To see the Himalayan mountains is to wash the soul of all the sin accumulated in a lifetime.
Seriously, Hindu beliefs aside, the Himalayas really do feel like the home of the gods – one of the few places on earth that make you feel in the presence of the miraculous. There are pine forests, thundering rivers charging down the centre of the valleys and imposing glaciers that guard the slopes with the patience of a god.
Nestled on the slopes are villages whose houses are mostly built from clay and wood. Tourism brings concrete construction with it but essentially the life is pastoral and idyllic. Donkeys flatten out the hay, corn dries on the rooves and cows are herded up the mountain to graze by old ladies who knit jerseys as they climb.
Natural hot springs are to be found all over and some are channelled into hot baths in the temples. Everyone bathes in their underwear and to soak in hot sulphur water beneath a full moon with some snow falling is not the kind of experience you forget in a hurry. The temples are home to grumpy sadhus who may permit you to join their circle around the fire. Be polite and bring some food as an offering.
The mountains change through the seasons and so the beauty is vivid and alive. In Spring the apple trees bloom and there is still snow on the peaks. Monsoon comes and the slopes glow a psychedelic green in the torrential downpours. Flowers and plants grow inches every day and you can’t believe there could be so much water in the sky. Then comes autumn and the smell of wood smoke is everywhere as the cold kicks in again and the crops are laid out to dry on the rooves. The leaves fall and a thousand views are opened up. Then winter can be sunny and cold or snowy and isolated. There are power cuts for weeks at a time and you understand why you really have to have your shit together in the mountains.