Day 45- Location: Nepal, Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Jhinu
I was woken up at 6am after a bad sleep from noise on the nearby path, the Nepalese already cruising up and down this mountain highway. After breakfast we started down the steps towards Jhinu, through a village where some kids had found a very sick chicken who couldn’t walk. One of the young boys was really upset. They were cheered up a few minutes later when a Australian lady came by and gave them all pens!
We crossed the old and dodgy bridge at the bottom of Chhomrong. As we climbed up towards the village we passed Rose (the Dutch girl) again. For the next hour we went up the endless staircase through Chhomrong, leapfrogging with Rose. Near the top of Chhomrong we veered around the hill to the left on a different path, squeezing past some buffalo who were wandering on the path. I asked Shibu why they were allowed to roam free – he said they would head home for dinner when they got hungry.
For a few hours we descended steps under the bright sun. The trekkers going the other way were knackered from the hard climb. I spotted a few big lizards by the path, and the air was full of flying beetles. They also lay scattered on the steps. Shibu said they were out to mate and the ones on the ground were dying.
We arrived at the village of Jhinu, its four hotels spread over a steep slope. Despite Shibu reserving a hotel in advance, they’d rebuked the reservation and we had to stay at another. After lunch we got changed and headed down a steep path through the jungle towards Jhinu’s main attraction, its natural hot spring.
Half an hour’s walk brought us to a very fast, strong river at the valley bottom. There stood a little stone hut for changing and a man took a small fee for access to the hot springs, which were sitting right next to the river.
Two rectangular pools had been built and hot water flowed out of pipes into the pools. After a wash under a pipe, me and Shiba dipped in. The water was lovely. There were only six others here, and they had company. Big white monkeys, Languars, were hanging around only meters from the pool. Sometimes you’d see them licking the rocks, Shiba said they like the taste of the water from the hot springs. The monkeys were easily spooked and kept their distance when more people arrived. They eventually retreated into the trees as it got busier and didn’t return.
The pool was really relaxing after 4 days of hard trekking. Shiba had a long piece of string looped over his shoulder, crossing his body. I asked him about it and it is something that all of his caste, the Brahmin, wear every day. They first get the string in a ceremony when they are 15, and change it every few weeks.
More and more tourists arrived until the place was packed. I chatted to some Australians and Rose showed up. I caught up with her and some British girls she knew. Meters away from the pools was the rushing river. The brave went for a quick dip in the shallow river water to the side, which was freezing. After Rose survived the plunge I decided to try too. My body screamed out in shock, but returning into the pool I felt great – all my pores opened wide and my skin was cleansed.
A Korean man sat next to me and started singing a dramatic song really loudly, which made me and the girls laugh. After a while he pointed out a Korean lady in the pool and told us she is a famous Korean singer – he was singing one of her songs. Then he and some other Koreans got her to perform. It was a bizarre scene, sitting in the hot pool whilst she sang the dramatic and waily song in her swimming costume! The Korean’s of course were enthralled and clapped and cheered for her afterwards. Not the place I’d expected to find a celebrity!
We stayed in the pool for a few hours and eventually my body, now wrinkled like a prune, couldn’t take any more and so we walked back up to the lodge to relax. I felt the cleanest I had for a week! As darkness fell I popped over to another hotel to join the British girls for a drink. Back at my lodge for dinner, I watched a big group of trekkers being given a final pep talk from their guide, and then we were entertained by their porters, who were singing a local mountain song, drumming along, and taking turns to dance – energetic and extravagant, featuring twirling and foot stomping. I did some photo work and turned in for the night.