4/1/01, 8 Hours, Marpha
Indian men and women in flip flops hiked through the wind across the rocky Kali Gandaki river bed. We discovered they are Hindus on a pilgrimage to Muktinath in the Mustang; it is a site with temples holy to Hindus and Buddhists. The villages we wandered through today were filled with chortens, prayer wheels, prayer flags and Buddhist monasteries. Snow greeted us as we arrived in Marpha, a picturesque village of whitewashed stone buildings with intricate wooden shutters inhabited by friendly Thakalis, who are known for their great lodges and food.
4/2/01, 5 Hours, Kagbeni
During the walk from Marpha to Kagbeni we crossed desert-like terrain; sand blew in the wind as locals galloped by on Mustang horses. As we walked through Jomsom I experienced the surreal feeling that we were in the Wild West.
By early afternoon we were exploring Kagbeni, a medieval looking village with a Tibetan feel. The streets wound into narrow alleyways and were lined with mud and stone buildings. A rust colored Buddhist monastery overlooked the village. As we roamed the streets we met women in traditional Tibetan style dress, lamas (Buddhist monks) in red robes, and schoolchildren in uniforms along with yaks, goats and roosters.
4/3/01, 4 Hours, Muktinath
We started our day with a steep climb to Jharkot where we checked into a teahouse and dropped off our packs. Without the packs we almost flew up to Muktinath, 3800m. Along the way our views included the Thorong Pass, which is the highest and must difficult area that those hiking the Annapurna Circuit must traverse; sacred caves in the cliffs; and spectacular views of the mountains.
In Muktinath, among groves of trees, we visited a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, 108 fountains of holy water, and a Buddhist gompa. Indian sadhus, Nepali and Indian pilgrims and locals congregated here to worship. Prayer flags blew in the wind, and I felt something special as I stood amongst these grounds, where earth, flame and water are believed to meet.
4/4/01, 5 Hours, Marpha
We began the hike back down the trail today and passed again through Jomsom. There were no vehicles on the entire Jomsom trail, but there is a small airport in Jomsom. Having seen no 20th century transportation in over a week, it was strange to watch a plane fly overhead. Often trekkers fly into Jomsom and then hike the trail down, or they hike up the trail and fly out of Jomsom. Keith and I opted to hike in and hike out. Admittedly the plane sounded alluring for a second, but I was happy to still be trekking and not quite ready to leave the mountains. At night we treated ourselves to great apple pie (the Jomsom trail is known as the ‘apple pie trail’ because apples are grown throughout the trail and used to fill Western food cravings).
4/5/01, 4 Hours, Lete
Bright and sunny all morning, it was a great day to be walking. Unfortunately, Keith was feeling poorly so he did not enjoy the walk. We planned to get to Ghasa, where we stayed on the way up, but heavy rain stopped us. Instead, we stayed in Lete in a dingy guesthouse.
4/6/01, 5½ Hours, Tatopani
We crossed several suspension bridges over the river during the day’s hike. As we crossed one I was wedged in between a train of donkeys. We ran into at least 10 donkey trains a day, which are used to bring up supplies to the villages. At night we ran into Anne Marie and Mike, an American couple we met in Kagbeni, so we enjoyed some friendly conversation and received some great insight about traveling to South Africa and Egypt.
4/7/01, 5 Hours, Beni
View from the trail
Today was our last day trekking and admittedly we were both ready to get back – my feet were all blisters and two toenails fell off, but I wore two pairs of socks and sped through the trail. Being out trekking is great, but after 11 days we were ready for hot showers and a warm bed! Today’s hike was along the Kali Gandaki river and was enjoyable as there was greenery and waterfalls along the path and the white capped mountains remained visible.
In Beni we picked up a taxi back to Pokhara and soon cleaned up. Reflecting on the Jomsom, both Keith and I agree the culture was much greater and diverse than the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek. The terrain and scenery were also quite different and was a great complement to our first trek. We feel quite lucky to have experienced both treks and hope to return someday!