Archive for the Muktinath Category

The 山贼 (desert bandit) emerges (AC Day 10)

Posted in Annapurna Circuit, Asia guesthouse, Kagbeni, Muktinath, professional tourist in the making on June 17, 2014 by twotwoeight

Day 10 — Destination : Kagbeni, 3050m

What a good night’s sleep! 🙂  Woke up at 7am which was by far the latest since we have started trekking.  Had a leisurely Swiss breakfast with the best rosti I have ever tasted! Wow, food in Muktinath is really good!  After breakfast, we set off at about 9am for Kagbeni.

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The view as we left Muktinath.

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As we left Muktinath, we caught a glimpse of the Annapurna range and the Thorong-La Pass in front of us.

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The walk started off very relaxing as we were coursing through smaller towns like Chongor and Tzong.  We were walking rather slowly as we were busy taking photographs of the gorgeous landscapes.

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As we trekked further, the landscape began to change.

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We were still at a fairly high altitude at about 3800m and it was miraculous to be walking and seeing the mountain peaks at eye level.

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Green crop fields began to dot the landscape.

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We met a couple of local women bringing their infants to the next town for immunization.  They had walked for hours and still had many more hours of travel before their destination.

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After awhile, the land started to get more barren and dry.

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We reached Tzong and walked up to a local monastery which was located at the top of a hill where the ruins of the former Jhong fortress still stands proudly.  Gorgeous view of the mountain range from here.

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We stopped for an early lunch at the guest house here as the walk after Tzong would be a long one with no stops or guest houses in between.

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We coursed through desert-looking landscape for the next 3 plus hours.  As we were passing through the Kali Gandaki valley, the winds were so incredibly strong that it took effort not to be blown away!  Sometimes, the gust of wind was so strong that it created dust-storms that rushed towards you head-on with a howl and you had to quickly turn your back on it and crouch down until it blew over.

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Hence, the 山贼 (desert bandit) look.  PW and I thought we looked ridiculous but this was the only way to get protection from the wind, the sand and the sun!!! This was pretty much how we looked like most of the day! 😉

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Dev and Mr.Limbu managed to find a caveman looking rest stop along the way where we took some respite from the wind and gave our aching feet a rest.  And of course, they brought out chocolates. 😉

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The road seemed like it would never end…and it was pretty hard persuading yourself that the destination was just around the corner when the road seemed like it would go on forever.

Kagbeni

Thankfully, it came to and end and we finally reached Kagbeni thanks to Dev and Mr.Limbu guiding us down many ‘shortcuts’ (which was more like shuffling/sliding down gravel hills).  Otherwise, we would probably have taken much longer!

guesthouse in Kagbeni

Got our rooms in Asia guesthouse and immediately made a beeline for the dining room.  We were famished!! Had Illy coffee and popcorn (which was listed under the chicken menu but it turned out to be normal popcorn!) while waiting for our tuna vegetable moussaka.  Very fulfilling lunch/tea!!

Kagbeni town

We went for a walk around Kagbeni after that.  Kagbeni is a very picturesque town with a very medieval feel.  The town is connected by a series of tunnels lined by low mud houses and some of the ruins of the former fortress still stand.  At the same time, bits of modernization can also be seen, catering to the tourists and trekkers and the brightly coloured Yakdonald’s is a good example!!

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There is a very famous statue which is an old protector of Kagbeni.  It is called ‘Mr.Viagra man’ by some, and the reason is clear!  It is supposedly put there to ward off bad spirits.  We read that there was also a woman counterpart of Mr.Viagra man, and Dev and Mr.Limbu humoured us by looking around the whole town for it, and when we failed to locate it, they even asked the locals.  Well, it turns out that “she” was destroyed during a recent spell of bad weather, and they were going to rebuild “her” soon. 😉

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Kagbeni is also the starting point of the Upper Mustang trail which is a very highly sought after destination due to its completely different landscape and culture from the Himalayas.

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View of the Upper Mustang area from the edge of Kagbeni.  Maybe someday I will be back.

After the walk, it was starting to get dark and cold so we made our way back to the guesthouse.  We skipped dinner as we were still full from the moussaka and ordered a pot of tea to warm ourselves.  We sat in the dining area and chatted with Dev about tomorrow’s plans, and then we went up to bed at 8.30pm.  It was still chilly but we were too lazy to dig out our sleeping bags and so with chattering teeth, we called it a day.

Shuvaprabhat 🙂

 

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Are we there yet?? x100 (AC Day 9)

Posted in Annapurna Circuit, Muktinath, professional tourist in the making, Thorong-La Pass on June 16, 2014 by twotwoeight

Day 9 — Destination : Thorong-La Pass, 5416m –> Muktinath, 3880m

This is it! Today is the day of the ‘climax’! Slept only minimally due to a mixture of headache, nervous anticipation and sometime in the middle of the night, I felt the pitter-patter of tiny feet running across my head!!! Gasp!! I jolted up and immediately turned on my head lamp, but could not see any small creatures – read : rodent – scurrying away.  Felt too real to be a dream.  Contemplated waking PW up but since I couldn’t see anything to cause concern, I decided to not disturb her sleep.  Took me awhile before I could lie down again…and soon, the alarm rang and it was time to get up.

Packed up and had as much of the breakfast as we could stomach at 3am…Dev kept persuading us to eat more, as he was worried we wouldn’t have the energy for the trek ahead, and it was going to be a long and hard day. We set off at 4am.  It was still pitch dark but the trail up to High Camp was already buzzing with a flurry of activity.  A steady line of tiny dots of light from the glow of each trekker’s head lamp began to form — in a sinuous ascending pattern, disappearing behind the highest point.  From the foot of the trail, that point seemed like an eternity away.

