October 5, 2018. Three incredible days. No internet. No television. No telephone. Only raw Nature and unabashed beauty that lifts from the valleys of lush shades of green to the majesty of rugged snow capped Himalaya Mountains. Stunning. Unbelievable. Beyond my imagination and beyond anything I could capture in photographs. Yet there I stood surrounded by it all.
I can’t find the right words yet. I stepped far outside my safe places of habits and routines and beyond the safe places of my beliefs about myself. Nepal held great mystery for me and it has become surprisingly revealing as well. I had life changing experiences during these three days that were somewhere in the Between in the folds of Nepal’s mystery, and I am not ready to say how or why. So for now, this is what I can say.
Sunday morning, October 1:
Up at 6:00 a.m., we flew from Rishikesh to Delhi and then on to Kathmandu. Applying and paying for our Nepal Visas and getting through immigration was time consuming but easy enough. We arrived at the Yak & Yeti Hotel around 5:00 p.m.
Kathmandu is the capital and the largest city and the first tourist location in Nepal. In 1972 the population was approximately 350,000 and now, 46 years later, the population is over 6 million people. Traffic is more than crazy, it’s insane. This city is the hub of economic activity in Nepal. It is also a center of sprawling poverty. The paradox is painful as well as shocking and yet the city is vibrant and alive. It’s confusing. It’s intriguing.
Monday morning, October 2:
Another early morning to the airport for a 30 minute flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara, the second major tourist city of Nepal. Immediately I felt a different kind of aliveness in Pokhara. There was an eagerness and a rush of excitement along with a rush of young people from all over the world, each ladened with over sized and over weight duffle bags and back packs. This is a jump off point for trekking in Nepal, the home of the Himalaya Mountains and Mount Everest. Seven of the fifteen highest peaks in the world are in Nepal. We picked our way through the maze of trekkers and made our way the trekking company where we would begin our three day adventure.
After the obligatory ritual of safety instructions, with a hat, backpack and duffle bag provided by the company, we hopped on a bus with all our luggage, two guides, and five porters who would carry all that luggage for the next three days. We bumped and bounced for two hours switchbacking our way up the open road. “Open Road” means a dirt road with countless potholes and deep crusted mud tire ruts that are impervious to rain. The journey was complicated by all the construction work to widen the road. Finally we arrived at a dusty curve. Amid piles of stone, heavy equipment, and workmen with bandanas covering their mouths and noses, our bus stopped, the door opened, and the 10 of us along with the guides and porters were dropped off. Our luggage was piled into five large straw baskets and loaded on the backs of those porters. Do we call them Sherpas? No, they are porters. Men, some older, mostly younger, from the local villages who know the mountains.
The first mile and a half was all uphill. Oh my god, a mile and a half. I measured it on my iWatch. At first we followed the steep dirt open road and then we left the road for an even steeper narrow dirt path that climbed its way between the lush green undergrowth. I stopped often to drink in the view and to find my breath again. Still up. Around each bend I looked in hopes of seeing a flat stretch but the path kept climbing and I kept climbing with it.
Breathe. Inhale through my nose, exhale through my mouth. Breathe. One of the porters stayed behind me, stopping when I stopped. Even when I motioned for him to go ahead, he wouldn’t. Dripping sweat, the sun was brutal. 90+ degrees, sunny, and clear, I was determined to keep walking. Besides, it was too late to turn back. There was no were to go but forward.
Finally we reached a picturesque village. Flat. Stone houses, slate roofs, running mountain streams. We came upon an old woman with sun baked skin and wrinkle crevices, and bright laughing eyes. Her husband sat -- squatted -- watching as she and her daughter plucked beans from a pile of soy plants. There were two goats in one small shed, a cow in another, and a third small shed where they were distilling the local liquor.
We move along. The second mile and a half was all downhill on stone steps. I usually count steps. Don’t know why I do that, but I do. There were too many steps to count. Down, shallow steps and formidable steep steps down. For a mile and a half, step by step, down. Along the way, we crossed a bridge constructed of two long bamboo logs, and then there were more stone steps down. I thought the down would be easier but there were hundreds of steps. Not sure it was easier.
The final mile was sort of flat but it was also a mile of torrential rain. At first I noticed a few drops and then the mountain sky opened up. The porters moved quickly to unpack plastic and ponchos. Plastic to cover their baskets of luggage and ponchos for us. Already soaked in sweat, did I really need a poncho? The dirt path became slippery. Our lodge wasn’t far. Only another mile. We pressed on. One by one, we crossed a suspension bridge over a raging mountain stream and another half mile along a muddy road.
Finally we reached Sanctuary Lodge. As if on cue, the rain stopped. Nestled in the valley, the rustic lodge waited to give us a safe haven, lively conversations spiced with laughter, a great meal, and a wonderful night’s sleep.
Tuesday, October 3:
Up at sunrise to see the mountain peaks before the clouds covered them. Breakfast at 8:00 and ready for our second trek at 9:00. I was scared about this one. The trek was all uphill. All up stone steps. We would climb about 1400 feet in elevation. No flat. No down. All up. At dinner the guide had said this trek was “Up, steep up. Vertical up.”
Sizzling sun early in the morning. Clouds clinging to the mountain peaks but the rest of the sky. Brilliant blue. The steps came quickly and continued endlessly. Breathing loud. Inhaled through my nose, exhale through my mouth. Climb. Climb. Climb. I never asked how much further. I was afraid to hear the answer. I just kept going. After two hours of climbing, I created a pattern. I would climb 25 steps and stop, rest for 20 to 30 seconds. Check my heart rate, and when it dropped 5 points, I would take another 25 steps. We finally reached our second lodge. It was beautiful with phenomenal views.
However, it was the silence that spoke to me. I have never experienced such deep and sensuous silence.
Wednesday, October 4:
I had expected to have a lot of leg pain and body aches, but nothing. I felt great. I felt alive in ways that I’ve never known. It was exhilaration of a different nature. Our third trek was a mix of up, down, and flat. Of the treks, it was the easiest, but no less beautiful. We returned to Pokhara, stayed the night, and then flew back to Kathmandu.
This was an amazing experience. During the September workshops, Lazaris suggested that to truly accept ourself we needed to step beyond our safe place and we needed to step outside our center. To awaken the Magic of Acceptance, we need to step beyond our habits and routines. The Quest in India and Trekking in Nepal have done that and so much more. I have done things I didn’t think I could do. I have discovered things physically, but even more profound, I’ve discovered things emotional and mentally about myself that I never knew and that I suspect I might never have uncovered. My dreams are changing; my visions are shifting.
Nepal and the trekking have changed my life; they have changed me. I can’t say how yet. I can’t find the right words yet. I have to sit with these experiences that have reached far beyond my expectation and my imagination. I have to be still for now.