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A couple of final Nepal trekking highlights

Muktinath, Nepal

Katy and I walk mostly in silence, occasionally pointing out a wonderful view or sharing an insight or pondering. We've enjoyed a couple of hefty philosophical debates along the trail, and several conversations analyzing our upbringing, our place in the world, and our dreams for the future. It has struck me recently that there is no other human being on the planet that I've spent more time with than my little sister. So, there's really nothing to hide from each other and nothing that needs explaining. We understand each other, we completely love and accept one another, and I feel utterly blessed and grateful for our relationship. Not everybody is lucky enough to have a wiser younger sister, so I'm trying to take advantage! Aside from one or two brief moments of frustration, we've been getting along swimmingly, and we're very compatable travel partners.

4/16 - We killed a day in Manang in order to acclimatize and rest our legs before beginning the serious ascent to Thorung La pass (18,000 ft). We attempted to hike to Ice Lake, but we (Mark) lost the path and ended up in a fairly scary situation on a steep mountainside. Katy held her cool beautifully, and a couple of hours later we somehow rejoined another path which led us to a cliffside gompa (temple) where we were surpised and delighted to see a Buddhist nun tending her small vegetable garden. She escorted us up a ladder into a small cave-like room where we were greeted by Lama Teshi. Lama Teshi, we would learn, is 93 years old and has been living in this cliffside dwelling for over fifty years! The nun is his daughter, and they proceeded to offer us tea, conversation, and blessings for crossing the Thorung Lass pass and beyond. We spent perhaps half an hour in silence watching the Lama with his ritualistic prayer beads and meditation wheel. When we finally returned to Manang that evening, Katy and I looked at each other in astonishment and relief at where our day had taken us. Losing the path to Ice Lake, only to stumble upon a blessing from a Lama dwelling high in a cliffside cave gompa was quite the memorable experience.

4/19 - We slept last night at 14,500 feet and successfully traversed Thorung La pass this morning. It was a physically exhausting but tremendously rewarding day. After a long descent into the town of Muktinath, it was bizarre to catch the sight of the first motorized vehicles we had seen in five or six days. There are many Indian pilgrims that visit Muktinath because of the temple complex situated here. As we approached the complex, we were greeted by a very warm monk who's appearance indicated a blend of Buddhist monk and Hindu Sadhu. He had the traditional saffron robe of a monk, but was also donning the characteristic dreadlocks of the Hindu holymen. People in this region don't really identify themselves as Hindu or Buddhist, as their tradition is a mix of the two along with some shamanism/animism passed down from their ancestors.

4/20 - We're staying in Marpha this evening, a lovely little town nestled between a rising cliffband and beautiful apple orchards in the river valley below. We're dropping in elevation now, leaving the arid high country and entering a more lush lowland landscape. Dalgheri (world's seventh highest peak) towers in the East, rising above 26,700 feet toward the heavens. I'm sitting at the top of a beautiful monastery, drinking in the view and watching my thoughts. If I can observe myself, am I the observer or the observed? Perhaps the answer is that there is no "I", or there is no distinction between the two and really no separation between "me" and all beings. Good trip.

4/21 - Our first rain storm today. Just after lunch, the drizzle turned into a pretty good downpour which lasted until we reached the next teahouse around 4pm. We've joined forces with two other Americans and an Argentinian who we've been seeing along the trail for several days now. They have taught us a couple of fun dice games, and it is nice to have some additional company on the trek.

4/22 - Katy elected to catch a jeep to the next tea house today because she is growing concerned about her swollen ankle. Her hip was bothering her, and I think the correction she made in her gate has now effected her achilles. She has been nothing short of impressive the entire time, and we're both dealing with some pain management. I put my pack on the jeep with her, and we said we'd meet at a specified guest house in the town of Tatopani, where there is a nice hot spring to sooth the sore muscles. A long story made short, I had a momentary panic when I couldn't find my little sister for a little while and became convinced that something terrible had happened. I walked for several hours in the heat, and came back to the teahouse entirely dehydrated, hungry, and emotionally stressed. It turns out that Katy was just fine all along, and that I wasn't the horrible older brother who lost his sister in rural Nepal. A huge relief indeed. The hot springs were just what the doctor (mother nature) ordered, and helped relax my body and mind.

4/24 - Yesterday we had a monstrous climb from Tatopani to Ghorepani, involving just over a 5,000 foot elevation gain. This morning, we woke before the dawn and trekked up an additional hill to soak in the sunrise over the Annapurna and Dhalgeri ranges. The views were worth every step. After breakfast, we departed for Ghandruk. The trail weaved through gorgeous jungle of rhodedendron, birch, and magnolia trees. Moss and ferns were also plentiful in this lush landscape. Occasionally, we'd get a magnificent vista of one of the high snow-capped peaks through a window in the moss-laden tree branches. Tomorrow, we finish the trek and catch the bus from Naya Pul to Pokhara. I can say with great confidence that I'll return to Nepal someday...

4/25 - Looking out over the planted terraces of potatoes, beans, rice, corn, ganja, and wheat, I'm drawn to the idea of a subsistent farming lifestyle. Watching the genuine and meaningful interactions of the family who works this land makes me yearn for greater simplicity in life. The Himalayas tower in the distance, catching all sorts of varied light. The Tibetan prayer flags flap gently and rhthmically in the gentle evening breeze. The air is filled with with a subtle rhodedendren aroma. This moment is all that exists. It's the way back, and the way forward.

permalink written by  Katy and Mark Lewis on April 29, 2009 from Muktinath, Nepal
from the travel blog: India and Nepal
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Katy and Mark Lewis Katy and Mark Lewis
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We are two siblings from Colorado (aged 24 and 26) who find ourselves simultaneously between a job and a graduate school program. We both came down with a case of itchy feet, so we're going searching for the cure while we've got the chance!

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