Bistari, Bistari..... A first trip through the Annapurnas - Muktinath to Kagbeni


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March 25th 2012
Published: May 21st 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

Muktinath TownMuktinath TownMuktinath Town

Our German friends
Ultimately a great sleep after yesterday's huge day. We plan to explore Muktinath this morning and head on to Kagbeni (2800m) this afternoon as it is a relatively short downhill walk. I am eager to explore the Hindu and Buddhist sacred sites of The Muktinath Temple. We retrace our steps from yesterday through the town - we see our German med student friends from Yak Kharka and the Danish couple from Manang. Everyone is looking squeaky clean and relaxed. We head up the hill, passing back through the kani entrance to the village, there are lots of stalls set up selling religious medals, necklaces, ribbons and strings. Moving along... we walk along the track and up the steps. It is really busy with Indian and local pilgrims. Those that can't walk up the hill get aride on the back of motorbikes. I chat with a school teacher from Kathmandu- he is here with other teachers on his staff. Many of the "sticky" trees are adorned with coloured ribbons and string- it's really bright and colourful. A bench along the way catches my eye - not beacause I want to sit on it but because of the graffiti on it - "beautiful moment be with you" - sums it up!

The walled complex is huge, we pay the donation fee and enter. There is an arbor of trees to the LHS, they have been planted as memorial trees, we pass the Samba Gompa and Shiva Temple. The Vishnu Temple is up ahead. There are 2 frigidly freezing chilly cold bathing pools here and numerous pilgrims in various stages of undress bathing in the pools. There is one woman in the pool with her arm in plaster- I cross my fingers she doesn't slip- a wet plaster is a useless plaster (sorry, that's the nurse in me!). The semicircle of 108 water spouts behind the pools really catches my eye- the pilgrims clad only in loose saris are passing under the spouts, there are icicles hanging from the metal rails of the structure- an amazing sight. The Vishnu Temple is accessible to foreigners (you just need to take off your shoes)- candles, offerings and coloured powders are being burnt. On the outside large basins and wads of "money" are being burnt in memory of the deceased. It is a hive of activity and seems to have a festively happy atmosphere.

We head up the hill to the Narsing Gompa and have a look around, the courtyard is ripe for some sitting and reflecting, the hillside around the complex is covered in prayer flags and it is very peaceful up here (I am hit with the sudden realisation that we are on our last few days of trekking- it's a sad moment for me). At this point Mary realises she has lost her trekking pole, Dhana goes back to the start of the complex but no luck. We circumnavigate the perimeter wall to reach the Godess of Fire Temple with its 2 natural gas flames alight. I say hi to a Malaysian couple in my dreadful Bahasa Malay - they respond in beautiful English and we share trek stories- they have just finished the Mustang region and rave about it (food for thought for my next visit).

We decide to push on to the nearby Nunnery , it is newly renovated, it looks expensive. The place is deserted except for cats, a really big black dog and some goats so we walk back to the town. On the way a Himalayan weasel runs past- very cool- I have never seen one
MuktinathMuktinathMuktinath

Trail to Muktinath Temple
before- there are a bunch of little kids in hot pusuit. Don't know who wins... Didn't get a photo, but this is the animal in question-

http://www.birdpoints.com/0Docs/ChkLists/HWatHKD.jpg

SHOPPING TIME! Mary wants to buy rugs, I want to buy socks- those thick Nepalese ones that say 'Product of Nepal' inside. I want 5 pairs, the bargaining is hard- they cost 230 NPR in Manang (fixed price), here the start price is 500- I get them for 250 in the end. As they say in Bali- 'Good for you, good for me'.... I am sure the same applies here too. Mary gets the rugs and more necklaces to replace the one she lost a few days ago (Mary's lost items now include - pillow case, washing line, necklace, trekking pole.....). Lunch back at the North Pole, in the dining room is a really unwell looking Nepalese woman- she has signs of altitude sickness and is waiting for a jeep to take her down to Jomsom- it turns out she is one of the teaching group I met up at the temple. The jeep arrives and she staggers into it. I wonder how she went?

OK, Kagbeni time...

It is incredibly windy and dusty, the terrain is pretty flat except from a few of Dhana's down hill shortcuts (ie -scaling cliffs), the wind is so strong it knocks Mary off balance and she lands in a nettle bush (her 2nd nettle bush experience, the first being on a squat behind a tree toilet stop back at the beginning of the trek- yep- prickly). We pass Sadhus, a tractor, a couple of trekkers coming the other way and ditch digging teams, we pass Jharkhot. Jharkot looks medieval and interesting.... maybe next time. We pass by stalls selling hats, scarves, fossils, blankets, Nepalese socks with 'Product of Nepal' labels, etc, etc. It is sooo dusty- The Survivor Buff comes in handy. The cliffs across the valley are dotted with caves - amazing landscape. The sky is darkening with the dust and then an oasis suddenly appears- bright green planted fields and orchards- just beautiful. There is a man asleep in the orchard wearing a red coat.We pass a Tibetan monastery and arrive at the town gates. Our shortcut from here is to slide down steep slopes and jump across a river (stream), head through the town and arrive at the New Asia Trekkers Home.

The wind is absolutely howling as we head upstairs to our room. Santos has dumped our bags already- great room- carpet even! Amazing view out the window- it looks like a coastal town in Scotland but is actually the dried up river bed- and the sun is streaming in. Stephane comes to find us, his room has an ensuite! Hmmm, we don't! How come Dhana????? Stephane graciously offers us the use of his ensuite to have a shower. We are very, very jealous. As it turns out we did have an ensuite afterall- it seems that it was behind the open door- doh... HOT SHOWER TIME (and some washing which we peg out criss-crossing the room on the newly constructed multiple spare shoelaces clothesline).

Head down to the dining room, there are a handful of other guests and Michael and Danni and Kushang Sherpa!!! YAHTZEE TIME !!! Dinner's good. Kushang Sherpa appears with a trekking pole that looks a lot like Marys- which it is, Mary re-presents it back to Kushang to say thanks- a happy ending. We are all reluctant to say goodnight, we will farewell our Bavarian friends for the last time tomorrow.

It is actually really late, nearly 11pm. We nearly strangle ourselves on the clothesline heading into our dark room. The wind is still howling.



PS- Thankyou Stephane for your ensuite offer


Additional photos below
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Muktinath Temple Muktinath Temple
Muktinath Temple

108 water spouts
Muktinath Temple Muktinath Temple
Muktinath Temple

Behind Vishnu Temple
Muktinath Temple Muktinath Temple
Muktinath Temple

Looking up the prayer flag hill
Muktinath Temple Muktinath Temple
Muktinath Temple

Not sure what the purpose of this was- bundles of hair tied to a tree???
Northpole LunchNorthpole Lunch
Northpole Lunch

Couldn't quite kick my chapati omelette habit, Stephane and Mary did the pie option- delish!


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