Friday, October 05, 2007

Jomsom Trek Report Day 5

Day 5: Muktinath to Jomsom

We start late, and suspect that we’re the last people in the guesthouse as we have breakfast.

Soon though, others come down from the temple – this is what the early-birds have done. Ah well, we got that out of the way yesterday. We have an easy day today, just down to Jomsom, so there’s no hurry. Dion joins us as we march out.

Coming down the valley, the weather is perfect again, and I take many of the same photos I took on the way up.

We take our time, and enjoy our last views of the magnificent scenery. At Jharkot we wander around the town.

It seems like almost everything here is built of mud, showing you how much rain they get.

Wonderful colours

With the light breeze it’s almost perfect trekking weather.

Villagers working the fields

The trail gets steeper as we come down towards Kagbeni, which is a bit tricky in my slippery Crocs,


but soon we find ourselves back at the Shangri La, where I order the Mustang Mushroom Soup with Kagbeni Bread dish, which is tasty and filling.

But why didn’t we eat here?!

Too cute to eat

After lunch we leave our bags and visit the ochre-coloured Kagchode Thubten Shampheling gompa in the centre of the village.

I was in two minds as to whether it would be worth visiting, but the young monk who runs the place turned out to be really friendly, funny and interesting.

He’d spent 16 years in India, and only last month had returned here, his birthplace, to take up his place in the monastery. We paid the 100r entry fee, then he took us inside.

He was fine with photos, and showed us around, explaining the paintings and temple in his broken but enthusiastic English. Then he showed us their holy book from Tibet which was over 900 years old! Incredible.

He unbound the protective cloth, then just leafed through it casually to our amazement. The paper was in fact very thin wood.

After the monastery, we wandered through the old fort,

past the YacDonalds outlet, and reach the ACAP checkpoint at the end, beyond which you are not allowed to go without the 700US$ permit (per person) and liaison officer.

The valley leads to Lo Manthang and Tibet. Why do they charge so much for the permit?

Suresh gets dangerously close to the line!

Nepal is here to change you!

We pass a Beware the Dog sign, opposite sits the cutest meek little thing:

Back to our lodge, grab the bags, share a Bounty with Suresh, and we get kitted up to face the gale-force winds blasting up the valley, whipping up dust storms.

I put on my walking boots for what will be the last time, I’m going to dump them after this trek (Suresh reckons porters will happily take them).

So long, farewell..

I use the scarf which Shangri-la gave me for good luck on my journey as a mask to breathe through. We march out of the town. It feels good to be back in boots actually, prancing along in Crocs doesn’t feel like you’re trekking.

The wind is so strong that it’s hard to talk, so we get head down, keep glasses close to the face, and march along silently apart from the howling air.

It’s dusty, but not too bad, the worst of it seems to be out in the middle of the valley rather than at the edge that the trail hugs.

It’s just under two hours along to Jomsom, and we happily congratulate each other as we complete the final small climb before the road arrives at old Jomsom.

Jomsom (2760m), or Dzongsam (new fort) is probably the biggest town in the area. We’re staying near the airport on the other side of the river, so cross via the footbridge. We register again at the army checkpoint and for the first time with ACAP.

Political points being made even on the permit ticket

We fill up our water bottles at the pure water project office. This is something set up with aid from New Zealand – they use professional filters to provide safe drinking water for 35r per litre. They give you a 2-for-1 voucher with your permit in Pokhara, but it’s a cunning offer, as when does one ever want two litres to lug about?!

We pop into the Sita Air office to get the low-down on flights for the following morning. Thankfully all seems okay, and the very pretty girl records our details again and tells us the flight should be running. Almost next door is Hotel Majesty, Suresh’s suggestion. Again, it has a reputation for good food, and even the residents of the ultra-expensive hotel in town come here to eat. We’re offered an en-suite dorm room with four beds for the 3 of us, at 200r, a good price.

Four in the bed and Suresh said roll over, roll…

We drop bags, and head up to the restaurant to officially end the trek with a beer. Everest is brought out, and glasses brought together in celebration! Dion orders chips chilli and pakodas, which this time are more like Indian pakoras.

The Everest keeps flowing, except when interrupted with a glass each of home-made rakshi, the local firewater. “Somewhere between whisky and brandy” is how Suresh describes it.

For dinner, I have a Dal Bhat which comes with a tasty branston pickle-like chutney.

The next table is a large group of Israelis who grow increasingly noisy and end up having a big argument over the bill. Some things never change. Out of the window we watch the sun set on almost cloudless Nilgiri. A good sign for our flight tomorrow.

It gets late, and everyone has gone to bed, so we request a few more beers in one go so we don’t disturb them any more. The final beer is left and refunded in the morning. My head is spinning!

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