Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But in the margins

I’ve been in Havana for 24 hours and money has flown out of my pocket. For those that don’t know, you must bring all your cash with you if you are from the US. You can get away with booking Casa Partículares (the local houses) thru Air BNB online. But they don’t take US credit cards or ATM cards in person no can you access your money from here. You can’t even book a return flight with a US airline.

Needed a nap after the red eye but after I grabbed my guitar to head down to the Malecón. Well after my six hours of required cultural interaction per day of course. I loved connecting with the locals and using my Spanish. This is the first time I’ve really traveled in Latin America since I lived in Guatemala. I’ve forgotten a lot. But I need less time just travel. Depending on the depth of conversation.

Playing a few songs (FYI the harmonica isn’t the best for Cuban music) I loved connecting with the street musicians. Then they are like “um, we live on our tips”. So with little change I had to give them either 5 or 10 CUC (the local currency and approx equal exchange to the dollar).I mean they were GOOD, but I wanted to explore.

Bought a beer and walked thru town. Everyone comes up to you when you are traveling solo. Very few solo travelers. Easy to pick out. “Hey man where you from?” “Need a taxi?” “What are you looking for?”

After two beers my Spanish seemed better and I let my guard down a bit.

One dude asked me if I needed a taxi. I said I was looking for a local restaurant to eat. He said go this way and I will show you. He seemed friendly and clean. Not sketchy. We bantered about in Spanish. Got to the restaurant. It seemed laid back but the prices seemed high. Short story. Epic conversation. All in Spanish. I bought him two Mojitos. Some friend out of nowhere shows up to sell me cigars “because today is last day before the prices go up” and I had an ex customer I wanted to buy them for of course. Fleeced. Dinner was 40 bucks. Geez.

Then the taxi driver asks me for cash because he has two kids. I mean, this guy was going to the US next month to meet his dad who left 35 years ago when he was three!! So I gave him 10 CUCs. I felt worked over.

As I limped home with empty pockets and a bruised ego I realized I just blew thru five days of my budget. Geez. What happened there?

Spent

I like to spend time with people that have struggled but have enough emotional intelligence or education to feel fortunate when they are not struggling. There are exceptions to that but even super poor folks in Nepal or India or Guatemala have that little twinkle in their eyes that shows they feel fortunate for their little freedoms. So on Mazlows hierarchy it’s nice to meet people teetering between “food, clothing and shelter” and “self-actualization”. Especially if they CRAVE self actualization. I’ve had to dig deep for the “food, clothing and shelter” once in awhile in my life and after I thought that struggle was good. It can be a deeepening experience IF you believe you can get to the other side.

I’m not sure all the Cubans think they can get to the other side of poverty. Yet their interaction with travelers is fascinating. And they are warm wonderful people for the most part.

Off to the east. Baracoa and some rural hijinx.

Cuba: A country with no expectations and an examination in hypocrisy

I haven’t found a job I want yet, so I am taking the opportunity (and using some miles I have) to slide down to Cuba for three weeks.

Strangely, I know little about the country.

Learning about Cuba, and having some food.

President Obama’s Cuba policy opened up greater opportunities to interact with the Cuban people and not rely on the constant propaganda we have been fed about the horrific “communist regime”.

The hypocrisy comes in where we rail against Fidel and his brother Raul, maintain economic embargoes and chastise them for Human Rights abuses.

Wow. Those bad Cuban communists jail people and stamp out political dissent.

But hey! Look over here at that wonderful Chinese government! They have systematically exterminated over 2 million Tibetans, are a communist government, and stamp out dissent. But they allow foreign investment and we can buy their cheap, poorly made shit at Walmart. Hmmm.

I understand the difference?

Exactly. Our Cuban policy is the most ridiculous in our modern history.

Now I am traveling on a visa and my main purpose is “Support of the Cuban people”. Señor Trump made a mild modification to Obama’s policy because…well because EVERYTHING Barack did was wrong. Including being born black. So let’s just change it a little.

The good news is that the rules under which I am traveling is right in my wheelhouse. An itinerary that has me focus fully on cultural activities and exchange. Requires me ( by OUR government) to not stay in government or military owned hotels or resorts. Umm. Okay. And not eat or patronize government or military owned stores or restaurants. Check.

