Seven walking hours. It was hard, but so good. Waterfalls and rushing rivers, and green everywhere. I didn’t think I’d make it up the last hill, though. It was a steady climb up pretty much all day.
We made it to this guesthouse in a town called Deurali. The rooms are just 200 rupees ($2) but the food is much more expensive than in Kathmandu.
It’s freezing out. And in. Maybe 30-35 degrees. And the fog had overtaken this place by the time we got here. I’m wearing tights and jeans, leg warmers and socks, a scarf over my face and Kio’s sweatshirt under my jacket.
We’ve been sitting downstairs at a round table with some guys who are on their way down–back to Jiri after finishing the Everest trek. One French, one Spanish–the finishers.
“Shower now, eat now, drink now,” they advise, because things only get more expensive as you go on.
They’re both drinking 400 rupee beers and ordering all the food on the menu.
There are three big bottles of San Miguel in front of each of them.
They’re wearing the same blue puff jackets, which I’m certain is a coincidence. They met on a beach somewhere a few weeks ago, and then again on the trail. They work the same jobs in their respective countries. An interesting pair.
“Do you want another beer?” the French one asked his friend as he got up and walked toward the kitchen.
We’ve been smoking and talking and eating cheese and crackers for a few hours, courtesy of the finishers. I just came up to use the bathroom and I thought “this is so cool.”
This has been the most physically grueling day I’ve ever experienced. We walked for eight hours. Ninety percent of it was uphill. The last 45 minutes were the most painful of my life.
We stopped in Sete and I thought we would stay there for the night. We had been walking since eight this morning on coconut crackers and tea. I had a headache and my legs felt like lead. But it was only 3:30. We still had a couple hours of daylight and Kio wanted to keep going.
We ate something in Sete and left at 4:30. Everyone said it would take an hour and a half to get to the next place, Dagchu, so we were worried about light.
I thought I could do it, though, and fast if I had some food in me.
We started walking up the first hill and I found I had been wrong. I stopped halfway through it and bent over, trying to catch my breath.
Then it was all up hill. It didn’t take the full hour and a half, but it was painful enough.
“Kio, I can’t.”
The words were at the tip of my tongue from the middle of the first hill to the end of the last. But I didn’t bother spitting them out, for what would they have done?
I couldn’t keep going, but I had to.
We couldn’t turn back, and we couldn’t stay there. My mom wasn’t coming to pick me up and take me home. Kio wasn’t going to carry me. No one was going to save me.
I just had to go.
I started counting my steps to make sure I kept walking. My legs didn’t want to move.
At the end of one of those counts, I figured we would be there.
When we made it to Dagchu, I collapsed on a bench and took ten minutes to catch my breath. Everything was hurting so badly I was afraid I would never recover. My head, my chest, my feet and legs. And it was so cold.
This road from Jiri is more treacherous than the blogs could have warned.
We laid in our sleeping bags like vegetables for the rest of the night. It felt good not to move.
Morning: I didn’t sleep much last night, despite the fatigue. I was in and out of bed, hawking and spitting in true Nepalese fashion, from this sinus thing that I refuse to call a cold. But the cough is so deep and the phlegm so thick and green, I’m a little worried I have pneumonia or something. It feels like someone is sitting on my chest when I try to breathe deeply.
Kio said his chest was still pounding hours after we’d vegetated last night and I was worried for him too.
I hope we can make it through this trek. It’s only been two days and we’re struggling.
The room here, Kio calls a barn. It’s just a big wooden room with padded benches along three of the walls–our beds.
Kio and I went to sleep drooling over mental pictures of our favorite foods. Toasties from 7-11, Nation’s veggie burgers, pad thai.
We got the idea to eat just once a day from the two finishers we met that first night, but it’s a terrible idea. At least until we get to Lukla. They say the road from Lukla to Everest is much easier than this. I can’t have another day like yesterday. This morning, we will eat something. And then we walk.
Evening: Today wasn’t nearly as bad as yesterday. We ate an egg and a huge plate of rice with ketchup for breakfast, then put in our nine hours.
The road was hard this morning–it was uphill for the first three hours, then it was all downhill or flat.
Our goal was to get to Salu. When we did, it was just 4 and neither of us were terribly tired, so we had some tea and asked how long it would take to get to the next place-Ringmu. The woman who served us tea said it would take an hour and a half. People were always grossly overestimating the distances, so I relayed to Kio that we should be there in 45 minutes.
We started walking again, but the sun had already gone down, and the fog was rolling over the mountains.
We walked and walked. The road was easy and flat for the most part but it was so long.
After thirty minutes, we had gotten nowhere. Forty-five, nothing. After an hour, there was no village in sight. And it was dark.
Was this really the one time someone had given an accurate estimation of how long it would take to get somewhere?
It seemed so.
We crossed a suspended bridge and I thought we were done. The bridge would take us into the new city and we would be done.
A series of hills to climb.
I had to keep stopping along the hills. They were so unexpected. Again, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get through this part of the trek.
Kio went ahead so that he was too far and it was too dark to see him.
I get it. Self-preservation.
Meanwhile, I’m counting my steps again.
Then I saw lights in the black sky. Thick white lights at the top of a hill.
“Kamille,” Kio called from the top.
Yes, I’m still alive.
We’re in a wooden guesthouse. The first guesthouse at the top of that hill.
Kio says it’s like a jail. It’s the fourth place we’ve been to that he’s described that way. The first was Koh Tao.
He points to the bars on our room windows and laughs like a child.
He thinks the owners are afraid of Yetis like him.
He draws me a picture.
He tells me the story of the Dyatlov Expedition, when a group of students went into the Ural Mountains in Russia and were all found dead. They had all run away from their tent and had taken their clothes off like you do when you’re freezing and start feel hot, he says. And they all looked like they had been afraid of something. (He enacts his best version of dead-and-afraid-of-something.) Some believe it was a yeti that had attacked them.
I make him walk with me to the bathroom.
I just looked at some pictures I took today. These mountains are so beautiful.
The beauty is easy to forget, though, with all the pain. When we’re climbing I can only hear the sounds of my quick, shallow breaths.
And sometimes thoughts: rock, rock, wet; don’t trip, it takes energy; I wish that plane was ours; mm, pine, otherwise it smells like horse shit all the time; mud; I don’t want to do this; beautiful; what time is it; cookies.
Things like that.
And sometimes it’s music. This morning it was “way back when I had the red and black lumber jack, with a hat to match.” Just those words for about an hour.
Anyway, it’s all internal. I feel my leaden legs and my heart pounding in my chest and my lungs gasping for air. And I can hear everything in my body. The pounding and the gasping and the random thoughts and the music.
Then I get to the top of a hill and I stop for a moment. And everything stops.
No more pounding or gasping or thinking.
A gust of mountain wind.
Sunlight pours onto the trees.
It is a foreign and forgotten world.
But when I walk again, the beauty disappears. There is only pain.