icefalls. The sound was majestic! When I was higher up, I got my first slight feelings of altitude headache.

After much planning and lots of evasion, I finally went for a wash. The “shower” was a freezing cold toilet room with icy concrete floors. Note to myself, next time bring flip-flops. I bought a bucket of hot water, which was luxury for a long time. I just stood in the hot water for a while. Even though us Finns are used to a cold climate, we are not used to it being cold indoors. Even the smallest wilderness huts have some sort system for heating. I must say I admire the locals here, living in these temperatures without any heating, just the kitchen fire; it snows here in the winter. And the buildings are not even airtight; you can see the daylight through them. The only source of extra heat in the winter is the animals living on the bottom floor, as people living on the second floor get some of the heat rising from the animals. The local people also seem to be wearing the same clothes no matter how hot or cold. I’m walking with my down jacket and they don’t even have socks on with their flip-flops. Tough people, I must say!

 

Turning back?

Day 7, Samagaon 3530 m – Samdo 3875 m, 7,8 km, 2:15 h, 357 m vertical up, 7.4.2018

Samdo in a mix of rain, snowfall and fog.

This night was warm as I slept wearing my yellow down jacket! The flu and these altitudes was not a nice combination, I had to wake up several times to “breathe”. This morning I felt especially sick, more than yesterday, nose stuffy and throat sore. The coming day would need a lot of guts to get through as we were going higher again. My guide was sweet though; he bought me mint drops for my throat. It was heavy rain at night and the rain continued during the day. That meant snow higher up, at the 5106 metre Larkya Pass also, which is on a glacier and can’t be crossed in bad weather and too much snow. The guide told me that if the weather continued like this, we would have to turn back. A large camping group already turned back. What devastating news!

My guide Raj and my porter Raj.

A philosophical yak.

Arriving to Samdo we noticed that there were still quite a lot of people planning to cross. The guide was hopeful and so was I. The clouds were still very low and it was snowing. After returning from the acclimatisation trek a bit higher up, a man told that he had some imports from Tibet. We passed him, but at lunch I thought I wanted to see what he had. I took my guide with me this time, so I would have a chance to understand that man. We climbed funny ladders to this mans house, a shack made of piled stones and the man started to arrange his Tibetan treasures on a tarp. There were all kinds of strange looking things, some looked more like garbage, but some things started to interest me. Especially some old prayer beads and a few things made of yak horns. As I had my interpreter with me, I found out that one of the yak horn items was for storing gunpowder. That sounded like a perfectly peculiar souvenir for my dad! I bought the yak horn item and the beads for 1000 NPR. It was nice to get a closer glimpse of the way the locals live, and to give support.

The man with the Tibetan treasures.

My Manaslu chocolate egg!

In the afternoon I got a whole lot of drawings done and painted three chocolate eggs, one each for my entourage as a celebration if we managed to cross the pass. The image I painted was Manaslu at dawn. As I focused on my things indoors, wearing once again the yellow down jacket, I could hear the rescue helicopter again. I heard it twice in Samagaon. Some people had it bad.

 

Views like hallucination

Day 8, Samdo 3875 m – Dharamsala 4480 m, 5,61 km, 2:35 h, 646 m vertical up, 8.4.2018

Me slow-hiking towards the next accommodation at almost 4500 metres.

The walking was again quite a challenge, like someone had already done a 20 km run on my feet and taken most of my lung capacity before I had even taken my third step! I got on very slowly and we reached our destination. The acclimatisation has gone very well so far, no altitude medication. I heard most of the other trekkers were taking some. The headache was though increasing; I might have to take a painkiller later on. It started to clear already yesterday evening, I got to see the mountains and the morning was also clear. In the afternoon, the usual clouds and winds appeared. The wake up will be tomorrow at 03:00, and we will start walking after 04:00. It will be a tough day, crossing the 5106-metre pass. The flu was still hanging in there; it would be nice to have your breathing equipment functioning properly at this altitude.

Sunrise views from Samdo.

Stupid us having a break on the acclimatisation hike.

I fell asleep in the middle of the day in my tent, at 4480 metres, how cool was that! Dharamsala was not a real village, like all the others so far, it was a mere shelter for trekkers. As there were lot of people on the move and all the indoor rooms were taken, I got a tent. It was nice, the sun was shining and it was warm inside the orange tent walls! As I was dozing, I started to once again think about how the folks at home were doing. Are my dogs ok and was everyone else ok? It had been again four days since they had heard from me and eight days since I had heard from them. I got a message sent from Lho but I didn’t have time to get a reply. I hope everyone was fine.

My tent views!

The views today were absolutely mind blowing, massive, white peaks and glaciers all over. The recent snowfall had finished it all off with a coat of freshly glittering snow. I just sat and wondered at all the shapes, the steep rocks, the ice formations, the way the clouds moved around the peaks and the way the snow fields narrowed to gullies that soon came down as big avalanches. I was in the middle of all this! It made me feel very very small and humble. Everything I saw around me was so beautiful. It was not an overstatement when my guidebook said that the views here would look like you were hallucinating.

 

I was at over 5000 metres!