Focus on locally owned Air BNB (Casa Particulares), local restaurants, and spread the money around. Hmmm. How simply…. um. What’s that word? Socialist? Wow. I agree with Donald Trump on something. Okay. I’ll follow the rules.

The US may ask upon my return. The Cubans don’t care.

I’ve spoken to a few friends that have been there and my new housemate’s mom is Cuban. Most of my friends have been to Havana and Trinidad. In the West.

I am flying into Havana mañana and have three nights there. I have a full itinerary (or maybe not).

What I do have is the desire to slide into the cracks of Cuban culture, use my Spanish, play my guitar a bit and sweat my ass off (the rains and heat are coming. I’ve packed my Gold Bond).

Flying to the Far East of the country and hitchhiking back to Havana is my desire. As long as it doesn’t screw up my required 6 hours a day of “cultural activity” which I have every intention of fulfilling.

I will say if anyone has a hidden place down there where I can disappear for a few days, pass it on.

It’s my first “new” country in 6 years. The first time I will be traveling and not trekking in some way. The first time I am not bringing a sleeping bag (a sleep sheet!) and the first time my backpack is not full. Chacos, t shirts, water purifier a few collared shirts, hat acquired in Nepal for sun guard, guitar.

What? No boots? I feel naked.

I am open to any ideas, have no preconceived notions except I hear the Cubans are wonderful, and am stoked to be taking my shortest trip in 25 years!!!

Cuba! Voy a visitarlo pronto!

How much is enough?: Epilogue from Asia

As I mentioned when I started my trip in September, I wanted to tease out the rhetorical question “how much is enough?” If you didn’t read my original post, this question has been gnawing at me since I first stopped living paycheck to paycheck at say, 26. What is our individual process or is there one for asking this question? What do we really need to be happy? I believe it is at the root of many of our problems as a society evolves.

Lots of my meanderings slipped into self absorption about my trip and the people and places I experienced. But the underlying question was always there.

I’ve worked in finance where growth and profitability is king. I’ve worked in sustainable development and clean energy where, to a lesser extent, the question of sustainability percolates in the background. In many cases it is tabled as programs are designed to improve lives economically. And how can you ask how much is enough when people have so little? Well in most societies, just wait. Because as they grow and the income gap expands (if it hasn’t already) these questions should be leveled on the newer rich, even though they likely won’t have the experience to address it.

In both India and China for example we are really seeing the first generation of new riches. And in my opinion there are not two more obscene examples of “I had nothing before and now I’m going crazy.” With no conscience at all.

I experienced having more than I needed and not understanding it briefly at 25 and again later in life. “You mean I don’t have to use my credit card and can buy what I want?” Wow. Freedom. It was short lived at 25 when a college buddy and roommate in Chicago asked me if I wanted to go to Michigan Avenue for “spending wars.” I did. It was stupid. And my $500 leather jacket ended up at goodwill. Never again.

My income has gone up and down over the years and has rarely been consistent. I’ve always said I don’t wanna be rich. I just don’t wanna be poor.

Now please understand. I am not using myself as an example NOR am I judging those that do not lift their heads and ask “do i really need this?”

I am simply examining the process, lack of process or self justification in ridiculous accumulation. “My kids need to go to college” “I’ve earned the money and can give it to my kids” “there are no jobs” “the second home is an investment” “The 70k SUV is for family safety” ” We gotta build a 4000 square foot home as our lot is so big and we won’t get our return”

My point is that we all make excuses. “I can live in my custom ford van off the grid” and “I rent my extra space for below market rent”. I do it too!

However, there are end points. One example is the AMERICAN that buys an acre of land in Guatemala and builds an abnormally sized house (for Guatemala) and lives there a few months of the year. With money made in the US.

That example, where you are choosing to have something that DIRECTLY impacts people that have little to nothing and you don’t AT LEAST educate yourself and ask yourself the hard question. “Do I need/want this, why, and whom am I impacting directly or indirectly?”

Just ask. Be honest. “I just want it.”

