The Annapurnas: Taking It Slow to Jhinnu Danda & Relaxing in The Hot Springs

Day 10: Ghurjung – Chhomrong

A confused cockerel is crowing outside our window at 4am. Go the fuck to sleep confused cockerel.

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I can’t say I’ve had the best night’s sleep, but it’ll have to do. Breakfast this morning is a bit of a challenge. The kids don’t always handle the daily vagaries of cooking styles found whilst travelling and this morning’s lemon sugar pancakes are not what was expected. The kids aren’t always tactful at voicing displeasure and what with the chef mere feet away, I’m feeling stressed. I shove my porridge at Ben and eat the pancake. I admit, breakfasts are often frustrating experiences. Chloe has a serious case of the grass is always greener and on an almost daily basis I can be sure to hear “I wish I’d gotten *insert whatever I ordered for breakfast here* instead” as she stares longingly at my dish.

Another easy one today, mostly Nepali flat, which is to say not actually flat, but rather up and down, up and down, up and down…you get the idea. We’ve been joined by two mountain dogs today who’ve decided to follow us, presumably in the hopes of the occasional biscuit. Or maybe they just like us. The kids certainly like them, especially Chloe. It’s like she has a pet dog for the day and she trots along at a record pace beside them. I knew she could walk faster than she has been!

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She really wants the dog. I think it wants her too.

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It’s overcast today and the mist flows in and around us intermittently, lending a mysterious air to the place. The air cools, bulls butt heads and lock horns by the side of the path, dogs bark at each other across the valley.

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We arrive in Chhomrong in time for lunch and stay at the Fishtail Guest House. Ben and Chloe play outdoors and spend some time with Bel who takes them to a stand of bamboo trees and makes them each a bamboo walking stick by hand. Honestly, this guy is gold. I’m so thankful that we got him as our porter. And really, he is so much more than that.

 

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As the afternoon wears on the wind picks up, whipping the prayer flags back and forth on their lines. The clouds roll in and the sky darkens. It feels cosy to be indoors and I enjoy the warmth while the wind blows outside. The kids play on outdoors oblivious to the cold, just thin cotton leggings and T shirts on their skinny bodies. How do they do it?

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Dinner is over and we’ve met a nice French couple. They play cards and Chloe wants to know the rules, so they invite her over and teach her. She’s so happy and plays a few rounds with them. It’s a perfect card game to while away the time, and while I don’t actually know what it’s called, I can explain the rules next time we meet. In honour of our teachers, we just call it “The French Game”.

Distance: 4.3km

Hotel: Fishtail Guest House

Cost: $4 for Triple room with shared bathroom

Additional Information: WiFi $1 per person, Charging $1 per device

 

Day 11: Chhomrong – Jhinnu Danda

I wake up at 5am and can’t get back to sleep. When you go to bed at 8pm every night, you tend to be an early riser. I lie in bed listening to the wind whistling through the valley and expect the day to be overcast and cool. Just before 7am I get out of bed and walk outside to clear skies and the rising sun. Pink light bathes the peak of Annapurna South which rises up before me. Machhapuchhare ain’t looking half bad either.

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I know I keep saying this, but it’s another short one today. We’re heading to Jhinnu Danda which is only about an hour from here, and downhill all the way. Why are we stopping so soon? There are hot springs near Jhinnu. That’s a good enough reason for me!  We are going to go soak in them all afternoon and relax. You know, cause we haven’t been doing enough of that.

One of the dogs who followed us yesterday decides to tag along again today. He shadows us as we descend stone staircases and step aside for donkey trains and porters carrying fresh produce and live chickens.

 

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We stop for a rest where a woman has a small shop sits cutting sugarcane in the sun. She motions us over and hands us some to chew on. The liquid inside is deliciously sweet, and while Ben can’t get over the fibrous delivery system, Chloe enthusiastically chews away. Seeing her enjoyment, the old lady hands us a few more stalks to cut open for later. As we continue downwards Alex stops to talk to an elderly man with a large white sack on his back. He’s carrying 70kg of potatoes all the way to Pokhara to sell. 70kg!

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Looking down at Jhinnu Danda.

It’s mid-morning and we’ve done our walking for the day. Such hardcore trekkers are we. We settle into Jhinnu Guest House, our home for today. A large cockerel struts around, an unfriendly cat slinks by. Chloe and Ben run around in the sunshine while Alex sketches and I go to the local water tap to do some much needed clothes washing. Squatting in front of a soapy bucket, sloshing clothes around and scrubbing them clean, I feel at peace. It’s a chore, yes, but one that the day’s warmth makes pleasant.

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With lunch in our bellies and clothes hanging in the sun to dry it’s time to enjoy the hot springs. It’s time for a laid back, fun afternoon but Chloe didn’t get the memo. It starts with a broken keychain. The one she bought from the Tibetans on our first visit to Kande has been living on her backpack and it suddenly snaps, dropping beads over the flagstones. But wait! It’s ok, we have all the beads, we can fix it. Apparently that’s not good enough. It won’t be the same. It won’t be as good. There’s no such thing as an accident, someone needs to be blamed. It’s a full-blown fit. Bel stands waiting for us to Alex sends me off ahead with Ben and says he’ll catch us up with Chloe when she’s calmed down. We wait at the payment booth and eventually Alex and Chloe appear along the trail. Alex looks frustrated, Chloe has stormy eyes. Onwards goes the happy family. We have a half hour walk through the forest down to the river and as we descend it becomes clear that Chloe’s expectations of the hot spring may not match reality. In Thailand the hot spring we visited was actually in the river, with mini waterfalls cascading down between tiered pools. When she discovers that the water from the hot spring here is in square concrete pools beside the river she is unimpressed. It’s just not natural enough. She stops dead, glowering at us like it’s our fault. Like we built them that way just to spite her. We keep walking but realise we probably shouldn’t leave our child alone in a forest in the Himalayan foothills, so Alex hands me all our stuff and once again sends me on ahead to catch up with Ben and Bel while he waits for Chloe. It’s quite possible they won’t be joining us.

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When I reach the hot springs I help Ben into his swimming gear, get him showered and plop him in the water next to Bel. I left Alex about half an hour ago. Just as I’m about to get into my own swimming stuff and have given up on Alex and Chloe appearing, I see them walking down the steps towards us. I can’t say that their faces are the picture of happiness, but at least they are here. I help Chloe get changed. Now that she’ s here, she’s seen the size of the pools. When we said ‘pool’, she thought ‘swimming pool’. These pools are too small. Oh my GOD child, what on Earth has gotten into you today?? I grit my teeth, tell her I don’t want to hear another word of complaint out of her mouth and finally go to get myself changed.

Once we’re bathing in the warm waters all grumpiness ebbs away. The water soothes our bodies and we look out along the river with it’s glacial turquoise waters and raise our gazes up the steep rocky cliffs shrouded in green. It’s beautiful. We relax and chat while the kids swish and splash. When our fingers and toes are all wrinkled up and the light is softening into late afternoon we decide it’s time to go. Its perfect timing too, because a large group of rowdy 20-somethings arrives just as we’re getting out.  They settle in and crack open some beers. The peace was good while it lasted.

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Distance: A whopping 2km

Hotel: Jhinu Guest House

Cost: $4.50 for triple room with shared bathroom.

Additional info: $1 for WiFi, no plug sockets in room.

 

 

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