November 12, 2010
I think there comes a point in everyone’s travels when they look at their bank account and think, ‘shit.’
Some wise, cynical soul once recommended that, when you’re planning on a trip, you should lay everything out on your bed. Lay out all of your t-shirts, your pants, the dress you’ll never wear, the hat, the sunglasses, the shoes. Lay out the first aid kit, the novels, and all your toiletries. Lay out your socks and underwear. Ok. Now divide by half. That’s right. Get rid of it; you won’t need it.
Next, lay out the money you think you’ll need. You’ve calculated the costs for the airfare, the hostels, the trains and taxis. You’ve estimated how much you’ll spend on food and souveniers, gifts for the family. You’ve even been generous and given yourself a bit of padding. Ok. Now multiply by two. That’s right. Scrimp, save, add it on; you’ll need it.
Right about now, I’m reminding myself that I’m no rookie; I knew all of this, and rather than do something sensible like pay off student debt or squirrel away a little nest egg, we threw caution to the jet stream and decided to travel for six months. It’s not that I regret our decision; it’s just that the prospect of five figures droping to four makes my breath hitch and my stomach clench. We’d been cavalier and even started planning what we’d do with all the money we would have left over once we got back. We were congratulating ourselves on our spend-thrift, bare-bones behavior.
Now I’m wondering just how much we could save on the grocery bill if I get serious about sprouting grains and beans. No meat. Perhaps I could sell non-essentials on eBay?
In all seriousness, it’s not that bad. I’ll get a job, and we’ll be just fine, but I’m sure you can empathize. Who hasn’t looked at their bank account and thought, ‘shit?’
And now that we’re on the subject of money, I have a few other things to say. I’ve been mulling things over (21 days on trail has this effect), and I’ve come to a realization. Not that it’s particularly useful to me, but perhaps it could be useful to you. I’ll warn you: it may sound cynical and a bit regretful, but I’ll reassure you: I’m doing my best to view things with a sort of holistic, no regrets attitude.
The realization is about education. More specifically, I’ve realized that I’ve been duped. Let me explain.
When I was growing up, I was led to believe that if I worked really, really hard, I would one day be accepted into a super-glorious college where I would then obtain a degree and find myself fit for gainful employment. Now, I do not doubt that this is true in many ways. Working hard does, indeed, improve your chances of getting into a super-glorious college; however, as I can attest, it does not guarentee it. Also, any super-glorious college will, indeed, equip you with a degree, and this degree will, indeed, qualify you for a number of professional opportunities. These things are all true, and I believe that the people who led me to believe these things did so out of love. They believed these things to be true, and they wanted the best for me.
But there are caveats. They are not readily apparent, but they reveal themselves in time. I have no doubt that there are super-glorious colleges that actually do carry a certain amount of clout. A degree from their superior institutions may have a certain glimmer that seduces potential employers. The problem is that there are lots of colleges that claim to be super-glorious and have that certain glimmer, but in reality, there are very few colleges that do. Ivy Leagues have the glimmer. A select few other big names also have the glimmer. If the University has had a cameo in a major blockbuster, you can rest fairly assured that it has the glimmer.
Small, liberal arts schools do not have the glimmer. Sure, places like the University of Puget Sound, Evergreen, Colby, Bates, and Lawrence might be highly ranked and provide above average educations, but a degree from their proud institutions is not about to seduce many potential employers. It’s more likely to crease their brow and make them say, ‘where?’
Which leads me to my next conclusion: if you’re attending a University with the belief that their superior rankings will give you prestige and greater employability, you have been duped. And really, it’s no small thing. These Universities suggest that their educations are so superior and so glimmer-y, they need to charge more than all the other Universities. Not only have you been duped, but you have also paid for your ignorance. You’ve paid nearly 40,000 dollars a year.
Think about it: there is a perfectly good state school. At this school, you pay 10,000 dollars a year, at most. If you worked really, really hard like I did, you might not have to pay anything at all. At this school, you will obtain an excellent education, and when you finish, your degree will be from a large institution that many potential employers will recognize.
On the other hand, there is a perfectly good, better ranked liberal arts school. At this school, you will pay between 30,000 and 40,000 dollars a year. You may be lucky enough to get a few scholarships, grants, and loans, but you can be reasonably sure that, by the time you graduate, you will be between 40,000 and 60,000 dollars in debt. At this school, you may obtain a slightly better education, but when you finish, you degree will be from a small institution that most potential employers have never, ever heard of.
