Friday, January 2, 2015

Trekking on the Annapurna circuit: Lower Mustang

After the Deshain holiday season here, our group took our second voyage of the semester. We headed off to the himaal region, which was an incredible experience. It is nearly impossible to describe the tallest mountain range in the world in just words, and even just in pictures. These mountains are a whole new look at Nepal, and one that has completely pulled at my heartstrings.
            We started out in Pohkara which for being such a lovely lake side town in a complete tourist trap. I do not consider myself a tourist in Nepal so observing the insanity of “Nepal catered towards tourists” makes me annoyed at times.

            The next morning we had our big flight, the flight that would take us right over the amazing himaal ranger with 4 of the 10 tallest mountains in the world. Excited was an understatement. We boarded the flight bright and early, prepared to finally see these mountains that had been teasing us since we arrived in Nepal almost two months before. Seconds into the air and there they were, surrounding us on all sides with their amazing beauty, and rendering all of us speechless, if not reducing us to tears of joy.  They were there, lifting up into the sky, covered in snow, dropped town in the plateau on this beautiful land.
            We landed  ourselves 20 minutes later on the other side of the range of himaals, up in the high mountain desert plateau. I did not know what to expect but with the high altitude and the himaals all around you, it looks like a moon landscape. Being so up high this area does not grow any vegetation. It’s a barren, but breathtaking landscape with mountain beaming down on you.


 We headed to the highest elevation we would get to on our trip- muktinath temple, which is a religious pilgrimage site for many at about 11,000 feet. Up there the air was cold and thin, but the mountains were beautiful surrounding the temple and colorful prayer flags of the stouppa next door. Some student were even brave enough to run under the extremely cold 112 water spouts that give you entry in hindu heaven. There was frost on the ground, and I wasn’t quite ready to take that cold plunge but I commended those who were.

            Coming back down we spent our first night on a small mustang village. Mustang is the name of this region, the region beyond himaals on the upper plateau. Being at such a high elevation, all of these villages are extremely influence by Tibetan culture. They are the closest to Tibet that you can come. This one was characterized by a beautiful monastery and temple. Walking through the town, we sampled yak cheese, apple products, and cozied up in small shops drinking chyiaa with locals to escape the cold. It was sure cold up there in Mustang.

The next morning we woke to rain. It never rained like this at this time of year. That was why all of the trekkers come in October and November. And yet there we were, looking out into the rain, dreading that long hike ahead of us. We learned two days later the real impact of that storm, all of the lives taken in that high snowy mountain pass. But oblivious to that at the moment, we bought blue trash bags from down the street, and then stuffed out bodies and our packs inside them and started out six hour trek. A cold and wet trek they were, and we were all thrilled to arrive hours later in our next destination. Another small town, more stunning Himalayan views, and cozy fires to dry our wet socks. We woke on the third day to clear skies. And headed into our last trek. Which offered unarguably the best views of the great snowy peak of daulgiri we would ever see. We stopped and sprawled out into the grass in front of it, soaking in the pure beautiful of that snow capped glittering peak. The 7th tallest in the world.

            From there we arrived in our new village home of tukchee where we would spend a week having school and living with families.
(Read about life with my family here)
The second part of the trek brought us out of Mustang and let us actually see the mountain Annapurna. To be continued.

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