Right around the time I stopped being a PhD student and started yelling at dayplanners, I also decided, since I seemed to be on some kind of roll anyway, that it would be a good idea to go to Nepal. Specifically, to go to Nepal to trek (which I learned meant “hiking but MORE”) in Nepal.
Accident, impulse and circumstance. My friend, Ernie, had done it the previous year…right around the time I was in India, where I had unwittingly signed up for a Buddhist pilgrimage. With my Mother.
Ernie’s tales of ADVENTURE made me jealous, and they made me reflect on my own adventure with Mom as she lectured me on my poor life choices over cold vegetarian meals under the hot, punishing, unforgiving Indian sun.
So, on a whim, I decided not only to emulate Ernie, but to out-do him. Rather than an 8-day trek, as Ernie had done, I decided to trek the Annapurna Circuit, a 21 day MONSTER trek, nestled in all manner of ups and downs in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas.
Yet, there was also another, perhaps more pressing reason I decided to chose a seemingly random and outrageous task just to see it through.
There is a certain prestige that comes with first, saying you’ll do something crazy (or at least out of character) and, second, actually doing it. I wanted that. More to the point, I wanted that evolutionary leap that came after the fact: to gain that miraculous power that allowed one to shut others up and out by sheer dint of having accomplished impossible or unlikely things.
Given my self-imposed fecklessness, Nepal seemed a good a place as any to cultivate this awesome power. So I went, survived (after a fashion) and came home. That was six months ago.
Since I returned from Nepal, I’ve tried, really tried, to put my experiences into nice, articulate FABULOUS words. I have failed LOTS at that.
Luckily, I keep a travel journal whenever I go wherever, and I noticed as I perused my entries that some of my writings of The Trek were pretty funny on their own.
Below are my actual, real notes of my first official day trekking, given to you in their entirety because they capture so well my special eloquence during my trek, both at the time and even now, despite the benefit of retrospect.
March 20th, 2011
Slept really well last night despite weird dreams involving Zap Brannigan.
I have no idea.
The trek today STARTED well, but by the end, I’m pretty sure I died a couple of times only to be cruelly brought back to life so I can finish what I started. It’s my damned backpack – I need to unload some stuff because at the steep, going up parts especially it felt like I was carrying a safe full of gold. Made of gold.
Also, I have discovered over the last few days but especially today that the human body is disgusting. You don’t have to go outside where it’s “dirty” or to do dirty things, it seems we are built to be super gross.
You don’t have to do anything before you’re hair starts getting limp and grimy, you ears fill with wax, your nose fills with, uh, fill, your skin gets slick and blotchy, your teeth get fuzzy, and your nethers…you get grosser.
Also, you’ll smell. People smell. I smell.
Anyway, we followed a river gorge, saw and walked among terraced rice fields, entered, briefly, a subtropical forest (I have the bug bites to prove it), past a majestic (read: tall) waterfall (where we stopped to have lunch; delicious potato and veg curry for me), followed and were followed by some goats (complete with baby goats!), and took the long way, which was, ironically the easy way (not so very steep) to our final stop today, Jagat.
We’re staying at a place called the Eco Home. There’s a cyber café across the street that I think has Guitar Hero. Go figure.
Ernie was right: the first day is a killer. I was huffing and at points and had to take numerous rests. All that “training” on the elliptical seems so futile now…
It’s funny the things that pop into your head when you’re trying, through sheer will, to see an impossible task to the end. For a good 40 minutes the words to the “Chicken Boo” cartoon would just not go away:
“You wear a disguise to look like human guys, but you’re not a man, you’re a chicken boo.”
Very quickly, it seemed, I went from sheer awe to the glorious views around me to sheer awe that putting one foot in front of the other could be so fucking hard.
Like, the hardest thing ever.
Purified water – with iodine tables – is disgusting. But I was so hot and out of breath and sweaty that I gulped it down like it was the fountain of youth.
Poor Porter Hem. While the others from last night’s dwellings raced ahead of us – even with our head start – we had to trudge along at Cindy Pace. He was really good about it, though. He’s good at what he does, which as a porter, boils down to putting up with people and carrying their stuff.
At dinner, I met a retired Korean man who is on his fifth visit/trek to Nepal. He did the Jonsom trek but got altitude sickness and had to turn back, and on this trip, his first attempt of the A.C., he made it to Manang and had to turn back.
Still, I’ve never met someone as happy as he was with what he did accomplish – with no regrets on “what could have been”. His advice? Trekking is not a race; there are lots of people who see it was a challenge to be conquered as hard and fast as possible and they miss the point.
Also: you can only go at your own pace.
Which brings me back to Ernie: the first day is a killer, but it gets better after.
And don’t forget to take in the view.
How about that?