A Travel Journal by Rita Lucas
Five years ago as I completed my degree in International Studies, I, at the offer of my late father decided to make a trip to an exotic part of the world. Costa Rica came to mind at first, but it seemed so near and not too much different from family vacations to Mexico or Hawaii. I then decided Ibiza Spain would be nice; perhaps some other cities along the way. That did not sound exotic enough. During a subway ride, saw a man with a T-Shirt that said, Everest Nepal. Voila! That sounded far, exotic and adventurous. Did some reading, bought some clothes, travel insurance and off I went.
I have traveled with many airliners in the past, but I have to admit, compared to the service that I got from Thai Airways while traveling to Kathmandu, no other airlines come even close. Incidentally one of my neighbors was a gentleman from France who was going to Nepal on a trek. I asked him if it was Everest or Annapurna. He said neither and told me that he was trekking the Manaslu region. He went on to tell me how he was trekking Manaslu with a group of friends who were coming into Kathmandu after being in Vanarasi India and told me about MAT Nepal Treks. Intrigued, I asked to join them as well. Rather spontaneous decision which ended up being a fine one.
Mountains and especially the one in the Himalayas where mountain Gods reside with their full glory, provides an excellent adventure for adventure lovers. Trekking is a whole world of adventure, and when it’s Himalayan Trekking to base camps of these glorious mountains including Everest base camp Trek, K2 Base camp Trek, etc. the adventure is no doubt a rewarding one. From the Nepalese part of the great Himalayas, at 26,781 feet, and being the 8th highest mountain in the world, Manaslu (originally meaning the light mountain) is a dream of many trekkers. It is the highest peak in Lamjung district of Nepal. The mountain is tall and wide enough to contain several glacier galleries and long ridges, which are seen visibly. Various Trekking options are available in Manaslu region, among them the most popular is of 177 kilometers which skirt the Manaslu over the pass to Annapurna. Trekking in this area has only been allowed in 1991. Trekking in Nepal, one gets to see many great peaks of over 7000 feet above sea level. Manaslu was climbed first by Toshio Imanishi along with Gyalzen Norbu in 1956 and has been climbed 29 times since then.
The areas native to this valley provides a sanctuary to many rare and endangered species. Of 110 species found in the area include Himalayan tahr, snow leopard, musk deer, gray wolf, Assam macaque and many others.
Local nationals of these areas are divided into two, Nubri and Tsum. After an opening of Nepal tourism, Nubri has been on the tourist list while Tsum is more preserved for its cultural background and folklore.
As Trekking in the Himalayas offers scenic beauty and breath-taking vistas, Manaslu Trekking is no exception. The popular Manaslu circuit trek starts from Arughat Bazaar and ends in Besisahar. The trek is on Great Himalaya Trail which is newly developed. The trek along the Budhi Gandaki river is an ancient route for salt- trading. As the slopes of the ravines ease from Deng snow peaks can be seen from Legion. Moving forward, an impressive double peak stature of Manaslu comes into view. From Syala village, the route follows and reaches the Samagaon (Sama) village which is at foot of Manaslu. Various points covered during this trek include Samdo village, the Larkha La, Himlung Himal, Kang Guru, Bimtang (Bimdakhoti), Cheo Himal, Dudh Khola among many others.
As trekking through high altitudes requires some acclimation, people stay for some time in the Tsum Valley and base Camp of Ganesh Himal to get habitual of high altitudes. Due to its lack of contact with outside world, and mainly because of tourism was not allowed in the region until in recent years, Tsum village has not been a part of tourist list in the past but it has been allowed recently. Preserving the culture, Tsum Welfare Committee is actively engaged in the promotion of tourism across the region.
Everything happens for a reason. There was definitely a reason why I met my French friend, of all place, in the airplane.
Manaslu defined everything I had ever wanted to be. Bold, beautiful, proud, spiritual and proud. The good folks at MAT Nepal Treks a had, at the request of the French team had put together a customized trekking to Manaslu. Being in Nepal, on the other hand, proved to be one of the best travel decisions I made in my life. 23 countries and counting, every place that I have been to has been special. The ancientness of Nepal, the charisma, and spirituality of the people, the magic of the land, the connectedness to nature, the simplicity that exists in this complex culture, however, has made the country the most favorite place that I have ever been to.
During our trekking, I talked to one of the women from the French group. Her name was Claire. A beautiful name I had loved ever since the first time I heard of the name. As a matter of fact, as a teenager, I used to always tell myself that one day if I had a daughter, I’d name her Claire. I could see what drew Claire to Manaslu. She was an elegantly beautiful lady, a bit cocky when she needed to be, but a gentle soul most of the time. A performer by profession grounded most of the time and very much into a quest for spirituality customized for her by herself. She was happy to hear that I would one day name my daughter Claire.
I have sought Claire all over Social Media, but have not found her yet. Hopefully, I will one day. But then again, I am also scared of finding her. She might not like the fact that I changed my mind the day I finally had my daughter. I did not name her Claire. I named her Manaslu. The actual meaning of Manaslu is “Mountain of the Spirit”. But to me “Mountain Daughter“. Claire, however, is her middle name.