I am happy and peaceful and content – despite the madness of Kathmandu, despite the increase of daily power cuts to eight hours daily, despite the fact that I was rejected by eight ATM machines today and walked around for hours trying to find money, despite being attacked by a monkey yesterday who stole a fresh coconut out of my hand, despite waiting for power and thanking god each time I am actually able to obtain a hot shower… I am happy to be here, feeling more and more fortunate each day for the life I have been blessed to, being appreciative of our warped yet orderly society in America and feeling blessed to have the most amazing travel companion.
So here goes the crazy story of our trek which went from excitement and bliss to soreness and major disappointment to a drunken guide was fired mid trek – back to bliss.
We left on our trek with Dipu, our guide who came highly recommended and who we fell in love with instantly. We departed Kathmandu to Pokara (6 hrs) and had an amazing fish dinner and checked into our lovely hotel that actually had HOT water! The next morning we departed early and began our mountain ascent. Adam and I decided not to get a porter and Adam, being a gem, carried most of the burden of our pack, which actually was quite heavy. We began the most intense day long stairmaster trek imaginable until each step felt like we were lifting a leg full of lead. Adam and I were both silently thinking, “what the hell have we gotten ourselves into”. Of course, both of us being full of pride, did not admit this to each other until later. Our legs were on fire and we were on day one of nine! We landed in our “tea house”, which was nothing more than a poorly constructed building of tin construction. We could hear the person in the room next to us turn over in bed at night. The temperature outside was frigid and our room was tin with glass windows. We slept fully clothed adorned with our hats and scarves.
Day two was spent ascending another steep mountain when we ran into what we later affectionately called “Korea“. Korea was a Korean girl with an unpronouncable name who was in major pain from trekking, but too filled with pride to stop and rest. She was alone with no guide and was paining herself slowly up the mountain. We took her along with us as the mountain is no place for a woman to trek alone. Korea was so sloooow and our five hour ascent took longer than six hours. Our legs were paining but we trekked along without complaint . The tea house where we stopped was similarly poorly constructed out of plywood, but at least there was a fire to cuddle up to until it was time to hop into our icy sleeping bags.
Day three we woke up at 5:00 am to trek up Poon Hill, which is supposed to be one of the most incredible sites in Nepal. We ascended 400 meters (1200 feet) of snow and ice by flashlight in record time to the top of Poon Hill which rests at 3200 meters and was a frigid -15C/5F degrees. I have NEVER in my life even come close to being this cold. I had two pairs of gloves on and four pairs of socks on and could not feel anything besides pain in my hands and feet. I was walking and could not feel the earth below my feet. Once the sun rose the views were spectacular and we were surrounded by multiple breathtaking snow capped mountains. The icy and slippery ascent was well worth it.
When going up Poon Hill, Korea was slowing us way down so Adam and I went up solo while leaving Korea with our guide. Dipu practically dragged her up the mountain as her legs were totally failing her. Korea wished to keep ascending and after much persuasion we were able to convince her to descend without us. As we began trekking we found out that Himalaya (one day before our final Anapurna Base Camp (ABC) destination) had a foot of snow and that a group of Koreans were trapped there for three days and were not able to get up to ABC. We were wondering while during the first three days people were saying we were crazy to attempt ABC!
We arrived at our tea house along with many other trekkers. Dipu was drinking his usual “Roxie”, a Nepalese saki type alcoholic drink made of rice. A Canadian was teasing Dipu about how his Nepalese girlfriend who recently left for two years for Australia to study was going to leave him and how the relationship definitely would not endure the distance. This being a very sensitive subject drove Dipu to drink more and more and eventually there was a full blown verbal fight between Canada and Dipu. Canada was relentless in his mocking and Dipu would not let the subject rest. Dipu’s behavior was quite upsetting to most in the dining room and it got so uncomfortable that I excused myself from the table and went in my room.
Day four we woke up to Dipu apologizing profusely for his drinking and his behavior. We let it go but talked to Dipu about how we were unhappy that his company sent us on the trek as they should have known the climb was impossible at this time of year. We heard the day before that now Bamboo (two stops before ABC) had three feet of snow and that Himalaya has closed since a huge avalanche fell on the main hotel. All the hotels and services at Himalaya had come off the mountain and were now in Bamboo. The guides report daily to the trekking companies so how was it possible that the company could not have known the mountain conditions. We were upset and disappointed and just wished that we were forewarned – if we would have known we would have taken an alternate trek.
Dipu upset about this as well as the Canadian began his Roxie consumption at 8:00am and stopped at every available shop to drink. Adam and I were frustrated and said we did not wish to make stops and when we passed a stop Adam and I just continued trekking and left Dipu behind. After ten or so minutes Dipu would come bouncing down the mountain to find us. Dipu’s drinking became so bad that in the last few hours he was falling down the mountain and at least five times took a huge fall and smashed his face in the rocks. By the time we reached our destination he was full on drunk and could not properly stand. Adam and I were pissed as we were having to take care of our guide, who we actually paid quite a lot for! At our stop Dipu began drinking more and more and polished off a pint of cheap whisky in ten minutes flat as he chased it with Roxy! Adam was irate at the situation and at the company for sending us on the trek. This time Adam took the lead and his anger helped me become calm. We called the company and Adam debated for quite some time without success with the manager about sending us up an impossible pass. At this point we were protecting Dipu and stated we had no problems with him but were upset with the company. As the night progressed and Dipu got more and more drunk our frustration turned from the company to Dipu and we wondered what to do as the trek could not be completed and now we were stuck with a bitter and incompetent alcoholic guide.
Day five we woke up to Dipu knocking on the door apologizing profusely. At this point apologies were unacceptable. Adam and I were pissed and wished to have nothing to do with Dipu. After going around in circles and to make a long story very short – we fired Dipu. He gave us a small portion of our money back for food and lodging and we told him to go back to Kathmandu. The good news we were finally in a nice tea house and were at Jinu hot springs!!! The hot springs were amazing and felt so wonderful on our tired and sore muscles. Since ABC was impossible we decided to chill for a few days in the hot springs. We did just this and for the next two days we rested for at least four hours a day in the beautiful hot springs surrounded by mountains and greenery. After decompressing we were finally able to feel like ourselves again.
So we cut the trek four days short and were unable to reach our destination. We ended in Pokara, a very cool and chill town with a huge and beautiful man made lake. We explored the sites, ate at wonderful restaurants, played cards, had hot showers and enjoyed the sites.
Yesterday we explored Boudnath, a Buddhist spiritual center of Nepal which has an incredibly large Buddha stupa in the center. We walked around the stupa, chilled on rooftop cafes, were blessed by a few monks in the temples and were infused with a sense of serenity.
Next we explored monkey temple, named for the huge population of monkeys who have somewhat taken over the temple. On the way up I felt a huge thud on my chest as if someone was beating the hell out of me. What it was was a cheeky monkey who spring boarded off my chest in order to grab the fresh coconut out of my hand.