Meta (3560) to Phu (4080)
JB:Started out at 8.00, was supposed to be 7.30 but all a bit slow after yesterday.
Initially relatively flat with great views across/down the valley to the monastery that we will staying in in a few days. there is big new monastery with the old one further down the slope. New one built for the sun!
We then went for a long period of "Nepalese flat" before coming across a deserted village (Chyk) where the people of Phu relocate for winter, a bit of a blend between the Mary Celeste and Cooks Beach in winter.
The stone buildings were all boarded up or had rocks stacked in the doors and windows.
Tried a number of short cuts some of which worked and some that had us climbing hills only to find the track was way below us and all the effort was wasted.
Noticing the altitude, all of the day was above 3500m and every hill or climb had us puffing.
BUT, the spectacular views and sheer enormity of our surroundings soon had you forgetting a bit of tiredness and discomfort.
During the morning we heard what sounded like a rolling thunder clap but what was actually an avalanche on one of the surrounding mountains. A bit later we heard a smaller one on one of the closer mountains.
Looking back behind us during the morning we had amazing views of Annapurna II. Not that you wanted to look away from where you were walking for long as there were big sheer drops beside the path for a lot of the morning. I a lot of places the path had been cut out of the sheer cliff with the cliff overhanging the path, like waking through three quarters of a tunnel with a sheer fall on one side!
Came across a lovely old lady who proudly showed us the baby goat she was carrying.
Stopped for lunch at Kyang. Gobinda had promised hot water for coffee(the first coffee since Pokhara) but unfortunately the locals were all out tending their goats or cutting wood or some other productive task. So sat under a juniper tree and ate the chapatti bread and yaks cheese we'd got from the tea house in Meta.
(CM yak cheese was surprisingly good a bit like a mild parmesan )
Putting on my cap noticed it had gone crisp, from all the salt sweated. We then noticed all our clothes had various salt related things going on. Mark's tee shirt has "snail trails that follow his pack straps".
(CM every morning at about 10 we all have clothing change - off with most of the thermals and on with shorts, really heats up once the sun gets up.)
MI: today has really reinforced why we added this side trek to the trip. Brilliant, and next to no people (other than the French folks).
After lunch the trail dropped toward the river on a path carved out of the rock. In places the path through here was no wider than 1.5 m but sheer vertical drops to the river a long way below. From here it flattened, except for the hills! More bridges and the gorges are just spectacular. We move from the river side to high above the river crossing gully's and slips, which seem uncomfortably regular.
(CM one of the really important rules of narrow steep trails is to make sure that you stand on the inside when ponies pass for obvious reasons)
Now the forest of pines is long behind us and we are getting to the last of the silver birches (other than the one we are travelling with - John's beard is really grey). The small mountain flowers are now sparse, and we are left with the Juniper Trees (look like stunted Macrocarpas) and some spiky shrubs.
Supposedly this is the area for the endangered snow leopards, which we didn't see. We did however see some 'blue sheep' which are wild natives of Nepal (about a third bigger than our sheep we reckoned).
This area has a significant Tibetan influence to the extend that both languages are spoken and the villages have a class system the same a Tibet. Walked past a few Mani walls, with there stone tablets carved with religious messages piled high.
About an hour out from Phu the trail gets squeezed by the towering sheer gorge walls. In the distance high above us we see the gateway the the Phu area. A slog uphill and we get to step back in time with ruins of the old Phu monarchy, and then the hillside village of Phu itself. Stunning.
The travel book says that todays trek can take 9-11 hours. Really pleased we only took 7.5 hrs, for the 20 odd km's, and half a km vertical gain.
The tea house is really basic and situated amongst the homes on the hill, with an old Gompa (religious place) 30 m above us on the hillside. We again dined and played cards in the kitchen. Hygiene is really low, snotty nosed kids heading peel the garlic and potatoes, but this seems pretty standard. The food tasted great! Theres no toilet at the tea house just a stand alone one down the hill from us, no water in it and pretty gross. The rooms ceiling is exposed 75mm branches at 125centres with slate piled on top, and the walls are a mixture thin tin, glass, stone and wood with ample ventilation! Just adding to the great experience.