No Money, No Petro, No Phone – No Problem when you have Nepali family with hearts as big the mountains that surround you!


I arrived in Tatopani with my injuries from the waterfall plunge as a great reason to spend a day recovering. The 3 guys I had traveled with from Kathmandu got up and after buying me breakfast to say goodbye they headed towards Pokhara via bus.  I happily found some comfort in the room for awhile, writing, napping and thinking about my next plan before venturing out to soak in a hot springs. They were beautiful for the body, extremely hot, but the setting wasn’t nearly as scenic as a second place I came to find on my Annapurna Basecamp route in Jhinu Danda.

I was eating my dinner looking out on the road and I saw Anja hiking up, the smiling German gal I ran into briefly the day before while walking. We chatted and had a laugh about how she had watched me ‘disappear’ onto that fateful bus when I decided to jump on with my Nepali friends. Her French friend arrived behind her and they went to find some cheaper options to stay but I knew we would cross paths if I decided to head towards Annapurna Basecamp in the morning as that was her plan.

I left Tatopani the following morning feeling a bit irresponsible and anxious after having come face to face with nearly running out of money. After paying the hotel I was down to less than 800 rupees ($8) because I hadn’t planned on trekking over the pass and continuing my journey so my only real option at getting cash would be to get on a bus to Beni in the opposite direction as ABC and Ghorepani. It’s funny I left the hotel without making a decision on what I was doing and started to walk. Within a 1/2 kilometer I came to the important junction of a footbridge leading East into the valley toward Ghorepani or the road leading South to Beni. I sat down on a rock and called Shree, unsure of anyone else that could truly aide me in my financial dilemma in the middle of the Annapurna Region. He immediately answered, a good sign to start, and continued to respond to my emotional indecisiveness by saying, “keep going Ang Dolma Sherpa (my nickname from our Everest Region Trek), you’re there now and makes no sense to not see ABC”. He said you have to make it to Ghorepani that night and seek out Sunny Guesthouse, there you can speak with the woman who runs the hotel and call him and he would get the money in my hands. My problem was resolved and I instantly had the freedom once again to continue on in the direction I most wanted to go, Annapurna Basecamp.

That day was one of the most relaxing and beautiful of the trek so far. The landscape was terraced hillsides and the daily life of the Nepalese people was ever-present during harvest season. It was constant activity in all of the bustling villages far removed from from tourism in nearly every sense. The men could be seen and heard up on the terraced mountainsides, pushing, pulling, prodding, shouting, grunting and whistling at their bulls churning up the earth with their handmade plows.

Woman could be seen in nearly every home outside on the stone patios beating huge piles of grain with long sticks of bamboo all in unison. They were all talking loudly, laughing and rarely noticed a passing white face walking along and stopping to snap a picture. Some woman use these big hand woven sifting trays, standing to sift like basically tossing something in a fry pan. A more modern approach was a boy using a rudimentary foot-pedaled machine to power a belt that would rotate large beat up metal blades of a fan. His mother stood in front and tossed the grains from the woven tray while the dusty light outer shells blew off and heavier desirable grains fell to the ground in little heaps at her feet.

Little ones were getting bathed outside their with big basins of soapy water where clothes were also being laundered and laid out to dry all across the stone walls and grassy hills. The woman bath outside as well with sarongs around them pouring cold water over there upside down heads of hair and attempting to scrub up awckwardly underneath the sarong. At first it all seems like such a pain but you come to realize after days and weeks of seeing it all over and over that they aren’t looking for better, faster, easier ways to do things all the time. They have a routine in their chores and activities and the time they need to do these things remains the same. Food is on the table, rest is found at night and joy is seen in the everyday activity. There is not this pressure to do something faster or better when what you get from your current pace is all that you need. It’s definitely a healthy thing to witness coming from the culture of bigger, better, faster, more product, less time, quantity, quantity and more quantity.

A man was sitting cross- legged on the ground using an old hand-crank sewing machine, stitching up clothes in the sun while his older daughter chitter-chattered away at him.

sewing

It was really the first time I can say I didn’t see any needs or reliance on the tourism to keep the villagers busy in their daily lives. I stopped at one point to take the huge cephalopod fossil out of my pack and leave it behind on a rock wall. There was a little girl and boy on the wall standing over me saying, “sweets”, “picture”, “chocolate” and I smiled and said no sweets but I have this present for you…..and pulled the huge fossil from the bottom of my pack. I don’t think they were very enthused about my gift and it will likely stay there for years without any notice that it’s a fossil from the riverbank 50 kilometers away and hundreds of meters below us!!

