The snow-capped Tibetan mountains loomed up in the far distance as we trekked through Nepal up a valley to the highest village on our trek, Kyanjin.
Our path took us past stupas still showing damage from the earthquake two years ago and over a swaying suspension bridge, adorned with brightly coloured prayer flags. As we approached our destination, the final uphill section afforded us a view over the little village: an array of stone buildings with striking bright blue roofs at an altitude of 3,830 metres.
Our bhatti (teahouse), at four storeys high, was one of the larger buildings, but it stood out among all the others, primarily because it was painted a bright lime green. It was three flights of stairs up to the large, comfortable living area but the panoramic views were worth it.
Strolling through the village, our group was treated to a tour of a small traditional cheese factory. A local described how they made and stored the yak cheese. I bought some cheese and decided to follow some of the group up the hill towards a small stupa.
A little way along our route I spotted a small stone hut built against an enormous leaning rock, the underside of which was blackened with smoke from a little chimney. The gaps in the stone frontage of the hut were covered with yak dung for insulation. A little pale blue window stood out against the grey and there was a tiny solar panel in the corner of the roof.
Our guide Ram went up to the hut and called out. Seeing that someone was home, he asked if a couple of us could enter.
Inside, the hut was sparsely decorated: only a few personal effects and a single electric lightbulb attached to an upright timber. We sat on the edge of a small bed, because the rocky ceiling was too low to stand straight. Ram, hunched down in the doorway, struggled to translate the man’s Tibetan/ Nepalese dialect, but we managed a brief, stilted conversation with him.
The man told us he had lived in the hut alone his entire life as a hermit. He had never married or had children. The hut would get very cold in the winter, he said.
We watched the hermit use a pipe which allowed him to blow air to fan the flames of a small fire he was lighting without having to kneel down. He was about to cook his dinner on the fire, but it would double as his only source of heating through the night.
We thanked this amazing man for his hospitality, and I gave him a piece of my yak cheese to have with his evening meal.
Moments like these are all the more precious for being so rare when travelling. Heading off up the hill, I thought about that experience as being one of the most significant local connections I could make.