Posted by: Tommy | April 20, 2011

Annapurna II – Braka (aka Braga) our favorite village

I decided to devote an entire blog post to the tiny village of Braga because it was really a turning point in our trip.  Before Braga, we were in the mindset of trying to get somewhere on a certain schedule.  Braga was an intoxicating, small village that invited us to stay longer – and we did.

Despite our painful feet, we went back out after wonderful hot showers upon arrival because we had to check out the Braga gonpa (Buddhist monastery).  We spent 45 minutes just walking around, taking magical photos and enjoying a stark change from the forested terrain we’d experienced so far.

The Braga Gonpa

Alex had a friend who’d done the trek in October and he recommended staying with a guy named Karma – simply because the food was great.  When you’re hiking for 8 hours a day and everywhere has the same pricing and the same menu, quality food is easily the main differentiator between hotels (second would be a good shower).  We had checked into the New Yak hotel and put its menu to the test on the first night.

We had not been led astray – it was fantastic.  It was getting expensive (for Nepal) with dinner costing almost $5, but worth it.  The New Yak would prove to be worth it several times over that night, as we met a guy named Todd.  Since Todd is such a crappy name, Todd should more rightfully be called “The Oracle”.  Todd provided each of us with a great service – he blatantly hit on Alex as soon as she walked in the door, which probably helped her feel better about the fact that she smelled disgusting (we all did, but Jay and I aren’t girls).  Todd told Jay about the wonderful apple pie bakery next door (Jay would go on to eat at least 7 slices of apple pie in 3 days, several times in lieu of meals).  And Todd told me about the creepiest, yet most effective, blister treatment I’ve ever heard of.

And that led Alex and I to the “only acceptable while trekking” concept of “Blister Parties”.  We had one that day…and nearly every day for the rest of the trek.  Caution: if you’ve just eaten, stop reading now.

But this was such an integral part of the trek that I can’t leave it out of a chronicling of our trip.  I honestly don’t know if I would have made it over the pass without Todd’s advice.  It was this: take a needle, thread it, and run the needle through one side of your blister and out the other, leaving the double thread.  Then, snip the thread and leave it in there.  Over the course of several hours (or overnight) the thread keeps the holes open and allows the liquid inside to drain.  Afterward, you have gross puddles of blister juice – but empty, much-less-painful blisters.

Alex and I, after the first Blister Party

The next morning, feeling much better, the three of us hiked to a glacier lookout point.  The views were disappointing and worse yet, we encountered the rude French group coming down as we were coming up.  Usually, descenders yield to the people coming up because ascending is more difficult.  But unlike the French military, these people refused to yield.  They barged down a single-file trail, trying to shove their way through our group.  Their guides apologized for them as they passed and we didn’t think any more about it.

That afternoon, we made plans to continue on the next day.  But that evening, we were talking to a group of assorted travelers, roughly our ages, who we’d seen several times along the trail.  They knew us well enough to refer to Alex as The Beast and me as Texas – and we referred to one of them as Monkey Jacket (he had a custom-made Hanuman jacket that was awesome).  We were talking to Monkey Jacket and he told us they’d gone to Manang (a large village 20 minutes away) for a movie that day.  The more he told us about the theater, the more excited we became.

Soon, we changed our plans and decided to spend another day “acclimatizing” in Braga.  Braga’s elevation was 3500 meters and doctors recommend spending as many nights as possible above 3000 meters to help avoid AMS (acute mountain sickness, or altitude sickness).  Jay and Alex made plans to go for a side-trip hike the next morning.  I made plans to do absolutely nothing, except not put on my stupid rental boots, all the next day.  I read my Kindle, they hiked and were back by 11.  We walked ( in flipflops) to Manang for the 2pm showing of Seven Years in Tibet.  I’d never seen it, but the theater sounded worth seeing, no matter the movie.

According to Monkey Jacket, it was in an underground room.  It had benches covered in yak wool and a fireplace in the middle.  Seating options included: near the fireplace where you’re dripping with sweat or away from the fireplace where you can freeze to death.  Perfect!

Yep, pretty accurate.

The movie was surprisingly good – that Brad Pitt is gonna be a star some day – and made all the more so by our surroundings.  The amazing mountain views that made the movie spectacular were the exact same mountains we’d been walking through for the past week.  The fact that they sold 30 rupee (less than 50 cents) hot chocolate and giant beers for $3 at the theater didn’t hurt, either.

After the movie, we walked back to Braga, ready to actually set out the next day and approach “The Pass”.

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Responses

  1. That movie in that theater has to be one of the most unique experiences of the trip among many very unique. I am loving this trek!

  2. wow i am so honored to be a part of this blog.

    much love,
    the beast


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