Further along in my walk I stopped to have some soup for lunch and looked down to see this message on my phone that said ‘Locked SIM’. I asked a local Nepali guide at the teahouse if I could use his phone to contact Shree once again for help!  I needed to see if there was anyway he could find out my PUK number required to unlock the SIM.  All I could think was thankfully this happened after I was able to contact him about money earlier in the day or I may have been ‘bussing’ to Beni after all.  I was shit out of luck unless Shree managed to find the code or get me a new SIM card.  I had reached a point in my journey where I had no money or cell phone service. If it weren’t for my Nepali brothers back in Bhaktapur I would have had to scrap the trip much sooner. He didn’t have the PUK number I later found out and my old number was history but he said he may be able to get me a SIM card in the middle of the ABC trek when I crossed paths with one of the iTrek Nepal guides coming back with a client so we left it at that and I remained without a cell phone in hopes of wi-fi to keep in touch as needed. I’ve been off the radar for longer periods of time that’s for sure.

I continued along toward Ghorepani. I was walking along and starting to climb some more ‘lovely’ steps when a little girl and her dog came running down one of the hills next to the trail and she quietly just looked at me and began walking along beside me.  I pointed ahead and said “Ghorepani”, she said “yes” and I attempted to ask her what village she was from but regardless of how simple I tried to speak she just looked at me and nodded smiling.  Cute as a button, she carried her little purse with a long strap on her head like all the porters carry their loads and baskets around the villages.  She proceeded to run up the endless rock steps stopping and looking and waiting for me just like she was out for a walk herself and enjoyed the company.  Her dog went in front of us just a few meters at all times.  She couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6.  It’s amazing the freedom all these little ones seem to run about with, on some very steep and dangerous cliffs and ridges. It was like her home was in the middle of the wilderness where we were walking and it brings a whole new perspective to what their ‘neighborhoods’ and ‘boundaries’ are when it comes to playing in the woods and walking with strangers to and from nearby villages.  I thought I was wild and free as a child but seeing her just run up and down the mountain trails with her dog really brought a smile to my heart.  A little girl and her dog playing in the wilderness, I could relate to that from my own childhood.

 

After coming up to the next village the little girl did stop trailing along and I came upon a guest house up in the woods and saw a familiar face, it was Anja. We were only a few hours from Ghorepani and she was hiking with a different French guy, Flo, whom she also ran into earlier in her hike when he was with his girlfriend.  He was going to head up to ABC as well so that night we all ended up in Ghorepani, he happened to still get be with his guide and they were also staying at the Sunny Guesthouse which is where we all landed.  I managed to do just what Shree had instructed and the woman from the hotel got on the phone with Shree and 1/2 hour later I had money in hand and he was transferring funds to her bank account. I was a happy trekker among new friends and ready to finish my journey up to Annapurna Basecamp thanks to the beautiful people of this beautiful country.

ghorepani

 

 

Namche to Dhole

Our weather was superb for the entire 15 day trek in the Everest Region and now that we have landed in town for a bit I can catch up on the daily trekking diary!  We left from Namche Bazaar (Rick, Grayson, Shree and myself) on October 4th continuing to see the craziest of weighted down porters who carry absolutely everything including appliances/building materials and even the kitchen sink – literally.  There are weight limits for the tourist porters and you will see even the day packs of some of these hikers outweigh my main pack.  Porters get paid apx. 80 cents to 1$ per kilo which is equivalent to 2.2lbs. The tourism porters have maximum weight of apx. 35 kilos and the local porters have no limits and seem to always have at least 70+ kilos and can be as young as 10 or 12.  Most are men and boys but you will see some woman carrying items from village to village but usually they are gathering yak dung and plants/food and they are not doing it for money only their own needs.  Leaving our lunch spot in Mongo a young girl (16 at the most) left with us carrying 80lbs of rice to stock the teahouse up in Dhole that her family also owns. She hiked just as fast as we did carrying her load from a strap on her head which is how they all carry their loads.  We had lunch in Mongo where Grayson and Rick took small naps and we are at the front of the high trekking season and the route we are taking is not a common one – many would choose this second over the EBC hike and not see this Gokyo Valley – they are missing out – even Rick who has seen much of this range is really blown away by the beauty all the way.

