Monday morning I woke up at 5 AM in Pokhara and headed to the airport. After staying up pretty late for a friend’s birthday, you could say I wasn’t exactly a happy camper. All fourteen students plus three staff members crammed into a transport van and left the comfort of the hotel beds and departed for Mustang.
Once I stepped off the eighteen minute flight through the Himalayas, the fact that I had gotten a couple hours of sleep didn’t phase me anymore. After living in Nepal for six weeks and not having seen a clear view of the tallest mountain range on earth, arriving in Jomsom was exhilarating. I stepped off the twenty-seater plane on to the runway, and when I turned my back I was greeted by the fresh mountain air and a spectacular view.
Shortly after arriving in Jomsom we departed for Muktinath, the sight of a holy Hindu / Buddhist temple. About a two hour jeep ride away, the small mountain town sits around 12,000 feet. Muktinath is an extremely important religious sight for Hindus, thousands of people go on a pilgrimage to the temple each year. Placed on the top of a hill in the town the temple offers incredible views of the Himalayan range admist the desert scenery. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. Hindus believe that if you make the pilgrimage to Muktinath and bathe under the 108 spouts of holy water this will be your last life, you will not have to be reincarnated again. Keeping with tradition, myself and a few of my other classmates completed the act – although in my case, bathing isn’t exactly the appropriate word. It was much more of a short sprint under the freezing water.
The next day we set out to trekk to the village we would be spending a week conducting research and living with a family in, Tukche. Anxiously we awoke to find a long continuous rain – strange weather for the region which sits on the other side of the Himalayas close to the Tibetan Plateau. For three hours that seemed more like three days, our group trekked through the rain, cold and wet in our socks but without a dampening in our spirits.
The next day we were happy to find the rain had stopped. We left Marpha around eight AM and headed off to meet our new Nepali families in the Thakali village of Tukche.