Why a person who has had rotten knees since birth would look at a map and decide that they would buy a ticket to Nepal and go trekking is beyond me, but that’s what I did for some reason. It didn’t really occur to me until a few days into my first trek that it was an odd decision. As I slowly descended down some massive granite steps on the side of a very steep hillside, I paused for a moment to analyze the situation. I was bracing myself with my two bamboo hiking sticks, deciding whether it felt like someone was hammering a four inch nail into my knees every time I bent them or whether it was more like my cartilage had been replaced with barbed wire, and I started to question how the hell I ended up there.
I made my mom, our guide, and our porter walk ahead in hopes that if nobody saw my struggle, then maybe it wouldn’t feel as difficult. I felt weak and pissed off at myself. Who the hell did I think I was? I should know better than this. I know my knees and I should therefore know my limits, shouldn’t I??
My knees have always been fickle and I know that, yet there I was, halfway down a massive hill somewhere between two small mountain towns and the only option was to keep going down. I felt so stupid for thinking that I could do a six day trek. Tears were starting to well up in my eyes, which made me even more frustrated with myself. We all should know what we can and can’t handle. But although I may know my limits, I seem to like to push them, I guess because if I don’t then I’ll never know what I’m really capable of, which I suppose is how I ended up on the side of a steep hill in Nepal.
Obviously I survived that trek and believe it or not, I sent myself on a second one!
The first trek I went on was the Naya Pul and Ghorapani loop in the Annapurna region. Unfortunately, it’s getting close to the monsoon season so the views were pretty terrible, but we did get to see a few of the magnificent mountains one evening. I did the trek with my Mom, our guide Tika, and our 15 year old porter, who we nicknamed Ironman because he could carry our massive backpack with no problem at all.
My second trek was in the Langtang Region bordering Tibet, which was absolutely stunning. The monsoon starts later there, so the views weren’t obstructed with clouds and haze. The hike was easier than the previous trek, but because I’d already spent six days torturing my knees the week before, I had a pretty hard time going downhill for two days out of the seven day trek. I also decided that I would buck up and carry my own bag, which my doctor would probably smack me upside the head for doing. Luckily once my knees started to fail me Tika (my wonderful guide) carried my backpack for me.
We had planned for one rest day in the middle of our trek where we would visit the local temple and yak cheese factory, but the Type A side of my personality kicked in again and I found myself climbing up to 4,700 meters for a better view of the mountains and glaciers. I was happy to find that I had no problems acclimating to the altitude, but my knees complained the whole way down.
When we returned to the teahouse after our little hike, we decided to go in search of some tumba (pronounced toomba). Tumba is made by boiling millet, adding a goats hoof, and storing the mixture in a plastic bag under your house for at least fifteen days, the good stuff is stored for about three months. Once you are ready to drink it, you scoop out the millet, scrape of the mold, and put it in a massive cup. To drink it, you pour hot water over the millet and sip up the alcoholic liquid. It’s fantastic for cold weather.
We had found some tumba the day before, so we knew we could find it again. It’s pretty difficult stuff to get this time of year because it is too warm outside to make it. We didn’t have anything else to do that day since the temple and yak cheese factory turned out to be closed, so we decided to take the rest of the day off and get drunk. Tika and I went to a tiny little teashop and each ordered our own tumba. The shop owner and her two friends were in the shop gossiping and eating dry flour and salt in between sips of salty Tibetan yak butter tea. After a few hours, it went from just being Tika and I drinking, to at least fifteen other guides, porters, and foreigners drinking tumba and roxy, eating dried then fried yak meat with timor (the most delicious peppercorn on earth), and singing all the songs we could think of. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon.
The trekking was fantastic, despite the pain. Now I know that I am in fact capable of walking long distances,as long as I”m going up not down though, which makes all of the pain I experienced worth it. If any of you are planning on coming to Nepal to go trekking I have a few recommendations and guide book corrections.
The guide books are wrong about prices for almost everything. A good wage for a guide is around 15USD a day and for a porter it’s about 12USD per day. You can do treks on your own, but you’ll learn a lot more about culture and see a lot more wildlife if you hire a guide. I expected to do most of the trekking without a guide, but quickly came to realize that almost everyone here hires a guide and does so through a tour company. If you hire a porter, make sure that the company has a limit for how many bags one porter carries. More than two massive backpacks or duffel bags for someone around my size is cruel, so make sure to ask the tour company what their policy is before you book a tour with them. And lastly, if you need a good guide, my guide and new friend Tika is absolutely wonderful. He comes with my highest recommendations. He’s by far one of the most fantastic people I’ve met in the past six months and I feel like he is part of my family now. So please, please, please ask me for his information if you are planning on coming to Nepal.
I’m back in Kathmandu, which is where I’ll be for the next week. I’m booking a ticket today to go to South Korea on the 8th to see my friends Bobby and Will who are teaching English there. Words can’t even describe the high I get from being able to make a decision to jet over to another country a week before I want to leave. I feel so free! There will be at least one more post coming this week, so keep checking the blog. I’d also like to give a big thanks to my dad for publishing and editing my last blog post for me since the internet at my hotel is too slow.