* Random images of ... from Muktinath to Kagbeni May 16 2015

Our Trek group of Pete, Margaret, Anna & Lutz had a solid night's sleep in Ranipauwa (just past Muktinath), having successfully fallen down Thorung La. Marg was fastest down, disappearing off into the distance. I went ok, having been administered a Tiger-Balm head massage by the Trek leader, Juddha Rai, which left me feeling super-charged - Wow !!. The next day's Muktinath to Jomsom leg was keenly anticipated, giving stunning views across the tributaries of the upper Kali Gandaki, to the legendary closed kingdom of Mustang. Our path stayed higher than the traditional route, as we bipassed Mustang's entry-town Kagbeni (which, I must admit annoyed me - how can you bypass Kagbeni !!!). Photographically, though, we benefitted. The following images; views of the Himalaya on a typically `tough-Light' Nepali day, are some of the most satisfying images I've ever shot. I enjoyed the challenge of shooting such large-scale images with a crop-sensor body & an 18-200mm kit Lens.


The following image shows where we came from. Thorung La sits above the cloud, at 5,400 metres, with the snow-drifts tapering-off as they descend. In the foreground, the surprising lushness of the cropped fields sits in stark contrast with the barren surrounds. The light was off & on throughout the morning; it lit up the valley as I shot this image. The Trees were brushed fleetingly with colour. , 

Moving further down the valley bought 1 stunning vista after another. As always, Murray the Photographer lagged behind the group, which, to be fair, set it's own pace, person-by-person. The pace was leisurely, giving me time to catch the incredible beauty around me. I was agog at this point; shooting whenever the group slowed or rested.. As we approached the viewing points for Kagbeni, we walked past huge slopes, almost bare of vegetation, containing caves where monks would live in isolation. The landscape around Kagbeni resembles Tibet in style; huge, swooping vistas of largely bare ground covering enormous distances, contrasting Nepal's condensed & more forested valleys.

Looking across the Kali Gandaki to Mustang was exciting. As I process these images & write this Blog, Nepal has been struck by destructive earthquakes, which look set to keep the area unstable for some time. Awful devastation has hit the mountaineous regions of Nepal. My early searches on the Web have confirmed that entire villages have been buried by rock-falls. Langtang has gone. The Tal area has gone unreported, but sits totally vulnerable under huge rock-fields. I can't imagine Trekking in Nepal at the moment, but I have a burning desire to see much more of the area - Ladach, Sikkim, Mustang, Far-Western Tibet (I haven't finished with Mt Kailash...!, & there's Guge, too).  I expect it will take a long time for Nepal to recover. I expect the Thorung La region will have been smashed - that whole area is on a knife-edge at the best of times.

Much has been written about `The Road'; how it's robbed the Annapurna Circuit of it's ambience & jeopardised it's historical context. I do know that it's opened the Trek up to new markets; older generations of middle-aged Trekkers who might have shied away from the challenge it was previously perceived to be .... Having said that, our route followed the river-bed of the Kali Gandaki once we passed Kagbeni. The road had been rocky, but ok. The river-bed was a rock-a-thon - rounded boulders of medium-size, jammed together so you couldn't miss them. It was a tough day's walking, for me. It exposed my walking boots as light-weight & comfortable - good for pavements. If you're gunna walk in river-beds, have fair-dinkum Leather hiking boots, that offer good ankle-support & no flexing under the sole ... The weather closed-in as we left the Kagbeni area behind. Spatters of rain, the wind increased to it's normal afternoon velocity (which stops the afternoon flights thru Jomson & convinces Trekkers they really do need a bandanna ...), & the cloud gave me 1 of my favourite images ..

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To see these images in hi-res on Facebook, go to ...

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.730658803712190.1073741839.468820293229377&type=3 (Muktinath to Kagbeni)

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.627106864067385.1073741838.468820293229377&type=3 (the Thorung La region)

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