Four hours of hard hiking with few stops takes us to Shyangmochen. We are back on the same trail we took on the way in, and we’re staying in the tearoom where we had lunch on our way to Gheling.
It seems a lot softer and more civilized on the way out than it did when we stopped for lunch so many days ago It has a hot water shower that actually gets above tepid (though the air temperature makes it a challenge not to lose all the warmth of the shower and then some while drying and dressing.) The lunch table is set up directly beneath a traditional Mustang skylight. There are electric lights and even a couple of power outlets. The beds and pillows have sheets and pillow cases. Really, it’s practically the Ritz.
Perhaps energized by the slightly lower altitude and the half day of hiking, I decide it’s time to wash a bunch of clothes. The village’s washing is done at the community tap, fed in an endless stream that flows out of the irrigation system. And back into it, for that matter, since any water that flows from the tap is recaptured for the crops downhill.
I share the tap with several women who are obviously better at this than I. They bring big metal bowls that they fill with soap, clothes, and water, working up an impressive lather while I’m rubbing a bit of hand soap into my clothes, one sock at a time. It doesn’t take long for me to learn what seems to be a universal female phrase for, “If you’re done messing about in a typically useless male way, would you reconnect the hose so we can get about our business?” I also learn not to stand about downwind of the tap when they’re vigorously rinsing.
The best part of doing the wash is the drying. The afternoon wind is again hitting 50 mph and the sun is out. I hang the wet clothes on a metal wire clothesline. It’s very satisfying when hiking to have reasonable confidence that in the morning your clothes will be not just cleanish but that you won’t be putting them on wet, which tends to take the joy out of clean clothes.