Sometimes it’s just easier to let pictures tell the story…. here are some from my fall trip. I already am plotting when I can go back.
Jump head first into the deep end I say: no better reason to decide to take a trip with four days of trekking. Meanwhile, small detail: I don’t trek. I don’t even hike much despite living on the Appalachian trail and in the Berkshire hills, but I have two legs and I can walk so no big deal.
As always, ahead of myself. Just so we’re clear, this isn’t the high Annapurna mountains or a trip to Everest Base Camp. Not for me. I am not that crazy. That’s for others. This was just a short stroll through the lower hills. Except it’s Nepal and the hills were Himalayas and so hills… well, you and I both know that’s not exactly correct.
Woke up in Kathmandu and took a short flight to Pokhara to meet up with the bus and trekking guide. The trip to the airport was longer than the flight so if you’re ever moving around in that city, keep in mind time and add so much more. The view from the plane was another clear morning of majestic snowy peaks and then down over Lake Fewa to land and then we were off to Lumle and the road into the hills, short carb loading stop for lunch on the way.
And then it was feet on trail.
Saw many a t-shirt throughout my time in Nepal: a little up, a little down, little seems an understatement considering men and a few very intrepid women have trekked to the top of this mystical magical Himalaya mountain time and time again to seek the top – something like 4,000 success stories, hundreds & hundreds of tragedies.
While in Kathmandu, I was able to hear Maya Sherpa (she is a female sherpa to summit Everest and a number of other peaks & this past spring the 1st Nepalese Women K2 Expedition 2014: Women Climb for Climate Change). Climbing is in her blood, spiritually, emotionally and undeniably part of her culture and as a woman, she spoke of always wanting to climb, being driven from childhood to seek the top of the world despite being born a girl. Her story is one of someone who never accepted the limitations of her gender and persevered.
Climbing today with oxygen canisters and “ice fall” doctors setting up ladders and safety line may be much easier than the expeditions of Sir Edmund Hillary and others, but the word easy is a crazy kind of understatement.
How did I summit Everest? Well, of course, I didn’t and very likely, I won’t ever get closer but endless respect in baffled awe those that do, did and will someday. All I did was take the touristy Everest flight on Yeti Airlines when in Kathmandu which was odd, quirkily funny, earnest and satisfied my needs, albeit at a safe and oxygen filled distance.
Looking at the snowy peaks from an airplane, Everest or Sagarmatha / Chomolungma is tucked behind the others a bit, the iconic peak slightly harder to see but then you do and from the Nepal side, the mountain looks forbidding, terribly cold and GIANT, the triangle top above all the others. There you are, I thought – the mountain, challenged and claimed so many lives.
Of course, we all have our own Everests. That time, that thing, that dream we cannot give up, that drives us up and up again, that suffocates us with lack of “oxygen”, that we pursue despite every single thing in our lives telling us to give up the dream, stay home, take the easier choice, hide, choose the smaller dream because the big one just might do us in, but we climb anyway, we cannot stop and all of us, united in dreaming and yearning, striving, may we be blessed with good conditions, clear skies and hopefully we all summit the peaks – a little down, a little up – now I get it.
Kathmandu: as dusty and hectic as expected but even more crowded during the beginning of the biggest Hindu festival of the the year: Diwali, the Festival of Lights, celebrating the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair. What better to experience a brand new land. Five days of gift giving, storytelling and connection with all beings that are connected to all things. Deep. Thought provoking. Day two every thing goes to the dogs. Then the cow, then the bull, then brothers and sisters. And maybe a little moonshine gets drunk and people dance until the early morning. Family, love, joy. Letting the light dispel the darkness is a powerful message from this powerful land. Kathmandu seems ancient and modern and really trying to move from the dark days of the early 2000s when extremists ruled the day and unless one wanted to climb the highest mountain the tourists stayed away. Surely the travelers still came, they always do but to push the economy on when tourism is so so important so too are the rest are needed. More later when I have fully recovered from my short trek that seemed maybe like climbing my own highest mountain. In the meantime, Happy Diwali my readers, family and friends.
Airport hotel bars, flashback to 1985 on the radio, bizarre snacks yet kind of delicious. Having hurtled through space on a packed crying baby kind of flight, here I am in Dubai.