Day 9, Dharamsala 4480 m – Larkya Pass 5106 m – Bimthang 3720 m, 14,8 km, 7:24 h, 707 m vertical up, 1509 m vertical down, 9.4.2018

The view from Dharamsala at 3 am!

Unlike my guidebook had predicted, I slept well and woke up fresh at 3 am. It had been snowing in the night. I got out and there was quite a hustle and bustle around the tents, headlamps here and there. But what almost made be badly late was the notion of the surrounding scenery. It was dark but still light because of moonlight, I could see it painting the mountain shapes and also my favourite constellation, the Orion, was right in front of me. What a sight and feeling! I wasted valuable preparation time in taking pictures, but it sure was worth it. I also had a good appetite at breakfast, which was also not expected at this altitude.

At 04:17 my small group, me, Raj the guide and Raj the porter headed on the dark trail following the Larkya Glacier. After about an hours walk, the light started to increase. Different shades of blue lit up the big mountain on the other side of the glacier. The hues started getting more colour and soon the pink arrived, and almost instantly it turned into orange and then via yellow to bright white. Coming from a land of the midnight sun and the sun shining from a low angle and shifting very slowly, the speed of sunrises and sunsets kept on amazing me. The journey proceeded once again slowly, the trail was hillocky, and meandering it’s way on the glacier. After one particularly exhausting hill, the guide said this is it, Larkya Pass. I couldn’t believe it, I was sure there was still miles to go. I looked at my watch and it said I was at 5165 metres above sea level. I had done it!! With the flu and all other worries! The “official” reading was 5106 metres, but I liked the version on my watch. The sun was shining, it was 08:12 in the morning and I had never been higher than what I was now. After some euphoria, some photos and a bit of resting, we had to continue. There was still about 1500 metres vertical and a long way to go down and the clouds and the icy wind will come soon, so there was no time to lie about.

Bimthang almost in sight. This is the backside of Manaslu.

We headed down, my porter enjoying himself sliding down the steep, snowy slopes. The view that opened was quite something. A new valley with three massive ice flows from numerous smaller glaciers and a new mountain range with Annapurna II as it’s highest peak. I couldn’t help but admire the different shapes of ice can take when it’s forced down steep and narrow slopes. At around 11:00 the clouds had already covered the whole pass, it was no rumour with the clouds coming. The long journey down from the pass had been one of my biggest worries as my knee was not it’s best at downhill. But I arrived to Bimthang with no knee pain! Again concentration and good kinesio taping had paid off. And the lower I got, the happier and more at peace I got. The big challenge had been done, beaten in many ways.

But as the habit was, great highs were followed with lows. The clouds, wind and cold came again and I was spending the afternoon/evening alone in my cold room. The others were celebrating the crossing of the pass, together, as they had friends to celebrate with. That’s were I should have been, but the introvert in me kept me from going. Some quick thoughts passed by, what happens after all this, what did this journey change? Or was it supposed to? I had seen and felt so much it was all just swirling in my head.

 

145 km of walking

Day 10, Bimthang 3720 m – Dharaphani 1910 m, 20,5 km, 7:32 h, 379 m vertical up, 2102 m vertical down, 10.4.2018

The wonderful views of the last hiking day.

I got up again as usual before sunrise, to check the mountains, but today nothing was to be seen, the clouds were low. What utter luck it was that yesterday was a clear night and day! We started our journey, leaving the big mountains I had already grown so fond of. We passed the last glacier bed, it’s moraine and in an instant, the world changed. We entered a fairytale-like forest with massive, old spruce trees with lichen, lots of flowering rhododendrons and ponies grazing. On the way down we met a familiar face from Samdo, the man who sold me the yak horn! He was on a rice-shopping trip to Dharapani, which would take him three days one way. He and his ponies had crossed the same high glacier pass as we did, also the steep slope down! His ponies were to carry his goods back and they were walking freely somewhere in front of him. Sometimes he would stop for a long time in some village to catch up with people and the ponies just walked their own pace further ahead without running away.

Flowering rhododenrons and snowy mountains!

The fairytale-forest just on the other side of the glacier moraine.

The narrow paths through Tilche village.

The trail followed a blue glacier river the last part of the day. Big mountain peaks still appeared here and there. The last part of the trek was an hour’s walk on a road from Tilche to Dharapani. After the last suspension bridge, crossing the glacial river coming from the Annapurna area, I had walked 145 km, walked 8,3 vertical km uphill (almost the height of Everest!) and 7,1 vertical km downhill. A sort of empty feeling filled me, which was probably expected after a big challenge. I was happy to send a message back home I had done it, and passed it with flying colours!

 

Back to the city, 11.4.2018

Transfer from Dharapani to Kathmandu

The trip back started with a first funny and bumpy jeep ride, which soon however turned less enjoyable. The driver was young and even my guide noted that he was driving like a maniac. The “road” was sometimes just made rock boulders, sometimes more like a path and all the time there was a steep cliff just next to wheel he steered the jeep wheels. Once we even got stuck in a steep turn, the front of the car almost over the edge and the rear stuck on a stone. I was happy to arrive to Besisahar after 4,5 hours of sweating. After a quick lunch a shift to a smaller bus. The distance from Dharapani to Kathmandu was again only 170 km but it took us 12 hours, even though we were driving on the Pokhara-Kathmandu “highway”.

