14 October 2014

Sometime early last night it began raining. Really deluging. I woke several times to hear it hammering down and was very glad my jaunt to the toilet was under cover. It would not have been fun having to get dressed into rain gear in order to make that nightly visit. Daylight brought no relief. I did have to get fully suited up to go brush my teeth as the sink was outside. Besides the sound of pounding rain, there was also a roar of water from somewhere outside the courtyard wall. We made the “go” decision at 8am – there really wasn’t much of a choice. We’re supposed to be meeting the people with whom I have to cross the boarder to the Upper Mustang in Kagbeni this evening. They were to have flown into Jomsom today but the airport is weather closed so they are taking a jeep all the way in from Pokhara.
I put on my Mountain Hardware rain jacket and pants, then my wide brim sun hat and pulled the hood up over that. The brim would help keep rain out of my eyes. Then just to be on the safe side I added my five dollar Nepal rain poncho on top of that. This turned out to be the saving grace for the day. The poncho came down to my knees. Everything within the poncho stayed dry. Everything below it got soaked through. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
When we exited the guest house I couldn’t believe what I saw. The sections of the stone paved street were awash. There was water rushing into it from between the buildings on the high side of the street. The water was swirling around then rushing off between buildings on the lower side. There was a drainage ditch under the flag stones paving half the width of the street and sound of the water rumbling beneath our feet was astonishingly loud. This mayhem of rushing ground water is what I’d been hearing from inside the guest house in addition to the racket the actual rain was making. This water was making its way via whatever path possible to the river below. Yesterday this was a milky grey colour and running quite calmly. Today is is brown and raging along and about twice its previous width. It also had sprouted numerous equally angry brown tributaries.

We made good time walking to Jomsom and once there stopped for tea which turned into Apple pie which turned into lunch. Meantime the storm raged on outside. Finally just after noon we headed out again. Three hours to Kagbeni. How bad could it be? It was pretty bad. While Feeling chilly to start with, I warmed up and from that point of view the walk was comfortable. But the dust of yesterday had turned into a slippery soup so footing was precarious. The smooth areas of the path or road tended to be the ruts so were full of running water. In order to keep out of the water we walked in the rougher ground to either side and this was trickier footing as well. There were numerous areas where the entire road or path were completely flooded so we had to pick our way around, scrambling up then back down steep stony banks.

In other areas where the rock wall was steep above us, small and not so small stones were constantly being dislodged by the rushing water, the danger of rock fall or land slide was considerable so we had to be vigilant. At times the drop below the road was precipitous and small wash outs were happening as water rushed over the edge dislodging road fill and carrying it into the tumultuous river far below. Tendi commented that perhaps the jeep wouldn’t make it due to significant landslides onto the road from above or a portion of the road washing out into the river below. Whichever way one looked at the situation it was anything but good. At one point we made a detour to avoid walking below a particularly steep and unstable looking cliff.

Despite the extreme wetness of our world we arrived safe although damp at our guest house in Kagbeni. Soon our gear was dripping from clothes lines and we were cozy in the dinning room having tea with the few other guests. Tomorrow will either bring the arrival of the people with whom I need to cross the border or not….. It’s all dependant on the jeep being able to negotiate the road and the road remaining open.

I’ve mentioned these people a couple of times now without explanation of why I need to meet up with them. The Upper Mustang is a restricted area, although part of Nepal, it retains its own King and its own set of rules for who may enter the kingdom. Until fairly recently (since 1992) the boarder remained firmly closed to foreigners and when it did open there was a hefty tax imposed on any who entered. For several years the number of foreigner allowed entry was limited as well. It started at 300 per year I believe and was recently increased to 1000 per year. The money grab seems too good to resist though and last year 3000 or more of us entered. This tax has recently been reduced to US$500.00 And this has brought more curiosity seekers and travellers such as myself. The kingdom has retained many of its ancient practices and ways of life and is something of a living museum. There are however still certain rules for entry besides paying the tax. One of these is the requirement that no foreign person enter other than in the company of at least one other foreigner. And so I’m reliant on this group of fellow travellers in order to cross into the Upper Mustang.

Good night from a rainy dark (there is of course no power) Kagbeni.

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