Day 11 Muktinath to Kagbeni

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Day 11

Muktinath

Kagbeni

North

28°49.00'

28°50.04'

East

83°52.34'

83°47.19'

Altitude

3,800m

2,776m

Descent

1,024m

Time

2 hours 15 minutes

Distance

10 kilometres

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It's all downhill to Kagbeni. Follow the path out of Muktinath. About 5 minutes below the village there is a 10 metre vertical cliff to the right of the path. A ledge polished by the bare feet of children playing games of 'dare' rises up this cliff face from ground level. The higher up the rising ledge, the less polished it is.

In the distance may be seen the village of Jharkot. The large red building at the end of the ridge on which Jharkot is perched is a new college for lamas, built with Japanese assistance. The large ruined building is said to be the old monastery, but looks more like a fort. The river below is the Jhong Khola. In the cliffs on its opposite bank may be seen the first of many ancient man-made caves.

After 10 minutes pass through a beautiful wooded area criss-crossed by streams. The Jharkot Guest House is beyond a shallow lake. There are 3 other hotels in Jharkot:

  • New Plaza
  • Sonam
  • Himali

As you leave Jharkot pass through fields. In October you will see the people gathering in the crops. The village of Khinga (55 minutes) has two hotels: the Yak Hotel and the Khinga Hotel.

Past the village the path drops steeply across the arid slope for one kilometre and then rises slightly. Below in the gorge, is the abandoned village of Myabruk. Above the village is an ancient cave settlement thought to be about 2,700 years old. The caves are connected by internal staircases, some habitations are up to 9 stories high. Although sometimes used nowadays by lamas for religious retreats, the caves were originally the homes of the ancient Mustang ancestors. Excavations show that they were a highly developed culture. The excavations in this region of Lower Mustang are being carried out by the 'Nepal-German Project on High Mountain Archaeology' This is headed by Dr Dieter Schub of the Caulfeld Meiszahl Institute.

Pass a ruined building at [28°49.47'N 83°48.58'E] at 3,327 metres. Just after this building the path forks. Take the right hand path (1 hour 45 minutes). The path then drops steeply. At another fork (1 hour 55 minutes) take the left hand fork. Pass bushes on which pilgrims coming up the valley have left red, white and yellow threads as ritual offerings upon first seeing holy Muktinath. Kagbeni and its fields may now be seen below.

Cross an irrigation canal (2 hours 10 minutes) and five minutes later reach Kagbeni ( 2 hours 15 minutes).

Kagbeni is a real Mustang town on a river confluence. Sites such as this are sacred in the oriental world. The town is dominated by its castle, from where a king used to reign. The Red House Hotel has a close up view of the castle. This same hotel has some fine wall paintings and even has its own temple. The hotel has a good view of Nilgiri North. There are 9 other good hotels in Kagbeni.

 

The Kagbeni Gompa may be visited for a 100 rupee fee. Tickets may be bought at the hotels. There you will be shown around by a monk. Take your own torch if you want to see the fine art work as it is very dark inside the gompa. The wall paintings are finely executed. There are 5 statues inside the main room of the Gompa. In the centre is Sakyamuni or Guatma Buddha who began the Buddhist faith. The statue to the right of Sakyamunu is the legendary Padma Samba, also known as the Lotus-Born Buddha, who took the Buddhist faith to Tibet during the Great Liberation.

On the pillars in the main room are some ceremonial masks. Just outside on the left is a painting in the 'St Jerome' style. On the next floor is a locked dimly lit room with some wonderful Buddhist bronzes. From the roof is a magnificent view up and down the Kali Gandaki. The Kali Gandaki is a broad valley with a river bed far larger than the river itself. Every afternoon a strong gusty wind blows down this valley making walking in the afternoon unpleasant. Be sure to start early each day.

On the northern limit of Kagbeni you will find the ACAP office by a huge 'stop' sign. This is the northern limit of your standard Annapurna region trekking permit. To the north the landscape of Lo looks arid and untouched, and free of culture spoiling tourist hotels.

Copyright Ian P Johnson October 1998