So I won’t go too deep into the details, but the love of my life, Pandora, is a physical therapist. I have had so many people look at my knee over the last two and half years, including surgery. Pandora finally said “let me look at it.” “Your left gluts are weak.” With her help and confidence, I just completed five brutal days in the foothills of the Himalayas. For the last two years, I thought I was done. Inexplicable pain and swelling. 5 backpacking trips in 2.5 years and four of them were this summer after she helped me. I had accepted I could do this no more. Her help and support gave me the confidence to take this on. That’s right. So many amazing people tried to help me. But, I’m here because of her. It’s ironic. And I miss her.
I am retracing steps I took in 1995 (solo) and 2000 (with a friend) hiking a little used route to the Everest region (solo khumbu). It crosses three river valleys and three passes of about 11000 feet before I hit the kumbu. The hard part is you go from river valley to pass and back down again. It’s crushing. It’s old Nepal.
First two times the weather was not stellar. Nor the views. This time! Sweet! So clear!
I’ve done the Everest trek 2 times. (Hopefully three). There is no comparison. The altitude makes it stickier up there but it’s a tourist Hiway with many creature comforts. And the trails are good. I tell you this not to toot my own horn or disparage those who do the Everest trek, but to simply draw a comparison for you. Alright maybe a little ego. Remember, these routes are here for communities to move goods and services around. Not to indulge us with recreation. Until Everest.
So starting off along the Arun Valley (I thank the late Dave Allderdice in 1995 for pulling a salesman on me and convincing me to do the Sun Kosi river trip, have my pack sent with the pickup bus and commence the trek from the end of the river. Changed my life.) Trekking snob is born!
Day 1 was short and hot. I stopped early. I was tired. But so happy to be the only trekker in a village of locals. Using my 20 words of Nepalese I secured a bed and food. Dal bhat. Rice. Lentils. Some veggie. Now that has been my food for 5 days. There is nothing else but tea, an occasional egg, and instant Wai wai soup masterfully blended with said veggies. Over and over. Tonight there might be a “menu”. I can’t wait.
As I mentioned, the kitchens are rustic, basically an open fire. The squat toilets make it a challenge with sore knee if you’re not locked and loaded so to speak. I’ve mastered the half squat. Desperate times.
Strangely, I don’t remember much of the trek from before (except for yesterday’s crushing uphill) and not surprisingly, the locals both can’t understand me nor do they care.
“I come here seventeen years ago.” “You trek seventeen days?” “No, i come HERE (with the accompanied finger pointing). “Seventeen hours from Tumlingtar?” Forget it. “Yes” I nod, and move on. No one really cares.
A day consists of a series of 25 min of walking and 5 of resting. For 6-8 hours. The heat hurts me (as do the hills) but with a full belly of Dal bhat I sail up the mountain (well not exactly) until I hit empty.
The trail is cut into ancient stone steps. Forcing you to pay attention or fall on your hands. If going downhill and you fall, it’s a trip ender for sure.
The majority so far are like this massive stair master soaring into the heavens! Making you pant, curse and be in ecstasy all at once. The hike times get shorter and the breaks longer as I get higher. Thank god for Biskoots (cookies or cracker) to get me over the jump. Exhausted and struggling to find the pass yesterday, a bag of biskoot, a few calming breaths, a look at the map, and common sense got me back on track. The old woman in the tea shack (likely my age) saved me with her Wai wai and a coke.
The day ends around 2 or three. Depending on what’s in front of me as the villages are anywhere from 30 min to three hours apart. Caught between them is a no no.
My night consists of a little journaling. Some Advil. A Percocet. Dal bhat and usually an extremely hard sleeping surface. I can safely say my body feels better than last time (lighter pack. Better mental preparation?) Ask me tomorrow about that one.
So yesterday and today were the testers. High steep climb. High steep descent. If I wake up in one piece, I am rewarded with having to climb Surke La (that’s the good decision I referred to). I am in the town of Bung and was determined to hike a few more hours up to break it up. Stay at the monastery. Everyone was telling me 2-3 hours. It was hot. I was fried. There is wifi. Likely beer. My first real town. I’ve stayed here before. Last time (actually last two times) I shit in a pig pen. Progress. The other towns were simply a house and store and kitchen. And ive had no real contact with outside world. It’s market day here. Should be interesting.
My goal is Namche Bazaar. Retool. Reset. Check weather. Check body. If all good race up the Everest valley. Gokyo Ri the second goal. But winter is coming …..