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ACT Day 04 - Danakyu to Thanchok

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Mossy Forest


The hamlet of Danakyu (elevation : 2250m) was completely blanketed in mist that morning, so much so that we could barely see the building that was across the road from us. So once again, we had our breakfast of pancake and honey (NPR280/2) with tibetan bread (NPR220/2) to take-away, whilst waiting for the mist to clear.

The clouds still hugged the hills by the time we set off, but at least we could see down the road. After a kilometre, we came upon a path that dropped down the slopes on the right of the road. The path led directly to a wooden bridge that circumvented a waterfall that flowed over the road just up ahead. From there, hewn rocks ascended the hill and into the moist forest, with various purple flowers such as louseworts (Pedicularis spp.) and mallows (Malva spp.) lining the sides of the trail.

The wooden bridge to Thanchok

The wooden bridge

The mist rolled in once again as we ascended, and it blanketed the rocks with a layer of moisture that left everything wet and very slippery. The hewn steps continued to ascend the hill and past large overhanging boulders as the trail traversed the sides of a rocky cliff. Tiny rivulets of water ran across and sometimes down the steps as the water that flowed off the cliff to our left was channeled ever downwards. The ghostly visage of trees pierced through the ethereal mist to our right, as the multiple layers of trees behind them gradually faded into the whiteness of the mist.

Misty Forests

A dog (Canis lupus familiaris) had followed us up the trail from the hamlet below, and was both looking for company and was keeping us company. The dog continued to follow us, and stopped whenever we did, as the trail cut straight across the switchbacking road multiple times. It had also begun to drizzle by then, but the dense forest canopy filtered the fine droplets, and the only indication that we had was the occasional pitter-patter of drops on the leaves around us.

We were now in the mossy forest (elevation : ~2500m) and the ubiquitous moss had covered almost every surface. Fungi of all types and other epiphytes dominated the forest. Higher fungi belong to the subkingdom called 'Dikarya', which is composed of two divisions: Ascomycota, members of which are known as sac fungi, and Basidiomycota. By then, I had already spotted two species of sac fungi. The first was a pathogen called bud blast (Pycnostysanus azalae), and the dark bristles of the fungus had completely covered an aborted flower bud of a rhododendron (Rhododendron sp.). The other was a lichenised fungi called white fungus. Most lichen appear to have plant characteristics, and in this case, its composite structure appeared to produce leafless 'branches'. Lichen that have coral-like structures like this are referred to as 'fruticose lichen'.

White fungus

White fungus (Everniastrum nepalense)

Next (Day 4) : Danakyu to Thanchok (Part 2)

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Mushrooms


Members of the other division of higher fungi (Basidiomycota) were even more numerous, and all of the ones that I encountered were mushrooms! Mushroom species can be very hard to identify, and some of the smaller ones can sometimes only be distinguished with the help of a microscope. That is why even mycologists refer collectively to all little brown mushrooms as 'LBMs'.

When trying to identify mushrooms, there are many characteristics and clues that you can look for. The colours and other notable features, such as markings or the presence of a ring on the stem, tend to be quite obvious; whereas other things like their constituency and odour are far less so. Despite that, these 'clues' can still help a great deal. One of the most obvious characteristics would be the shape and texture of the mushroom's cap, or 'pileus'. The archetypal cap of a mushroom is curved, either gently like a hyperbola (referred to as 'convex'), or steeply like a parabola (referred to as 'ovate').

Mushrooms

This convex cap is smooth and 'viscid', which means that it appears wet and sticky..

Mushrooms

..whereas the caps of these LBMs are ovate and striated; and convex and rugose (wrinkled)

Another characteristic would be whether the underside of the cap has gills or consists of a spongy surface of pores. Gilled mushrooms are referred to as 'agaric', whereas spongy mushrooms are referred to as 'boletes'. The underside of the cap can also be checked to see whether the gills (if any) attach directly to the stalk, and whether the underside exudes any latex.

