Spirited away…. The Mountains

When I woke that next morning, I bolted out of bed with a mix of excitement and a dash of fear. To me this is absolutely the best mix of emotions. I know, that most probably would not choose fear as one of the best emotions to have. Yet, the energy of unbridled excitement tempered by a healthy dose of fear of the unknow is a delight. Think about it, what are the feelings you experience at the beginning of a new romance? The excitement and energy of wanting this new thing mixed with a bit of fear of getting hurt. For me every adventure feels like a new love, I’m sure replete with all the accompanying hormones. Yes, I know its weird but my little adventures truly are the love of my life. I love each fully and by the end they love me fully in return. Just like a relationship I have no idea how things will pan out; I don’t know if it will be a simple trip where everything is relaxing and smooth or if it will be a tumultuous trip filled with frustration and strife. Some like to control and plan a trip down to the second, I prefer a loose outline of what is possible and then to just do what feels natural. On this particular morning I had absolutely no part in the plans for the next five days, my guide would be choosing the path we would take through the mountains as well as the stops we would make. I was egger to relinquish the reigns and continue quietly riding the wave and enjoying every drop of beauty that found my path.

We hopped into a local car for a two-hour drive to the starting point of our hike. The roads were very rustic. Some were paved but most were just large gravel and ridiculously bumpy! These roads twisted and turned their way up one hillside and down the next. All were two-way roads, yet I could hardly imagine two cars actually occupying the space allotted. Especially since one side of the road was almost always a sheer drop to the valley below. There were MANY moments where adrenalin raced through my body as we attempted to speed past a truck or car, and it seemed as if our cars wheels were balancing on the very brink if life and death. Don’t get me wrong the views were amazing but there were a few times when I considered the very real possibility that I could die as our car slipped over the edge and tumbled again and again until it slammed into the valley below! I laughed at myself in those moments and breathed in a deep breath and continued to enjoy the view. I would not die here and not on this day but if I did that would be ok. I would have died doing something I loved. I totally imagined closing my eyes and accepting my death should it have come. However, just as I figured we reached our destination in one slightly banged up piece. Rajan (my guide) hopped out of the car and strolled over to what appeared to be a government registry for trekking in Nepal. He had all the necessary documents and two copies of an absolutely awful photo of me that were required for me to embark on this journey.

Once all the paperwork was given the stamp of approval, we were off! It was a beautiful and bright day; the weather was perfect! Sunny and mild with a slightly cool breeze. We chatted from time to time but here I was truly enjoying the silence that clung to my side as I breathed in the mountain air and absorbed as much beauty as I possibly could.

Hiking day 1: Started with a lovely stroll through the village of Lumle and a twenty-minute walk to Birethani a busy town with lots of shops and restaurants. The trail followed the main road until it reached a cool suspension bridge that crossed a quick moving river. The bridge took us to a path lined with bamboo at the start but continued uphill with a wide variety of trees that I had never seen before.  In the distance as we walked, I saw a large waterfall, beautiful pastures, and terraced farms. After a couple hours we stopped in an area called Sudami for lunch. I had some amazing lemon tea with mint and some tasty chicken stir-fry. I was feeling good enjoying the cool breeze as I sipped my tea and enjoyed my food. I was so caught up in the moment that I made small yet kinda big miscalculation. See I had been sipping quite a bit of water as were hiked to our lunch spot and I drank two delightful cups of tea but for some reason I totally forgot to hit the loo before we got underway.  About fifteen to twenty minutes into our assent up the next hill it became abundantly clear I had made a grave mistake! I took a pause to collect myself and to let Rajan know. He reassured me and said there was a place for me to go just about fifteen minutes or so ahead of us. I was good with that, I felt that I would have no problem making that. Except that at about minute fourteen and a half minutes as I walked up and put my had on the knob of the door to the potty and the panic to pee urge hit me! I made it into the bathroom to the toilet but had no time to pull down me trousers! Ugh! This was not a great start to my trek. I sat there for a moment gathering myself and my thoughts. After about a minute I opened my backpack and fished out a pair of camo leggings and undies. I did a quick wash up in the sink tossed the soiled clothes out threw my pack on and emerged from that tiny little room energized and ready for the rest of my three-hour uphill hike! When we finally reached the little village, we would be staying in overnight I basically had dinner chatted with Rajan and the kids in the village for a few and then I was off to bed.

Hiking day 2&3: I had eggs and toast for breakfast then quickly grabbed my pack and we were off! This was when ish got real! We were hiking through some very picturesque places. That morning the start was cool and beautiful but after a short hike we came to the start of what is estimated to be over 3300 steps up to a height of about 2100m which is just shy of 7000ft and that wasn’t even the halfway point. By the end of the day we would have hiked for over 7 hours reaching a final altitude of 2800m or 9200 ft in Ghorepani. Somewhere along the way breathing became an issue. Physically I felt fine, even throught the 3300 steps I was fine but as the day wore on, I would have to take small breathing breaks every so often. This continued the next day when we woke up at zero dark thirty to hike up Poonhill. We were up so we could watch the sun rise over the Himalayas.  Again, physically my body was good to go but it seriously felt as if oxygen was only being taken in during every third breath. Slow and steady wins the race though so I paused when I needed more air and then I continued forward until I reached the top! It was beautiful! Well it was also freezing but mostly beautiful and totally worth it. I decided that I would simply have to adjust my pacing, but I would absolutely make all the hikes. After we hiked back from Poonhill we had breakfast and hit the trails again. This time we were to be heading to lower elevations, so I was ready.

Hiking day 4&5: Downhill sounds great until its three plus hours downhill in the ice and snow on a narrow path with a sheer drop to the valley below. This was by far the most difficult day of them all! Man, just when you think we are on the way down and things will be chill then boom, Snow and Ice. What made this more difficult is the fact that in order to maintain balance I had to basically walk the entire three hours with every muscle in my body tensed! By the time we reached our destination I was so sore and too exhausted to come down for dinner. I simply had potatoes in my room. After I ate my potatoes, I piled the two bulky blankets over me (it was freezing, and I had no heat) and passed out. I woke early to a beautiful sunrise just outside my window. Yup it was worth it. On my last day in the mountains we just had a short hike over to the bus that would drive us down the hill where we would hop a car back to Pokhara for a free relaxing day where I would take my boat ride and go paragliding. I had made it! my heart smiled.

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