Day 8: Dobato – Mulde Peak – Tadapani
The alarm goes off at 6am but I’m already awake. Two other guests arrived yesterday afternoon with a guide and porter. They want to watch sunrise from Mulde Peak so it was an early start for them. In places like this, with creaking doors and plywood panel walls an early wake-up for one is an early wake-up for all. Alarms went off at 5am, boots stomped down corridors, voices far from a whisper greeted each other. I laid in bed and listened to it all. By 5:50am I gave up trying to get back to sleep and just got up. I’m heading to Mulde Peak this morning as well, but I’m too lazy to try to get up there for sunrise so Bel and I will be heading out at 6:30am.
I walk outside to another clear morning as the sun rises in the East, casting orange light across the sky and turning the white peak of Annapurna South a candy-coloured pink. It’s cold. I stomp my feet and warm my fingers in my pockets between taking pictures. Bel finishes his coffee and it’s time to go. We start the 30 minute walk up to Mulde Peak and I’m immediately out of breath, my heart racing. Walking up to 3,400m was ok, walking beyond it is apparently much harder. Maybe it’s the early start, maybe it’s my empty stomach, maybe it’s the thinning air. Probably all three. Whatever the cause, I need to take it slow as Bel breezily saunters up the hill ahead of me. The air is fresh, snow crunches below my feet and as we gain altitude the mountain peaks reveal themselves.
We pass abandoned wooden shacks, and stone houses sometimes used by shepherds. They sit silent beneath the towering, desolate peaks rearing up in around them. It’s a desolate place to live, but there is beauty in it.
Half an hour after leaving Dobato I reach Mulde Peak. I stand at 3,637m and turn a slow circle. The Dhaulagiri range in the west, Tukuche Peak, Nilgiri North & South, Fang, Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Himchuli, Machhapuchhare and many more. They are all there, some of the world’s highest mountains right in front of me.
I look down upon the villages of Sikha, Swanta, Ghorepani with Poon Hill beside it. I look down upon Poon hill as it sits at 3,200m. It’s a major trekking attraction, offering panoramic views of the ranges I am now looking at. Except that right now I’m a lot higher and closer to them. Poon Hill or Mulde Peak? I know where I’d rather be.
I could stay up here all day, except that I can’t because my stomach is telling me to get back down for breakfast and Alex and the kids are waiting for our return. We descend back to Dobato – going down is much easier on my lungs than going up – and make a speedy return. I tuck into my hot porridge and we make our plans for the day. There’s still snow on the ground so we decide that heading back to Tadapani and then onwards to Ghorepani is the safest option. It’s a bit disappointing not to make it to Khopra Danda, but if the weather stays sunny there’s always the possibility of tackling it from the other side after leaving Ghorepani.
I admit, I’m relieved to know that we’ll be going back down to comfortable rodent-free beds, running water and a hot shower. Our way back to Tadapani is easier than the way up here. There is still snow in places but feet have trampled a path for us to follow and the sun is shining. We stop again with the elderly couple in Isharu for some tea and chapatis, the kids play chess once more while Alex and I drink tea in the sun, chatting.
The walking is beautiful, and even though we’ve covered these paths before it feels like a new walk, going in a different direction with blue skies and sunshine.
It’s not long before we are back down in the forest, peeking at waterfalls across the valley and peering at Machhapuchhare through the trees.
As we near Tadapani we hear the frequent tinkling of bells in the forest. Water Buffalo graze and donkey trains pass us by. In no time at all we are passing into the grounds of the Hotel Grand View. We drop our bags in the room we left just three days ago and I make a beeline for the shower.