Mushrooms

An agaric mushroom with gills on the underside of its cap

Mushrooms

Crenated edges on a striated cap; spongy pores on the underside of a bolete

Next (Day 4) : Danakyu to Thanchok (Part 3)

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Misadventure


Almost three kilometres into the trail, we came across a suspension bridge that crossed a river. The dog turned around and walked back at this point as it refused to cross due to the gaps in the bridge. We however, crossed over and had our lunch, which was strips of tibetan bread that were dipped in a jar of peanut butter. There were no signs on the other side of the bridge except for a pile of stones that were in the middle of the right branch of the trail. The pile of stones appeared to be a barricade of some sort to prevent people from going in that direction, or so I thought at the time. Because of that, we turned left instead and began to explore the other side.

The path led to what looked like a funeral pyre, which was a stone structure of sorts with a depression in the middle that was lined with a grill, and that had an opening in the roof to let fumes escape. The trails from there just seemed to disappear as they were so overgrown. There were plenty of ferns around, most of which had rows of either straight bars or round spheres of sporangia that lined their undersides. Cicada exoskeletons (Family : Cicadidae) were also ubiquitous--I counted five in just one spot!

Cicada

Cicada exuviae, or abandoned exoskeleton (Family : Cicadidae); the bridge

With overgrown trails and a 'blocked' path, our only other choice was to turn around and to walk back across the suspension bridge. I had thought at the time that the river we had crossed was the Marsyangdi, but it actually turned out to be the Syarkyu Khola. Thinking that it was the Marsyangdi meant that crossing the bridge would have led to the village of Lata Marang; and since the bridge had markers, I figured that the trail to Lata Marang that was supposedly still under construction had been completed. Based on that line of thinking, going back across the bridge and following the trail that continued on into the forest should have led straight to the village of Timang.

After crossing the bridge, we turned right and continued along the wide path. Soon after, we reached another bridge that was made up of three tree trunks that crossed a waterfall. The logs were so unbelievably slippery that we were forced to cross underneath instead, and we got our shoes completely soaked in the process. After a while, we eventually realised that something was wrong as we had gained way too much elevation in too short a time (we were closing in on 2700m), and so we turned back around once again and made our way back to the suspension bridge.

Tiger moth

An injured common tiger moth (Campylotes histrionicus)

I realised then that the 'barricade' that we had come across was supposed to be a cairn. This was a good example of why the incorrect or unnecessary building of cairns is considered a highly irresponsible act. Building a large one right in the middle of a path however is completely impetuous and reckless. We were tired and frustrated by then, but the only thing we could do was to just carry on. We turned right, and past the so-called cairn, and continued to follow the trail north-east. The treeline began to thin fairly quickly after that, and soon after, we came upon the anachronistic cobbled walkway that led past the village of Timang (elevation : 2650m).

The mist descended upon us once again and all the sounds around us seemed to cease except for the faint sounds of the Marsyangdi river to our right. By now, we were walking along the road once again, and the featureless mud under our feet and the complete absence of scenery due to the whiteout left this final stretch completely dull and mundane. We eventually came upon yet another bridge, and a short climb up the slope that lay just after led straight to the village of Thanchok (elevation : 2660m). We were famished by then, and so stopped at Himalaya Hotel for the day for a scrumptious meal of dhal bhat (NPR550).

Suunto Movescount Stats

06a

06b

The full page of the recorded trek can be found on my Movescount Page.
For those who also have a Suunto GPS device and would like to use
the move as a route, please click on the following link:

Check the route in

Expenditure

End of Day 4 Expenditure (NPR)*

Accommodation: 0

Medication: 0

Permits: 0

Food: 800

Transport: 0

TOTAL (NPR)


* Excluding the cost of the flights to and from Nepal

Total

: 785

: 435

: 8700

: 3710

: 460

: 14090 

Next (Day 5) : Thanchok to Dhikur Pokhari

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