This morning I woke up in a 17 year old Nepalese girl’s bedroom. Before you go judging, it’s not exactly what you think. October is the peak trekking season here in Nepal, and with only a few short months before the onset of winter, many of the families way up these villages pack their guesthouses to capacity—even if it means renting out your daughter’s bedroom.
So that’s how it came to be that I spent a night in the village of Sinuwa, Nepal on a set of pink sheets in a corrugated tin shack that featured far too many female hair products while the entire family that runs the inn decided to sleep in the kitchen. The experience is humbling yet ultimately understandable.
The day got no less strange from there: I’m freshly back from two rounds of rakshi with our group of 20-something year old Nepalese porters. A potent and foul rice wine that is the imbibe of choice here in the Nepalese hills, the boys invited me out for rakshi in a dark, smoky stable that was used for drying corn and housing the hens. In the middle of the clandestine barn was a single burner that was being used to heat the rancid wine, the gas fired flames which rose from the burner the only real sort of light. Apparently this was some sort of secret local pub in the middle of a rural pasture. Currently, in the village of Chomrong and two days out of Annapurna Base Camp, we are still a 4 day’s walk from the nearest road.
Inside of the barn our bartender was a girl no older than the age of 13. We threw back two rounds of the clear liquid and proceeded to leave the stable without paying, due to some sort of “arrangement” one of the porters has with the bartender. Again, as I mention in many of my writings, I don’t recommend the majority of my life decisions. I think the boys have some more rakshi shenanigans prepared for this evening. Of the 12 people in our trek, I’m the only one who somehow ended up in the rakshi shed. During our time at Annapurna Base Camp, I joined the boys in a remarkably intense volleyball match on the 13,500 ft. high dirt volleyball court and closed out the day with 3 hard fought wins under my belt. Again, I was the only khore (white guy) taking part in the game. It helps to be tall in Nepal.
Between the girl’s bedroom and the shady secret pub, various other windows into rural Nepalese life were scattered all across the trail. On a much needed water break after climbing up 2,404 stone stairs (trust me, we counted), I sat and watched a middle aged woman simultaneously tend to two water buffalo, rebuild a stone wall, and care for her 5 year old child. Outside the lower reaches of Sinuwa, a local farmer explained to me that this was the harvest season for the corn and that he had much work to do to tend to his potatoes. Meanwhile, as I count no less than 7 waterfalls from any point along the trail, 26,000 ft. peaks dominate where there should be nothing but empty blue sky.
For being the largest mountains on Earth, it’s really all too easy to forget that they’re there. On our third night of the trek in the village of Himalaya, I unwillingly pulled myself from the warm confines of my sleeping bag for an annoyingly needed midnight visit to the toilet. Darting out into the cold Himalayan air, never did I imagine that while en route to the foul smelling squat toilet I would be greeted by the full moon illuminating the east facing flank of the Himalayas as if the sun was emerging from the snowy ridges themselves. To properly paint a picture would be to try and explain magic, but such is the reason for a trip to the Himalaya, so you may experience these moments for yourself.