Nepal has always seemed like a bit of a fantasy to me. Somewhere around my college years when I fell in love with hiking I used to imagine walking the great mountains. It never really seemed attainable, it was something adventurous people do, its the stuff of legends.
While I was planning my post-China travel I began to realize how close it could be, I read how it actually wasn’t insanely expensive and how it seemed within my grasp, but for some reason Nepal seemed intimidating. I actually told everyone I changed my mind and wasn’t going to do it…. but then I guess I felt like I was cheating myself not to go. I spent so many years plotting my great escape that to do anything less then the spectacular would be wrong.
So I booked my flight and went to chase the mountains. I had no idea what trek I would do, I had no travel buddies and was frankly really freaked out about what I was going to do.
Fate tends to be kind to me and after I spent 5 hours stressful hours in the Kathmandu airport, I got stuffed into a taxi with a British girl who was also staying at my hostel. Within minutes we realized we both came here to trek and both were in search of a buddy. We were both were 26, both unemployed homeless travelers, both wildly sarcastic and both slightly intimidated to be in Nepal.
We were sold a trek through out hostel in possible the absolute dumbest way to book a trek and once again fate was kind because we were not really smart about the whole thing but still got an amazing guide and porter who we completely adored. I’ll write more about the whole business of guides and porters at some point but our guide Raj was our age, had a masters in Sociology and Anthropology and quoted Milton, Frost, and E.E.Cummings at us during our trek. Our porter was a 22year old named Hari who spoke little English but was like a little brother. At first we felt crazy guilty giving him our bag to carry but frankly weighing him down seemed to help with over excitability. He was always throwing snow at us or chasing donkeys or something else crazy and hilarious. I can’t state enough how much they made our trek amazing.
We walked the Annapurna Circuit, one of the world’s greatest walks, 145 miles done over 16 days (including 2 rest days) and crossing a high pass at Thorung La at 5416 meters. We had amazing views of some of tallest mountains in the world and saw the scenery dramatically change, going from farmlands, into alpine areas, through deserts and ending in a rhododendron forests. We also walked the whole thing, dur to roads being built many people end immedially after the pass but we continued on to the end. There was some rumors that the trail is also dusty roads after the pass, but since we had a guide we were actualy only walked maybe an hour on the road.
These were some immediate thoughts I had about the trek
I had set the goal of being present during the trek. Since the moment my job ended in China I’ve been consumed with trying to figure out what the hell I am doing with my life. During the trek, I didn’t care. I had no wifi, no mirrors, no alcohol, no music, no books. I had nothing to distract me, nothing to occupy my thoughts other then what was right in front of me.
Every day my simple task was to walk. I needed to not fall and die on the steep slopes. When we reached the guesthouses I needed to keep myself awake long enough to eat dinner. My world shrank down to the people walking with me. Instead of reading I just played card games with fellow trekkers and discussed the weather. It was amazing how small my world was and how content I felt.
Megan and I joked many times that our motto was “We’re just Happy” and we both were completely thrilled to be walking in the Annapurnas. It rained our first two days of the trek and rain at that elevation mean snow at the high pass, which can’t be done with lots of snow. On our 4rth day Raj told us there was 95% chance we wouldn’t be able to do that pass and would have to walk back down the same side of the circuit. Every day we passed despondent trekkers coming back from the pass. Lots of groups decided to turn back at this point and not keep going. Some girls were a bit dramatic and had a big crying scene at a lodge which was just uncomfortable, but even normal people were feeling pretty low. While it is not in my nature to turn back…. I refused to feel sorry for myself while walking in the most beautiful scenery on earth.
We made jokes the whole way and drove our guide crazy by constantly collapsing with laughter. When our feet blistered we just took to naming them after people on the trek (I’m aware that’s really weird) and we played jokes on our guide like hiding from him (He really was fond of us). On one particularly freezing day we got a room in a lodge and as we sat down on the beds we noticed snow drifting through the rafters and the curtains blowing in the breeze behind the “closed” windows. We just looked at each other and cracked up despite the fact we knew we would be freezing all night long. We had a delightful time even when things weren’t 100% delightful and I think choosing to have a good attitude made such a difference on the trek.
Life on the trek was very very simple. Our routine basically existed of waking up at 6, packing our bag, eating breakfast at 6:30 (apple muesli and black coffee) and walking for 2 hours, then getting tea, walking another 2 hours, getting lunch, and then 2-3 hours before we arrived at our lodge. We should shower (or get a hot bucket of water), and play card games until 6:30 when we ate dinner (always a giant pile of carbs) play more card games with trekkers and then go to bed somewhere around 8-9ish. I was always hungry and always tired but in a really good way. Its good to go to bed with tired muscles or to eat a meal when your body desperately needs to fuel to push you up the next miles.
I had sort of thought my trek would be a very zen solitary experience. I imagined lots of journaling, lots of time spent contemplating the beauty of the mountains, time to sip my coffee in silence (it stresses me out if people talk to me before I have coffee) but my trip was largely a social experience. Megan and I joined up out of convenience but quickly became very good friends and we adored our guide and porter. On the bus to start the trek we met a young Dutch guy and middle aged Danish guy. We bonded quickly after the bus left the Danish guy behind at a rest area and we all screamed at the bus driver until he went for the Dane. Those two trekked together the whole time and we sort of lost them after the second half but met up after the trek. We also met a crazy Canadian who made the most inappropriate jokes I’ve heard in my life but amazed me with his story of recovering from a traumatic brain injury.
The Himalayas attract some good quality people
I suppose the one thing I can’t really say enough was how blessed I was to get to live out a dream of seeing the worlds greatest mountains