Kagbeni and Muktinath- vacation, a pilgrimage and a bus trip

Arriving in Kagbeni was a pleasure, we checked in into the ´the Green Kitchen Guest House´ (a little posh but we got a special offer because one of the children is in that school TY sister is working for). We checked out the hostel (were the schoolkids and her sister stay) got filled with black tea and biscuits by the cook and enjoyed the familiar atmosphere.

Strolling around Kagbeni is like time travel, of course there are many Lodges, Guest Houses and a so called German Bakery of course (a German bakery can be found in almost every Himalayan place in Nepal and India were even tiny tourism occurs, but mostly has nothing common with genuine German baked items), but there are still corners were local people follow their daily routines which did not changed over centuries, apart from that trekking circus of neat clean Gore- Tex. This is a very Tibetan influenced place and also the gateway to Upper Mustang (officially only allowed to enter with a special permit). We passed the days with strolling around the scenic surroundings, searching for fossils on the river (we found some), visiting the old monastery, watching locals preparing their fields for winter or picnicking and munching the delicious and famous Mustang-apples which are growing here (though it was not easy to get some, as harvest season was already over).

The other day we went up to Muktinkath, one of the holiest places in Nepal for both Hindus and Buddhists. It is said that Guru Ringpoche, also known as Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism meditated here on his way to Tibet. There are 108 water-taps were holy water is pouring out and we collected a dip of every tap of it, drunk a sip and washed our heads in some ritual order with that ice cold water. Nearby is an old small monastery which shelters a spring and a natural gas source, where a flame is permanently burning. TY was fascinating by that natural event and could not stop to watch that ever burning fire. Here the five elements are found in its purest form, fire, water, sky, earth and air (I would also add ice, as outside some water got frozen and even here TY could barely contain her enthusiasm about it, as she grew up in subtropical climate and natural frozen water was rarely seen there). We strolled around, hung up some prayer flags, enjoyed the unique scenery once more and chatted with some nuns selling religious items and souvenirs. This area has its special atmosphere, nor to say a spiritual one (the famous saying about the Himalaya: ´surely the Gods live here, this is no place for men´ would fits). After we went back to Ranipauwa, the nearby village which is nothing more than an ugly and dirty collection of Guest Houses, Restaurants and Shops. We took a jeep back down to Kagbeni.

The way back home to Pokhara was a more or less unspectacular thing. A jeep to Jomson were we stayed the night, and caught a bus early next morning. The bus was filled with porters (why we always get buses were I am the only foreigner in it is quite a mystery) of some expedition and there was hardly space for my bike on the roof. Somehow we managed some for my vehicle and tied it carefully, yet not carefully enough. At the first stop I went out of the bus and realized that some electrical wires which are low taut over the road in many places must teared the ropes it was tied with. Now the cycle was hanging upside down nearly falling down from the luggage carrier. The young conductor obviously could not handle the situation- a shouting, quite furious tourist (me) who complained about his indifference which suddenly disappeared after I told him the cost of my bike, then he got quite nervous and did not know what to do. One helpful porter got some climbing rope and we tied it once more and from now it was fine. The bus trip was a shaken not stirred affair, filled with all time classics of Nepali music and funny drunken Nepalis on their way home after a hard job in the mountains. Later on we also got eyewitness of corruption in its ridiculous way. Along the way we got stopped at a police check post and our go on was refused for no reason. I watched the situation and it was clear that this was a planed act of boredom or something else from the officers (need to mention again, this bus was filled with locals, I was the only tourist, a tourist- bus scarcely would stopped to keep the illusion of a clean corruption free country). The police demand was 7000Rs (approx. 70Euro) , phone calls were done and the stuff still refused to pay that high price as it was clear that no receipt would be handed out. The passengers waited for a solution at a small restaurant behind the check point and all over sudden we got moving again. It turned out that the ´fine´in the end was only 200Rs (2Euro) and the police were waiting for our bus because one officer took this bus the day before and had to pay the regular passenger fee as everybody else, that was the reason we got held. If this would not be that annoying, the arrogance of people in uniforms, it would be very funny. The rest was straightforward, we arrived at Beni took a Taxi to Pokhara and in the late evening we were back home in our daily routine.


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December 2011
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