well, mine, I guess. it’s what one does in Nepal, right? So when I wandered into a trekking agency in Kathmandu, I asked for “trekking light”, you know, the middle aged-chubby-girl-easy-trek. You have those, right? Most sensible people prepare for a trek in Nepal with a few small hikes, maybe a smidge of exercise for good measure. Me? how did i prepare? I prepared by hanging out on a beach, drinking & smoking. hmmmmm. I was assured that the 58 km, 6 day hike was the “easiest” trek in the annapurnas, but after I booked, he did say “you realize it’s a mountain, yes?”
When I first met my guide, Uttam, I thought “uh, yeah, right. That kid is NOT my guide…… is he?” Uttam stands about 5 feet tall & weighs 90 pounds. He looks 12. But as he grabbed my pack like it was no big deal, i had a bit more confidence. Uttam is, in fact, a 20 y/o & a university student with a triple major. Journalism, Political Science & Spanish. His dad was a trekking guide and he grew up scampering around the mountains. He watched over me like a mother hen.
The 6+ hour ride to pokhara was uneventful, but just as we got checked into the hotel, the storm started. Howling winds, thunder & sheets of water poured down. ruh roh.
The next morning the skies were blue & I could see the famous fishtail peak off in the distance. After a 1.5 hour taxi ride to the trail head the trek commenced. Not so bad, I thought. We walked along the river for about 4 hours, stopped & had lunch, and made it to our destination by 2 pm. All under clear blue skies. I was a bit tired, a lot sweaty, but all in all, I was ok.
I had heard that day 2 was going to be the worst of it so I was prepared. Well, as prepared as I was going to be. Day 2 consisted of walking up about 3000 steps (according to a fellow trekker). I walked up, up, up for 5 hours. I took pleasure in seeing twenty-something trekkers finding the steps just as difficult as me. Mike, a 27 y/o from Minnesota, succinctly put it like this: “This is Bruuuutal, man.” I could not agree more, Mike.
At the end of the day with the never-ending stairs, this is what was waiting for me.
Now I’m no princess & I have stayed in some dumps in my day. But really? My “shower” was a bucket of hot water & a pitcher. But just as I got clean (sort of) and warm (sort of) the rains came. The dining hall was frigid & as Uttam & myself were the only guests, there would be no fire. It was an early & cold evening.
The uphill climb to Ghorepani was not particularly difficult it had even terrain & only a few tall steps. It was the altitude that got me. I could not get enough air. I had to stop about every 25 feet to catch my breath. Luckily this was a short day & we made it to Ghorepani by 10 am. This was a day of rest which allowed me to adjust to the altitude. The guest house was pretty nice, I had windows with a view & although the bathroom was a squat toilet down the hall & the shower was outside & around the corner, it had charm. It had a fireplace! At around noon the torrential downpour began. The streets turned to rivers and the mountains were completely obscured by clouds. The evening was spent chatting with fellow trekkers and the off to bed early in preparation for the sunrise trek to Poon hill.
Day four was possibly one of the worst days ever. seriously. It started at 4:30 am, sans coffee, with a 1 hour climb to Poon Hill, which is a lovely point to see the sunrise over the Annapurnas. Walking up, in the dark & the mist & the cold & it was clear there would be no “sunrise” because of the cloud cover. I was done. DONE. I wanted Uttam to strap my ass onto a pony with a pokhara sign around my neck & be done with the whole thing. But there was no pony, and the only way out is thorough, so walking down from Poon hill I decided I would just put on my big girl pants and make the best of it. But day 4 had different plans.
After breakfast we headed into the forest. It was gentle terrain for about an hour, then, UP. I mean up. I was doing better than the chinese girl in pink velour sweat pants, pink jacket & hello kitty fanny pack, who smoked & screamed with exasperation at each new set of steps, but not by much. 3 hours in I was covered in sweat and exhausted. Then the rains came. and not just a little rain either. a downpour. I was soaked. The terrain was difficult: slippery rocks and steep steps. And if we weren’t going UP steep steps we were going DOWN steep steps, which, was made more difficult by the rain. One misplaced step & you end up with a twisted ankle, turned knee or worse yet, a fall. At some points on the “trail” there were narrow places with rock on one side & 1000 feet down on the other. I contemplated jumping just to end my misery. Just kidding, Mom. By the time we made it to lunch I was shivering and the top ramen & weak tea did nothing to warm me or my soul.
After lunch we (at this point Uttam & I had joined forces with another group of trekkers: Emily & Liam from Ireland & Fernanado from Brazil & their guide, Manut)were promised a one hour “steep” climb to Gandruk, our destination for the night. well, that was just super news.
That last hour or so was honestly so awful. I was exhausted, my legs were quivering and my attitude was abysmal. Up until this point I had not uttered one word of complaint. (Those of you who know me may find that difficult to believe, but this was a debacle of my own making. No reason to punish Uttam, who LOVES the mountain & trekking, with complaining. So, as I said, up until point I was little miss sunshine. okay, so maybe i did mutter the occasional “fuck”, when faced with a particularly steep & long set of stairs, but Uttam was usually far enough ahead of me that he was not privy to my expletives). But when I looked down and found my legs covered in leeches, I complained. They were in my shoes, on my ankles & up my calves. “God fucking dammit” I yelled as I pulled the slippery & tenacious bastards off my legs, leaving a trail of blood behind. The expression on Uttam’s face was so pitiful. He said “usually your face is so happy, but now, now, you look so angry” Yep. I’m pretty pissed, Uttam.
When we made it Gandruk and I saw that my room was a cell & the bathrooms were “out of order” I nearly cried. The one saving grace was a hot shower. Not the best shower of my life, but the water was hot and the masala tea was good & I had dry clothes, so all was right with the world. I took some ibuprofen & a valium & collapsed.
The start of the descent, which, was a good thing: no more UP. But it was steep, the stairs uneven & with my lack of sure-footedness, it was slow going. My toes bashed the front of my shoes & my quads were aching. We made it to that last shithole, um, i mean , guesthouse of the stay. My bed was covered in bugs & there was a HUGE cockroach in the bathroom. We arrived fairly early in the day so I spent the day reading in my little bug infested bed.
Hooray. last day. oh, shit it’s pouring rain. Our entire group was deflated by the rain. The consensus was, eat, get on the road, despite the rain. the sooner we leave the sooner we are OUT. So we donned our useless rain gear & headed out. Within minutes we were soaked. The steep & slippery steps made it slow going. 4 hours of trudging through the POURING rain. FOUR hours. But I made it. I finished. And I will never, ever, trek again.
I believe that there are people who definitely have an affinity for the mountains, however, I am not one of them. No matter how lush the landscape or how stunning the vistas or how breathtaking the peaks of high mountains may be, the mountains are not my home. And while I’ll never do this again, I don’t regret it, I needed to know I could do it and it also made realize where I belong.
I belong in, on or near the ocean.