Monday 25th December 2017 – Christmas Day!
The walk today was different – we walked along the Kali Gandaki River heading towards Jomsom (2,743m/8,999 ft) all the while looking at the pebbles at our feet in hopes of finding ammonite fossils or black stones (also known as ‘shaligrams’ which are sacred to Hindus as they take it as the form of God Vishnu). Alas, we found none but members of our party did, so they were very fortunate.
Walked along the pebbled ‘trail’ that was narrow- one slip and we would have fallen in to the cold river that was, in parts, very fast following. I found this quite exciting and adventurous but other members of our party did not, especially when the pebbles shifted beneath your feet and you felt at any moment you were going to slide down the embankment into the water!
Heading in to Jomsom, the district headquarters and administrative and commercial center, you see a beautiful big building which turns out to be a very colourful and grand Buddhist monastery with primary school yard in front. The Nepalese do like their colour and large monasteries – it’s very obvious to see that religious has a huge significance here.
Child labour is a big issue within Nepal. It is illegal but still occurs. Approximately millions of young people (5-17 years old) are working in domestic labour, agriculture and the carpet industry without access to schooling (this figure may be higher or lower, various sources give differing accounts). Schooling costs and poorer families lose income whilst the child is at school so don’t bother to send them. Charities such as Educate the Children ask for donations to help fund a child through schooling or provide resources for them.
To see this sign was a positive but sadly we only saw it in Jomsom…
After another enjoyable lunch (I had a sandwich this time!) we headed out to Marpha but via Dhumba Lake. Dhumba Lake is a beautiful, clear water lake situated at the base of Mount Nilgiri with holy significance for Buddhists. There is an interesting story behind this lake: storytellers say that the lake water once turned red and only after long, devoted religious ceremonies performed by Tibetan Buddhists the water returned to its natural bright turquoise colour and has been considered a sacred lake ever since: because of its religious significant the fish from the lake are never consumed.
I took so many pictures here. It’s so picturesque and calming, I could have stayed all day just sitting on it’s banks listening to the bird song.
When we arrived at Marpha (2667m) we visited the dominating yet very impressive Nyingma monastery, climbing its many steps to get a good view of the village and the Gandaki River valley. In side the monestary, young monks were playing a game in the court yard with a ball of string- throwing it at each other and trying to avoid getting hit by it.
Our accommodation for the night was nice; in fact, today’s walk was nice and interesting but I found it emotionally hard on this day. We’d been fully aware from the moment of booking that we would miss our families on Christmas Day – it’s a big event each year with lavish gifts, tasty food and loving family around us; something the both of us looking forward to (we didn’t even bother put up decorations this year as we wouldn’t be around).
Terry was able to call his kids and sister via WhatsApp and I contacted family via Messenger but it didn’t feel right not to be with them. Whilst I think we’d both happily go on another trek over Christmas Day it’ll take a lot of consideration in the future…
The Nepalese were kind, they made us a Christmas cake and bought wine. Christmas is celebrated subtly here and not in the ‘shove it down your throat’ way we do in the UK. There was music and dancing in to the evening (the Nepalese men sure love to dance); I have a video but cannot upload it to this blog sadly.
Our Christmas cake made by the Nepalese. MC = Merry Christmas. So very thoughtful of them.
Three days sleeping on a double bed! Totally spoilt!