Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Day 06 (Braga)
I woke up today at 06:30 and got ready for my day hike to Ice Lake. At about 07:30, I had breakfast (coffee, toast with peanut butter and honey, and a bowl of oats, nuts, raisins, and milk). After that meal, I walked through the old part of Braga (with many empty and crumbling homes) up to the trail to Ice Lake. For some reason, a deep and narrow trench was dug out for a considerable portion of where the trail had been; so now hikers had to walk along the edge with not much room to maneuver. The trail did offer spectacular views of the valley and there were a number of Buddhist flags and stone pagodas along the way; there were actually very few trees on this trail and the vegetation consisted of thorny shrubs and spiky tundra (I placed my hand down on the ground once to keep my balance and was pricked by one of the long needles protruding from a plant that I thought was grass until my sense of touch confirmed otherwise). As I began hiking through patches of snow, I saw a French hiker going straight up the mountain as opposed to taking the actual path through more snow in a draw; I decided to follow him and soon caught up; we then assessed the situation (ominous clouds were moving in toward us, over the Annapurna range) and decided to continue on. Not long after, we met an Englishman hiker who had taken the actual trail and we all decided to continue on. After, hiking for nearly another hour through chilling winds, we reached the first small lake, which was nearly frozen over; about ten minutes later, we reached Ice Lake, where there was a shelter (if needed) and a stupa; we took the obligatory photos by the rather unimpressive lake, and then headed back down as more clouds moved in over head, blocking out the sun; after following the trail a short while back, we then went straight down the mountain, ignoring the trail for some time, until we rejoined it further down where a group of hikers were (they were contemplating whether to continue on to the lake, but the Englishman in our group convinced them otherwise (of course they would listen to the Englishman since his people have a long and proud history of mountaineering); actually, the Englishman told me he was planning on turning around and heading back to Besisahar on account of the weather and condition of Thorung La pass; he also told me that this valley, where Braga and Manang are, is the best part of the trail). We then continued down the trail, through a few more snow patches, mud, and looses rocks (my knees were feeling it today); as we came closer to Braga, snow flurries began to fall, giving the valley a more magical look; finally I reached the old part of Braga (which, like many towns in this valley, reminds me of American Indian pueblo villages (e.g., Taos Pueblo), how they are built up on the mountain sides with successive layers, have flat roofs, and utilize wood ladders; the big difference is these homes are built of stone, not adobe); walking through the deteriorating old part of town with a light snowfall achieved the perfect atmosphere needed to make me feel as if I was in some medieval village in a Ridley Scott epic (as long as I ignored the electricity poles placed all over the town). I then reached my hotel, took off my wet shoes and socks, and had lunch (fried vegetable potatoes, a snickers bar, and a coke). I then relaxed by a wood fed heater in the dining hall while I typed away in my iPhone. Later, a group of eleven Germans and one Swiss man came in to the hotel with their guides – I was no longer alone. For sometime we sat around the heater in the dining hall; they mostly spoke German to each other and I understood precious few words; occasionally they would ask me some questions and vice versa; even though most of the time I couldn’t grasp what they were saying to each other, it was nice to have company inside the hotel. When it came time for dinner, I had a vegetable hot and sour soup, vegetable chow mein, and a hot cup of lemonade. Following dinner, I had a dessert which consisted of a slice of chocolate cake and a cup of coffee. I then went to my room to sleep off that splendid meal.