Thursday, May 01, 2014

Day 10 - Discomforts & Awe Inspiring Beauty

Ten days without the internet or any communication really.  A couple of times there has been some texting ability but I only look at my phone when I am setting the alarm for 6am. Otherwise I keep it in airplane mode since you have to pay a decent amount to charge devices and I'd rather not - especially since sometimes there is no power at all like tonight. 

Apparently they lost power three days ago. No reading for me! My nook is dead. It's funny the things you assume you will have each night - like an outlet. There have been two nights of ten so far where the rooms have an outlet. Some don't even have a light bulb.
Today I had thoughts of my friends and family and my kitties and my garden and house - for the first time in who knows how many days.  It's amazing how entrenched I have become in trekking. I have no idea what day it is or even really who I am.  Every day is reduced to a number of steps and a breathing rhythm. I have three different rhythms depending on how steep the trail is. And with the steps comes counting. One two three one two three. If I am not completely focused I'll definitely fall, these trails are covered in loose rock and gravel and sand and dust. Or more importantly I'll miss a breath and struggle for oxygen for the next 30 seconds which is hard to come by at high altitude, while climbing.  It's a more intense meditation than I've ever experienced before. No room for the mind to wander, or any entertaining of outside inquiries. 

Interestingly, I quickly moved from "oh no, how many more steps up??" to not seeing a set of steps as an entity that needed to be completed, but just part of the path to the next place. Steps up were not going to ever really be completed, because there are always more. So, instead of trying to see when I would be done or how many more, or what was around the corner, I stopped looking. I would look 10-20 feet ahead so I didn't fall off the mountain and could pace myself for the present conditions, but I stopped trying to see what torture awaited me and just went. It's amazing how much easier it is without your mind getting all freaked out or overwhelmed or depressed at the down when you just worked so hard getting up. I was thinking it would be nice to be able to work more like that, or live more like that, but that is going to be much, much more difficult. I hear people talking about living in the moment. I'm not sure how it's done with deadlines and meetings and appointments and too much to do with too little time to do it in. Maybe I'll practice in my months of sabbatical and see what I can bring with me back to the working world.

And then, eventually, the six or seven hours of climbing and descending is done and I am back in another "hotel" assessing the level of discomfort I'll be experiencing for the night before I dive back into game of thrones.
Things to consider:
  • Is it REALLY fucking cold outside? Almost every night. Guess what? No heat. Anywhere. Each hotel has a wood burning stove in the dining area and that's it. 
  • Is there any mortar between the stones of the building? Not usually. Though the ugliest, always stay in a plastered or stuccoed building if there is one. Tonight is the first out of ten nights - living large! 
  • Can I visibly see the gaps from the room to the outside? Typically yes - with stones and no mortar of any sort every gap between each rock is a direct connection between the inside of your room and the outside. Often they hang sheets to give privacy between rooms since the gaps are so big between the boards. Tonight I fashioned a latch extension from a water bottle cap so my door would close. 
  • Is the squat toilet inside or in a separate building outside? How far must I go in the middle of the night? Important Note! If the room is too close to the squat toilet then I will hear the door banging all night and the room will smell of raw sewage. The room may smell of raw sewage anyway I found out.
  • Electrical outlet? Ha!
  • "Mattress" quality: the foam ranges from one to two inches thick and is in varying states of decomposition.  On a good night there's still a little give and my spine can't feel the wood planks directly.
One night in the second coldest place (about 25 degrees inside) my room was full of stove smoke for the entire night because of how the draft came through from the house next door. I awoke with frozen black lungs. Another night my "bed" platform was somehow attached to a ladder in the room next door that all of the porters and guides used to get up/downstairs so at 5am it felt like someone was hitting my bed with a sledge hammer for an entire hour.

I will say your standards sink woefully low pretty much immediately. One room I was in had hooks! Some places have some sort of shower, a pipe trickling water is pretty exciting and somewhat rare.  Some only offer a bucket they will fill with hot water but I assure you in sub freezing temps, no outdoor bucket shower is happening

Generally I have been freezing. Because of the extreme exertion I am pretty much drenched in sweat as soon as we climb the first 500 feet which is almost always within the first 30 minutes and then around 10am the wind kicks up and i freeze in my wet clothes. If I were a smarter person I would have brought more than one shirt. Sadly, I am not.

All this to say that there is a large amount of discomfort which in no way comes close to negating the INCREDIBLE scenery here. The mountain views are more beautiful in person than you could imagine, and the alpine forests... dense with bamboo and rhododendron trees and pines, all of which are gnarled with thick moss growing on their trunks. Definitely some of the most beautiful forests I have ever seen. It's really important to actually look up because you get so focused on looking at the massive stone steps you are going up or down that sometimes you can forget where you are. I of course have to remember to stop walking when I do look up, a lesson I have had to relearn more than once.

I do sometimes want to throttle the trekking company owner who mislead me left, right and center about this trek: the level of difficulty, the temperatures... easily twenty degrees colder than he told me. But it's been an amazing experience and I am really happy I have another three days before the crush of email and internet and communications will bear down on me. 

1 comment:

asundman said...

You tease us with allegations of awe inspiring beauty, yet we've not seen any pictures yet. Please edit a taste for us.