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I don’t know if we were psychologically and mentally prepped by yesterday’s ‘acclimatization walk’, but the climb that morning seemed easier than anticipated, and High Camp appeared sooner than we imagined it would.  Dev and Mr.Limbu were excellent at locating the easiest route for us, letting us know which places were safe to step on and which to avoid as the trail had become icy and slippery overnight. We reached High Camp just before 5.30am and by then, the light of day had broken through.

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After a few minutes rest, we set off for the Pass and the trekking in the snow began.  It was much harder than I expected and I always felt like slipping even though Dev kept reassuring me snow was not slippery!  It doesn’t help when the trail is just wide enough for 2 feet and on the very edge of the cliff!!! I shuffled around at the pace of a snail…until Dev helped me put spikes on my shoes.  And after that, I could walk so much faster without worrying that I would slip and fall off mountain! Hurray for spikes!!!

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Luckily, Dev offered to take my camera and snap photos for us, otherwise we would probably have no photos of the incredible views on the mountain and at the Pass as PW and I were both busy trying to walk, breathe and stay alive to make it to the Pass!

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We reached a teahouse after about an hour’s walk and stopped for a cup of hot lemon, huddled inside the small little teahouse which was more like a little brick hut.  We were parched, as our water had started to freeze up by then and the feeling of warmth trickling down the insides provided by the hot drink was just heavenly.  Dev literally had to drag us out of the teahouse as we were getting comfy!

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Then it was another gruesome 2 hours before we finally reached Thorong-La Pass.  We stopped so many times to catch our breaths that I lost count.  Each step forward was agonizing and each breath felt like it was inadequate and not bringing enough oxygen to the lungs.

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The snowy mountain views were too gorgeous for words, but sometimes, we felt so so tired that we could not even look up.

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Sometimes when there is nothing but vast whiteness ahead, and the end seemed so far away, we really wanted to just turn back. At some point, we even asked Dev to entice us with the idea of fake KFC and beer!  Luckily, Dev and Mr.Limbu were there to motivate us and lift our spirits as well as physically help us through some rough parts.  They also brought out Twix candy bars and chocolate when we were half dead!!! Chocolate never tasted this good, I’m telling you!!!

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There were many false passes before we reached the correct one.  The trail would just ascend to the peak and give you the hope that the pass might be just beyond this peak, but every time we asked Dev “Is this the pass???”, the answer was always “Not yet…just a little bit more”.  I felt like Donkey in the Shrek cartoon asking “Are we there yet?” a gazillion times. Luckily Dev wasn’t Shrek! 😉

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Finally, after what seemed like eternity, we could see prayer flags and the famous marker of the Pass ahead! Hallelujah!!! We finally reached Thorong-Las Pass at 8.30am. Woohooooo!!! 🙂

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We were so cold and exhausted by then that much of our enthusiasm and excitement had been zapped away.  Nevertheless, it was an incredible moment to remember, and as I stood there staring at the signpost that said ‘Congratulation for the success’, a quiet sense of satisfaction came over me as I was never really sure if I could make it to one of the highest mountain passes in the world on my own two feet.  No donkeys, no horses, no helicopters.  I was thankful.

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After catching some photos, we started to make our way down. We made our descent quickly as Dev said the winds were coming and it would get too windy and cold at the Pass.

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Thank goodness for the spikes, I could actually literally run down the snow-covered path.  Breathing was also noticeably getting easier as we lost altitude.  We even had time to stop for a rest and what do you know, Mr.Limbu whipped out digestive biscuits!!! These two are incredible! Their backpacks were tiny in comparison to ours and yet they seem to have an endless supply of snacks which always appear just when we needed them most.

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However, the easy part of the descent soon came to an end and the crazy steep rocky descents started! Some parts, the path was so obscure that I didn’t even know where to put my foot.  Luckily, I slipped and fell on my bum only once! We definitely couldn’t have made it without Dev and Mr.Limbu guiding us through.  Finally reached the teahouse at the bottom of the mountain at about noon.  By then, we were beyond exhausted and too tired to finish our lunch of mushroom soup and egg curry rice. Then it was another 3 hours long walk to Muktinath, the town where we would be spending the night.

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We reached Muktinath at about 4pm and had a hot shower which was heavenly!  We were contemplating exploring Muktinath but our legs were adamantly protesting against it so we settled into the dining hall and had the most amazing chicken mushroom pot pie I have ever tasted.  No pictures of it, because we gobbled it up.

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The guesthouse also had wifi, the first after we started our trek.  On one hand I was glad to be connected to the world again, but on the other, I was a little reluctant to bid goodbye to the solitude and peacefulness of the mountains which offered a sense of divine isolation.  Time to come back to reality.

Wanted to do a bit of reading but the electricity supply was erratic and as a result of that, we had a ‘candle-lit’ dinner. We treated Dev and Mr.Limbu to dinner as a token of appreciation for helping us make it to the Pass and down.  We had the pot pie again, yak stroganoff with rice, spinach canneloni and a tuna pizza to share and the food was fantastic! Can’t believe there’s such good western food out here!  After dinner, Dev passed us hot packs and we went to bed at 9pm and for the first night in ages, I managed to sleep well without having any headaches! 🙂

PS/ Muktinath was still cold

*All photo credits to Dev