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

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March 26th 2012
Published: May 21st 2012
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So, today we begin in the usual manner- 2 porridge and 1 apple pancake for 3. We say goodbye to our best Bavarian friends (actually our only Bavarian friends) and Kushang Sherpa. It is a constant in travel, I think, that friendships are accelerated because you have such a limited time to develop them, I hope we meet Dani and Michael again one day- who knows maybe on a Langtang Trek, maybe Europe, maybe even Perth (maybe not Perth- it is very far away from the rest of the world)? Mary, Stephane, Dhana and I decide to spend a couple of hours exploring Kagbeni, we weave through the ancient streets, under buildings and through backyards. Lots of little cows, chooks and dogs. The air is still this morning. I really love the feel of the place, I would like to return. We make our way to the ancient Kagchode Thubten Sampheling Gompa and school. It's an impressive structure. There are lots of little holes in the stonework to house hundereds of sparrows. The Gompa was built in 1429, we pay NPR 500 for 3 to enter.

Wow, inside the temple is beautiful, the colours, the paintings on the walls, including 'The Wheel of Life"- everything! A glass case holds the ancient Tibetan scriptures- amazing. Upstairs candles are burning, they give off a palpable heat- I wish we could stay longer. This town is the start of the Mustang trekking region (I am sure I will return). We head up to the roof top which offers panoramic views of the town, and the Nilgiri and Tilicho Peaks. Each corner of the roof is adorned with either yak skin covered structures or small stoneworks. There is a lot of work going on down in the riverbed. We watch the monks feeding their dogs and the sparrows.

Heading back through the stone paved streets we pass more mani walls and prayer wheels, we pass women scrubbing pots and lots more chooks and dogs. We stop to buy some nak cheese at a shop called The Green Kitchen. The owner's name is Lakshmi. She and her husband sell books, cheese, baked goods, individual cigarettes, wine, spirits and locally brewed spirits, even truly awful Australian wines. In the corner is a box of shrivelled apples. Upstairs is GOLD- an espresso machine; no brainer- coffee time. Now I know where I am going to stay next time. Lakshmi makes a good double shot flat white. My first coffee in weeks- I savour it. It's really nice sitting upstairs together chatting, enjoying the coffee and each others company.

Back to New Asia to get the bags and off we go again, destination Jomsom- the last real walk for Mary and I (for this trip anyway). The wind is up, the road is flat or downhill. The sky is a dirty grey, a mixture of grey dust and grey rain cloud. We pass Sadhus, cute Japanese girl trekkers in shorts and tights, a guy on a bike with a bow and arrows strapped on his back and other assorted sights. We walk the river bed of the Kali Gandaki. It is full of millions upon millions of river stones, We look for fossils- my rock collection has officially become ridiculous. Will an extra kg tip my luggage allowance? The stone and compacted dirt formations along the way are incredible. This is yet another dimension to the trek, it's really cool. Take a quick drink break at Khinge, Mary buys some more beads. Continue on a bit further and take a lunch break. While we are waiting the vege delivery truck arrives. Cucumbers, coriander, capsicum, eggplant, etc are weighed on hand scales. A holy man appears and sits in the restaurant for lunch- he spends the entire 30 mins talking on his mobile, finishes his call and heads into the kitchen- the waitress runs out of the kitchen squealing with the holy man in hot pursuit ???!!!!!

Make the last portion of the trek into Jomsom in the wind, dust and river bed. As we near Jomsom litter makes an appearance. The track is now just dried up mud. We take it in turns walking alone, walking in pairs, alone, new pairs... we talk about past, present and future houses, travel and plans. Entering Jomsom I am tempted to turn around and run back the way we have come. Jomsom quickly becomes a worse memory than Khudi, we go through the bus terminal- it is a seething mass of people of all ages, sizes, shapes and faces- getiing on and off of buses. It's a grey and ugly place (IMO). At this point, Mary desperate for a loo, is whisked off by Dhana. Stephane and I go through the police check and ACAP registration offices. I sign both mine and Mary's signatures (!!!) and we get into the Tilicho Teahouse as the first big fat rain splots come down. The sky is black, the thunder kicks in. I automatically assume that it's a sign- we wont be able to leave on our plane to Pokhara in the morning (fingers crossed).

The rest of the afternoon is spent drinking tea (no surprises there), eating Snickers and nak cheese, watching one of the teahouse employees polish the same window for an hour whilst watching us, listening to Tibetan chanting music and then much later checking out the town. Mary buys some more stuff, I get to hold the baby in the shop while she is looking at rugs- the baby promptly cries, I give it back. It cries every time it looks at me after that. Dhana and Santos buy 3 kg of apples (NPR 50/kg)- they are like those shrivelled up yellow ones that we saw in Kagbeni, but, they taste really good!

Our last dinner together is spent watching the electrical storm over the airport runway (I find out the afternoon planes were all cancelled- there is hope yet!). We play 3 final games of Yahtzee and crown Santos "Grand Yahtzee Master" and present him with the Yahtzee set. We call it a reluctant goodnight, my sadness scale rockets skyward.....

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