View at Muktinat (centre, far distance) at the foot of the Thorong La pass (centre, between two high mountains).
“Two lost souls in the riverbed, two clean souls in the riverbed, ....”, I was singing silently as we walked the last hour back to Jomson against a fierce dry wind, my face protected by a scarf and jacket hood. We returned from a two day trip to Muktinat, a famous Hindu pilgrimage place in the mountains of the Mustang Region close to Tibet. In the far distance in the barren river valley, I could see the two friends of Dorjé Sherpa following us.
After doing the Daulaghiri Round Trek in only two weeks and crossing two passes of 5400 and 5l00 m, we still had two more days in Jomson. This is on the edge of the famous Mustang area, a dry area en route to Tibet from Pokhara. Culturally, Mustang resembles Dolpo, the isolated region to the West high up in the mountains, but is easier accessible. The people of Mustang and Dolpo are both of Tibetan origin.
Muktinat, the famous Hindu pilgrimage place with the 102 water taps at the base of the Thorung La Pass at 3600 m, would be the best choice for a two day trip to spent the spare days. Dorjé Sherpa was keen to be our guide and it took a bit of persistence plus a call to Tendy on the satellite phone, our expedition outfitter, to take him along.
Dorjé was extremely happy he could come along and insisted he should carry my backpack. After spending a week above 3600 m in Daulaghiri, Henny and I were extremely fit and we had a high pace. This was needed as it would be a long day, normally done in 1.5 days.
Past Jomson the true Mustang Desert starts and the people live of a barren and cold land just like in Tibet. This area is the start of the rain shadow, the high mountain ranges of Dhaulagiri  and Anapurna  blocking the warm, moist weather from the South.
The first two hours we walked in the broad river bed surrounded by barren, high mountains.
We passed few houses and a single small apple orchard but for the rest it was all rocks and gravel with little vegetation. Higher up, in the distance you could see small villages surrounded by the only green fields on sparse flat areas. After two hours we reached a small tourist settlement with a few simple restaurants and hotels for Hindu pilgrims and Western tourists.
This is the half way point, from here it goes up, from 2900 to 3600 m. The dry daily afternoon wind already started to pick up during lunch on the restaurant terrace.
After lunch we went up, getting a nice view of the area.
View North along the main river bed.
We met Hindu pilgrims regularly returning from Muktinat. After one hour we had a view at Muktinat and the Thorong La Pass of the Anapurna Round but it would still take three hours of going up slowly before we finally arrived, having a constant view at the village and Thorung La pass, feeling much closer than they were .
The neighboring villages were still original  except for the apple trees and electricity, but Muktinat was disappointing, mainly consisting of recent hotels for white tourists and Hindu pilgrims.
Here we met the French and Italian runners again we first saw in Marpha near Jomson, 2 days ago. They participated in a 23 day run from Anapurna Base Camp to Everest Base Camp, total distance around 1000 km (?), 38 km up, 37 km down, See Website . Tomorrow they would cross the 5400 m high Torung La pass and today was a day off, also for a medical chech-up.
An Italian runner sitting outside in the cool afternoon sun took 4.5 hours from Marpha, we did this in 6 hours but with two stops. I told him this in French as he did not speak English but he did not react and tried to stop the conversation.
The contrast between the female runners walking around in tights and the local women was enormous, not just the dress, no, more their activities, participating in a sponsored mountain run in a country were the average income is 1 dollar a day. I got mixed feelings.
Temple with 102 taps.
At 5 PM we finally arrived at the temple and I pulled out my bathing shorts to take a cleansing bath, the idea that you walk in the fountain and get sprayed by each tap to clean your body and soul completely.
On testing the water temperature I got second thoughts, especially when I saw ice on the edge of the fountains, and the water was near freezing. I decided to “clean” my left hand only to stimulate the full healing of the sprained wrist which was still sensitive and to clean this dirty hand. I barely made it till the end nearly slipping on the ice and the hand was very cold.
An old man and woman did the same, also cleaning the dirty left hand, the hand used for dirty things like a toilet. Now they would be ready for a reincarnation.
At sunset it got cold and the streets were deserted. Being November, the temperature dropped to -10 Celsius this night. In the hotel Dorjé met two friends from Kathmandu, a young couple, Anil and xxxxx.
Going down to the half way point was easy, also because the head wind did not start until noon.
We walked along with Dorjé’s friends who tried and managed to keep up with our fast pace.
Past the big hanging bridge we lost shelter and now the wind was howling through the valley.
The two friends toke a wrong turn and had to wade through the stream.
At the last narrow part, they were a km behind.
Passing the cliff in a narrow part, now in the open wide riverbed the storm-force wind hit us full.
“Two lost souls in the riverbed, two clean souls in the riverbed, ....”, it sat in my head for the last hour back to Jomson. The wind was fierce and dry. My face protected by a scarf and jacket hood, still my I could barely look ahead, the strong wind making my eyes to tear and the noise was loud. One more hour to go.