April 4th – April 5th – Muktinath to Jomsom
Muktinath was quite the unexpected experience. We stumbled into the town, tired and hungry. The town is rather large compared to the villages we were staying at, like Lower Pisang and Leder. (Leder was a cute little place, but was literally two buildings randomly along the trail. We stayed there a few days before the pass after Manang).
Muktinath was especially busy because there was a 3 day Hindu festival going on, and we came into town on the first day of the festival. There is a large temple in Muktinath, so people had traveled from all over Nepal and India for the event. I loved watching the people. We were able to tour the temple, and I found it fascinating to watch and observe people celebrating and participating in their rituals and traditions. In all honesty, I do not know much about Hinduism, but the people were kind and respectful, and I valued the cultural experience. I appreciated that they welcomed me into their sacred place.
Because of the festival, most places were full, but thankfully Kumar was able to find us a room and we spent the afternoon sitting on the rooftop, people watching, reading and journaling about our pass experience. It was the perfect setting really.
The power is hit and miss out here. Some places have electricity, some places don’t. We don’t expect places to anymore, but we are happy when it works! Most of the villages do not have plumbing, but they often have spotty Wi-Fi. It’s still a bit of a challenge to get used to that one! At the beginning of the trek, all the bathrooms were just holes in the ground and you flush by pouring water down a hole. This is fairly common in the developing world and we got used to it very quickly. Now, if we ever have an actual toilet, it’s a huge celebration for us and we are thankful. Our place in Muktinath had a toilet and a sink. Bonus! We also had a mirror, which I wasn’t actually too thrilled about. I hadn’t looked in a mirror in over a week and I was really appreciating the freedom from analyzing and judging my appearance.
We ate a nice dinner, vegetable noodle soup and chipati bread for me and a veggie sandwich for Erin. We woke up at our normal time 6:15am and I am almost sleeping until 6. I still wake up around 5:30am, but we are sleeping hard and sleeping well here. Breakfast is always at 7, unless we are getting up early to hit trail earlier than 7:30.
We headed out at 7:30am making our way to Jomsom. There is quite a big contrast in terrain on this side of the pass. It was very dry and dusty. A high dessert feeling, as it was still cool, but very windy and dry.
This hike was a total surprise to both Erin and I. Since it’s early season, we actually walked across a dry river bed, with the massive mountains surrounding us. It was pretty incredibly. It was also very very dusty and very windy. Erin and Kumar made the wise choice of wearing a buff over their faces. I chose not to. At one point, I stopped and said to Erin “wow, when I close my mouth, I can taste dirt”. She immediately started laughing and said “Oh my gosh, you have dirt all over your teeth Alyson.” I could not stop laughing as I tried to wipe my teeth off and tried my best to keep my mouth closed for the rest of the hike. (I took some video of our hike that hopefully I will be able to post soon!)
We arrived at a sweet little tea hut in Jomsom and we just loved this place. It was welcoming, great energy and they had a house cat so Erin was in heaven. The food here was fantastic, and the beds were the most comfortable we had slept in.
Our hike to Jomsom was about 12.5 miles total and we were tired from the wind. We were craving some good coffee when we arrived, and we spotted the first coffee shop since Manang so Erin and I made a point to go there since we arrive to town so early. (I have been spiking my coffee everyday with Starbucks Via. The coffee here is very weak, which is fine, but I am used to several cups of coffee in the morning so I am thankful I brought Via with me!) We stopped at the Himalayan Java Coffeehouse and we experienced taste of home right when we walked in the door. A man was sitting there sketching a picture, an employee was playing his guitar, and a young Finnish hippie musician was sitting at a table with his journal open to a blank page. It was starting to rain outside, so people were crowding in the coffee shop to get out of the ‘downpour’. A Nepali man began talking about the affects global warming has had on Jomsom and that part of the region. They have more rain than they have ever had, and their houses and buildings are not equipped to handle the dramatic change in weather the past few years. Mud roofs are starting to leak and building structures are losing their integrity. They are quickly trying to make a shift, but things are moving slowly and resources are not as accessible. Erin and I sat there and listened. We have it so good where we live. It’s so sad that the places in the world that are producing the least carbon emissions are the ones that are hurting the most and they don’t have don’t always have adequate resources to respond to the negative impact. Sometimes the problems in the world just seem so big and nearly impossible to resolve. So much to think about.