In May 2013 my father, Richard Tyler and I, hired a guide and a porter and undertook the Manaslu trek. We’d already been to Everest Basecamp a few years before and were hungry to get out and see more of the beautiful mountains of Nepal. However, Everest Basecamp had been very commercial and very busy with other tourists, so we decided that rather than going for a trek like the Annapurna circuit we’d look for something a little off the beaten track. We chose to do the Manaslu trek.
We had an eight hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Arughat, a bus we almost missed after my father overslept. We arrived at the bus park just as the bus was starting up to leave. On reaching Araghat, we crossed the river and got another bus to Soli Kola where our Manaslu adventure began. There were several parts to the trek that made it such a memorable walk: the scenery, the tourists and the locals we met and our guide and porter.
First though, it may be worth talking about the accommodation and the bugs!
The accommodation was good on the whole, even if basic. Several of the tea houses we stayed in appeared to be newly built and were comfortable even if cold. One place we’d stayed they’d moved the stove out of the dining hall into the back room where the staff, guides and porters went, leaving us freezing in the dining hall. Even so there are good memories of this place. We were huddled around a table with our guide and porter, and the other four trekkers doing the trek at the same time with their guide. We played a card game called ‘cheat’ while a thunderstorm carried on around us outside. There was a lot of laughing as we all cheated our way through the game. The other thing I shall not forget is the bedbugs I encountered in one of the early teahouses: adult bedbugs that left me with several big bites. Happily I managed not to take any away with me. My father also had an encounter with a flea jumping merrily around his bed in another teahouse. Wrapping it up in his bedding he took it outside and let it go. These blood suckers are slightly creepy and let’s face it, really gross to look at. But it’s worth being aware of them as so to try not to carry them on to the next place. And yes, giant cockroaches and massive spiders were seen, but they all seemed fairly harmless, especially when left alone.
The scenery was fantastic, the lush green lower parts of the trek with forests of flowering rhododendrons., the gushing Buddhi Gandaki river whose source resides in Tibet, the cutting gorges and tight valleys, and the far reaching mountain views with glorious clear views of the mountain itself, Manslu.
We were very fortunate that we met some great people on the way. There were two other couples doing the trek at the same time as us and we stayed in many of the same places. A real sense of camaraderie built up between us all as we encouraged each other along the way.
The most sobering part of the trek was when we came across three Frenchmen, two French Alpine guides and a trainee. They were there to see if they could find the body of one of the men’s son, who was among the 11 people who had tragically died in the Manaslu avalanche in 2012. His body had not been found so they were there to scour the ice with rods and try and recover the son’s body. A Buddhist monk was there to say prayers and give his blessings for a successful search. The memory of the emptiness and the sorrow of a father looking for his lost dead son will always stay with me, reminding me how precious life is.
Our guide was excellent: he was knowledgeable, spoke excellent English, gave us confidence to walk at altitude safely and really got us involved in experiencing Nepalese life. Many of the locals we met, we met because of our guide. He was great at getting us really engaged with the locals, talking with them and encouraging us to converse with whoever we could. On arriving in Samdo we discovered that there was a Buddhist festival being celebrated in small and smoky village meeting house. We went to see what was happening only to be included into the Buddhist dance made up of a circle of people singing and stepping around a fire in the centre. There was much laughing and joy as we tried to learn and follow the dance. Our porter, who did not speak such good English, also was really involved with us and helped to make the whole experience even better. On one occasion, after I had finished a sketch of a local butterfly, he presented me with a handful of big black and red butterflies which sat in my hands before one by one flying away.
Finally the pass must be mentioned. We stayed in Dharamasala the night before attempting Larky Pass. It was very basic accommodation: the sleeping rooms both looked and smelled like cowsheds. As we left Dharamasala at 4.00am, it was snowing. The sun rose, the weather cleared and the views were fantastic. We heard and saw small avalanches. It took us six long hours to get to Larky Pass and a few more hours to get on to our accommodation after a long steep descent. Even though we were tired we still buzzed with our sense of achievement. The whole trek had been amazing. It wasn’t till we joined the Annapurna circuit near the end of our journey that it felt like it was really over.
A superb trek all round from which I have taken away many great and happy memories.
Author: Jess Tyler