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  Jomsom Muktinath Trekking


Jomsom Trek


Easily accessible via a 20-minute flight from Pokhara, Jomsom lies nestled beneath the splendor of Mount , Nilgiri. For those of you not inclined to make it to the mountains the hard way, i.e. slogging it on foot step by step in a gradual process, taking the US$ 50 flight to Jomsom from Pokhara is the ideal alternative. Jomsom, at an altitude of 2,700 meters lies tucked in between two giant mountain ranges, the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri- both reach out to the sky beyond 8,000 meters at their highest points, and although these ranges are around 35 kilometers apart, consider yourself to be technically positioned at the bottom of the world's deepest gorge, the Kali Gandaki Valley with a spectacular view of Mt. Nilgiri looming ahead like a huge snowy pyramid.

From Jomsom, one may venture on to leisurely treks for a day or two northwards to Kagbeni or southwards to Marpha, Tukuche, and Lete-Kalopani all of these places can be reached with effortless walking on an almost leveled surface. On the other hand, should the rarefied mountain air hinder your walking ability; you may choose to explore the area on a pony that can be made available by your hotel at a reasonable price. Food and board around Jomsom could probably be described as being the best among all the trekking regions of the country. All the better hotels provide cosy rooms that come with attached bath with running hot water. With three to four flights coming in from Pokhara every day, the larders of most restaurants are well stocked with fresh meat and vegetables.


Muktinath Trek


This major Himalayan highway follows the gorge of the Kali Gandaki River, crossing from subtropical jungle to high-altitude desert in less than one week. Mixed in the stream of international trekkers are Hindu saddhus (ascetic) walking to Muktinath and jingling mule trains heading down from Tibet loaded with bales of wool. Both are reminders of the trail's status as a major trade and pilgrimage route, an important cultural corridor across the Himalaya.

The end point is the ancient shrine of Muktinath (3,170 meters), one of Nepal's holiest pilgrimage sites. There's no real village, but lodges around the lower portion (Ranipauwa) put up pilgrims and trekkers. The ancient holy site is a typically confusing blend of natural, Buddhists and Hindu beliefs. The little Newari-style pagoda to Lord Vishnu is a relatively recent addition. Muktinath has been sacred for over 2000 years; the Hindu holy book Mahabharata mentions it as Shaligrama, "Place of the Shaligram,"the black fossil stones sacred to Vishnu and found in abundance in the Kali Gandaki valley. Its holiness stems from flickering blue flames of natural methane gas burning on water, stone and earth, and now enclosed in the shrine of Jwala Mai below the Vishnu temple. Near the pagoda, there is 108 spouts, shaped like bulls' heads, where devout pilgrims bathe in the freezing water to purify their sins and earn mukti or spiritual liberation.

The place has ancient association for Buddhists as well; Guru Rinpoche is said to have passed through here en route to Tibet, leaving his footprints in a rock. There are many old Buddhist temples around here.

The entire trek to Muktinath remains below 3000 meters. One should figure at least two weeks to walk in and out, allow a few extra days for exploration- the upper region in particular is lined with fascinating villages. Flying into Jomsom and walking back down is possible, but one should remember to acclimatize before climbing to Muktinath. One can fly from Jomsom to either Kathmandu or Pokhara.





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