(L - R) Dafna, Steve, JJ, Tom, Raj & Felix at the Hotel Shangri-la, Kagbeni.
Following that rather abstract previous journal entry, a little moment to stop and focus on the town that formed the farthest reach of my two weeks trekking in Nepal. The medieval valley town of Kagbeni. Of all the towns, villages and hill-perched tea house destinations I encountered in Nepal, Kagbeni by far the most spoke of centuries old traditions and ways of life. In fairly close proximity to the regional commercial and administrative hub of Jomson, it's fascinating how near-utterly untouched this place feels. My heart only stopped at one moment when a hanging wooden sign in one street at first glance seemed to glow forth with the Golden Arches "AAAAaaaagh!".
Hotel Shangi-la, Kagbeni
.. but it's okay, it was a joke sign for the little eatery 'Yak Donalds' :)
Intorduced to its charming little 'streets' yesterday evening by Raj, I decide to take one more daylight stroll around the town before I u-turn back to Jomson and my flight back to Pokhara tomorrow. For their part Tom, Felix and Raj are heading on today further towards the northern town of Muktinath and on to try to tackle the Thorung La pass, the highest point of the Annapurna Circuit at some 5,000 odd feet.
Kagbeni is a small outpost village resting right on the regional border with Upper Mustang. It is the closest at this point of Nepal that tourists will usually come to the Tibetan regions of the nation and the aesthetic, culture and people that inhabit Kagbeni are predominantly of Tibetan extract whether it be of many generations hence or more recently as refugees from the tensions between their homeland and China.
Tom, me, Raj & Felix with our 'good luck' neckerchiefs kindly cut to length and tied about our necks by our hostess at the Shangri-la.
Relating to this situation, Upper Mustang is a restricted access region of Nepal. If you wish to trek into this much more historic and lesser developed (and I'm told beautiful) area of the country you will have to fork out $500 for the requisit additional trekking permit. So this is the furthest north that the guys and I will be. Leaning on the metal border posts, staring north at the winding upper curves of the valley and the river as they disappear towards the horizon.
An old 14th Century buddhist monestary remains standing and in service within the village. A tiny lady concludes her clockwise round of the monestary walls and prayer wheels. This finishes with a gigantic enclosed prayer wheel (almost bigger than her). Bells also chime all abouts the monestary grounds.
Shrine in Kagbeni.
The whole structure and feel of this village exudes the 'crooked house' unchanging centuries old charm of life in slow motion, somewhat, somehow immune to the fangs of Progress that are sinking slowly into so much else of the region. Kagbeni is a wonderful labyrinth of little cobble, flag-stoned paved streets, walkways and passages strewn with the usual natural detritus of rural community life. Dust 'n' dirst, discarded shards of wood, a carpet of animal dung as goats, cows, chickens and yaks are left to walk freely through the little side streets and byways. Sometimes accompanied by their human tenders. A little river babbles through the heart of the town and street kids amuse themselves by dragging a noisy sheet of tin down steps by a length of string. The ancient wooden beam and adobe style mud'n'plaster construct houses seem to have just been piled; balanced atop one another in sedimentary layers of accommodation over the centuries.
Leaning against each other for support through the ages. Huddling close to one another maybe to guard their flanks and windows from the strong winds that whip through the valley basin in this area. They often are built over passageways creating many a shadowy recess, corner and dead end where concealed moments of local life can be glimpsed at the turn of a bend before the lowing of a cow trying to get past you distracts your attention, and the shadows move on. A very enchanting place and a very beautiful, satisfying conclusion to my trekking journey.
After this stroll I take my leave of all my new pals. The kind owners of the Shangri La Guesthouse cut and tie a length of silk/lace (?) scalf around each of our necks to bestow good luck upon us for our future travels.
I start my trudge back to Jomson where I will stay for one night before catching my flight tomorrow. Stumbling back across the rocky valley basin, this time the wind is in my face all the way which makes for a fairly unpleasant experience as my eyes are streaming water practically the entire way back to the regional capital. Here I settle in a cheap guesthouse (where I will be the only guest on this night) and calculate how best to disperse the final rupees in my pocket for a fine final trekking meal.