From afar Tiri had looked beautiful. A green village surviving amidst the brown rock, crowned with a clifftop temple.
Up close however, Tiri was extremely unwelcoming. The main-street doubled as a drain, each house had walls like a fortress. The few people outside viewed me with suspicion.
I didn’t feel accepted, and perhaps this was fair enough. For Tiri was the gateway to the forbidden Upper Mustang region. Foreigners were not allowed through here without a complicated permit.
Without this permit I couldn’t trek past Tiri. So I had to settle for climbing the cliff to Choeden Gompa. The hillside was covered in the villagers’ clothes, laid out to dry in the morning sun.
From the temple I looked into the forbidden valley, wishing I could visit Upper Mustang. Once part of Tibet, this stark desert had been populated throughout its history by cave-dwellers, Buddhist gurus, Nepali monarchs and CIA-backed guerilla fighters. It had so much allure, but a dream-trip here would have to wait.
I returned to Kagbeni, crossing the riverbed then continuing on to Jomsom. On the way I encountered two holy-men in bare feet and orange robes. “We walked here from Southern India!” they claimed.
The hiking trail merged with the road and the occasional jeep rumbled along. Yesterday’s wind was back too, an angry tempest that bore a serious grudge.
Jomsom appeared, a proper town with an airport, banks, military base — the very things I didn’t want to see. I skirted around the edge then took the walking trail along the river’s east bank.
This route led to Thini, the oldest village in the entire valley. Its whitewashed buildings reminded me of the Greek isles, with the key difference of the Himalayas in the background.
The valley had grown more hospitable, trees were managing to survive. A ruined fortress sat atop one of the hills, I tried to climb up to it but almost got blown away by the bloody wind.
On the next ridge was Katsapterenga Gompa, which offered unbelievable panoramic views. But the gale made this hard to enjoy. So I descended and crossed the bridge over the Kali Gandaki river.
From here it was an hour long walk to Marpha in the ferocious headwind. I covered my face with a scarf and ploughed onwards. Each step felt harder than the last, a dreadful slog that I wanted to end.
Reaching Marpha made this struggle worthwhile. It was a gorgeous little village, unlike any I’d seen in Asia. Its paved streets were immaculate, each building painted a brilliant white and red. I stopped at the Bhakti shop and chatted to the owner, he sold me some dried apricots and apple cider.
I stayed here the night then left in the morning for Larjung. Chhairo was the next settlement along the trail, a Tibetan refugee camp. I chatted to a young man who explained, “I was born here, but my parents weren’t. They feared for their lives and so fled from Tibet to live here.”
For the first time in days, water was pooling on the ground, green grass grew on the hillsides. The desert was behind me. The trail went through Tukuche, a desperately pretty village. It had once been the meeting place for Tibetan salt traders coming to buy Nepali grain.
I arrived in Larjung right before it started raining, a terrific downpour which escalated to hail, then thunder and lightning. I found a place to stay and went to bed that night while the rain hammered on the lodge’s iron roof.
When I woke the next morning, the rain hadn’t relented. It was falling with a fury that suggested I’d best stay indoors. I obliged, taking a rest-day in Larjung, my first since Manang ten days ago. Sometimes, the best part about trekking is not trekking at all.
After I trekking from Kagbeni to Larjung, I trekked to Ghorepani, which you can read about here.
You can find more about my trek around the Annapurna Circuit at the links below:
- Annapurna Circuit: Besi Sahar to Bahundanda
- Annapurna Circuit: Bahundanda to Upper Pisang
- Annapurna Circuit: Upper Pisang to Manang
- Annapurna Circuit: Manang to Tilicho Base Camp
- Annapurna Circuit: Trek to Tilicho Lake
- Annapurna Circuit: Shree Kharka to Thorung Phedi
- Annapurna Circuit: Crossing the Thorung La
- Annapurna Circuit: Muktinath to Kagbeni
- Annapurna Circuit: Kagbeni to Larjung
- Annapurna Circuit: Larjung to Ghorepani
- Annapurna Base Camp: Ghorepani to Machapuchare Base Camp
- Annapurna Base Camp: ABC to Ghandruk