My point is that if you continually ask yourself that question, hopefully, eventually, you will use a different set of parameters during your decision process and understand the implications of your actions (and the interdependent nature of all things) AND might, just might, take the ever so slightest pause before you make the decision. Maybe not the first big paycheck. Maybe never. BUT ASK THE QUESTION! PLEASE!

The reality is that communities decay when too much is in the hands of too few. Our recent tax bill is the most cynical, mean spirited and right in your face example of this. If you support it, you’re either ignorant, or fucking greedy. Consider yourself judged. And to that end if you still support Donald Trump. Just un friend me. This is getting silly.

Having more more more is not a religious virtue. Nor is passing all your wealth to your kids. Was it Dale Carnegie that said “Give your kids enough to do anything. Just not enough to do nothing”. Exactly.

Economic disparity is a very nuanced and detailed topic. However, there are tried and true methods that work that can maintain a semblance of civil society. And we in the United States have dismantled nearly every one.

In essence, I’m not legislating morality. I’m legislating against greed. And when you come to that conclusion that you are being greedy, self-justification aside, don’t just donate money. Work to change the system (or at least don’t contribute to it) and take pause the next time you want to buy something you don’t need. Or invest in something that has negative effects on the world.

Or don’t.

I’m just asking questions.

Thanks Asia for the reality check i always seem to need. Knowing I could never live here full time does not have me love it any less. Watching the developing world make the same mistakes we westerners have made breaks my heart.

But it all doesn’t matter if you’re in the moment and watching the sun set over the Himalayas. Or the Arabian Sea….

Kē yō ghara hō?

Namaste, Tashidelek, Kuzudzongpola

Goodbye Nepal. Again. For now: Was it all a dream?

I stood at the airport, saying goodbye to my friend Sagar, similar to my goodbye about 11 years ago. This time his English is better. He now has a wife and a beautiful young daughter. He was in his late teens the last time I saw him. Now a grown man with responsibilities. The main one being working in Dubai to help support his family. He made the supreme effort to get emergency leave to at least get one night to connect with me.

It was surreal. Spending time wth him and his family seem so normal. Like I see them everyday. It did not help me avoid a tearful goodbye to his parents, yet I was slightly more stoic with Sagar and his wife and daughter. I can’t believe it will be eleven more years until I see him again. Some solace.

Nepal continues to give me more than I can imagine. Did i really retrace steps from 17 years ago and complete a grueling 20 day trek to visit Namche Bazaar and the highest mountains in the world? Did I really get to connect wth the Nepalese people in the carefree manner they connect with people? Did I really get to play music with Sherpas? Did I really get the most mind blowing epic sunset over Everest and the Gokyo valley? Did I really get to revisit temples and holy places? Some I remember. Some I forget?

Was i able to explore rural and wild Nepal, by myself, with a just a belief I could pull it off? Again?

Was I really able to spend five days with Sagar’s family, connecting wth them the best way I know how? Language gap and all?

Did i really walk through Thamel, reliving old memories, yet feeling detached with reality? So many hopes and desires for a Nepal that serves all? Not just a few?

Was I pensive knowing that no, you can’t step in the same river twice? But yes, you can be forced to re-learn that many times in your life.

Did I remember the value of living in the moment, staying present and valuing what I have? Of course.

If you can step away from your travel goals. Your photo goals. Your fun goals. Nepal continues to affect you in a deep way. Slowly seeping into your soul when you’re not paying attention. It could be the laugh and smile of the gold toothed Sherpa shop owner, or the gentle kiss from Sagar’s daughter to say goodbye.

Strip away changes and growth and earthquakes and tourism and mountains and pictures and pain and struggle and confusion and despair and wanting and hoping for a better life for all.

Strip all of that away and zero in on the amazing spirit of the Nepalese people and the deep love I have for this place and how it affects me. How Namche’s ashes will always be here and no matter what, a huge piece of my heart will always remain here. And THAT is not a dream. Goodbye Nepal. For now…..

The Everest Region: Then and now

As I ready to fly out of Lukla back to Kathmandu I remember an old adage “be careful flying in the clouds in Nepal. There are rocks in them!” The little airport that allows people to shorten their trip to the Khumbu by as much as two weeks looks newer.

The airport is paved now and no longer is a horn blown to shoo the cows off the runway. Sir Edmund Hillary lamented building it before he died because of the environmental and cultural impact it had on the Sherpa people.

