Thursday, January 5, 2012

Asian Adventure: Day 8 A Little Raksi

Annapurna Circuit Day 3
Chamje (1410 m) to Danague (2210 m)

The trail continued up through the narrow gorge clinging to the rock wall above the rushing river. The going was slow as we constantly had to stop to make way for the mule trains to pass.

Suspension bridge
After cresting a steep head wall, the gorge opened up in to a wide sunny valley and the town of Tal (1700 m) located on the shores of a wide braided river. Tal is cute town set along a stone street lined with bright marigolds and colourfully painted homes and tea houses. All of the homes had quaint little gardens growing everything from cabbage to radish, pumpkin, taro, corn, carrots, beans to chills.

The valley at Tal
Entering Tal
We stopped for lunch in the garden of the Potala Guest House where we enjoyed potato momos and the regional specialty of pumpkin, bean and potato curry with corn bread. Dave spent the lunch hour trying to master the murchunga - a Nepali instrument that is held up to the mouth and strummed.

Playing the murchunga

From Tal the trail once again entered a narrow canyon. On the opposite side of the canyon a deep scar had been blasted in to the rock face – the start of construction in order to connect the road to the towns in the Manang district beyond. From a tourist perspective it is depressing - the end of one of the greatest treks in the world. However when you see the endless trains of mules, horses and human porters you understand why the road is necessary. Every pop, beer, chocolate bar, suspension bridge cable and drop of fuel have been carried hundreds of kilometres on someones back - and in the case of pop, beer and fuel bottles back out again.

The trail climbed the canyon, crossing large suspension bridges and passing the towns of Karte and Dharapani. The Tibetan influence is began to become apparent with each town having entrance chortens and mani walls

Chorten gate

From Dharapani we took a side trail that climbed a steep set of stone stairs to the village of Odar (2195 m). The name Odar refers to a sacred cave or rock and the town is literally built under a giant boulder in the centre of an amphitheater of terraced fields. A local lady suggested that we head up to the school for the best view of the valley and sent some children to locate the teacher to open the school yard gate. The school building was surprisingly new and well constructed with two rows of class rooms set beside a school yard complete with a volleyball court. 

Odar school
Odar school room
The local children always wanted to have their picture taken so they could see it on the camera screen
His picture

The teacher invited us to his home to have tea with his family and the school director. So eight of us squeezed around the stove of their humble home and shared tea. Then they offered to share their home-brewed beer and raksi with us. Raksi is a distilled alcohol made from millet - the Nepali version of moonshine. Dave and the teacher went on to compare their different home-brew beer recipes. When Dave enquired about their source of brewing yeast, the teacher reached for a sack hanging above the hearth and pulled out a lump of white powder crawling in mites! He even gave Dave a chunk to take home to try in his own brewing.

Around the fire
The sun was setting fast so we more or less had to run the remaining distance through Bharachap. We reached the hotel in Danaque (2210 m) right as the last sliver of light disappeared. We checked into the Annapurna Hotel and once again sat down to dal bhat for dinner. Our guide managed to find out that the tea house owners had yak meat smoking in the kitchen and brought some for us to try. It tasted like fatty beef jerky but it was delicious. 

Setting sun

Annapurna Hotel

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