It’s not a very nice thought; I know this. I wish I could sweep it under the rug and say that it was worth it, but I have my doubts. I’m dismayed to think that I was so duped, I never even considered a perfectly good state school. It’s no use to think this, but a part of me suspects that – had I gone to a perfectly good state school – I would have gone for free. The difference is startling: at a small, expensive liberal arts school, I was rewarded for my many hours of hard work with nearly 40,000 dollars of debt. At a perfectly good state school, I would have been rewarded with a recognizable degree and a free education.
I know that these are not pleasant thoughts, so forgive me if I’m depressing you, but I have one more. I’m beginning to suspect that there are many things that we’ve been duped into believing that we need. New cars. Big homes. A wardrobe of some size. Cell phones, computers, TVs. Furniture, our own libraries. Garage openers, double ovens, and dish washers. DVDs, CDs, iPods, and fancy cameras.
And how do we pay for it all? More importantly, how many people do you know who really love their jobs? It seems like so many of us end up spending huge chunks of our lives paying for these things that I’m not even sure if we need, and I’m really, really not sure if it’s worth it.
The scariest part is that I want these things as much as the next person. When I’m walking, I fantasize about how I’ll decorate my house, the new pair of winter shoes I need, and buying a sewing machine. I’m already in debt from school, and it looks like I’ll have to engage in the same cycle as everyone else: I’ll have to get a job to pay for my debt and other things. With a student loan bill arriving every month and a mortgage in the offing, I can’t afford to be choosy. I might like this job, or I might not.
So here’s my last thought: isn’t it sad that people end up working at jobs that they don’t really love just because they’ve been duped into believing that their education was worth more than some one else’s when it really wasn’t? Isn’t it sad that people end up working at jobs that they don’t really love just because they have to buy all the things that they believe they need?
This is not a new or original thought. Stacy told me about a blog called Rowdy Kittens. I looked it up, and since I’ve been traveling, I didn’t have time to read more than one post, but that single post really made me think. I’ve been thinking about it for 21 days. Basically, the author argues that experiences and relationships make people happier and more fulfilled than things. She argues that things force us to get jobs that we don’t like, but if we get rid of those things and live minimally, we can afford to give up those jobs we don’t like. We can make enough to survive by doing what we really love to do.
I think she might be right, but I’m afraid it might already be too late, with 40,000 dollars of debt and a mortgage in the offing. I guess I’ll have to read more.
Ok. So this is the last thing. Even though the sight of my bank account has led me to grump through the first half of this blog, it’s not all bad. I don’t regret spending the money traveling. I’ve gotten to spend five months with my husband and friends. I’ve gotten to see parts of the world that most people only dream of seeing. I’m so lucky, and the money that I’ve spent of traveling has made me so much happier than if I would have just put it toward my debt.
There’s more good news. I might want things just like the next person, but I’m also doing things a bit differently. As I’ve professed before, I believe in the powers of second-hand purchases, and although there’s a mortgage in the offing, it comes with the promise of a big garden for growing food and big kitchen for feeding family and friends. So, although I’ll have to get a job for the time being, it’s not looking like I’ll need to be a permanent member of the rat race. There’s hope.
Our ‘rest day’ in Pokhara turned out to be not so restful. I woke up a little after 8 to find Joshua typing away at the computer. On the screen, an Excel spreadsheet calculated costs spent and predicted. A tidy number – smaller than we would have liked, but sufficient – was highlighted at the bottom of the screen. At his feet, the trekking Nepal book was open to the Langtang Region. A journal had a new, tentative iternary drawn up. He’d been busy.
Joshua kissed me good morning, and then eagerly plunged into his findings. At length, we discussed our finances and traveling plans. We made a ‘To Do’ list. When he finished, there was nothing left to do but get out of bed and get started.
But first, breakfast. After three weeks on trail, I had forgotten how cheap food is in the city. I had two boiled eggs, two pieces of toast, fried potatoes, tomatoes, and onions, and a cup of black tea for 115 rupees – that’s a dollar and a half. On trail, the same meal would have cost between 300 and 350 rupees – that’s between four and five dollars. Nevertheless, days on trail seem to be less expensive. Lodging is between 100 and 200 rupees, whereas lodging in the city is closer to 400. Food is expensive, but there’s nothing else to buy. Our entertainment is hiking.
So I’ll tell you one last thing about money, and then I’ll let the matter rest. On average, we spend between 2600 and 2800 rupees (38 to 40 dollars for two people) per day on trail. Off trail, it’s closer to 3100 or 3300 rupees (45 to 47 dollars for two people). With additional costs like transportation, souveniers, and gifts for family and friends, our goal is to keep our daily average at 50 dollars a day for the rest of the trip. Up until now, including our travels in Europe but excluding major flights, we’ve spent between 50 and 60 dollars a day. Not too bad, eh?
