As I logged onto the wifi at our lodge in Namche Bazar for the first time in ten days, I paused. How could I condense the previous fortnight into a single status update on Facebook or a 140-character tweet? Heck, how could I capture the emotions, the challenges and the rewards of the most physically demanding two weeks of my life? How do I explain that climbing higher and higher, sometimes through rain and mud, until I could barely breathe, was actually an amazing experience? How do I convey the reality of sleeping in heatless teahouses, showering every four days, eating the same bland meals of eggs, rice or potatoes every day and huddling around a single wood (or yak dung) burning stove in the middle of a large dining room every night just to stay warm before eventually crawling into a freezing bed?
Trekking in Himalayas was an unforgettable experience and in so many ways an indescribable one as well. Was it fun? Not always. Not even often. But was it amazing and rewarding and 100% worth it? Absolutely.
Passing prayer poles and walls of mani stones, always staying to the left. Whitewashed stupas at the top of ridges and peaks, adorned in red, yellow, blue and green prayer flags. Spinning prayer wheels outside of monasteries. Yaks and donkeys and cows and dzokyos along the trail – a more welcome kind of traffic than the motorbikes and rickshaws of chaotic Kathmandu. Worn-looking porters carrying loads far heavier than anyone should bear, somehow supported by strips of fabric wrapped around their heads, carrying the packs of other trekkers or delivering the beer and eggs and toilet paper and Snickers sold in every teahouse between Namche and Everest.
The routine of the trail. Waking up to catch the sunrise, only to realize the sun was still hidden by the clouds or fog. Then breakfast of eggs and potatoes. A couple hours of trekking up and down, down and up. Lunch of rice or potatoes. More trekking on the longer days or hanging around the teahouse dining room, snacking on popcorn, drinking tea and reading on shorter days. Tea served graciously by Kami, Rabin and sometimes Nima – ginger, lemon, black, green – after a while, we all knew each others’ orders. Dinner by 6:30 or 7:00 – again, rice or potatoes. Crawling into bed by 8ish or whenever the fire in the dining room starts winding down, mentally preparing to do it all over again the next day.
The sunny days, with barely a cloud in the sky, when I could strip off my fleece within minutes of setting out and I had to wear a hat to protect my head from the burning rays of the sun. The drizzly days when the poncho or no poncho debate was front and center in my head and I soon regretted my decision not to put a cover over my daypack. And the pouring down rain freezing cold days when my so-called waterproof shoes soaked completely through, my rain jacket and poncho could not combine to keep me dry and I never could feel warm or dry even long after arriving at our teahouse for the night.
Catching a cold after trekking in the rain, blowing my nose until it was raw and chapped. Struggling to breathe just walking up the stairs in our lodge at 5,000 meters up. Slipping and sliding through inches of mud and water flowing down steep, stony steps, feeling like I was hiking through a stream instead of up a mountain. Shaking as I crossed wobbling suspension bridges high above raging rivers. Wondering whether I would actually make it.
Realizing that yes, I will make it. That my legs are stronger than I ever imagined and my lungs will get me through, thanks to a combination of Diamox and a slow ascent up the mountains. Realizing that an experience doesn’t have to be fun to be amazing and worthwhile and that sometimes the struggles make the experience that much better. Appreciating the moments when I stop and look around in awe, wondering how I could be so lucky to be surrounded by such beauty. Concluding that this may be one of the best things I have ever done.