From Muktinath to Marpha
we sat around the table soaking in the warmth from the charcoal,
something happened that would be repeated almost every evening.
I asked Krishna what tomorrow would be like. We go back the
way we came, to Jomosom, and then past it, he said. That will
be easy compared to today, I told him. Invariably I was wrong,
for each day brought a new challenge and none of them were
easy, even compared to that first day.
We left as the morning light
just began creeping down the Annapurna peaks. It was downhill
back to Kaghbeni, and we made good time.
Once across the bridge, we got back on the rocky riverbed
and trekked toward Jomosom. But this time, the wind was in
our faces, and the gusts were not only cold, but also powerful.
The wind carried dust and sand, and the gusts would throw
small pebbles in your face. I pulled my baseball cap down
so the visor protected my eyes, and I wore a bandana across
my nose and mouth. It was heads down all out trekking, poles
and feet pushing us into the wind. We trekked in the form
of a Tour de France pelaton, with Krishna first, me right
behind, Rob behind me, and Andy behind him. The other two
lagged behind with the heavy packs. I noticed that Krishna
always found the best available place for his footfalls, and
I started putting my feet exactly where his had been. This
helped, because the footing he chose was more flat and stable.
We trekked for miles, hour after hour, against the wind, up
the riverbed. Jomosom was in sight when we stopped to rest
by some boulders that protected us from the wind somewhat.
The other two caught up and we let them rest for a while before
Jomosom was a familiar place
now, and we stopped for lunch. Andy bought a small writing
pad and Rob some tissues. The shops had an amazing array of
goods, especially considering the method of transport. We
moved on, along a trail instead of the riverbed. There started
to be a few trees in the landscape. Krishna was trying to
get us to Marpha early so we would be able to enjoy a warm
shower. The prospect was tantalizing.
- - - - -
The closer we got to Marpha,
the more beautiful the scenery became. Not that it wasn't
beautiful from the beginning, because it was. Stunning almost
literally in fact. But beautiful in a different way, in a
trees and fields kind of way. And Marpha turned out to be
unique among the villages on the trek in that it is absolutely
charming. It has interesting architecture, starting with a
gate that you pass through as you enter the village.
It is quaint, lovely, with
winding, narrow stone streets and well kept buildings. It
occurred to me that it would be a nice place to spend a day
or two or several, and you could fly in to Jomosom and then
trek down in a few hours and when you were done there, fly
We found our guest house,
which was in a confusing, rambling old building. My immediate
goal was a shower. I had to wait for a long time for three
other trekkers ahead of me in line, but I was patient. And
not disappointed. Not in the way I expected, any way. It was
in a tiled room with a sink. There were knobs on the wall
below the shower head. And the water was fiercely hot. And
no matter how I turned the knobs, I couldn't change the temperature
at all. So I danced in and out of the steamy stream, staying
in as long as I could stand it, then jumping out, lathering
up, and dancing in and out until I was reasonably rinsed.
Despite the scalding, it was great to feel somewhat clean
again. And in another little room at the end of a row of sleeping
rooms was a western toilet. Joy knew no bounds.
The room was a cut above the
miserable frozen cell of the night before. It had a table
between the two cot/beds. And a window with a lovely pastoral
view. A balcony ran along outside the doors, and above the
rail was a clothesline. I hung my towel in the last of the
afternoon sun and prayed for it to dry.
That evening, we gathered
in the eating room at a table with a charcoal brazier under
it. Rob ordered some hot chocolate for us, and the younger
brothers came in with mischief on their faces. They had a
little bottle of apple brandy, and they asked for some glasses.
They poured some for everyone and we sipped the brandy with
our hot chocolate. After dinner and an evening of conversation
and political debate among the trekkers of various nationalities
who assembled at our warm table, I retired to my room and
had no trouble sleeping.
travelogue is part of the subside