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Nepal Trek – Upper Mustang – Part I

Jomsom to Kagbeni
I Love spaciousness. My soul loves being in the middle of vastness. Something in me very simply relaxes. This feels like the most amazing place in the world. It may well be, or perhaps it’s that my mind simply confuses perfection, which I find here, with penultimacy.

Kagbeni Upper Mustang-7I’ve just begun my trek in the Upper Mustang region of Nepal, a remote area requiring a somewhat pricey permit (and a bribe to be allowed to travel alone). I’m beat, though, and today was supposedly one of the easy days: a relatively flat hike, albeit 4 hours or so, with a few climbs along the wide and silvery Kali Gandaki (river). My discomfort may also be a little altitude adjustment for me. So glad I’ve spent more time getting in better shape over the past several months. It would be a stretch to be doing this otherwise.

Kagbeni Upper Mustang-11We flew, my guide and I, from Pokhara to Jomsom under beautifully clear skies (required for the flight and lucky during this monsoon time of year). Getting off the plane and walking through town, it felt a bit like walking through the wild west in America from 150 years ago. The trek will be 11 days in total, making our way up to Lo Manthang, the seat of the ancient Sakya Buddhist kingdom, before heading back down. I am so excited about this trek. I feel blessed to be here, blessed with health, resources, time, opportunity, and a dose of adventure and gumption. Truthfully, though, Kagbeni Upper Mustang-2I mostly feel honored to be taking this trek. It’s not like anyone bestowed this trip upon me, but somehow honored feels like the right word.

I also have a porter with me, the guide being required for the “restricted zone” area we will be entering in the morning for the next 10 days, and the porter being a generous gift to myself. It’s difficult enough trekking unencumbered, but carrying another 12-15kg plus camera gear would inhibit my enjoyment and perhaps prohibit my capacity to undertake the trek altogether.

Kagbeni Upper Mustang-4Along the way, we stopped at a small Buddhist worship building. Four people were there clearing paths among the stones and tending oil bowls with burning wicks. It appeared as a scene straight out of Tibet, prayer flags flapping in the breeze. I asked one of the women if I could take a some photos and she declined. When I offered through my guide to pay she said it would take a lot and checked with the others. It turned out that a lot was 100Rs ($1US) to which I gladly agreed.

The winds are howling here. Apparently it’s a daily occurrence where gusts blow from south to north starting about noon, a steady onslaught with peaks of about 30-40mph. It’s actually kind of nice when it’s behind you – helping keep you cool, and boosting you along the way.

Kagbeni Upper Mustang-9 We arrived to Kagbeni, a simple and lovely old town, structures of stacked and plastered stones nestled against an oasis of farmland tucked along the river amid this evaporatingly dry land. Although I would have enjoyed napping, I went back out from my hotel in the afternoon with my camera before the sun set behind the mountains, toured the town, and looped along the river. Eventually I made it back through the Kagbeni Upper Mustang-8magnificently irrigated farming fields where I enjoyed a photographic interaction with some women harvesting some greens while tending to their small children. I love how dear a connection can form in so brief a time when hearts area light.

I do wish that I were sharing this trip as this place is indelibly romantic. I find in life that the soul loves to express it’s wonderment and excitement within the arms of another. Some things in life so inspire expression and this trek and all it encompasses is one of them. Perhaps it’s because adequate words are nearly impossible to come by and the most complete way that humans have of expressing something approaching divinity is through love and touch. The truth too is that I am deeply fine with being here on my own. When expression doesn’t go outward, things move on the inside and deep inner changes often result. My time in Nepal has already felt like a spiritual retreat of sorts for me so I’m certain this trek time will magnify that. Although I’m not quite sure as to the specifics yet, this trek feels like an important undertaking to be doing on my own. I do appreciate having the company of my guide Raj though as he is a helpful and gentle man with a sweet smile.

I’ve been writing with my father lately and his words reflect that he is at odds with his age which seems to undermine his desire to join me here. He would so love to return to Nepal and partake in this adventure with me. It’s funny how over time we, or at least I, can become more and more like our parents.

My father with Tenzing Norgay
My father with Tenzing Norgay, first Nepali with Edmund Hillary to climb Everest

Here I am trekking in the Himalayas after my father did so on his own as a younger man than I. Although postcards with exotic stamps may not have always been sufficient contact for a young boy, as I’ve come to love and truly accept him, I’ve developed an appreciation of his forging a trail of his own, ahead of me in this lifetime. More than most everyone I know, he has created a life that truly fits his soul. He has lived a life that suits his spirit and I find myself with more and more admiration for that.

I mention my father in that perhaps in covering similar terrain, both as photographers, being touched by the visual beauty of this place, I may somehow come to know and understand him better as well. Here are a few of his amazing images from his travels here.

Full Moon Rise on Everest
Full Moon Rise over Everest

buddist monks reading the holy bookshOUSE BUILDERS AT DUSK_MAN WITH YAKS

One reply on “Nepal Trek – Upper Mustang – Part I”

Brett Baker put me on to this. Said he rented a room from you north of Ft. Bragg. Said your father was friends with Alan and I. Is that Serge Seymour? I remember him well. Last I hear he was living in northern Thailand. I keep hoping to visit one day. Alan also trekked in Nepal as a young man. Lived in a monastery for 9 months. They told him he didn’t have to come there to find the truth, as he had it in him all the while. Small world!

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