They’ve done a nice job with Namche Bazaar. Not too much over growth. Mainly locally owned. Water and waste systems finally addressed. But the Sherpa people continue to be the richest in Nepal. Snagging tourist dollars as they venture to visit the worlds highest mountain.

The teahouses are better. The food? Well you’ll eat just about anything after schlepping your pack up a mountain all day.

Years ago the majority of people were solo or paired trekkers. Carrying their own pack. Winging it a bit. Seeing a guide was rare as, well, there is only one trail going up. Kinda hard to get lost. This is a Destination now so people don’t pick up a guide book. They book from the US and show up expecting a local guide to get them up high for their pictures. Gokyo at 15000 feet looks like a Mediterranean resort!

50,000 people a year means major impact. The trees are all gone in the upper Khumbu and have been for years. Teahouse kitchens where we eat are warmed by collecting and burning yak dung wth kerosene. Same as before but in some cases SUPER warm. Propane is carted up on yaks and mules for cooking at big villages. Still the incredible porters trek goods between villages with backbreaking loads.

Whereas it’s fine to have someone carry your pack if that is the only way up for you, at least be reasonable what you bring. The number of strapping young college students having a 5 foot 2, 120 pound Sherpa porter lug their multiple outfits and pairs of boots and large cameras up the mountain seems a tad absurd.

The people seem less into the spirituality of the place and more about climbing and hiking. I mean it might be in page 1 of the guide book that your circle ALL religious monuments (prayer wheels, temples, stupas, mani walls) clockwise.

It’s easy. It’s important to the people here. It’s seems 20 years of education STILL has people just buying plastic bottled water the whole trek. Wtf? They burn that shit! Yes I have a coke once in awhile. But I purify my water with a steripen.

Older crowd for sure. Humility in bunches. Other than being humbled by the assortment of high passes and viewpoints, there is the odd Octogenarian dragging her own pack to Everest Base Camp. True story.

The scenery is still incredible.

The kids are still adorable.

The place is still magical. But some of it is unfortunately lost on some people in their goal oriented approach to the mountain. The focus is more about tourism “bagged the peak. Bought the t shirt” than the rich cultural history here you can tap into if you just hang around a bit after the crowds scamper to their next destination. And you just sit and ask questions. And listen.

You still fall in love with the 50, 60, 70, and 80 year old men and women as their fingers slowly glide over their mala, chanting Om maní padme hum while doing their daily work. Always a smile or a laugh.

The first time I came here I spent a total of two days in Kathmandu during the first 8 weeks of trekking and rafting. You get a certain amount of satisfaction coming back here and feeling like you connected with that part of Nepal. Like you belong now. And I will relish that feeling for the next few days.

Something hits you AFTER you leave the mountains. You realize you can’t ft into the surreal lives of people there. The romanticism of it increases daily, as does the respect for the agrarian lifestyle most don’t choose to live, but live with abundance and what seems like happiness. The simplicity of their lifestyle is what brings me back, knowing full well I don’t see the backbreaking work, long days and constant stress to meet basic needs. But after a lifetime in the US and many visits here, I am still not sure which life is more desirable. You can’t have both. And it is hard to go back to a life like that (or for the first time) once you’ve experienced our creature comforts. But I’m damn certain our culture provides our own set of hardships that the people from here would likely not trade for if they really knew.

It’s taken a bit longer this time, but the strong feeling of not really wanting to say goodbye yet is here. One is almost always arms length here. Even when I taught. Maybe it’s the constant drum of impermanence reinforced once again? I wish I could say I wasn’t in my head a lot as I was counting my 50 steps up Gokyo Ri before each break. Constantly rolling life choices and options and hopes around my brain. I wish I was always in the moment as Pandora has helped me remember is the best spot. I wasn’t. But at certain times, when I was, it was magic.

Namche and I

For me Namche Bazaar has had multiple impacts on my life. I have the most incredible story of running into a Swiss buddy, Thomas, in Namche in 1995. I won’t bore you with all the details, but with no internet invented and him never getting any of my messages and letters, we ran into each other on the exact day in the exact town I had written him about. Coming from different directions in Nepal. We traveled together for three months after and became good friends.

