Sunday 24th March
‘It’s just another tea house,’ says Hayley, as we descend the dusty path towards Kagbeni. ‘You didn’t expect a drive thru did you?’
Sheepishly, James, Jim and I all admit that we were, perhaps, expecting a little more of a yak themed, local, McDonald’s-style restaurant…with yak milk shakes and yak burgers… rather than just a tea house with an interesting name. Obviously, we didn’t think it would be on the same scale as McDonald’s and we certainly didn’t expect a drive thru (as there aren’t really any cars here), but Hayley had mentioned it quite a few times, we’d had some pretty good yak burgers already and our expectations were certainly raised…
We’d been staying in a side valley off of the Kali Gandaki, up in Muktinath for the last couple of days. Today, we walked two or three hours down to the town of Kagbeni, actually on the Kali Gandaki, one of the deepest north-south running gorges in the world. As we approached, the town was an oasis amid a dry, dusty, desert-like landscape. The terraced fields were actually green, a colour we haven’t really seen here before.
Kagbeni is a small town with the old and new mingling together. The Yak Donald’s sells cinnamon rolls and chocolate cake and there’s an Applebee’s here too. Bizarre. Then, just around the corner is the old medieval town with winding covered streets, mud brick houses, ochre painted walls, and the crumbling remains of a palace and a monastery built 600 years ago. The old houses all have ominous, decorated yak skulls pinned above the doorways. They are patiently waiting to be brought down for use in puja during festivals here.
Our expectations may have been dashed in terms of Yak Donald’s, but the town itself is an intriguing gem.