Sunday, November 9, 2008

from Marpha 23rd October 2008

It seems hardly credible that for half the team the Expedition is all but over. Tomorrow we have a short hike up the road – yes that’s right there are motor bikes and Land Rovers here – to Jomsom. Hopefully at there we will meet up with Sandra Green who flies in from Pokhara tomorrow morning. Tenji from Sherpa Brothers flies in from Kathmandu tomorrow too in readiness for tomorrow night’s party at Jomsom. The following morning half the team begin their homeward journey via Pokhara and Kathmandu.
The remaining 26, those truly addicted to cold, high and uncomfortable places, will then swap their porters for donkeys and head up into the remote and restricted mountain province of Mustang. This should be a huge contrast to what has gone before. We are now in an the arid Kali Ghandaki valley which is hugely different to the jungles and cloud forests of the Magdi Khola which led us towards Dhualigiri. The religion has changed too. We have left behind the Hindu Stupas and swapped them for Buddhist prayer flags, chortens, monasteries and temples.
Marpha glittered in the morning sun as we walked through the narrow medieval streets with player flags fluttering in the strong breeze and water gushing down the irrigation channels that feed the orchards. High on the cliff a Buddhist temple and below it a brand new monestry. The team gorged themselves on apple crumble and fresh coffee in this delightful town that forms a major staging post on the Annapurna Circuit – one of the busiest treks in Nepal. Marpha gives us a taste of what is to come in Upper Mustang which has only been open to Westerners since 1992 and even now has very restricted access. We will be following the traditional Salt Route which, for generations, has been a key trade route between Tibet and Nepal. This will take us into an untainted Buddhist mountain province. Rumour has it that it will be cold!

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