I decide to spend a day in Marpha, a day without the weight of my pack digging into my shoulders. Pete is on a tighter schedule, so he and Kaji trek on together towards Muktinath. We exchange addresses and hope to meet again one day, a desire echoed by countless travelers when they part ways.
I hike to a Tibetan refugee camp known as Chairok Camp on the other side of the valley. Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags billow, flap, furl and unfurl in the breeze that speaks as it buffets off the sandstone valley walls, carrying the prayers skyward. The refugees are fleeing the Chinese government's repression of their culture and their religion, just as their spiritual and political leader, the 14th and current Dalai Lama, had to do in 1959.
The gold-colored roof of the camp's Tibetan Buddhist monastery, known as a gompa, stands above Chairok Camp's stone-walled streets. Many Tibetans are out trying to sell jewelry to travelers such as myself. This refugee camp wouldnÕt exist if they were allowed to freely pursue their culture and their religion in their homeland.
I return to Marpha at sunset and sample some of the specialties of the apple capital of the world, apple pie and apple brandy.