First is getting there. The planes that take you to the closest airstrip in the town of Jomsom, are little 10 seater prop planes that feel very very small compared to the VERY VERY large mountains you are flying through. Thankfully, they come equipped with a very very skilled pilot! The trip is extremely windy; a white knuckle that is not for the faint of heart. Our plane could not fly straight most of the flight; it was sort of blown up the valley in a diagonal position. Sort of like a Labrador who’s hind legs are faster then their front, and they run with their body a quarter turn from true. Now make that dog a plane and put yourself inside with the smell of gasoline and the ground way below, the wind screaming in your ears and the mountains looming all around … I have a vision burned in my mind of our pilot, a large Nepalese man in a crisp white shirt, smart blue jacket and aviator shades, arms ram-rod straight, hands clamped, eyes forward, rock solid … his stoicism gave me confidence in our survival.
We made it, though everyone agreed it was one of the more touchy jumps they had made.
Once back on lovely mother earth, we were driven a bumpy 10km to our final destination; the medieval village ofl Kagbeni. If you have a bit more time and the weather is pleasant you can make the same trek by foot or horse.
Kagbeni lies on the banks at the confluence of Kali Gandaki and Jhong Rivers. At 2,800m (9,186 ft.) of altitude; you find yourself sitting on the Annapurna Circuit and the gateway to Upper Mustang. This part of the world has the ability to make you feel very very small. You feel yourself very alone, among these giants of the world.
The town played a very significant role during “Salt Trade” era that flourished between Tibet and Nepal and today is a collection of mud brick houses, temples and rural life. You are close to the edge of the world here; any you can feel it in the high thin air and desolate river beds.
We stayed at the Red House Lodge. It was December and it was freezing; (not really a smart time to go). With no heater in the rooms, the only warm spot was the glass enclosed dining area on the rooftop during the day, which warmed with the only available heater and the smashing sunlight. Fortunately, the ever present chai tea is available any time and is served in a thermos!
The Red Lodge houses a Chapel with beautiful wall printings and a idol of Maitreya and a very impressive Mandala. It is as lovely a place as is to found. You are well beyond mod-cons up here. This fact sinks in when you realize that everything you see was hand carried over the same trek that was arduous by plane and car.
Your stay in Kagbeni will be personal to you. It is incredibly photogenic, so let’s let the pictures to the rest of the talking.
Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling translates as “Monastery of the place to stop and develop concentration on teachings of lord Buddha”. Founded in 1429 by scholar Tenpai Gyaltsen of the Shakya Pa sect, the altar of monastery displays bronze icons of Sakyamuni Buddha flanked by his disciples Sariputra and Maudgalanya and other divinities. It is wonderful to see the Thankas, holy canon, frescoes, and woodwork in this remotest of locations. There is an entrance fee to enter the monastery.
Village of Kagbeni, Mustang, Nepal
Lat/Lng: 28.8696315 , 83.570964