“Khana khannu bhaiyo?” means “Have you eaten” and it is a common informal greeting in this region. How do I know? Because at last, my guide and I have arrived safely in Jomsom, Mustang District.
I wish I had words to describe this place to you in a way that could convey the motion your heart makes in your chest when you first behold the high Himalayas. Snow-capped peaks that cover the sky; the Himalayas are an incredible sight to behold. “Grandeur” seems like such a cliche and photos and inspirational quotes inadequate. The mountain flight to get here, however, was not something I highly recommend to those already leery of flying. A moderately bumpy 20 minutes of bounding and turning through mountain passes and valleys in the world’s tiniest commercial airplane finally lands you at 2700 meters but not without a fair degree of white-knuckling (at least, on my part). But in doing so, I have traded Pokhara’s humid 90 degree afternoons for a cool and clear 50 degrees in the day time, a fair westerly wind, and a pace of life far more suited to my explorer’s disposition. That, and my last night in Pokhara was a little rough. I finally figured out why I kept waking up covered in insect bites and, as it turned out, the bed was infested with fleas. I did manage to get a few hours of sleep after draping the mattress in towels and a blanket but at that point, there was little I could do. My arms and legs still look like I got into a fight with a toddler wielding a red magic marker but one of the benefits of altitude is that the bugs really thin out up here and I really couldn’t be happier. My choice to undertake fieldwork in a less…..tropical….setting has already proven the right choice. Cold I can do.
Not unexpectedly, internet is a little spotty, though. Connectivity is pretty limited in terms of times of day and access to Wifi signals, so I have no way to predict how often I will be able to post and update. I purchased a mobile modem in Pokhara much as I did in India a few years ago but if the signal just isn’t up to par, I might try out any one of the few scattered internet cafes I have already seen in the area. But for the moment, my current guesthouse has working Wifi.
Now, my guide and I rest up here for today to continue our acclimation and head for 4000m (to Muktinath) tomorrow afternoon. First by Jeep to Ranipauwa and then maybe we walk it….maybe I find myself a suitably horse.