Sunday, November 30, 2014

Day 8 - Kagbeni to Muktinath Temple to Kagbeni...

I woke up in Kagbeni to the sound of several drum beats followed a short while later by the faint chanting of monks in the monastery.  Surreal.  I’d had some heavy dreams and was feeling a bit out of sorts.

I shook it off and went out to the restaurant for breakfast.  The wi-fi was still kicking strong so I sat down and did some inventory work, caught up on work emails, and then put together another blog post.  

I was really enjoying Kagbeni, so I decided that I would stay here another night and just make a short day trip out of the remaining road to Muktinath.

I ordered some Tsampa porridge with fresh apple and a cup of coffee for breakfast, munching on it while I uploaded photos and posted to the blog.

I packed up my backpack with photography gear and a bottle of water.  I strapped it to the back of the bike with my bungee net.  I let the bike warm up and did a quick check for loose bolts, checked fuel and oil levels.  During my once over, I noticed that I’d lost a nut from the big bolt that runs through the frame and motor.  The bolt was long and wouldn’t likely come out but it was loose and had worked its way out a 1/2” or so.

I threaded it back in and put some first aid tape (somehow duct tape escaped getting put into the kit) around the threads to aid in keeping the bolt in place.

The weather was again beautiful; crisp and cool but bright and sunny.

I headed down the flagstone path, that was the main strip in Kagbeni, past the big gompa and around the corner heading up and out of town.  I was in a bit of a funky haze still and wasn’t really present in the moment.  I was there.  I was riding over these rough roads, body aching a bit as I bounced along, but mentally I was dwelling on other things in my life.

I tried to push them from my mind and get clear on the beautiful surroundings.  The road was climbing higher and higher towards Muktinath and the base of the famous Thorung La pass of the Annapurna Trekking Circuit.  The mountain peaks were huge and blasted with snow in between the hanging glaciers all around.

I came around a bend and was moved by a beautiful sunlit view of Jarkhot village.  I pulled over onto a nice wide flat area and decided I’d stop and make some images of the village and monastery on the ridge.

I reached for the zipper of my backpack, where I’d stowed my nicest camera, my Canon G15, for easy access.  My heart sunk as I saw that it was already open, the inner pocket with my passport and various other small items was swinging freely, dangling from the open bag.

I made a quick check to make sure the camera had actually fallen out: it had!  I quickly zipped the bag shut and started back to Kagbeni, scanning the road as I went.  I stopped every truck and bike that was making its way up the road and asked if they’d found my camera on the road.  Of course the answer every time was no.  I was so bummed.

I’d backed up my images the night before so all I lost was the camera and the case, but I was still super bummed out.  I retraced my steps all the way to Paradise Trekkers Home, the last place I used it.  I was begging the deities to return the camera, but it was nowhere to be found.

The young boy, Krishna, who was the cook at the guesthouse, eternally smiling a giant smile of bright white teeth, helped me look around the area and even walked through town and asked everyone in Nepali if they’d seen my camera.  Still no.

I decided that I would still head up to Muktinath.  I scanned the road the whole way up to where I’d discovered I’d lost it.  When I reached that spot, I stopped and used my little Canon camera to snap a couple shots of the view that I’d originally stopped for hours earlier.  The light was different but it was more of a documentary piece for me at this point.

I motored on taking in the incredible high alpine scenery.  I was above 12,000’ above sea level now and the bike was started to struggle a bit, even with the EFI.  But it tractored right along as long as I stayed in the throttle.

Soon I was riding a small path to the Muktinath Temple, a place of pilgrimage for Hindus and Buddhists alike.  I stopped and chatted with a holy man seated outside the temple, he was smoking a chillum and offered it to me.  I took a couple puffs from the chillum, reminding me of college days.  At 13,000’ asl now, the smoke hit me quickly.  I asked his name… he recited a name about thirty seconds long that ended in Baba… smiled and said I could call him the Ice Baba, pointing up to the glaciers.  I smiled, reached out my hand and said, “Justin, nice to meet you.”  My name seemed so inadequate compared to his distinctive and extensive holy name.  He smiled a smile from his beady glowing eyes and handed me the chillum once again.  After my third puff, he said, “easy friend, we are way up high already.”  We both laughed.

I walked through the temple checking out the various gompas.  It was really serene and evoked a presence in me that wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.  I allowed the emotions to surface and tried to stay present in the moment as I walked through the grounds.  I touched the prayer wheels and lit incense, and paid my donations, closely watched over by a local member of the Nepali Police, who for some reason felt it his duty to make sure that I paid sufficient money into the various donation boxes.  I tried not to let his presence and pressure remove me from connection to the place.

After I’d said my prayers and asked forgiveness for my fickleness, I rang the bell on my way out.  I’d like to say I felt lighter.  In some ways I guess I did.  I felt lighter for having come clear on what was bothering me deep down.  Yet my work on these matters still lies before me.  And my blissful nirvana awaits.

For now the sun was dipping down behind the ridge and it was getting icy cold quick.  I started the my two-wheeled tractor, “the mighty goat”, and started my way back down the mountain for Kagbeni.  I coasted with the motor off most of the way and once I reached Jarkhot, I resumed my search for my camera.

Tashi Gurung, 22 year-old proprietor of the family owned Paradise Trekkers Home, met me in the street outside the front door when I pulled up.  He told me he’d heard about my camera and had called the police in Jomsom and had called friends in Jarkhot.  He told me the police in Jomsom said I could come fill out a report in case it was turned in.  He said that was up to me, but the Police may want money.  We talked about it for a while and both knew that the reality of my camera being turned in, whether found by Nepalis or foreign trekkers, was nearly impossible.  Tashi took my number and my email and said that if it turned up he would get in touch with me.

I settled into the restaurant and listened to a noisy group of college kids from Kathmandu drinking and partying in the corner.  They asked politely if they were disturbing me.  And one boy, who’d heard my camera was lost, definitely under the influence, assured me that he would find it.

I ate some vegetable chowmein and went to bed early.

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