Dhalagiri and Annapurna Range panoramic view from Poon Hill
Dipak said we could sleep in since it is just a 3-4 hour walk today from Ulleri to Ghorepani. However, how can you sleep in when you know there is a spectacular mountain outside your window waiting for the rising sun to touch its slopes and wake up the colors hidden by night.
It was light when I woke up but the sun hadn't made it above the mountains. The sky was a rich shade of blue. Looking from under the warmth of my blanket, Annapurna South looked like it had been coated with marshmallow fluff which shined in the faint light. Rowshan jumped up and went running outside as the first light touched the tip of the mountain with rose. Quickly the color of the snow was transformed from pink to light gold to white of day. To the East the lower mountains were shadows in a golden haze.
Sunrise on Annapurna South and Hiunchuli
We left Ulleri and went up more stairs. The trail rose and descended. Villages became sparser. We were walking through a cool, damp cloud forest. On our right, a secretive river cut overhangs into the rocks where tendrils of ferns and vines hung like insect appendages. The trees wore a coat of green fur moss. The water fluctuated between teal and rust depending on the plant life.
Earlier we had tried to overtake a mule train to avoid having to walk following a trail of fresh pungent mule manure. The mules, however, were too fast and after exhausting ourselves we never succeeded even of getting clear of their clanging bells (which bore a striking resemblance in sound to the evil bunny in that old puppet animation “Peter Cottontail” Easter special.) They passed us later on their return trip.
Muletrain returning to town
The first part of Ghorepani was lower. We we went through it and up until we got to the main part of the town which perches on the mountain side, occupying a prime seat in an arena of mountains. First we saw just one mountain. Then, walking a bit further the buildings opened up revealing the entire vista from the Dhaulagiri range to the Annapurnas: massive gray rocks with streaks and stretches of snow, shining clean and white against the deep blue sky.
After a lunch of dhal bhat, Rowshan raced up to Poon Hill, the location from which many postcards and posters of the Himalayas are taken. We had all talked about going up for the sunset but that was still 4 hours away.
Rowshan gets Poon Hill all to himself
It is hard to believe that the view can get better than Ghorepani (2800 meters) but as we got higher, the tops of more mountains appeared over the hills. Machhapuchre's “Fish Tail” looks more and more fishy as you get closer.
Machhapuchre looking very fish-tailish
The crest of Poon Hill (3,200 meters), with a white viewing tower, golden grass, and blue sky was reminiscent of a beach scene for some reason-- or rather the dry beach grasses and lifeguard's tower on the last hill before you descended to the ocean and sandy beach.
The illusion was smashed as soon as I climbed a little higher and saw, instead of an expanse of the sea, and expanse of sky and a semi-circle of mountain peaks-- disappearing into he distance. Nagarkot and Chisopani were beautiful but standing on Poon Hill is like being suspended from the sky among some of the largest mountains in the world. I am used to being faced with one or max 2 stunning peaks at a time: Mt Rainier, Mt. Hood, Mouna Kea. But here, every peak is a behemoth-- larger than life, not a fragile pinnacle but a vast island of rock covered with snow rising from a sea of mountains that you want to call hills because they are so dwarfed by the mountains.
Dhaulagiri I (8167 meters)
The light was perfect on the Annapurnas. To the south, the hills were turning into violet shadows. To the West, the sun was changing the hills there into orange and gold shadows. Shadows emphasized the perfect clarity of the Annapurnas.
Sunset on the Annapurna mountains
We watched the transformation of color. The sun's blazing fire disappeared behind a hill. We tried to leave but were left transfixed by the rose color that spread over the top of the mountains and how the lower areas of snow turned a glacial blue. The pink of the sky and the purples and blues of the mountains made me think of dreams, as if the whole world was put to sleep and dreamed shapes of mountains in violets, lavenders and blues.