Nepal | Mustang 2013 | 3: Shyangboche to Ghar gompa

Shyangboche to Ghar Gompa

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Shyangboche Shyangboche is hardly a village, more like a staging post with a water pump and a few horses. A tractor sets off south carrying half a dozen men, one dancing and singing; they going to work on the new road. We leave in the opposite direction up a short steep climb that takes us out of the village to a small pass at 4020m marked by a solitary pray flag. After a short time a large stupa by the roadside heralds the first views of the village of Geling, surrounded by fields of barley and pink buckwheat in the valley below. We drop down to the beautiful village of scattered houses set among fields, mani walls and stupas. Geling is totally different to Tangge and even more beautiful.

Geling We talk to some women washing by a stream and a girl emerges from behind a large stupa and invites us to have tea in her house. She’s carrying an oil drum she uses for making chang, the local barley beer. It’s a typical wooden house with steps leading up from the courtyard to a balcony, we sit and drink tea with two brothers, one of whom is her father. Her mother is dead “ama moure”; her younger sister arrives from the washing stream and then a younger brother. Kancha always carries a large biscuit barrel which he seems to refill every night and produces whenever we sit for a snack. Our hosts follow the custom of at first refusing the offered biscuits, before accepting on the third offer. The feeling that life here offers both little choice and little uncertainty is more claustraphobic than comforting.

Zaite On the other side of the village below a small hill are more wonderful stupas and a small monastery, although we can’t find the door keeper we climb up to the roof top for delightful views over the village. A poor, stony path leads out of the village through low scrub to Zaite, a solitary house set among trees. Yak cheese and salt are drying in the courtyard next to a motorbike and an old loom. A radio is playing and this seems to be a wealthy house of some importance, photos of the family with a Rinpoche line the walls and the woman who comes to bring soup and bread is refined and gracious. The cool of the dark room is a welcome break from the heat outside.

Ghami Half an hour past Zaite the path leaves the road and short cuts to the Yang La, a wide open pass with long strings of prayer flags and wonderful views - looking back we see green on the hills, looking ahead there is no green, we are reaching deeper into Upper Mustang. From the next pass we see the dark red cliffs pockmarked with meditation caves behind Ghami, the next village. The path leads through fields, past a mani wall, then a narrow lane leads delightfully into Ghami, our sherpas are waving to us from a roof. An archway leads to the Royal Mustang Hotel. We have a long thin room on the roof, there are plastic chairs, small kittens, tubs of flowers with delicate leaves and pink daisy flowers, and great views. The bucket shower is cold but OK once you get dry. It’s been a warm day and we all seem quite tired.

The village seems poor and it’s hard to tell if people are friendly or not. They have a reputation for being somewhat isolated in their views. A large red gompa in the centre of the village appears to have no entrance door. There are several stampedes of goats as they get brought in off the hills chase through the narrow lanes and get herded, packed tight, into their pens for the night. Some American boys in another room are smoking weed and laughing; a French / Malay couple travelling with their two young children are up for a short holiday from Mumbai. A lama is performing a puja in another room, later I see him throwing water around on the roof.

Dakmar It’s raining when we wake at 6. We wait for it to pass, make a late start then walk out through a muddy village, past an old woman taking two small cows out to the fields and over a small brige festooned with prayer flags. Vultures are circling above as we climb steeply, there’s a sky burial palace on the hilltop above. From the pass there are views down to the other side of the valley from the village, by the path to Charang we can see the Japanese field hospital and the longest mani wall in Mustang. A delighful sandy path leads down to the red cliffs and small village of Dakmar. We have early lunch at the Tenzin Riverside Guest House, we’re feeling lazy and contemplate staying here but there are better things ahead. Also there are no beds. The setting is dramatic, the cliffs are the deepest red and full of caves.

Ghar Gompa A scrubby path soon leads to a steep climb up a narrowinging sandstone coloured gully which tops out in a narrow cleft between two large boulders and a huge cairn and long trails of prayer flags. An outcrop above gives magnificent views back over silhouettes of dull green ridges. The next pass, the Mul La, gives us our first views of the long valley that leads down to Tsarang, the old capital of Mustang, and the nearer village of Marang surrounded by fields of pink buckwheat. Curving contour lines and soft hills eventually reveal our first sight of the stupas and prayer flags ahead of Ghar Gompa at the head of the valley.


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