Details of Life on the Road: Street eats, cheap sleeps, budget travel experiences

The Annapurna Diaries: Day 12

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“Dry, rock-layered river beds have long been awaiting the monsoon. Muktinath to Jomson today. Lower Mustang. I didn’t really want to hike with the youngins but did so anyway. Not so much to my surprise, Jane was joining us. Shoot me now. I walked away from her, not for any reason of dislike but just because it was easier. We didn’t have much to talk about, obviously, and it was probably much more comfortable for her to chat with the girls. The road led down, down, down leaving the snow behind. We kept on the main road until Kagbeni, walking on dirt roads through barren, desolate, Mars-like, desert-like terrain which reminded me of Turkey although I’ve never been there. I also thought of Arizona, Peru, Canada, and other places this place could be if I had been transported to that very spot without knowing where I was. Nepal is Amazing. Does one learn by observing or by participating? Both, surely. I have concluded this by watching the seemingly effortless actions of fellow trekkers while looking out a bus window, listening to ‘City Girl’ by Kevin Shields. One must observe. I’ve spent a fair share of my life doing so, participating in life, but only in its doings every now and again.

[Somehow I wrote this day’s post twice]

What day is today? Where to where? Muktinath to Jomson, stopping in Kagbeni. We all got ready. When we met outside there was one more person – Jane would be walking with us. God, could she not choose a different group? I’m sure the girls loved the juicy tension, though there wasn’t really any at all. We visited the monastery before leaving Muktinath. Devotees walking under streams of allegedly purifying water, cold enough that it freezes on the ground. A good way to catch a cold, or hypothermia. Nonetheless, the grounds were beautiful – a good mixture of nature and winter, and winter slightly winning against life’s fight to live, or so it seemed. I left Muktinath in a damper but soon fell out of it. I quizzed Tim about British history, which fascinated me, and we talked about the depressing state of the world and its evil history. The road was down dirt switchbacks with not a great view ahead but with a slowly diminishing Himalayan backdrop. Today we would enter the Lower Mustang region. How cool does that sound? Mustang. It’s an ancient, protected region of Nepal for which an entry permit costs a lot, so this would be my only chance to see a small part of the area. We walked along a barren cliff-side road, glaring down into the valley beside and ahead of us. The valley looked a bit like Mars or Turkey, but not necessarily like Nepal. But what do I know? The other side of the valley was spotted with small caves and interesting rock faces. This was part of Mustang. Walking along that valley was truly spectacular. I liked hiking through the vast nothingness much more than the snowy frontiers. As we winded around the cliff-side into the open valley, the wind picked up and didn’t relent. At times it felt like it would blow me over. It was quite enjoyable actually, to be up against a different natural fight. We then made our way down into the valley on dangerous rock and dust covered trails which would steeply cross the switchbacked road in order to save time for the trekkers (a path crossing a path, a trail crossing a trail). A common way of trekking. We stopped in Kagbeni for lunch. I didn’t particularly want to join the others who would stay in the area. Mark was carrying on, so him and I and Logan, too, went to Jomson some 3 more hours away. We headed out into the open valley, staying on the left side of a wide rock-carpeted riverbed. The wind was still strong, the views’ amazing as I looked back upon our advancement seeing the valley swallow previous towns and Himalayan peaks. We arrived in Jomsom around 5:00pm, tired and hungry. But I was happy to be with the boys. I opened the door to one guesthouse and a female trekker and I caught eyes. Wow. That place was expensive, but after not finding anything better we returned. We introduced ourselves, had a beer (my first on the trek) and played cards. One trekker, Jennifer, from France, was carrying on in the morning. As I wasn’t ready to finish the trek we made pans to hike together. Leaving the guys would be sad but having some mature female company would be nice.”

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