A huge improvement in the weather today. This morning it became quite warm in the sun. My leggings came off for the first time in a few days. Perhaps that’s too much info. Fact is they are cozy under my dress during the day and cozy in my sleeping bag at night…so they just stay on. There has been no place for any showers since we left Kathmandu. When it’s warm enough we have wee sponge baths in our room. This is generally a cold uncomfortable and largely inadequate process. Today however we were confronted with an oddity. There is a sink with running water outside the toilet. Seriously a novel and wonderful luxury. So I washed my hair! Marianne and I also acquired two small bowls of warm water which we took to our room. Warm water to wash in! Joy! Judging by the filth of that water when we were done it wasn’t a moment too soon.The trek from Junbesi to our current location – Kharikhola – was fairly arduous. The trail in this area is still very badly damaged from overuse during the monsoon season after the 2015 earthquake. Usually during the wet season there is little mule traffic on the trail but that year there was a great deal due to re building requirements.
The sodden ground under the trail’s paving stones was soft so the heavy mules caused the pavers to sink into the mud at odd and random angles. The result is a trail which is very difficult to navigate. Large pavers that should be horizontal rise up at odd angles. Add to this that mule mud I told you about and one faces challenging walking conditions.
Although today the trail was less muddy and slimy than yesterday, it was all steep down hill for the first half of the walk. We crossed a suspension bridge then it was all steep uphill for the second half. Five and a half hours of either up or down. Tiring. But the short day brought us to our guest house while the weather was still pleasant. Within moments of our arrival the afternoon deluge began amid some crashing and rumbling nearby thunder. The storm is now passed.
We’ve walked up a set of steep steps (and back down again) to a monastery where we had sweet tea. The head Llama gave Tendi and me an explanatory tour of the fierce frescos of various gods painted on the walls. Pink and purple and red gods with multiple heads and limbs holding dead human bodies and wearing scull necklaces around their necks. These gods, with wicked grimaces and snarls, surrounded by flames, perch on lotus flower cushions. Seems a tad incongruous to me but what do I know of these things? As the deciphering was in Nepali I remain as mystified as before the tour.
We saw the funniest thing yesterday which I forgot to tell you about. There are many mule trains plying this trail. One particular train announced its arrival behind us with the happy jingle of the many bells the mules wear around their necks. We had just crossed a suspension bridge so stood aside to let them pass. Only one of the mules turned onto the bridge. The rest carried on to a ford a little further on. Now these mules were all carrying massive bundles of tall dried grasses in baskets on either side of their backs. As the mules trotted along the grasses swayed in concert with the hoof beats. The lone mule who crossed the bridge was busy reaching his head up and around to reach the grass bundles he was carrying. He achieved his goal and began to munch away on his load. He looked so pleased with himself as he passed us by. Puri helped him out a bit by pulling a bit more grass forward from the bundle. Eventually all the other mules caught up and passed us by with a merry ringing of hundreds of bells and the joyous swaying of their loads. I imagined them showing off to the other mules.
“Look at you poor suckers with your heavy loads of propane tanks and cement bags. And see us with our delicious grasses!”
Tomorrow we head off towards the Arun Valley. For both Marianne and I this will be new territory. A careful examination of the map promises an interesting trail. For now good night from Hill Top Lodge in Kharikhola.