Day 13 Muktinath to Kagbeni 2800 m / 9186 ft
This day saw us in 3 unique and beautiful terrains. We decided to take the 19 km hike off the main road through the town of Jhong.
After dinner yesterday evening the snow began to fall. Although not a welcome sight to those on the pass, the snow cover in the morning was like walking through a new and beautified city for us. All the trees and bushes were glistening white and the hills in the distance bright beacons. This was the first fresh snow I have seen in 2 years and the effect was calming. As we left Muktinath we encountered a series of small stone villages and filled our cameras anew. This second terrain of villages and hamlets was rustic and well worth the detour to stay off the main road. As we left these last patches of trees the immense bareness and erosion that is haunting so much of Nepal began and stayed with us for the next 2.5 hours of the hike. The winds increased to blistering levels and all around us lay rocks and gravel. The snow capped mountains in the distance only highlighted the surrounding infertility. The last bit of downhill was through a tunnel of wind eroded cliff and with winds so high the whistle on my bag strap began to sing. We had finally made it to the stone city of Kagbeni, filled with newly built hotels for tourism by bus. We luckily found a”homey” hotel in the Snow Lion & Dancing Yak, where the woman working spoke no English and has treated us as honored guests of her home. She served us tea and popcorn after inviting us to watch her small TV and has made us feel nothing but comfortable. Tomorrow will be another rest day with the chance of a short hike to the town of Tiri (only Greg and Mark did this and only semi-impressed). Or we will fill our day exploring the labyrinth lanes that is Kagbeni.
Note: After crossing the pass we expected a large drop in prices due to the road from Muktinath to Pokhara. But in some cases we have found they are the same or even higher than the high altitude, minimum access, hotels. All are still confused on how this could be but with a little searching and distance from the larger commercial looking hotels we have found some reasonable prices. The Snow Lion was a delightful surprise with low prices, neatly painted mud walls, high ceilings, and a very sweet & friendly host. It is clear that the older establishments are trying to keep up and refurbish themselves but I am afraid the hotel Goliaths will be drawing in the big crowds. Visitors seem unable to part with creature comforts and cup cakes; the character, quaintness, and budget prices of these humble hotels may not be enough to keep them in business.