09 April Muktinath to Kagbeni
MI: great nights sleep for Harm and myself, the others were average. There doesn't seem to be any common reason for good or bad sleeping, the only thing being consistent is the randomness.
We decided to have a more leisurely start aiming to be away by 8. A few double Americano coffees to start us off didn't help with our speed as we didn't walk out of town till 9. Harm and I holding things up with a bit a retail therapy on the walk out of town (scarves for $5).
The path we chose today was again on the 'red and white' trails, so we were away from the roads and traffic. We crossed to the other side of the valley and there was an immediately noticeable difference to the types of buildings in the first village, Chongur, that we came to. This side of the valley is traditional Tibetan, and has a lot more colour and old world charm.
The paddy fields (probably wheat not rice) were lush and green, something we haven't seen as much of to date, the trees have blossoms, a real spring feeling again after the altitudes we have been at recently.
Some of the buildings in the villages are striped with red, white, yellow, blue paint colours. Some places have goat heads above the doors to scare off bad spirits. The village of Jhong has old 14th Century fort ruins, from the time that the town was the capital of the Mustang region.
Wind got up at 11am, although we were still walking in shorts and tea shirts. The sun is also less intense at this altitude so we're not lathering with sunscreen like in the past few days. Its all quite a contrast from yesterday. In fact, there were 5 things I was wearing yesterday that will only have the one outing (the joy of porters!).
We're losing around 1000m today. The valley, away from the villages, is sandy and barren. By 12 the wind has got stronger, clouds are building over the surrounding Mountains and light snow has started. Unbelievable how things have changed in a little over an hour.
The Mustang Valley, which costs around US$700 to get a permit to trek, appears as we descend, with a wide river plain at the base of the valley rising away from us. We're uncertain how far we have to go to our lunchtime, possibly overnight stop, at Kagbeni.
JB:not long after the light snow started (and we were considering a raincoat/warm clothing change) the valley opened up below us and there was a braided (Harms description) river system with a village surrounded in green fields about 1 Hakirimata below us.
It was unclear where the trail led as the road appeared to go the wrong way but a small red and white mark on a rock guided us into a fissure in the rocks with a very steep descent which eventually opened out above the village of Kagbeni. A really amazing way to get there!
We entered Kabeni and found a lodge/tea house but after inspection of the rooms the accommodation team (Chris and Harm) resolved we should be able to do better elsewhere. Since we were there and had taken packs off etc. we decided to stay for lunch.
While the lunch was being prepared we split into three teams; Himal and I off to the police station to check in, Chris and Harm off to find better accommodation and Mark guarding the gear and starting on this blog entry.
Chris and Harm returned to say we appeared to have the best available option especially after the man clarified there was a hot water shower but downstairs off the dining room. As an aside we were later evicted from the dining room to allow for the family to host the local monks and be blessed and no one showered anyway as we had showered yesterday and two days in a row was deemed to much washing.
Hamil and I got to police station only to be told we didn't need to check in unless we were entering or leaving the Mustang area. On the way back Hamil was just explaining how he was sitting his final tests to become a guide when I became apparent we were lost and he was a bit disorientated. We came across a Monastary school where the young trainee monks were playing cricket. Through Hamil I told them "the Kiwis would be back after lunch to play cricket against them".
After lunch we did return to the monastery and played a game of six on six cricket against these kids. Absolutely brilliant. The monastery was in the process of being "renovated" and the field was essentially the construction site, complete with lengths of reinforcing steel with sharp points, boards with nails poking up, pieces of corrugated iron and piles of various rubble. The sort of area we would not let a child walk through yet these guys were running around in it chasing balls and playing. There was also a snow/thunder storm in progress. Just scarey.
I've spent a fair amount of time setting the scene for the game as I really don't want to spend too much time on the results. BUT we were done like a dinner! There might be a future for Nepalese cricket after all, or perhaps we were just not good enough.
After cricket we went for an exploration of the village, the notable sights/observations being:
-a water driven grain mill in the centre of the village that used two round stones and appeared to be a community facility for all to use
-that the chocolate croissant and Danish consumption in Kagbeni is not sufficient to ensure that if you buy one it is less than a week old
-a herd of about 200 goats arriving in town through the alleys and all knowing which house they belonged to and returning to their respective homes without being herded.
We returned to the lodge and the German girls from the other days were there to get coffee so we spent a couple of enjoyable hours talking to them about our respective travels and plans for the days ahead etc. Mark also started negotiations with one of them to become the NZ agent for her companies payment system.
We have been banished to the top floor area outside the bedrooms while the family blessing takes place. As I write this they are all below us singing a chant which is quite moving.