Feeling: EXHILIRATINGLY STEADY
Shit I’m unbelievably happy I did India first: If I’d done this trip with Nepal as stop one, I would’ve found India severely lacking.
In India I was always on edge, always protecting my belongings by holding them close to my chest. While I fell a little in love with its insanity, I always felt just that little bit unsafe. Uncomfortable in the constant leering and staring. A bit disturbed by the dirtiness and despair.
And here? At first I was still in Indian mode, padlocking my bag for the porter to carry and keeping my money on me at all times. But slowly, as I’ve gotten to know the gentle-souled Nepalese, I’ve started to trust them like I’ve never trusted anyone else before in my life. That’s not to say I don’t have my wits about me, oh no. I’m not dancing around with wads of cash in the open or languishing down the lanes in no light. But I feel safer than in ever have in my life. Really, truly and utterly.
One example that really illustrates this is the polarising positions on tipping. In India, there was a pressure to part with cash. Not by everyone, but the majority. My driver for the three-day tour kept making jokes and comments that came back to tipping, like how he only got to go and see his family if he received a good tip and the like. I felt increasingly uncomfortable and started to panic that my $15USD parting present wouldn’t be enough. (I’d heard that $10 was plenty). Although he thanked me, I could see in his eyes he’d been hoping and expecting more. A little white Western girl on a private tour? Must be loaded. What he didn’t realise was that I was on the bones of my Indian budget and my tip meant a papaya for dinner.
In complete opposition, at our briefing before the trek Josh asked Ram what was an appropriate amount to tip the porters and guides. Ram responded with, “No no, tips are not compulsory. You’ve spent a lot to get here, it’s ok.” I was so touched. Bless his little heart.
Ram, our guide, Sanjay, our assistant guide, and Surya, one of the porters who puddles along with us instead of his carrying companions, are the most kind hearted souls I’ve ever come across. So gentle, steady, humble, but with lightening quick witty one-liners when opportunities present themselves.
Ram would be 50 or so (I originally had early-40s but on asking my main man his age, he revealed he is in fact 51), something that surprised me on our meeting. I was expecting a young tour guide, I don’t know why. I was so pleased with Ram and his 15 years of Everest experience.
As the days have progressed, so has my love for this sweet souled man. He has this cheeky grin and glorious giggle that just lights up my life (Spice Girls embedding, girl power). He loves reading, always hunting down material at every stop and wait time. Ask him what his book is about and he just overflows with enthusiasm. And he’s funny too; yesterday Josh asked him what the following day’s weather would be like and Ram chuckled and replied, “I don’t know, I’m not Tim Bailey.” (Australian weather presenter).
Sanjay is 22, and an absolute joy. I often trek with him and we chat away about all sorts of things. He’s a cheeky wee thing; yesterday as we stood gazing at awe at the breath taking mountain, he said, “She’s beautiful, but not as beautiful as you.” I laughed and laughed. It wasn’t sleazy or a pick up or anything at all, it was purely a perfect punch line moment. He’s teaching Sarah and I some Nepalese and is always overjoyed when we ask him for particular phrases or are practising.
Surya (fittingly translating to “sun”), also 22, is absolutely adorable. He smiles whenever he sees you, and fist pumps like a champ. He’s usually my pack carrier, and gracefully ganters along with no complaint.
I feel so blessed to be in the company of these three beautiful people.
Yesterday on a horrendous uphill Tegan noted how no matter how strenuous our stride got, Surya, Sanjay and Ram remained steady in the clothes they set out in. Jackets, pants, the whole outfit (pun). Whereas us Aussies and single Kiwi bird had our layers on and off like the temperamental solar power. Suddenly it struck me; it wasn’t just the clothes, it was life in general. We Westerners were all so erratic, up and down and all over the show in emotions and the like. And the Nepalese? Steady, constant. As Sanajay responded when I good-morning-how-are-you’d him this AM: “All good, not bad. Always happy never sad.” And today? I kept my thermal on the entire 6-hour trek. I didn’t even draw attention to the fact, but when we reached our tea house Sanjay affectionately pinched my top and fist pumped me. He knew what I was up to.
It’s funny, within the first few days at the ashram in India Oce said to me, “You need to learn to be grounded. You’re up and down and can’t sit still, emotionally and physically.” A more subtle soul wouldn’t probably have blurted it so bluntly, but by this stage I had come to know Oce’s way of absolutely speaking her mind. I wasn’t offended in the slightest; I took it on board with open arms.
I honestly feel like I’m getting grounded in Nepal. I’m in the now. All my thoughts are about today; any future-orientated are fleeting and promptly pass. How did I manage to modify my mind? When it was of my greatest goals and absolute aims? I don’t know. It just happened. And it feels fantastic.
Tegan was saying how she’s finding herself to ruminate more and more as time goes on. I honestly can say I’m the complete opposite; the remaining clouds are clearing. I’d even say that is I carried in this fashion, it might even get crystal. When I walk (well, hike the shit out of hills), I think about special someones. I scenario to songs. I think about how far I’ve come, both figuratively and literally.
Funnily enough, my morning and evening yoga practice is in complete difference. Holding positions proves quite the challenge; I wobble and am unstable. Know why? The altitude. How incredible! The less oxygen in the air throws balance off, so the tree pose isn’t being held for quite the same breath count. And it’s ok.
I just feel in love with life. I had my first view of Everest today. We turned a corner and there it was, peaking (oh, so brilliant purposeful misspelling) up beyond the closer mountains. I literally got a lump in my throat. It was EXHILIRATING. But instead of jumping around in joy like a Poppy pogo? I was steady. My heart swelled and there were some hugs. But steadily and stabilly so.
I truly feel so safe in the presence of my three guiding lights (Ram, Sanjay and Surya, just to spell it out for ya). I feel so safe, steady and ecstatic (no “S” word could convey the extent – blast you thesaurus app for needing data to function) in this magical world of Nepal.
At one break point I went to recline in the grass next to a trickling river. I was so in bliss, at peace, happy, and as I lay I balanced myself on a rock. Except it wasn’t a rock; it was a slightly hardened cow pat. My hand sunk right into the poo.
It was the only shit part of my day.