We keep saying that we’re going to start early.
Tomorrow, we wake up at six, we say.
But we just wake up later and later, and don’t bother with alarms. This morning we woke just before nine and started walking at ten.
It was all downhill for the first three hours, and then I couldn’t decide whether I hated more to walk uphill or down. I hurt my knee two days ago when I misstepped on the way down a steep hill, and now there’s a sharp pain that comes and goes. I wrapped Kio’s bandage around it today, which seemed to help a little.
It was humid and I was hungry and thirsty all day. We stopped around three and ate dal baht. It’s a big plate of rice and lentil soup to pour over it. But more importantly, they always give you two servings of dal baht.
Kio and I got one order to share. Food is very expensive here.
When we were finished and Kio had gotten his photos with the baby goats that were running around the restaurant, the fun was over.
We kept walking.
We walked uphill enough to cover the ground we had just walked down all day, and now I’m pretty sure we’re at the same altitude we were at this morning.
After all the ups and downs and back ups of today (and the last three days) we agreed to figure a different way back from base camp to Kathmandu. I don’t ever want to see this Jiri trail again.
We may take a flight from Lukla when we come back down, but we have to figure out the price. Otherwise there’s another town we can walk to called Salleri to take a jeep back to Kathmandu.
We’re in a guesthouse at the edge of a village called Ringmu. We bypassed the bigger guesthouses toward the center, trying to get over to the next town, but we lost our daily race with the dark and settled for this accidental guesthouse at the top of a hill.
There was an old woman perched outside the window of the building, looking out over the village like Rapunzel. I went to the two men sitting on the steps outside the place.
“Do you have a bed?”
No one said anything.
“Bed?” I repeated.
Then one of them said something and pointed into the building the woman was in.
Did he say
“Ask?” I asked.
The woman heard the fuss and came out in her purple dress.
“Do you have a bed?” I asked.
She started at me.
“Room?” She asked.
“Yes. You have?”
“Yes,” she said.
She didn’t say anything.
She began to nod, and too quickly I said, “two hundred?” And she nodded some more.
“Ok, two hundred for both,” I said, pointing between Kio and I.
“Yes,” she said.
Then we all stood there looking at each other. The woman didn’t seem to know what to do next.
“Room?” Kio prompted.
She brought us inside.
It’s another little wooden room with twin beds on either side. There’s blue tarp on the ceiling and red wires strung across the room to power the dim yellow light above the window.
Kio remembered a pack of leaf tea he bought in Kathmandu and we made some in the kitchen. Then he offered some to the woman.
“It’s good tea, I buy in Kathmandu,” he said.
She smiled coyly and poured herself a glass. When her daughter came in, the woman said something about Kathmandu and pointed to the tea. The girl smiled and “Oo’d” and poured herself a glass too.
Kio brought his speakers down and we drank tea and listened to Yellawolf. The night was black, except for tiny flies that glowed green and the white lights in the villages across the mountain that looked like giant stars. The real stars look as tiny as those flies, and we can see billions from here.
We have made it to Lukla, thank goodness. We’re about two days ahead of schedule. This is where 95 percent of people start this trek, and they say it’s much easier from here to Everest.
We could have flown here from Kathmandu and started but when I was researching the trek and told Kio our options–fly to Lukla or walk from Jiri–he said, “we have legs. We can walk.”
If I had known what the “walk” from Jiri would entail, I might have argued for the former option. If Kio had known, he might have opted for that flight to Moscow.
Food is more expensive here than anywhere we’ve been yet and we’re still pretty tight on money, so we’ve skipped dinner.
It’s too cold to shower with the luke warm water in the bathroom, but I hadn’t showered since we left Kathmandu and the water was free, so I took one anyway. It took me ten minutes to stop shivering afterward.
There’s music and laughter and applause coming in through the windows and the walls from neighboring guesthouses and restaurants. Everyone else sounds happy and warm and well-fed. I’m cold and hungry and sick of this trek. I want a veggie burger and a hot shower and I want to wake up tomorrow and not walk all day. I have to keep telling myself that this is what I wanted, but the thought right now of ten more days of it is dreadful.
I wish this Snickers bar would never end. I haven’t had or wanted a Snickers in years, but it’s all I’ve thought about the last three days. They’re stacked in the front windows of every shop we pass and there are wrappers littered all along the trails. I found one for 100 rupees instead of the mountain standard 150, and I had to.
We’re staying in a guesthouse called Nirvana. From the deck of this place, the city looks like it’s made of paper mâché. Perfect, square brick buildings stacked along the mountain. People walking through corridors and up and down the city steps with flashlights look like little dolls. The fog rolls in in waves, covers the stars and smears the view into cloudy grey light. The mountains south of the city are a black abyss. I imagine walking that way and floating into space.
There’s always the splashing from the waterfall at the city entrance, and a dog barking somewhere.
We walked seven hours to Namche today. The trail isn’t quite as bad as it was from Jiri, but it’s not as easy as I was hoping it would be. The last two hours were all uphill and all too familiar.
There are a lot of older people on this part of the trail. They’re all in groups with walking sticks, guides and porters, proper clothes and solar panels hanging from their bags. It’s much busier than the way from Jiri, where all we saw all day were pack mules and porters.
Kio was nearly impaled by the horn of a bull we passed today at one point. And after a mule almost pushed me off the side of the mountain yesterday, we’ve learned to be much more careful around the lines of packing animals we pass. Kio climbed up a stone wall later to avoid getting near a bull.
My favorite parts of the day are the tea breaks. We sit for ten or fifteen minutes and drink weak black tea with sugar and eat a pack or two of coconut crackers, the cheapest snack we can find in these mountains. Sitting was never such an enjoyable activity. And when it’s over it’s like the teacher calling you in from recess. You can lollygag all you want on your way back to the classroom, but you know you have to go.
We keep walking.
The soles of my $10 tennis shoes from Kathmandu have lost all traction and I think they want to speak to me. Kio likes to remind me that they’re nothing like his Adidas that, apart from the dust, look like they were just bought yesterday.
Everything is a little sore–feet, ankles, calves, hamstrings, butt, back, shoulders, neck–but not as much as I would have expected for having walked as much as we have.
We wear the same clothes everyday for the most part. I switch between a long and short sleeved shirt. One of the two is always wet in the morning from the previous day’s sweat that won’t dry in the cold night, so I tie it to my backpack while we walk for the sun. I wear the same pair of spandex, Kio the same pair of jeans. And socks. We only have one pair of socks. They smell ridiculous, but worse is how they feel: stiff from days of sweat and sand.
I wish I could wash my hair, but it’s too cold to think of it. Anyway, there’s no water.