Saturday 13 November
A Day Off In Muktinath
Itinerary: DAY 13 Muktinath A day for relaxing and exploring Muktinath, a pilgrimage centre for both Hindus and Buddhists. At the pilgrimage site, there is a pagoda-style temple dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu. Next to the temple there is a wall with 108 waterspouts in the form of cows' heads, pouring underground spring water. A Buddhist temple well known for its continual burning natural gas is also situated in the same vicinity.
After another good sleep (Andrew's assisted by codeine and a boiled egg midnight snack), we were woken with tea at 7 am, then hot water, and breakfast at 8 am - onion omelette and pancake, after porridge.
We watch a buffalo's head being prepared for butchery - all its hair being burnt off with a blowlamp. Meanwhile our crew purchase and butcher a healthy looking goat.
A mammoth clothes washing session continues in our area of the campsite, after which we take turns to shower at a nearby hotel. Hotter water than in Manang, but for some of us, not much of it. Apparently, some wood has to be burnt to get it going. The day is sunny again despite last night's cloud - the tents were covered in frost, and my thermometer read 2C in the tent this morning.
The sun came up late around 9 am on the campsite, so we strolled around the village (above) before doing our washing. Hosta has constructed a huge washing line which has a tendency to sag! Trekkers drift out of the village during the morning and seem to regard us as some sort of curiosity. Most people seem to move straight on from here, so perhaps our fellow treckkers tomorrow will be a different group of people.
Crows hop around in anticipation of some leftover goat or yak.
Postcards, etc, then an excellent lunch - goat's liver, chickpea and paneer curry, chips, coleslaw ("salad") and puri.
A short break, then Sanjeev and Manesh take us up to the temple/monastery - surrounded by a high white wall and barbed wire, covering quite an area. This is the real Muktinath, whilst we are staying in the village below the temple, correctly known as Ranipauwa, but known colloquially as Muktinath.
The temple includes 108 springs flowing from pipes whose exits are shaped like animals' heads. Before we know it, it's 4:30 and the sun has disappeared behind Dhauligiri. Time for tea and snacks, before another nice dinner. Before dinner the sherpas drew "HAPPY TIAAR!" on the earth above our tents and placed candles in the letters. It is Diwali, time to celebrate.
And so, to an excellent dinner - spaghetti and veg, goat 'steak' (actually very tasty goat burgers, mashed potato and squash fritters. Then we cracked open some beer (takeaways from our pre-dinner drinks hotel nearby) and ate some of Deepak's excellent chocolate cake, before being joined by nearly 20 of the crew for dancing and singing to Nepalese Diwali drum music. This afforded an hour's entertainment - 8 to 9 pm, before the crew went first footing and we went to bed. The celebrations included various rituals including the laying of money by us and the thanking blessing by the crew. The women porters didn't come.