"So far one of the most beautiful stage, mostly uphill but with some long downhill stairs that will make for a hard climb when we'll come back." I was feeling very strong and high on spirits, probably because of the altitude. I have never suffered because of it indead, at the opposite I feel better, full of energy and a little euphoric.
We were now in the upper valley of the Modi Khola, climbing and sometimes scrambling on a demanding path far from the last villages. No more rhododendrons but a surprising bamboo forest, fords and rope bridges on the roaring stream, precipitous walls and incredibly high waterfalls, up to Hinko caves and upper until Deurali, knocking at the door of the Annapurna Sanctuary.
The last part was steep! Lalit was standing atop and when I arrived he gave me five. The next day we were supposed to reach the Annapurna Base Camp, I couldn't believe I was so close. And I wasn't exhausted, definitely not.
In Deurali we met the Italian mountainer and traveler Giuseppe Pompili and I seized the chance to have a good conversation with him. He's a very interesting person, he's got opinions and isn't shy about sharing them. His mountainering and traveling experience is long and various. You can find more about him HERE on his site. Have a look!
After dinner we discussed the schedule for the next day. Somebody suggested that we leave very early - at 5 am, so way before dawn - and we climb straight to the Base Camp (4,130 m) in order to get before lunch to a panoramic point a little higher. The most of us wasn't interested because the view couldn't be that different, walking in the dark was dangerous and we were better to gain altitude as slowly as we can to minimise the risk of mountain sickness. Moreover it was impossible to get breakfast before 6 am, for us but especially for the porters.
Once again Ram Bir proved to be a true leader as he set a compromise: a small group of us was going to start at 5.30 am using their own Primus to prepare some tea and eating their own bars as a breakfast. Lalit was going to go with them given that he's got a guide license. All had been arranged in Nepali, I can't say if Lalit had got a choice. They had a short animated talk over the dinner table and the next morning he went with the early group. He was leaving when I arrived for breakfast: "We will meet at the Base Camp" he said, as if he wanted to apologise.
..........MORE TO COME.......