Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Trekking in Nepal – Day 8 – Kagbeni to Jharkot

This day we again put DB on a jeep – this time first thing in the morning – and DM and I set out on foot for a four hour trek partly along the bus road (DB and Bina waved at us as they passed) and partly along the old trekking road.  We had the three assistants as guides – nice young things with big smiles and minimal English – and we had a fine time walking through a series of small stone-built villages, over stone bridges, along an amazing series of conduits for flowing water (the actual river was way downhill from us).  We shared trail mix and granola bars and rested frequently, but still made our destination in the four hours allotted.

Jharkot is just a smidge(3500M)  down the hill from Mulktinath, the high point of the trek (3802M according to my new hat).  Since we arrived before noon, we had a leisurely lunch on the veranda looking at Nilghiri Peak across the valley, then explored the town, including an ancient Buddhist monastery dating back to the 700s, with some fascinating paintings and artifacts.  We are amazed still at how cavalierly the Nepalese treat their history – no hesitation about touching a fragile old canvas, or allowing flash photos of an ancient wall mural.  The town was very Tibetan in feeling, according to Dianne, who has been to Tibet, all gray stone and low doorways leading into dark corridors or bright courtyards; lots of Buddhist elements mixed in with ancient animist totems – very alien to us.

We also had an impromptu tour of a women’s collective engaged inproducing seabuckthorn juice concentrate for the local market. (If seabuckthorn replaces the acai berries craze, you read it here first!) The women do everything from gathering, crushing, and simmering the berries for juice to scalding, labeling and filling recycled bottles for the market.  The space for the seasonal operation is provided by the local Buddhist monastery;  the proceeds are used to assist poor families in the village.  (The catch is that much of the money goes back to the monastery to pay for religious services)

In the evening we gathered around the table under which a charcoal brazier radiated warmth, and after dinner ended up playing a Nepalese version of gin rummy with our guide Bina; assistant Bandana; Katharine, a Dutch management consultant who was trekking solo with a guide, and a charming Italo-French skydiving instructor named David who had just come over the Thang Lo pass solo – no guide, no porter.  We had a lot of inter-generational, inter-cultural laughing and silliness, and at 8:30 the three of us decided it was past our bedtime and left the younger folk to it.

I was amazed at the ability of a battered deck of cards to erase boundaries – we need to play  more often!

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