We hiked on to Dhole at 4200m feeling no pain or issues from the altitude. Shree is a bit slower but doing well he is most worried for himself going over the Renjo La Pass but we have no worries about his ability to do it.  It’s nice being on a trek that no one has been on so it’s all new beauty for us all. We had dinner at our teahouse after having some serious wi-fi discussion and attempts with the owner who in the end couldn’t get it to work – Grayson and I shared a room while Rick and Shree shared a room. We played some Eukre after teaching Grayson and Shree, we had bought cards in Namche. We were also promised a nice warm fire when the woman told us to stay at her teahouse and that turned into quite the pitiful fire but all of us were ready for bed at 8:30 anyway – hiker midnight comes early! It will continue to get colder in the evenings at altitude – during the day I am hiking in t-shirt still. Shree and Grayson seem a bit colder blooded used to warmer weather hats and gloves and long sleeves even to sleep. The best tea comes one after another around here (lemon/black/ginger among others) however we scored on finding hot chocolate and Oreos last night which was like nirvana in a cup!! Mmm onto the next day in the mountains!

One Adventure Leads to the Next……..onto Nepal

Gearing up for a Himalayan adventure…. On Sept. 23rd, 2015 I board a plane headed to Kathmandu, Nepal with my trusty 55L Osprey backpack filled with the few items I deem necessary for survival.  My adventure actually evolved from a 2011 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail where I met and became friends with Rick Nooft and from there the story continues to grow and take shape.  A few of us met while hiking through the great state of Maine, summiting Mount Katahdin together and creating some forever trail friendships along the way.  In April of this year Rick was doing a trek to the basecamp of Everest when the earthquake struck and turned his trek into a very real and immediate relief effort.  I will be volunteering for his newly organized a charity called the New Hope Society USA http://www.newhopesocietyusa.com, a 501c3 here in the U.S. created to continue to support the New Hope Society founded in Nepal by Shree Prasad Koju http://thenewhopesociety.org. The combined mission is to provide support and relief to the villages devastated by the recent earthquakes and with the support and network of people in Nepal Rick has come to know I am proud to be a part of the volunteer efforts.  I have decided that the most rewarding and authentic way that I can help is by traveling to Nepal and putting my hands and heart to work on projects they have already started and continue to manage.

The Nepal earthquakes which struck in April and May of this year killed over 9,000 people and injured/displaced tens of thousands.  The opportunity and choice in going to Nepal is simply an example of how one decision in life involving travel and adventure can certainly lead into another which will bring an even greater sense of accomplishment through giving back.  So many fellow friends and family members aren’t able to go out and experience such a meaningful rewarding trip to the other side of the world and it is my intention to share the joy, pain, truth and honesty about my own experience while taking such a life-changing direction.  I resigned from from a comfortable salary and benefits working in the financial industry just a few short weeks ago, have packed all of my material possessions into a storage unit and purchased a 1-way ticket to Kathmandu, Nepal with the intention of giving because I feel capable and willing.  This choice is not for everyone and I am thankful for that because somewhere in all of us is a want to live life a little different from the rest and to describe our own version of a ‘successful’ life.

I will be posting as much as possible amidst my 90+/- days of trekking and the plan is quite open to change and evolve based on the people and places I encounter.  My posts are going to be at the discretion of my heart and relative to the thoughts and emotions that travel is evoking in my own life.  I am not sure what tomorrow will bring but I know I want to remain authentic and directed more by my experiences and not by what people want to see or hear.  Death and divorce in particular have brought me to this present place in life where I haven’t been able to shake the bigger questions about who I am and what I am living for.  Fear of rejection, not being liked and having to defend one’s choices can keep you from fulfilling some of the most rewarding and positive dreams.  The first thing I had to come to terms with before writing my first post on my very own travel blog was that another’s acceptance (or lack of) is unnecessary to continue forward on my journey and I can share from a place of enjoyment and empathy for others.  My way is no better, no easier, no more difficult than that of any other and it takes all kinds to keep this world moving forward.

I am ‘making’ this time for myself and I do not believe you have to be rich or lucky to do what I am doing.  You have to be willing to fail miserably and do your best to use both the blessings and hardships to shape and nurture the inevitable growth we have in our human experience.  I want to embrace each day as it comes, the beauty of the outdoors and the beautiful people around every new corner.  I hope to encourage others to travel, to search, to dig deeper into the meaning behind what drives you, what makes you want to wake up and be YOU.  Happiness isn’t one size fits all – it’s an individual experience that we each get to call our own.  I hope you find something of value in following along as I continue to share my adventures with you. Take what you’de like and leave the rest for another!

Happy Hiking – Lady M