14th.Oct.18 Muktinath 1
On the previous day we had driven in 2 jeeps all the way down from Lo Manthang to Kagbeni more or less on the route on which we had previously walked up. The second jeep which I was in was rather clapped out with a broken seat backrest and running board. Right at the beginning the first driver managed quite unnecessarily to get stuck in a mud hole and the second driver promptly did the same thing when trying to help. Only with the aid of a passing jeep and our 2 Sherpas was it possible to get the jeeps out. The rest of the journey was uneventful but in parts quite hair-raising going up and down steep gorges on rough narrow tracks. Once we forded the main Kali Gandaki which is a big river but because it is very wide and meanders all over the flat valley floor it is not deep at some points.
Finally we reached Kagbeni still in one piece and then drove up a paved road to the village of Ranipauwa (3710m) just below the famous pilgrim centre of Muktinath. Shortly before arrival one passes the village of Jharkot from where there is a good view of the Thorung La (5416m). This is the high pass that has to be crossed on the round Annapurna trek. However the attraction of this trek has also been reduced by road building activity. From the car park just below the village we walked into Ranipauwa but some of the tourists ride in on mules.
Pilgrims have worn a path to here for centuries and the village is dusty, overdeveloped and always busy with pilgrims coming and going. One can see Tibetan traders and sadhus (wandering Hindu holy men) from as far away as Southern India. Today there are people of many nationalities including Chinese groups. The hotel was full and there was no single room for me but that was no problem. I was glad to have a proper bathroom and toilet. The meal of yak-steak with local beer was much enjoyed even if we could not get any space near the wood-burning stove.