In 1996 I continued my travels in the US after my dad died suddenly and ventured to Alaska to see my sis in an old jeep. On the first day of my life I could have a dog, a litter of puppies showed up at my hostel/campground in Haines, Alaska.

I grabbed one as I was leaving and named what I thought was a boy dog Jack. After my dad.

Well after a few hours of singing along to the Band’s “The Weight” bellowing the line “if you’ll take Jack my dog!” And being in love with my puppy, we stopped for a pee break and lo and behold the little squatter was a girl!

As we continued on, I pondered her name. Jack didn’t work. I wasn’t trading her in. Finally I landed on Namche. The center of the Sherpa culture that so deeply impacted me on my travels.

For those of you that don’t know, Namche was attached to me for 12 years. And we went EVERYWHERE. It’s been almost ten years since I had my heart broken to make the call to put her down. It’s not unique in the world. But the relationship certainly was for me.

So as I walked up the stairs to Namche Bazaar, having visited once since I had gotten her, so many feelings washed over me. A time in my life of great awakening and experience in Nepal. One that would put me on the path to Buddhism. One that would have me addicted to the outdoors as a necessary part of my life to survive a culture I reluctantly participate in. A longing for a simpler path I have been unable to sustain for long. A feeling or a wish that we all could be motivated by at least the thought that all sentient beings have value and it’s in all of our interests to always keep our eye on that ball. And not only play for ourselves. However you may do it.

And of course, the feelings came over me like a tidal wave remembering my best friend. Only a few of my friends and family really understood what it meant for me to have someone rely on me and for me to take seriously her health and wellbeing. Many people judge animal lovers and truly, some of us are crazy. But she was the closest thing to a child I’ve ever had and she, along with my study of Buddhism, reminded me daily how fleeting our lives are. I KNEW I would have to say goodbye to her. From Day 1. And thus i treated every single day as a gift and as though it would be her last. She was my living breathing loving reminder of impermanence. And it played out that way.

After she died, I couldn’t even go to the beach without sobbing for a year. Every time I went to a place we had visited, I brought some of her ashes. Even to places I WANTED to go with her. I only backpacked National Parks for years as she couldn’t go there when she was alive. So it made it easier. I put some of her ashes in a sealed locket I got in India that I wore. I NEEDED that. It helped me cope and still feel close to her. Too much? I didn’t care.

I spread her ashes in our backyard, in the Eel River where she loved to swim. In the Pacific Ocean. All over the Lost Coast where we wandered and had our last backpacking trip. Took them to India with me. Twice. I finally took some back to Haines, Alaska in 2013 and made a little memorial for her in the Pet Cemetery that was coincidentally behind the campground where I got her. In Bolivia the next year the locket melted open in a natural hot springs so her ashes are on the Altiplano. I thought it was a sign that it was time to let go, got a new pendant with a new significance, and felt I was done with that practice.

Though in the back of my mind, I never really thought I would get back to Namche Bazaar. Well…Not with my physical problems and certainly because I had already been there twice. I had always wanted to take her trekking with me here as crazy as that sounds. She would have gorged herself on yak shit and gotten her ass kicked by some mountain dog.

So I brought some of her ashes with me. Just in case. I mean you can’t just buzz up to Namche Bazaar.

Even while in Bhutan just a month ago I was unsure. Would I trek? Could I trek? What does this mean?

As I left Tumlingtar and again leaving Lukla I said “me and you Nammie, one last time.”

So as I climbed into town, I sobbed. For Namche the town and Namche my best friend.

I was told there was a place up above Namche Bazaar with views of Everest and the Khumbu. And some mani walls and prayer flags.

Yesterday, I took her ashes, a khata I got in Bhutan as well as a little prayer flag and hiked up to the top of the hill.

I tied the prayer flag and the khata to the stone mani wall and waited for the right wind to say goodbye and send her ashes into the Himalayas one final time.

This will be her final resting place. I can’t do it again and of course there is nowhere else.

Except in my heart.

Now you know why this was so important to me. And it didn’t disappoint.

Chronic pain and disease. Words of encouragement.