It won’t be the gold plated, shiny Dubai of some of my fellow travelers. No, my time here feels more like Cleveland before the rust belt bust, except there’s Aljazeera on the TV and not CNN and the world looks mighty scary out there in TV Land, all of a sudden so much closer to me than my cow town. The men are in non-western wear (including one with some spectacular Elvis sideburns and pompadour) and right now there are no nice women in sight. This is not the USA.
Some times the getting to is part of the arriving. When was the last time I heard the song The Lady in Red? Foreigner? So many trips backwards in time, with music. Just when I am at the middle part of getting somewhere is when I clear out the cobwebs. What happened last weekend seems less important, work begins to fade, space is made in my mind for the next weeks new sights, and a small tunnel to those old thoughts is opened up.
Nepal, this time tomorrow.
Home. Is it a place? Is it people? For me, it’s a term that contracts as much as it expands. My house, filled with my family things, that’s my home. My cow town filled with faces and places, home. I live in the USA – America is my home and even if I wander, this land is indeed my land. No matter the world view, I know culturally I am of this place I have lived the longest.
Makes me remember what I always joke is my most red, white and blue moment overseas. There I was, in the middle of the Moroccan Sahara desert, under the unforgiving blazing sun, the moonscape portion of the desert, not the amber sands of Lawrence of Arabia, this part was rocky, endlessly flat, with the ribbons of wavy heat blurring the horizon. I was to visit to a Bedouin family – to see how they carved out and fought for existence in their piece of this endless plain and it was decided we would walk from camp. And walk we did, and walk, and walk, a bit further than expected. I didn’t bring hat of course (please see every single post for some mention of my clumsiness, drinking the water/eating street food for reference – thank goodness I’ve made it this far – bless me as I head into the unknown again), I didn’t have any water, poisonous or other, nada, none and on we walked. Then, a mirage, an outpost appeared in the far distance, blurry but definitely a place – maybe even a tree and a camel or twelve, a tired donkey. Hope.
Finally, we get there and the most handsome man in all of the world, with kohl eyeliner, looking like some version of Adam Ant from the 1980’s but maybe just your normal Berber guy (heat stroke, clearly) – it’s hard to remember, sold me the the coldest, icy coca cola I have every had the pleasure to drink. And I got it. Every single commercial that tried to sell me that business about a smile and such, well, it worked. In times of trouble, apparently, a garden variety coca cola is going to do the trick. Thanks childhood. A piece of carmel colored home in a bottle.
As I get older, though, more than a coca cola or a place, it’s really my people, they are my home – the vessels of shared memories, the many many hours logged together all these many years, may there be many more. My family, the crazy sweet people I am connected to by birth. My friends, the crazy sweet people I choose to be connected with by life.
And so no matter how far I go and every year, battling the terrible wonderful addiction of travel and even if I want to go farther, it be harder, I will always come back home (my sister just sighed a sigh of relief). I can leave and leave again (and maybe again?) but I’ll need my places, my faces, my home.
Nepal or bust people. 3 days.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ~ Terry Pratchett
Packing list for Nepal: trekking poles, some courage & a wide open mind.
Lots of build up this time, but I know, I am setting myself up to deliver while overseas – however fleeting my wifi is in Nepal. It’s been a while since I’ve made myself write something every day and I am trying to be disciplined about this space I created, so my dear three readers, who are probably related to me by blood (just kidding, but hello my cousins), please stay with me. Time just seems to have sped up and it’s yet it’s been too long this year since I have been away, far far away, I feel out of practice at it.
I long for that burning rubber smell that tells me I couldn’t possibly be in America, I long for jet fuel wind of airports and the race down the runway, landing on dark tarmacs in the dead of night, rides through cities I don’t know, the honking, honking, honking, buzzing, honking of chaotic streets. I long for entire days listening to another language, for places I cannot possibly make sense of in a few weeks – maybe ever. Dust, dirt, grim, ugliness – beautiful terrible places that make me feel uncomfortable and make my eye snap open. I may even long for deadly water and stomach turning street food I should not, under any circumstances eat, but maybe always manage to anyway. I’m a rebel.
All of it. Eight days… almost seven really.