Mustang (2800m) - Kagbeni (2850m)
I'm so looking forward to walking again. Lazy start to the morning, only 10km to walk. Watch the planes coming in and leaving. Over breakfast we meet a couple of Australians who have just finished the Upper Mustang- they loved it, it was very quiet, incredible experience, etc. Leave the Tilicho just before 9. The main street is deserted except for some cow traffic, pass the airport- deserted. Pass the butcher shop- recently butchered cow (I guess that's why the other cows we passed were looking so worried), pass the bakery- go back to bakery, pass the chook truck, pass lots of jeeps.... Check in at the TIMS office. It is windy and cool as we retrace our steps of one year ago, but in reverse and happily this time.
I love walking along the river bed, the Kali Gandaki River forms the deepest ravine in the world lying between the Annapurnas and the Dhaulagiri, it is about 400m wide. At this time of the year there is only a little bit of water running, it would be cool to see it full- another time... I love walking through the stones, they are all
colours, shapes and sizes. We keep our eyes peeled for fossils, they tend to be in the black stones, we find a few fragments but nothing outstanding. Last year I came back with an extensive rock collection- this year we still have the trek ahead of us- note to self- no rocks. Given that this is a short, easy day we have the opportunity to dawdle a bit. The sky is blue, the huge cliffs are towering to the west. Jeeps pass by. The wind hasn't started yet, it's a pleasant walk. We detour up to a Tibetan Buddhist monument. Purportedly it is the site of an ancient battle between the demons and the gods.
Continue on until we reach Ekhlaibatti. Stop and have a cup of tea, there are 3 teashops here, 2 are open, we decide on the 1 we didn't go to last year. Search for someone to make the tea, there is a lot of chanting going on upstairs and a lot of chatting going on out the back. We make a lot of noise to announce our presence- don't want to disturb the chanters but are happy to disturb the chatters. Sit and watch
the world go by while having our cuppa- 1 tourist, 1 local and 1 little kid. It's only about 1/2 hr until Kagbeni and it's not even lunch time so we're happy to just sit. The walk into Kagbeni is pretty speccy, it appears as an almost fluorescent green oasis. Behind us are the snow peaked mountains, Nilgiri is to the west, the barley fields are flourishing, the trees are in that new green leaf stage and there's blossom on the fruit trees. We arrive at New Asia Trekkers Inn
where we stayed last year, room 111 this time with a washing line view. The rooms are big, clean and have an ensuite. We have some lunch, Mary does some washing and I catch up on the journal before heading out to explore.
I really like Kagbeni- it is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist village , it is a labyrinth of stone paths, flat roofed mud brick and stone houses, chortens and prayer flags. The standout building in the village is the Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Monastery- it towers over the place and is a deep terracotta red colour. It dates back about 600 years and has been restored
more recently, there is a monastic school there are they welcome tourists to visit. We went last year, I'd recommend a visit if you have time. It is sunny and warm on our way to find a cafe we liked last year- The Green Kitchen, the village has a completely different feel to it with some sunshine. There are a few tourists out and about- a few French guys (they are actually Belgian we find out as our trek progresses), a big group of Dutch people and one Polish guy who is so sunburnt that he is wearing his buff like a balaclava with eye and a nose hole cut out- his friend asks us if there is a clinic in town, we take him to the traditional medicine clinic but it is closed. I tell them I have some first aid supplies back at the hotel so back we go to retrieve the hydrocortisone cream, I'm expecting his face to be hideously blistered and swollen as he very gingerly removes the full face buff but it's not actually that bad, hand over the hydrocort anyway. New Asia Trekkers has scored another room rental- hmmm, maybe we'll get a free
cup of tea? Then again, maybe not...
Back out on the town I catch up on the news of home at the Yak Donalds Cafe- it has wifi for 200 NPR. It is getting dark when I leave. Walk up to the hotel past a gompa, miss the turn and end up at the top of the village. There's a little boy playing outside his house who goes absolutely nuts when a herd of goats arrive- it is a joy to watch. I snap off some photos with my phone- when the goats have gone he is really keen to see the pictures- it's a nice moment. Retrace steps back to the hotel- the dining room is full and warm. The ensuite water is also warm! We have a good night chatting over dinner to the 2 Poles, 2 Norwegians, 1 French, 1 German and a bunch of assorted Nepali guides and porters. Actually the Nepalis are glued to the TV- there was a murder in Kagbeni 2 weeks ago and there is a TV doco showing- very gruesome stuff while eating vege fried noodles.
Looking forward to starting tomorrow's trek into unfamiliar territory.
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