Some of my friends and family have suffered from chronic pain and disease. I wanted to offer some hope for those that are afflicted. My story. 2 1/2 years ago when I returned from volunteering in Guatemala I was hit with a very unusual and inexplicable head rushing. Major neck pain. Ulnar neuropathy. Knee pain as I’ve mentioned. Horrible fatigue. Arthritis in both thumbs. Depression. It all hit over 3 months. In October of 2015 I was diagnosed with Lyme disease (even though I had two negative tests) as I had been bitten many times by ticks and my symptoms presented themselves as classic Lyme. I was started on what ended up being a full year of heavy antibiotics (doxycycline) and other antibiotics, probiotics and supplements. I took north of 60 pills a day. I tried every practitioner imaginable. Acupuncture. Chinese medicine. CT scans. MRIs. Counseling. Body work. Rolfing. Meditation. Just sitting on my ass.

About August of last year I hurt my back so badly that I went to the ER and spent a week in bed and on painkillers. I was planning on quitting my job and traveling Italy with my best friends Joe and Jenny and my god daughter Elena. All was put on hold. I was really in crisis with no where to go.

I stayed positive with the support of friends and family. I examined auto immune clinics etc. Once I hurt my back I went radical and did 26 days (of a normally 12 day) elimination diet. Just to get a baseline.

I learned tons about my body, our food systems, and the lack of nutritional knowledge in mainstream medicine.

I got to see what it was like to be in our health care system. Spent over $40,000 out of pocket but felt lucky I had health insurance, a job, and no dependents. Not sure I would have survived.

When I went on the Elimination diet I (correctly) determined I didn’t have Lyme. I stopped the Antibiotics. Some of my friends are not as fortunate and still battling Lyme. It’s a very controversial diagnosis. Once you are diagnosed, it’s like a red letter on your charts. No one wants to see you.

The reason I’m writing all of this is to give folks in that space some hope. A year ago I had hand surgery, a PRP injection in my knee (another controversial procedure) and was basically told “over 50, your knees have no hope.” After the surgery and PRP, it was November, I could do nothing. Rock bottom. I canceled South America and again didn’t quit my job! Haha.

I went to Baja to repair. And did. I also met Pandora right before and, as I mentioned, she helped me figure the last nagging piece. My knee.

So as i continue on the second half of this incredible trip up to Everest Base Camp, just remember one thing. Do NOT think practitioners know it all. Seek help. Seek support from WHOMEVER you can. Reach out to me. Politic for a sane and fair health care system for all. And do not give up. Your body, with the right care and nutrition, has the ability to heal itself. And I am so grateful for every single person that has helped me. I attacked each affliction individually and won most of the battles. I’m living proof you can do it. Never in a million years, even as recently as four months ago, did I comprehend I could pull this off.

And the next two weeks will blow your mind if you haven’t been up here. Hope my pics do it justice!

Namaste!

Chronic pain and disease. Words of encouragement.

Some of my friends and family have suffered from chronic pain and disease. I wanted to offer some hope for those that are afflicted. My story. 2 1/2 years ago when I returned from volunteering in Guatemala I was hit with a very unusual and inexplicable head rushing. Major neck pain. Ulnar neuropathy. Knee pain as I’ve mentioned. Horrible fatigue. Arthritis in both thumbs. Depression. It all hit over 3 months. In October of 2015 I was diagnosed with Lyme disease (even though I had two negative tests) as I had been bitten many times by ticks and my symptoms presented themselves as classic Lyme. I was started on what ended up being a full year of heavy antibiotics (doxycycline) and other antibiotics, probiotics and supplements. I took north of 60 pills a day. I tried every practitioner imaginable. Acupuncture. Chinese medicine. CT scans. MRIs. Counseling. Body work. Rolfing. Meditation. Just sitting on my ass.

About August of last year I hurt my back so badly that I went to the ER and spent a week in bed and on painkillers. I was planning on quitting my job and traveling Italy with my best friends Joe and Jenny and my god daughter Elena. All was put on hold. I was really in crisis with no where to go.

I stayed positive with the support of friends and family. I examined auto immune clinics etc. Once I hurt my back I went radical and did 26 days (of a normally 12 day) elimination diet. Just to get a baseline.

