Muktinath to Kagbeni:
Woken at 6AM by some Russian voices in argument with Tashi, the friendly owner. Over my morning cup of steaming hot masala tea, I talked with a couple from Darjeeling, India and Tashi expressing my unhappiness with the development of the dirt road here to Muktinath allowing jeeps and such. I did not want to walk in any sort of traffic besides goats and donkeys. They both suggested my taking the northern valley route to Kagbeni, which is a wonderful small medieval village just off the Annapurna Circuit and an entry point into the remote Tibetan like Upper Mustang Valley.
Afterwards getting ready to depart, Tashi presented and wrapped a Khata scarf around my neck. He then walked with me back through the village 5 minutes or so to the path veering west to Kagbeni. Upon reaching the turnoff, realizing I forgot my precious tea thermos, I told Tashi that I needed to return with him. He indicated no, and that he would retrieve it which he did. We parted with a hug.
As I continued on my pilgrimage, grateful for the spectacular beauty in all directions, to be on an ancient walking path with no motor transport of any kind, and the connection with Tashi, I felt peace and a deep happiness bringing one of those rare glimpses of enlightenment. Soon, passing through the small village of Chongur, I was wishing a few locals, “Tashi Delek”, Tibetan for Hello. Up high in the Himalayas, many of the locals speak Tibetan and seem to appreciate that recognition vs. the typical “Namaste” of the lowlands. Though these our very friendly rural folk and they smile at any friendly greeting.
After Chongur, there was a steep descent to a river, crossing on a narrow, rickety old wooden bridge and within a half hour reached Jhong (which means “fortress”) with its 15th Century Fortress remains.
Just across from the last of several sets of prayer wheels there was a sign “Health Post”. So I walked through an iron gate to find two guys just sitting in the yard enjoying the warm sun. I asked, “Could I have my blood pressure taken?” and they nodded and one of them went inside and returned with the equipment. Afterwards i asked how much I owed them and the older one said, “Nothing. Safe trekking.”
After Jhong the trees disappeared and I found myself in the high Tibetan like plains approaching Upper Mustang. After 2 ½ hours of more magnificent views of the surrounding mountains, seeing nobody, I came to a rocky ledge a hundred meters or 330 feet above the the Kali Gandaki River.
Following the steep winding rocky trail to the left and shortly came upon a view that made me think “Shangri La”. Below was the old medieval village of Kagbeni with a monastery dating back to the 1400’s. Around the town were the first green fields I had seen in over a week, the river running by, and the white capped mountains in the background.
Walking into Kagbeni, it definitely had a medieval feel to it and there were few westerners around. I got to thinking maybe there is a positive to the road development along the Kali Gandaki River. Perhaps there will be less trekkers, allowing for more interaction with locals.
Walking by the Hotel Yeti, I thought it looked nice and asked the price of the room to the friendly woman in their Cafe on the ground floor. She said free if I ate there. Well I liked the vibes and being not one to pass up a good deal, I agreed.
Took a wonderful hot shower, not much power but your expectations go way down here in Nepal with regard to showers.
Afterward, I strolled down to the 15th Century Monastery viewing some ancient 1000 years old Sanskrit Writings. And sat enjoying the good energy of the monastery. Coming out I ran into some boy monks and one spoke some English. They seemed happy enough, but I wonder about the practice of families giving their young boys to the Monasteries at ages of 10 or under to become lamas. I suppose it is no different than it was in the West years ago.
After walking back to the Hotel Yeti, being tired of dal bhat 3 nights in a row, I enjoyed a delicious veggie sandwich with egg followed by apple crumble. Delicious. The trekking food has really come a long way in the past 30 years.