Last night Ram informed us that Namache Bazaar, where we would be staying the next two nights, was still facing no electricity. The vast portion of the village had been snuffed out since the earthquake, and the small sockets that had temperamental linkages to light had been cut out by the monsoon.
This (un)development intially excited me; as a young’in, camping with torches and long drops was the norm. So this no-electricity stay would be like a high-altitude reenactment of sweet and simple times at the Rimutakas.
But then it suddenly hit me. Fuck. No electricity. No wifi. Most likely no cellular reception to connect through data. Usually I wouldn’t be overly concerned, but Sunday was September Sixth. My Opa’s birthday. Father’s Day. My birthday.
I was extremely sad. Aside from his seventieth and my seventh, this was the first time I wouldn’t be blowing out the candles on my cake with Opa. It was immensely important I could at least message him. Plus I wanted to well wish Henio and thank him for being a fairly fantastic father. The chances of connecting with these two were looking pretty slim.
When I went to bed (7pm, I was smashed), loneliness rose up and set in to linger. I felt forever away and wanted to cry.
Then I stopped. Mate, I’m trekking to Base Camp. Embrace Everest! Yes it’s sad. But they’ll be thinking of you. They’ll know you’re thinking of them. Be in the now and just don’t dwell.
I woke up this morning if not all smiles at first, then all set to send away the sadness.
As I packed my bag, I thought about the poor porter who would be lugging the load. I strategically laid out all the contents so the sleeping bag was padded against the zip to cushion his back as best I could. I felt guilty in hindsight at my haphazard hurling in of my belongings yesterday; probably so many stray hairbrush prods in the lower spine.
At breakfast I got chatting to a Sydney couple living in Scotland, who were part of a group of ten busting to Base Camp. How remarkable is this; it was the guy’s 30th birthday so to mark the occassion, they’d gathered a group of their close friends and family to do the hike to the highest of the Himalayas. Stupendous! They told me they worked as a means to an end, purely to fund their travels. I was in awe and supremely jealous. Then I realised; what’s stopping me doing the same?
The guy was outside having a ciggy after eating and I was shocked. Seriously? Smoking and doing a twelve-day strenuous trek? I tentatively voiced my amazement and he said (and this was backed up by a number of people) that usually smokers actually adapt better to altitude and find mountain trekking easier as they are used to less oxygen. What?! So instead of all my aerobic exercise I should’ve just been sucking back on the Pall Malls?
A tough day scheduled; six hours of trekking, the final two straight uphill. An 800m ascent meant our first foray into altitude. We clapped our hands, donned our day packs and off we set.
The scenery was mind blowing. Insane. I left my phone off in my bag (Josh was camera man for the day) so I was fully fledged in the beauty of my surroundings. I kept thinking how much I would love to do this with my Dad. He loves outdoorsy exercise type stuff so this would be the coolest adventure to go on with him. Himalayas with Hank? Out of this world.
Time absolutely flew by like I couldn’t believe. Conversations flowed, there was trekking lost in our separate worlds, communal fawning over flair a and fauna. I’ve never been so happy.
Then came the hill.
To be honest, it wasn’t as horrendous as I’d led myself to believe. Until the final 100m when my iPod died I actually found I was enjoying myself. We each found our own way to tackle the climb; Josh and I busting the beats, Sarah meditating on Sanjay’s footsteps in front and Tegan muttering her mantra: “Accept the pain, enjoy the burn”.
Midway up we stopped for a breath-catch-break, and I found myself ecstatic. We were literally above the clouds. Like they were actually accumulating below us. We were above the towering trees, above the skyline. I’d never been so high in all my life, literally and figuratively.
Along the way we were absolutely astounded by the Sherpas. Hundreds of men, women and young boys carrying huge loads on their backs, supplies for the little villages nestled high in the hills. Steadied by a band around the forehead, I winced whenever I saw one staggering up the steps. One poor soul had a generator in his back basket. I asked him how much his haul weighed and he said 113kg. 113kg. I was in a state of awe, shock and sadness. What a life.
Suddenly Namache Bazaar was visible up ahead, a colourful collection of cottages. I literally exclaimed in delight as we made our way through the little mazes of cobblestones, all around namaste-ing and welcoming us warmly. It was like a little Swiss ski town, and I felt so at peace (it’s becoming a habit!).
We reached our picturesque abode for the next two days, and after dinner and plenty of pleasurable chat, went to bed.
This is the best thing I have ever done in my entire life. No contest.