Bryaga sits toward the far end of the Marsyangdi valley, with the Annapurna Range opposite. The Annapurna Circuit trek is a long one, broken into 2 parts - pre & post-Thorung La. All the way along the Marsyangdi Kola, you gain altitude, & at this point, just short of Manang, you're noticing it. At 3,470 metres, you're nevertheless 2,000 metres short of the height you'll be at when you top Thorung La. And, including tonight's sleep, you've got 3 nights before you wake before Dawn, fuel-up & start walking ... Between now, at Bryaga, & the time you top Thorung La, you're always wondering; can I do it ?.. Will the altitude beat me ?... Will Aspirin be sufficient, or will I need to resort to Diamox ?.... Hope I don't need the Oxygen tent !!... How deep will the Snow be ?... What's Diamox like ?... Will I get a stomach bug (2 of our small group were struggling with crook stomachs).... Will we be caught in a snow-storm ?.... How cold will it be, in Tents, that final pre-summit night - sleeping higher than the summit of Mt Blanc, at Thorung High Camp ?.... My Map highlighted large areas of the narrow trail into Thorung-Phedi as avalanche-prone !! ....we had plenty to think about, as Pete & I got ready to climb the track up to the gompa on top of the Bryaga Monastery.
The valley is dry; the result of its position in the rain-shadow of the Himalaya. Dust is ever-present. A feature of Bryaga (or Bragha), is the building code. A vertical approach, with the roof of the house beneath used as the sunny porch of the dwelling above. It looked cold, dusty & distinctly draughty ! The ghompa Pete & I were going to climb to can be seen on the roof of the monastery at the top of the picture. Stone is used as the basis of all building, & lies all around; the buildings are old, & it's difficult to tell whether they are lived-in or not.
Ever-present prayer-flags, fluttering in the breeze, warding off evil spirits. The monastery sits with the Himalaya as a back-drop. The Archery competitors shoot towards us. Accidents aren't unknown ..
In Spring. keenly-contested Archery contests are held in the Manang district. Photographers are not encouraged ... The dress of the participants is individual, with local monks involved. The target's a large wooden plank, with minimal markings & a prayer-scarf wound round the top for good luck. There's some good shots amongst them.
Pete & I continued climbing, to the ghompa above the village.
The ghompa faced the Himalaya, with the Annapurnas right there. Forget about fences & hand-rails. You could fall off the roof of the monastery, easy as anything. Whilst on a Trek, you're encouraged to do these exploratory walks, to further your acclimatisation. Indra, our attendant, was watchful, here & at the next ghompa (the very remote Thare gompa, the next evening).
Tilicho Peak & the stone spire behind are visible from the time you enter the valley, way back at the Paunga Danda rock-face. Close-up, it's very impressive. Behind the ridge lies the Tilicho Tal ice lake, with a hotel - Tilicho Base Camp Hotel. Pretty typical of Nepal, that a hotel can exist in such an isolated area. Trekking in the Tilicho region is dangerous, with frequent avalanche & snow-storms. Across the valley, avalanches crash from the flanks of the Gangapurna glacier. The whole area is a jumble of smashed rock & huge flanks of ice-covered mountain. Tomorrow, we'll trek further along the valley towards Tilicho Peak, to Thare Gompa. Then, we'll climb slowly up the very steep ridge, in switch-back style, be treated to huge views back to the Paunga Danda area & Manaslu; then descend into the valley & trek towards Yak Kharka, Thorung Phedi & Thorung High Camp.
The children are instructed in drum-work as part of the day's pageantry, which kept them involved. The men were very close around me whilst I was shooting these images.
Amongst all the excitement, I was excited to spot this photographer, in amongst the crush of locals. It appeared to me that he'd won their trust. In the image below, he's got a bag of film spools in his right hand, & he's getting a tripod out, which he didn't use in the short time I watched. Indra, our ever-present companion, watches, transfixed. The Rolliflex sits in the gear-sack, in the dust. I was horrified !, & very excited. In the time just before I'd left Sydney, I'd seen a doco on the TV about Archery competitions in the Nepali Himalaya being documented by photographers, with all the attendant tension it creates in the locals, & here I was seeing it !. And, the Camera is a wind-on Rolleiflex film camera !!! (Didn't expect that ...)
Indra borrows a Bow & shapes up. I can see that Indra, in his quiet way, is proud, & excited as ... The photographer waits ... He was classic; low-key with a disarming demeanour & his labour-of-love Rolleiflex wind-on film Camera, just waiting. I'd attracted enough attention, enough warning glances, at this point, to feel I should stop shooting ...
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