After breakfast, we walked to the outskirts of Pokhara to purchase another 15 day extension on our visa. Along the way, we saw hundreds of Nepalis gathering on the side of the road. One section was blocked off, and in the distance, the military was marching in a parade. I noticed that lots of men appeared to be dressed for running, and they were slapping their quads, getting the blood to flow.
At the visa office, the gate was locked. A woman in the courtyard looked at us, perturbed. ‘Holiday,’ she said. ‘Closed,’ she said.
We grumbled in frustration. Joshua said something about this country always celebrating something. We walked back. We’ll have to extend our visa when we buy our new TIMS cards and hiking permits in Kathmandu.
On our way back into town, we decided to do the last of our gift shopping. I had popped in and out of a few shops, and having found a place where the initial prices seemed lower, we returned there. A lovely man from Kashmir was dressed all in white. He grinned, showing off a couple gold teeth and asked us to come in and sit. Running off, he retrieved a thermos of chai and three mugs. Serving us the sweet, hot liquid, he proceeded to pull hundreds of lovely shawls from his shelves.
With a rainbow of silks, pashmina, and even hemp spread out before me, we tried to think of our mother’s favorite colors. The lovely man told us about his business. He started out as a porter in Kashmir, then he became a guide. When he’d earned enough money, he bought a carpet and weaving business in Kashmir. Now, he owns another in Nepal where he trains Nepalis to make their own fabrics. He told Joshua about Kashmir. Yes, there is political unrest he says, but it’s a beautiful place. Then, very seriously he says, ‘there is no two. We are one. We see Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh. God only sees one.’
We purchased silks and pashminas from our Kashmiri philosopher, and he kept serving us sweet tea.
Once we had finished, we walked down the street, purchasing tickets to Kathmandu and stopping in at book shops to resupply on maps of Langtang and trail reading.
Fretting about money and buying stuff made us hungry. We stopped at a little cafe for hand-made spaghetti and chips chilly (the most glorious french fries that have been sauteed in chili plum sauce with green peppers and onions). I endeavored to finish my book (all 1100 pages), while Joshua looked up airline tickets from Kathmandu to Delhi.
Done with our meal, we paid and made our very last gift purchases. In a little t-shirt shop, we guessed at sizes and prefered designs, and then Joshua dickered over the last rupee. It’s official: I’ve lost my touch at bargaining, and Joshua’s found his.
Back at the hotel, we split up for a bit. Joshua went off to run a few more errands while I sat down to catch up on writing. We’ll meet up in a couple of hours at the pizza place. Ankit will be there, and we’ll repeat the glorious combination from last night: pizza and drinks overlooking Phewa Lake.
Joshua and Ankit were already drinking coke when I got to the pizza place. Hugging Ankit, I sat down, and started up where we had left off. Once we had parted ways, Ankit had gotten really, really sick, and in Marpha, he had hibernated for three days, trying to get well. Fortunately, he had met up with Marco around the same time, and once Ankit was feeling better, the two of them hiked to Ghasa and then on to Tatopani together. From there, Marco caught a bus back to Pokhara, but Ankit continued on Ghorepani and then Naya Pul. He got back just a day before us, and he says that Poon Hill was a wonderful way to finish out the trip.
Just as we started to order pizza, Marco showed up. Joshua and I told both Ankit and Marco a little bit about the Base Camp trek, and then we talked about what’s next. Ankit’s headed for Dehradun where he’ll take a class on farming from Vindana Shiva (I KNOW! Don’t worry, he has strict orders to report all.), and then he’s off to Goa for some fine living on the beach. After that, South America is on the roster, and then who knows? Marco’s headed back to Kathmandu in a couple of days, and then we leaves for Italy. We’re off to Langtang.
We scarfed down the pizza, and when we’d finished, I decided we needed desert. Paying, we walked to the same German Bakery we had visited the night before, and we all ordered something sweet. I asked Marco if he missed Italian food, and he shrugged his shoulders, saying ‘not really.’ I looked at him, askance. ‘Are you sure you’re Italian?’ I asked.
I told Marco that everyone knows that Italians gave the world good food, the Pope, fine art, beautiful women, and high fashion. We started listing all the things for which the English are known: tweed, dry humor, sheep, pubs, and tea, of course. It was fun to list all the things that the Italians and English are known for, but it got a bit depressing when we talked about the US. I won’t get all debbie-downer and list them all for you, but I will list the few I find endearing: feminism, cowboys, and road trips.
