Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Day 11 (Muktinath)
I woke up today at 07:00, freshened up a bit, and then had breakfast (fried eggs, fried potatoes with onions and tomatoes, toast, and a cup of coffee). I then hung around the hotel for some time, switched rooms (now on the top floor, it is slightly warmer and more bearable than my last room), and had an Americano out on the terrace, where I talked with one of the Australian guys from last night’s drinking. I then grabbed my camera and walked outside to see the surrounding area.
I walked westward through Ranipauwa, met the Englishman from Ice Lake, talked with him for a while about traversing the pass and the forty victims who succumbed to the freezing cold blizzard on October 14th, and then continued on through the desert landscape to the town of Jharkot. After about thirty minutes of walking, I reached Jharkot and walked around the town, passing by the Chorten and prayer wheel wall, and seeing great views of the valley and mountains near the edge of the cliff that the town is built near. I then walked through the town and visited the Gompa perched at the high point next to the edge of the cliff; inside the Gompa, the main prayer hall looked like many others I had seen here in the Annapurna region; it was a square room with many Buddhist frescoes on the walls, large Buddha statues at the center of the backside wall for worshiping, the ceiling raised in the center with a second level surrounding the center (restricted to monks), and many celebratory masks and instruments throughout; also, this Gompa had a Tibetan medicinal room with jars of seeds and a room for drying out various plants for medicinal use. After visiting the Gompa, I walked around the town some more before continuing on a side trail that led me through beautiful terraced farms with many trees showing their Autumn colors. I then reached the small town of Purang and walked around there for a while before continuing on back to Muktinath, passing by a small lake with many prayer flags streamed over it. Once back in Muktinath, I walked to the temple area, high above the town and surrounded by a white wall. I walked inside the enclosed area and first visited the Shiva temple; then I walked past some small temples to the Vishnu Lokhesvara temple, where I had to take off my shoes and socks to visit the actual inner temple, behind another wall; many Hindus were in line, bearing gifts and I talked to one man who told me his idea of Hinduism; I then walked around the temple (clockwise of course), which is surrounded by 108 holy water fountains, before exiting and returning to my shoes and socks (I later read in my guide book that the inner temple is for Hindus only and I should not have entered . . . and I especially should not have entered with my belt and wallet since they are made of leather; oops – I’ll have to remember that for when I go to India); as I was putting my shoes back on, three Hindu guys stripped to their boxer briefs to bathe in the two pools of water in front of the Vishnu Lokhesvara temple. I then walked to a large Chorten and then to the Dhola Mebar Gompa before exiting the temple area and walking back to my hotel.
Once back at the hotel, I had lunch (a mushroom pizza) and then took a scolding hot shower (coming out if a hose as opposed to an actual shower head) in a cold room. I then walked to a nearby hotel in Ranipauwa that has a Russian sauna (I had time to kill and a sauna sounded nice); I met the Englishman from Ice Lake again and talked for a while; he then walked down to Jharkot and I walked in to the hotel with the sauna, but was denied its use since I was only one person and not worth the effort to turn it on; so I walked back to the hotel, filled up my camel-back with water at a safe drinking water station, and then relaxed in my room for quite some time. When it was time for dinner, I walked down to the restaurant and had a beer, a mixed garden salad, and a yak steak with steamed vegetables and French fries – yak tastes like beef, no surprise there. I then relaxed in my room some more before coming out again for dessert – I had a slice if apple pie with chocolate syrup and an Americano; I then had a beer to finish off the evening before retiring to my room for the night.