Saturday 9th March

‘Ow! I think I’ve burnt my bum,’ said Hayley jumping out the water. We are at the hot springs in Charme, a village shadowed by the Annapurna 2 range.

We’d seen the sign ‘Hot Spring’ when we arrived in Charme on Friday afternoon. Last night we decided to take a rest day here, so this morning, at our request, Dil took us down to the hot springs. The main concrete tub, which from a faded photo in the tourist office looks like it would normally house the water, was dusty dry. Settled on the bench and the boulders around and we just enjoyed the sun instead. This morning we had woken up with frost on our tents for the first time.

Dil came over to us and said, ‘The people down there are leaving, you can go down.’ It is Saturday and a lot of local people are washing their clothes and themselves amongst the boulders. What I hadn’t realised was that the hot water was also streaming out from under the rocks, straight into the river.

With Dil’s help I went down with Hayley. We dipped our bitten legs in the small pool, while a local man happily carried on sorting his laundry next to us. There was snow-cold water streaming in on one side and hot water seeping into the pool on the other.

‘Lets come back later and bathe properly,’ said Hayley.

And we did. We’ve returned wearing things we want to wash so we can go in fully clothed. It’s a popular place. We sat on the warm, smooth, marble-like boulders for about 15 minutes, with the river racing around the rocks creating a white spray, like fat spitting in a pan.

Eventually, two monks put their maroon over-robes back on, gather their washing and leave. We clamber round to the same spot as this morning, while James keeps guard and occupies three kids who’ve come to play. It is then that Hayley moves too close to the source.