I learned tons about my body, our food systems, and the lack of nutritional knowledge in mainstream medicine.

I got to see what it was like to be in our health care system. Spent over $40,000 out of pocket but felt lucky I had health insurance, a job, and no dependents. Not sure I would have survived.

When I went on the Elimination diet I (correctly) determined I didn’t have Lyme. I stopped the Antibiotics. Some of my friends are not as fortunate and still battling Lyme. It’s a very controversial diagnosis. Once you are diagnosed, it’s like a red letter on your charts. No one wants to see you.

The reason I’m writing all of this is to give folks in that space some hope. A year ago I had hand surgery, a PRP injection in my knee (another controversial procedure) and was basically told “over 50, you’re knees have no hope.” After the surgery and PRP, it was November, I could do nothing. Rock bottom. I canceled South America and again didn’t quit my job! Haha.

I went to Baja to repair. And did. I also met Pandora right before and, as I mentioned, she helped me figure the last nagging piece. My knee.

So as i continue on the second half of this incredible trip up to Everest Base Camp, just remember one thing. Do NOT think practitioners know it all. Seek help. Seek support from WHOMEVER you can. Reach out to me. Politic for a sane and fair health care system for all. And do not give up. Your body, with the right care and nutrition, has the ability to heal itself. And I am so grateful for every single person that has helped me. I attacked each affliction individually and won most of the battles. I’m living proof you can do it. Never on a million year, even as recently as four months ago, did I comprehend I could pull this off.

And the next two weeks will blow your mind if you haven’t been up here. Hope my pics do it justice!

Namaste!

Holy shit the Khumbu!!

Day 7 is in the books and I feel like I’m on some sort of Human Growth Hormone. Waiting for something to snap!

My body feels so good. On hour 8 today, the approximately 5000 feet of descent and 5000 feet of climbing were having me feel it a bit. But still, my body feels BETTER than before. I don’t get it. And I’m not complaining.

The villages and climbs are becoming more familiar but I get the views this time I missed last two times!

x

I’ve crossed over into the Solu Khumbu or Everest region and tonight will be the last night of no craziness. I shall encounter the masses seeking Everest. Or Sagarmartha as they call it here. I have seen a total of three trekkers. Crossed three very steep but relatively low (11000 feet plus) passes as the Himalayas go. But the climbs have been epic from river valleys to passes. I’ve made up some time and might shave a day off so I can spend more time up high next week. We will see.

I stayed in this place 22 years ago! I remember!

I can’t really say the places have changed very much. I can say in general the folks in the villages aren’t quite as friendly or hospitable as I remember. Now it’s a small sample size. It could be their fatigue of trekkers, just bad luck (I mean only like 50 to 100 solo trekkers come thru here without a guide each year I was told. 50,000 visit the Everest region!) Logically it’s just me. The bar has been set so high over the years with these wonderful Nepalese people that I just expect a super close connection and spiritual experience each time. Yeah. Spoiled. But the less they have the nicer they are it seems.

I can honestly say it’s pretty bare bones with creature comforts. I mean, I can’t even find Center Fruit gum the last few days Chhimi! WTF?

I did have my first beer tonight. It cost $6.50. They had to cart it up on some poor dudes back. I rarely drink up here as the bottles stay up here.

I had a crazy moment today as I humped it up the last 30 minutes of my trek. It was hot. I was tired. A tad whiny. Wearing my chacos as the downhill had started to fry my feet. In front of me was this enormous stack of grass/hay/something they use here. Slowly moving up the trail. Should have gotten a pic. I could barely make out a pair of woolen slipper-like shoes gingerly shuffling beneath the stack and climbing the hot, dusty hill.

As i caught up to it, the haystack slowly shifted clockwise so I could see the person who was carrying this stack bigger than themselves ( not uncommon here).

It turns out it was about a seventy year old woman hauling this huge stack of whatever up the hot hillside. There was a enough room to pass, I slid by, said Namaste, she smiled and responded in kind.

My heart melted.

A beautiful sunset capped the night as I discussed our juvenile president with a really nice German couple sharing my tea house. I’m in Sherpa country.

Day 5. Taking it easy

For some reason this original didn’t post. 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!

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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 hump. 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 …..