Day 3: Tal - Chame
Total distance: 65.58km
Total Ascent: 3113m
Total Descent: 1407m
Snow! I could see snow from the moment I walked out the door, dusting the peaks surrounding the town. Due to low cloud cover they had been invisible to me yesterday, but the clear mornings provided a glimpse of what I came here to see. Unfortunately my excitement didn't last too long, as the clouds had returned by mid-morning.
To my amazement my legs were not sore at all today, but I noticed straight away that my speed had dropped off considerably. As it wasn't going to be a long day, I didn't mind the slower pace. The first couple of hours were fairly easy, crisscrossing the river (side note: I really hate suspension bridges) and passing more waterfalls. I got up close and personal a with one waterfall, as it surged right across the road I was walking on. The dry rocks slightly above the water's surface were all near the edge of the road, from where the cliff face headed directly down. I wasn't game enough to test my balancing skills on the unstable terrain, so I was left with no choice but to walk straight through the fast-flowing water. My feet were wet for most of the day.
After leaving the town of Danaque (the halfway point for today) the path basically went straight up. About eight of us had all caught up to each other on this mountain, along with someone's guide. I was very, very grateful that guide was there, as I would have absolutely missed a small sign pointing to a side trail I was supposed to take. Missing two turn-offs in two days would not have been ideal. We all slogged out the steep steps at roughly turtle pace, everyone feeling the enormity of the weight on their backs. Eventually we separated as one by one we dropped off for a desperately needed break. It wasn't long before I was alone again.
The scenery suddenly turned into forest, with not even a hint of a tall mountain around me. It didn't feel like I was in the Himalayas anymore. It would have been a perfect place to hold a trail race - I was almost ready to drop my bag and start running along the path. If there was a way to get my bag to the next town I probably would have.
Walking through the dense foliage I realised I hadn't seen a route marker for a while, and became suspicious that I was meant to turn a different way at the last intersection. Starting to panic slightly, I took a break to see if I could figure it out on the map. Soon after two male hikers came speeding past, and I asked them if they had seen any signs. They hadn't, but they didn't seem concerned. We all took off together, continuing to drudge up the never-ending hill. A little while later a guide ran up to us (carrying a huge backpack - I don't know how he did it) and said we were on the "long route". Great. It came out back on the main trail again, but I could have done without the extra kilometres.
I made it to Chame, my pre-planned destination, about 2pm. While eating lunch I contemplated walking to the next village, where there were only 1-2 tea houses and probably limited chances of the luxuries I was looking for (i.e. hot shower, wifi). In the middle of my meal a low rumbling came across the sky. Looking out the window I saw dark grey skies, as the local women rushed out to bring in their washing. Thunder. Continuous thunder for the next two hours. There went the idea of making any more progress today. In the end it only rained for five seconds before the clouds parted, revealing more snow-capped mountains around me.
Within five minutes of settling into into my guesthouse in Chame I learned just how cold it was up here. The altitude was 1000m higher than last night, so it's not surprising, but I thought it would still be warm in the middle of the day. I had been hiking in shorts and a t-shirt and felt fine, but that changed quickly once I sat down and stopped moving. A hot shower, thermals and curry lunch helped a bit. Getting under the blankets helped a lot. It felt weird to be in bed by 3.30pm, but I am not friends with cold weather. I really have no idea how I'm going to cope as the elevation continues to rise while the temperatures plummet.