Our day started early with a knock on the door from our guide, Raj. Today we were going to again visit the monastery that we’d visited yesterday evening to see the sun rise onto the Annapurna mountains. The morning was bitterly cold and we found ourselves wearing trousers for the first time on this trip, as well as many layers on our upper bodies. As the sun rose it left a golden glow against the white peaks of the mountain top in a majestic display.
After breakfast we packed up our bags and started the journey to Menang. The weather was still cold so trousers and fleece jackets were still in use. It didn’t take long after the sun rose and we started moving before we were stripping back to short sleeves. I took the chance to utilise my desperately unfashionable zip-off trouser legs.
The trail passes through the village and exits through an ornate stupa before winding across the hillside towards a steep slope. The trail passes through open farmland where we witnessed the locals tilling the fields and tending to livestock.
Before long the path reached the bottom of a steep slope with a zig zagging path, heading up towards a bright white and gold stupa, sitting resplendently in the morning sun.
The zig zag path winds steeply up the hill, often in the shade of a forest, which was a welcome respite from the beating sun as we pushed on up the hill. Frequent stops were required to take on water and allow our heart rates to reduce to reasonable levels.
After around an hour of climbing we reached the stupa at the top, home to an amazing view of the mountains and the location of our first tea break of the day. The tea stop cafe had a rooftop viewing platform, a welcome rest in the sun after the fierce ascent. Also on offer was yak cheese and apple pie which was eagerly received by the group, many of whom came back for seconds!
After the break we set back off along the singletrack path, glad for the lack of traffic on this section of the trail. The path gently undulated along the side of the mountains opening up incredible views of the valley and the surrounding mountains.
Eventually, the path joined a dusty road and began to descend back towards the valley floor, frustratingly losing all the hard earned height that was gained in the morning.
The road became increasingly dusty, with every foot fall creating a cloud of dust that covered us from head to toe. At this point we were using our buffs to cover our noses and mouths in an effort to filter out some of the dust before it entered our lungs.
The road passed into a small village where there was a shrine to the Buddha and a football field where retired Nepalese men were playing a game. We also encountered our first traffic of the day with several motorbikes passing us.
The road continued to get more dusty as we left the village and passed through fields of Yaks, the first we had seen on this trek. Raj explained about a festival that the locals have every year where they bring the yaks down from the mountains, where the vegetation made them strong. They then drink the blood of the yaks so that some of this strength can be passed on to the drinker.
After a few more kilometres the road enters the outskirts of Lower Menang before rising to Upper Menang, which is a thriving and relatively large town with many shops and tea houses. We finally found our home for the next 2 nights, the Yak Hotel.
Unusually for the region, this is a stone built building and looks quite solid after the wooden tea houses on the rest of the trek. Inside, things got even better. Our rooms had en suite bathrooms with hot showers and western style toilets. After a lovely hot shower and a change into fresh clothes we were treated to a very unique meal, yak burgers!