ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT: DAY 9
Day 9: Yak Kharka to Thorang Pedi – 4 hours approx. – 4050m to 4450m
The next day I could barely eat breakfast, and I felt dreadful. Half an hour out of Yak Kharka I was already a wreck, my feet barely seeming to leave the floor, more of a zombie shuffle than the striding I’d been doing only a couple of days before. Carolyn monitored me, shoveling trail mix down my throat to give me some energy when I started to lag. The stunning scenery around me did little to buoy my spirits on this day. We headed for our final stop before Thorang-La Pass – a small town called Thorang Pedi. By this time I’d made up my mind that I was taking a horse over the Pass. I realized that my body was in no fit shape to tackle the climb and altitude and I was on my way to full blown flu. If I’d been in Brisbane I would have taken the day off work, here I was hiking up a bloody mountain at altitude, carrying 8kg of gear. I fantasized about my horse as I struggled along, a noble steed that would carry me sure-footedly the next day. My climb would be over, and my body could start to recuperate!
We clambered precariously along a narrow and rocky path in a landslide area, shale and dirt sliding down hundreds of metres below us. The wind was ice-cold, and we left the beautiful valleys behind us and entered a moonscape (or as the LP calls it: a rock-strewn meadow). There was another town high above us, called Thorang High Camp, and many climbers were already scrambling up the steep slope, prepared to risk altitude sickness to avoid the longer climb the next morning. Stories abound about trekkers attempting this high overnight stop, only to have to descend later in the afternoon with blinding headaches. One woman we met had to go all the way back to Manang for a few days before re-attempting the pass. Both Caro and I were headachy, but it was hard to tell if this was from the cold, the flu, or the altitude. Caro was taking pills for it as she’s had altitude-sickness before. I think mine was from the cold – it felt more like brain-freeze when you eat an ice-cream. Yaks wandered the hills around us, huge furry creatures that looked rather warm and cuddly and I wondered idly if I could persuade one to curl up on my bed like a big dog.
Arriving at Thorang Pedi I went straight to the reception of the guest house to organize a horse. The guys laughed at me, LAUGHED, and said that the horses couldn’t make the climb as there was too much snow on the pass. However, he could organize a yak for USD$300. My heart sank. I was hoping that I might be able to claim some of the expenses from my travel insurance, but I’m not sure that it extended to yak cover. I organized a porter to carry my pack instead, realizing that I would have to physically make the climb myself, but that it should be easier with the weight gone. After lunch I passed out in the early afternoon in my sleeping bag. Caro woke me for dinner, keeping those carbs and all-important energy up was a priority. The dining hall was abuzz with chatter, as people ordered breakfast for the morning before, chatted to their porters about leaving times (anything from 3am to 6.30am). Some people wanted to go early, in the dark, so that they could see sunrise at the pass. Personally with a snowstorm blowing up outside and ice everywhere, Caro and I decided it was better to leave at dawn so at least we could see. We were all full of nerves and anticipation for the toughest day yet.