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Valerie and Sunita

Beauty unlocked when east meets west (Candace)

Annapurna Circuit: Day 7

Manang to Letdar

Distance: 10 Kilometers

Elevation climbed: 750 meters

Ending altitude: 4,200 meters above sea level

Calories burned: 1,500

After our nice, relaxing day of rest in Manang yesterday, we woke up ready to go this morning. We started the morning at 3,500 meters, and began to climb. As we hit 4,000 meters, we ran into the most delightful surprise in the town of Gunsang. Valerie, a French school teacher, welcomed us with open arms and a big “Hello!” She had come to this spot more than eight years ago, became friends with the owner of the Chullu West Hotel (an adorable tea house along our path), Sunita, and has come back several times per year ever since.

She served us Sea Buckthorn berry juice and told us all about the yaks raised nearby. She then went on to explain their recent cash crop, Yarsugumba - the larvae of a moth is laid underground, a moss spore finds it, and then fungus begins to grow from the ground, protruding from the ground in the shape of an erect earthworm. Apparently, the Chinese have become quite enamored with this new creation (of course, since it resembles a phallic symbol), and it has now become the new money maker for the Tibetan Buddhists of this region.

We loved the juice, which tasted like apricots, and really got a kick out of all of the worksheets and explanations this French school teacher had created (she’s also set up a website for the tea house, which is impressive, as it’s the first we’ve seen on the trek). She then gave us a tour of the inside of the tea house, which had so many quaint touches from the west, and told us about how Sunita came to France with her son and Valerie after the earthquakes to speak at seminars and raise money for the reconstruction.

I was so touched by this friendship between east and west, and loved what could come from a European investing their time and energy to help build a business deep within the Himalayas. We would love to find a way to invest ourselves in this piece of heaven as well, and look forward to coming back again to see our two new friends.