Monday, January 30, 2012

Asian Adventure Day 25: Yak Burger with Fries

Mustang Trek Day 10
Chele (3100 m) to Kagbeni (2800 m)

Today was a lazy day with only 3 hours of walking but more importantly it was our last day of the trek and we would rejoin relative civilization and the Annapurna Circuit in Kagbeni.

The trail followed the river, zigzagging up and down the hillside. It is funny how walking from a village at 3100 m to a town at 2800 m still involves several hundred meters of up and down.

Statue welcoming you to Kagbeni

View back to Mustang

Despite our best efforts to walk slow we arrived in Kagbeni just in time for lunch. We attempted to check into the Paradise Hotel but when we mentioned that we wanted to eat lunch elsewhere (we would be eating dinner there afterall) they refused to give us a room. Knowing that there was no shortage of guesthouses and very few tourists in sight, we abandoned our bags in the lobby and headed out to find lunch.

We knew exactly where we wanted to eat - Yac Donalds! After 25 days of curry, dal bhat and momos we celebrated the end of our trek with yak burgers, fries and fresh squeezed apple juice.

Yac Donalds


Yak Burger and Fries

Kagbeni, with its population of 1200 people, is a bustling city compared to the villages of Mustang. It was quite a treat to spend the afternoon exploring town, checking out the services that were available and chatting with other trekkers. In addition to the Yak Donalds, the town boasted several souvenir shops, a (fake) Seven-Eleven convenience store and a couple bakeries. We couldn't resist further gorging ourselves and had enjoyed a mid-afternoon coffee with apple pie. It seemed absolutely posh to be someplace that served real European coffee after ten days of nothing but tea!

Coffee and Apple Pie

Local gathering spot

Portable Convenience Store

Rush Hour


Yak cheese

Watch dog
Leather Gate

Kagbeni is also home to a large monastery which we visited once the winds became too unbearable to spend time outside.


Prayer Wheel

Prayer Wheels

Ceremonial Mask

Ceremonial Mask


We returned to the Paradise Hotel where they happily gave us a room since, not surprisingly, we were the only guests they had for the evening.

Being the only guests, we got to eat dinner in the kitchen and watch television with the hostesses and our guide. They were kind enough to let Dave have the remote so right away he turned to the Discovery Channel which was showing a 2012 Doomsday program. When the program began to show the hypothetical destruction of Los Angeles I noticed that all of the Nepalis in the room seemed genuinely fearful - then one of them asked if that really happened. I guess we are so desensitized to this type of programming you forget that some people may not be able to discern fact from fiction. Dave then changed the program to a blockbuster movie on HBO which was a lot easier to recognize as fantasy.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


My mother's cousin recently uncovered some old family videos shot on my Grandparent's farm in the 1960s. The farm is always a source of happy memories and is still one of my favourite places on earth - I love the glimpse into how my mom would have seen it as a child.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Asian Adventure: Day 23 and 24 The Road Back

Mustang Trek Day 8
Charang (3560 m) to Syanboche (3800 m)

The next morning we were finally able to find someone who had the keys to the monastery and palace. Third time lucky! The palace was surprisingly intact on the inside despite being half collapsed on the exterior. We managed to explore three levels of the palace including the monastery room filled with golden buddhas statues and the museum room which contained the kings boots, masks, helmuts, armour and weapons.

Charang Monastery

Monastery watchdog

View of Charang


Dave trying on the kings helmut

By 8:30 AM we were ready to hit the trail and began the climb up the plateau towards the mountains and the Ghar Gompa at 3920 m. In Mustang it was always surprising that a gentle walk up what appears to be a relatively flat looking valley equates to several hundred meters of gained elevation. Along the way we passed a large congregation of vultures perched along the ridge. One by one the birds took off across the valley, swooping low over our heads. You could actually hear the sound of the air moving across their wings.



We arrived at Ghar Gompa to find that it was closed for the winter but their were two ladies roasting buckwheat over a fire in the central courtyard. They happily shared a snack of roasted buckwheat with us and posed to have their photos taken.

Ghar Gompa

Roasting buckwheat

From the monastery we continued uphill crossing yet another pass at 4170 m before steeply climbing down towards the village of Dhakmar (3820 m). Dhakmar is on a meadow of lingering green with in an amphitheatre of towering red cliffs.  A stark contrast to the shades of brown from the past four days. 


Continuing on from Dhakmar we followed the high path to Ghami, where we once again stopped for lunch at the Rayu Guesthouse, and then headed up hill once again to the top of Nyi La pass at 4120 m. From the pass we stuck to the top of the plateau, taking the trail high above Geling, through the small villages of Jaite (3820 m), Chhunggar (3750 m) and Tamagaon (3710 m). 

With the sun quickly setting, the trail took to the cliff wall for the climb up the last pass above Syanboche. By time we had dropped down to the village it had completely clouded over and cooled quite considerably. After a long day of hiking we were quite relieved to check into the Niligiri View Hotel and enjoy a lively dinner in the kitchen with the family running the guest house. Our guide even showed off his famous cooking skills by making us a delicious goat curry. We retired to our early but had a restless sleep due to the mice running in the ceiling above our bed.

Mustang Trek Day 9
Syanboche (3800 m) to Chele (3100 m)

For the first time in the trek, the trail began with a long downhill deep into the canyon below Syanboche. The canyon progressively got narrower and narrower until we eventually reached a fork in the gorge.

We headed up the equally as narrow intersecting canyon to the Chang Gompa. The monastery was perched on a sunny ledge about half way up the canyon wall and the monks had surrounded it in colourful vegetable and flower gardens. The poppies, daisies and bachelor buttons were surprisingly still in bloom and surrounded by butterflies.

Chang Gom

The monastery itself was built into a large cave and was filled with an eclectic mix of buddhes, icons, prayer flags and yak butter candles. Every surface and stalactite was decorated in some form.

Photo of the Dalai Lama

Yak Butter Candles

Leaving the monastery the trail began the mandatory steep climb up to the top of the pass at 3940 m. It was gratifying to know that after 19 days on the trail we had finally crossed our last pass.

Unfortunately Dave did not use his altimeter to track our elevation during this leg of the hike because we were certain we far exceeded the 15,000 m we clocked on the Annapurna Circuit. According to Lonely Planet the total elevation of the Mustang Trek is roughly 10,000 m but we took a lot of side trails that would have added to that total. I was quite proud to have done 25,000 m of elevation and 250 km of distance (best guess) and still be standing!

View towards Thorong La and Tilicho

Niligri Range

Dropping down from the pass, we reached the village of Samar. As we were entering town we spotted the locals with a freshly butchered yak so we splurged and treated ourselves to a lunch of yak curry at the Annapurna Hotel - our second serving of meat in two days, quite the luxury!

We completed the slow climb down to Chele by 3:00 PM and enjoyed a lazy evening of naps, showers, and laundry. We even watched movies with the host family - crazily enough most remote Nepali homes get full satellite television despite not even having permanent power sources. We also tried to play cards with our guide and porter. The only game us and our guide knew in common was Bullshit but it was a challenge to explain to our porter that the essence of the game was to lie!

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