A little after eight, we looked at our watches and declared that it was time for bed. Paying, we walked outside and hugged goodbye. As a parting gift, Ankit had brought The Hobbit and made a bookmark. On the first day we had met, I had confessed to not having read The Hobbit, and I suppose he had resolved to remedy this oversight. On the bookmark, he had handwritten a poem by Robert Frost, ‘Two roads diverge in a wood,’ saying that it reminded him of the two of us. It was an excellent choice, and I felt bad that we had come empty-handed. As we turned to walk away, I told them that they’re in my pocket. I’m sure that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to them, but it’s how I feel. I keep a little piece of all the good ones in my pocket. My family’s there, and so are Caitlin, Ashlee, and JJ. My students are there, and the friends we made in New Orleans. I put my English family in my pocket, and Eshai and Haddas are in there too. Michelle’s there, and so are Stephen and Scott. There’s a spot for Stacy and Kyle and Nora and Eric, and now Ankit’s there too.
November 11, 2010
We’d ordered breakfast for 6:30. Joshua nudged me awake at 6, and we packed our bags for the last time. Outside, we sat at a brightly painted picnic table and watched the clouds flirt with Annapurna South and Machapurchhre. The sweet guest house keeper came out with a platter in one hand, grinning. Serving us our tea, cornbread, and boiled eggs, he wished us a very happy morning and asked us how we slept. We assured him that we sleep like the dead on trail.
Once we had finished our food, we paid and said goodbye. The man and his family came out to wave. It was a wonderful place to spend our last night.
On the trail, we passed through the bulk of Landruk. It was larger than I had expected, and there were many brightly painted guest houses, but none looked quite as lovely as the Maya Guest House. On the other side, we hiked through green terraces, over streams and waterfalls, and past thick, green undergrowth. Climbing up, we passed through another village filled with guest houses, Tolka, and then we began making our way up in earnest.
We climbed for three hours, and for nearly an hour, it was straight up slippy, stone stairs. We passed a couple large groups of Korean and English trekkers, and at the top, we took a break to look out into the valley where we had come from. We said goodbye to the the snowy mountains of the Annapurna.
At the top of the mountain, we passed through a small village. I eyed a bowl of mandarins enviously, but the woman wanted 30 rupees a piece, and I declined on principle; I had bought them for five rupees the day before.
On the other side of the village, we began our long descent. As we walked, we talked. For some reason, the Annapurna Base Camp trek had left me feeling unsettled. The day we had done our epic trek from Deurali to Base Camp and then on down to Bamboo, I had all of sudden missed my friends. I wish it had been just that, but old insecurities prickled just below the surface, and I wondered if they missed me too. My husband fielded my oft-repeated worries with reassurances that I am lovable, missable, and befriend-able. His unfailing belief in me always makes me feel better, but still niggling doubts remain. Thinking only of good things, we painted our future bright with family and friends and big, happy meals with bonfires out back.
And then there’s the issue of what to do next. Having sped through the Base Camp trek, we were left with five odd days. We’d planned to take the bus from Pokhara to Varanasi, a 15 to 17 hour ride, and from there, we had train tickets to Agra, Jaisalmer, and Jaipur.
We tossed around some ideas. Should we do another trek during those five days before we had to leave for Varanasi? Where? How? Should we find a place to volunteer? Where? How? Should we return to Varanasi early? What would we do once we got there?
The more we talked, the more we realized that we wanted to do another trek. We had loved the first part of the Annapurna Circuit so much, but the last few days had left us feeling restless. It’s hard to explain, but somehow, the roads, bad guest houses, and crowds had left us wanting more of those first days when we walked for miles hardly seeing a soul and stayed in guest houses where we chatted with the guest house keeper as he made our food. What’s more, when we thought about our plans for India, we realized that the places we had planned to go were all big name tourist attractions. In Varanasi, we could expect to see the Ganga Aarti and walk along the holy river, observing the bathing ghats. These were the very same things that we had done in Rishikesh, and although we had enjoyed them, we didn’t feel the need to see it again. In Agra, there’s the Taj Mahal. For most, this would be a can’t-miss destination. I’m a bit of a reactionary in that way. When we went to Peru, we didn’t go and see Machu Picchu. Most people think this a travesty. Maybe it is, but I don’t want to go see the Taj Mahal for the same reason I didn’t really want to go see Machu Picchu: it’s expensive and crowded with other tourists. Its beautiful, and EVERYBODY knows it. No, I’ve never really wanted to see the Taj Mahal. As for Jaipur and Jaisalmer, I think it would be lovely to go on a camel safari and see golden and pink forts, but I’m not sure that I want to sit on a train for a total of 68 hours to go to very hot, very busy cities where the main attractions are forts that you have to pay exorbitant prices to get into.
