19 October 2014

My sleep last night wasn’t as undisturbed as I could have wished however the reasons for the disturbances were unique to say the least. Small birds clearly found the inside ceiling with all the dried branches a warmer more sheltered place to cozy up for the night than outside. And seeing as there is the convenient hole through which they can flutter in and out at will, they made full use of my ceiling. This caused a fair bit of ominous rustling in the dark. My first thought was rats! Flashlight trained on the sounds I was relieved to discover nothing worse than birds. I moved my boots from possible line of fire should any of the little dears decide to drop anything. Soon back to sleep I was next awakened by tinkling bells just below my window. Nothing ominous in that but curiosity required I discover the source. Two horses were outside doing whatever it is they do at night. This caused their neck bells to tinkle every time they moved. They moved around quite a bit seeking wee bites to eat and rubbing each other’s necks. Between rustling birds and tinkling horses there was the more tranquil pursuit of watching the twinkle of stars. With no lights from the village, no air pollution nor a moon, they had a diamond bright quality we seldom get to experience. I was awake again to watch them fade as the sun began to climb up from behind the eastern peaks. Dawn comes very quickly here and in no time the day had begun.

Daily at 6:15am I conduct my “within bed” dressing. I’ve taken to sleeping with my daytime clothes bundled into my sleeping bag with me. They are much warmer to put on that way. My top gets undressed, washed, and dressed first while I still have residual sleep warmth. Then I reluctantly exit the warm cocoon of the sleeping bag and do the bottom half as fast as humanly possible. Next is the teeth brushing which is always an adventure. Inside? Outside? Wherever, it is always with my trusty cup of drinking water. Nothing that comes out of a tap in this country is drinking water so my teeth are done with aid of a cup of previously prepared potable water. These days that means the now cold, hot water I tucked into the bottom of my sleeping bag in my metal water bottle the night before. The tooth brushing adventure complete it’s time to pack up blanket, sleeping bag and all my assorted bits and bobs. I carry the bulky light stuff. Tsheri carries the heavier stuff. While I eat breakfast he packs those bits and bobs into his back and then we’re good to go. We usually set off at 7:30 each morning.

We started today checking out the village monastery, then returned to our peculiar digs to collect packs and set out on the last few hours of the trek to the capital of Upper Mustang. With only one pass of any significance to cross it was a comparatively easy walk. After about four hours we came round a corner and there before us lay LoManthang. With the exception of the great red wall surrounding the oldest part of the city it really doesn’t look much different from the villages we’ve visited enroute. We descended the last stretch of our journey to this fabled ancient city. It’s outer streets are quite wide, dusty where they are dry and slimy with mud where they are wet. There are still a few piles of snow around from the storm. Water channels run randomly along or transecting the streets. Wherever water wants to go, these cement or stone channels have been built to keep it sort of controlled. It works quite well. People are out in the streets doing all sort of thIngs such as washing dishes or clothes, carding wool, carrying stuff or in one or two cases just sitting enjoying the sun.

Our guest house is the same plan as the rest in this area. Big square two floored building with the second floor balcony surrounding the inner court yard. My room is wee small. One single bed and a tiny table no room to swing a cat for sure. It’s perfectly adequate and the ceiling has no hole in it. This place is very high class there is a sink outside the toilet and there is hot water for a shower! I’m in heaven.
We set off to explore inside the walls – in other words – the old part of town. Here the streets are narrow and windy and in about two minutes I’m lost. So I just follow Tendi along. We were supposed to see the king but he is in Kathmandu receiving medical treatment. He’s old and not well. Instead we go to the biggest temple and spend an hour or so with a very well travelled interesting monk. His English is really good. He’s been to Vancouver and various places in Europe including the UK. He offers to answer questions and so I bring it on. It is a very enlightening hour indeed. He takes us to see some ancient pre Buddhism artifacts which have been found in the area indicating shamanism was the ideology here before Tibetan Buddhism took hold. We saw rare ancient texts – 2500 years old – and all manner of peculiar and fantastical stuff. Next we went and enjoyed a Tibetan Buddhist… Not really sure what it’s called – monks chanting and playing all those amazing weird sounding instruments, drums, cymbals, short horns and those huge long horns. Very cool.

The narrow streets are intersected with squares surrounded by shops. More interesting than the wares within – I can not shop as Tsheri already has a big enough load – is life taking place on the sunny sides of each square. In one there was a group of women all combing each other’s hair. In another women are carding wool. In the next is a group of young men tinkering with a mother cycle while an older man spins his prayer wheel and simultaneously seems to be giving advice about how to fix the thing. For sure the bike is a very incongruous entity. In shady areas we have to climb over quite high banks of snow. That storm sure dumped a lot of snow. There is still a great deal of evidence of it.

The exploring complete we return to our guest house. I’m more than thrilled to be here. It is an incredibly unique corner of the world and as yet fairly unmarried by the downsides of modern civilization. Well except for that motor bike! I embrace the fact that this guest house has power on at 6pm for a couple of hours! Sheer luxury.

Good night from Lo-Manthang (3810 mitres)

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