One notion during the jeep ride was the amount of trekkers, which blew my mind. The crowds were massive; there was almost a constant flow of trekkers. The part that we took a jeep ride was a part of the Annapurna Circuit and the rumours I had heard about the amount of people were no rumours. I had made a good choice of not choosing Annapurna, as I first thought. On Manaslu Circuit, there might have been one day when I didn’t see any trekkers! And most of the time I could walk on empty trails, just the pace I wanted. Pure luxury!

Map of Manaslu Circuit, in 12 days.

 

Kathmandu, 12.-13.4.2018

Just another temple in Kathmandu.

The last days in Kathmandu and Nepal were filled with shopping and sights. I visited my new favourite shop again, Everest Hardwear, and bought a shell jacket, a soft shell jacket (4000 NPR each) and a duffel for all my shopping’s (1500 NPR). Around Thamel I bought also some tea, some ribbons for my handicrafts and other textiles.

After shopping I headed to the Monkey Temple, also known as Swayambhunath. There I met maybe the most of tourists I had seen on the whole trip, but also lot’s of locals practicing their religion. It was nice to see them focused on praying, and in the middle of everything were relaxed monkeys stealing the rice that was sacrificed. After the temple I visited the National museum, which was a rather ancient case, the most fun there was at the stuffed animals section where you could hardly recognise the species, they were so badly stuffed!

Prayer wheels rolled at the Monkey Temple.

Monkey Temple monkey.

I celebrated the last night and bought my first dose of alcohol on this trip, a mojito. I was writing postcards to send to grandmother and my niece, but as the glass started to get emptier, I also felt that here they maybe don’t measure the alcohol amounts that precisely here…

I am sitting at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. Music is flowing from my headphones, taking me to some distant, blue feelings. The mountains can be seen today from the valley. I started to think about this business of solo travelling. It’s got two sides. On the other hand, you feel strong sensations of loneliness and sadness, and maybe often think why must one be alone and so far away from everything. But the other part is the reason I sometimes want to travel alone. The freedom will give the feeling of strength like never before. At just this moment, just here, I felt more powerful and happy than what I had in a long time. I started to think about my co-trekkers in the mountains, how many of them would have done this journey alone? Not so many, I think.

Before the trek I had dozens of worries, would I be able to make the trek with my knee, my lungs were not either in very good shape, and so on. The list grew the closer the trip came. But none of my worries became an issue. I really wanted to be able to do this, my long-term dream trip, and that’s how it was possible. In addition to the feelings I described before, my notebook got its final lines. If really want to, I seem to able to do some damn big things. And the damn big things will happen when I keep my guides words in mind: “Stay positive and positive things will happen”.

Some of my sketches from the trek.

Some tips to first timers

Rubbish and bottled water
– Use as little bottled water as you can. The water purifier tablet’s taste in the purified water is not as bad as I thought. And the water running in the public taps and water points is cold and clear. Be aware though that as the water is often under + 10 c, it is recommended to wait for two hours before drinking it. By using bottled water you are just increasing the rubbish piles you can see close to the villages (a sight that is difficult to get used to). But a good reminder is that these villages have lived for hundreds of years using only materials from the nature, so everything you throw away, will disappear quite quickly. And now that there are things that don’t decompose, they are very much visible everywhere.

Kids
– Take dried fruits or other sweet things to give to kids. The mountain village kids often greet you with joy, followed by a timid request for chocolate. I thought that chocolate; sweets (both also usually single wrapped, producing rubbish) or other very sugary treats are not so good for children living far away from proper dental care.

The bag for the porter
– Take a proper big backpack for the porter, not a duffel, especially if you have a private porter. They do not have any bigger “carrier bags” to put your bag in, as I for some reason thought. A backpack with proper straps will make the journey nicer for your porter. Luckily most of the porters use the traditional head strap to help.

Tipping
As I was travelling alone and not in a group, the tip sum became quite high, higher that I expected. I thought that maybe in bigger groups, the whole tip amount would come from many clients in smaller sums rather that just one, as in my case. Of course the amount I pay is what I want to, but I wouldn’t want to be giving less than expected if I was happy for the service. So I ended using around 380 USD in total on tips for the guide and porter, which is over triple of what I originally thought it would be.

Complete trip costs
– 895 USD for the trek (I managed to book a discount price)
– 380 USD for the guide and porter tips
– 850 USD for the flights
– 40 USD for the visa
– 75 USD for airport transfers and airport hotel in Finland
– 70 USD for the four hotel nights in Kathmandu
– 85 USD for food and drinking in Kathmandu and at airports (the food on the trek was included in the trip cost)
– 480 USD on souvenirs and shopping (including local handicraft textiles, four down jackets, one shell jacket and one soft shell jacket)

In total 2875 USD

 

And the final word. Do travel, and dare to go. It will do wonders! It’s weeks since I came back and I still feel like a champ because of this trip!

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