We have 29 days left.
What if we trekked for most of them? What if we forsook our train tickets and stayed in Nepal? We could stay in the mountains. We could spend our last month walking and talking with one another. We could wake up in the morning and eat breakfast, watching the sunrise. We could go to bed with the sun. We could let our feet carry us over less-walked places in this beautiful country, and we could try and find the things we’ve loved best about our trip so far: we could look for old Tibetan, Buddhist communities. We could find gompas, and sit beside high alpine lakes. We could gaze at snowy peaks. We could eat Dal Bhaat for lunch and dinner, and we could warm our hands with hot cups of ginger and black tea.
India’s lovely, but it didn’t stand a chance. We love Nepal. We love the mountains, and we love to hike.
We resolved to pull out our Trekking Nepal Lonely Planet guide as soon as we got back to Pokhara. Maybe we’ll go to Everest; maybe we’ll go to Langtang. Dolpo would be interesting, but we might need a guide, a tent, and a flight to get there. We’ll have to see.
We kept walking, mulling over potential travel plans and treks. The villages became more residential as we made our way lower in elevation, and eventually, we hit a road. We saw our first jeep in five days. Cresting a hill, we saw the road to Pokhara far below in the valley. We walked down hundreds and hundreds of stone stairs.
After nearly 6 hours of hiking, we made it to the road. Three buses were waiting, and we were absolutely exhausted. There’s something about going downhill that just takes it out of me. I find it even more exhausting than going up hill. My knees were achy, and I was hungry. I bought eight mandarins from the sidestand.
Sitting in the bus, we were dripping with sweat. We tried to remember back to when we left Pokhara. Could it have possibly been this hot? Neither of us could remember. We peeled our mandarins and sucked down their sour juice.
When the bus started moving, a breeze came in through the window, and we closed our eyes, feeling much better. The bus picked up Nepalis along the way and dropped them off at different intervals. We stopped for a bit at another bus stand and I got out to purchase some bananas. For 50 rupees, the woman gave me ten bananas. We ate all of them.
Finally, the bus dropped us off in the outskirts of Pokhara. We paid and the bus driver pointed us towards a little taxi-van driving further into the city. We squeezed in, and less than fifteen minutes later, the driver dropped us off on the border of Lakeside.
It was a strange journey; the bus ride from Phedi took about 45 minutes. After another 15 minute ride, we set off on foot, and after another half hour of hiking, we eventually arrived at the lake. Oriented, we navigated our way back to our hotel where our bags were stowed.
By the time we arrived at Hotel Snow Leopard, we were absolutely quivering with exhaustion. I nearly cried when the man behind the counter looked confused by our requests. Bags? Room? Whatever do you mean?
Thankfully, we managed to gesture wildly enough to express the exact specifications of our desires, and soon, we were safely esconced in a room with a bathroom and our bags. But before I could take a shower, I needed a wash rag.
I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I was simply convinced that I would not get clean without a nubby wash rag. I needed to scrub off three weeks’ worth of sunscreen, dead skin, and sweat, and a little bit of soap in my hands was not going to do the trick. I spent almost 30 minutes visiting every street-side shop and stand within a three block radius. I pantomimed, begged, and pleaded. I approached hotels and laundromats, telling them I would buy wash rags they weren’t even selling.
30 minutes later, I came back empty handed. Joshua was in the bathroom, so I flopped onto the bed, exhausted and defeated. I closed my eyes for a bit. An idea came to me.
In the shower, I washed my hair twice, and using a clean sock, I sudded up and scrubbed will I stood under the hot water. I shaved. It was glorious, and when I finished, I was very, very clean. I dressed in clothes I hadn’t worn for three weeks. I brushed my hair. I put on a little make-up. I wore deoderant. (I may have neglected to mention this; Joshua thought that deoderant would be dead weight. I have decided that I’ll shoulder the burden on our next trek.)
Once the two of us were completely clean and dressed, we went in search of pizza and drinks, dropping off our absolutely manky laundry along the way.
Along the waterfront, we found a place that advertised wooden fired pizzas and balcony eating, overlooking Phewa Lake. Prices were reasonable, so we ducked into a little street-shop, bought a flask of rum, and headed onto the balcony.
Within minutes, we had two pizzas and two cokes bubbling in front of us. We surreptitiously spiked the cokes with a healthy dose of rum, and then we dug in.
While we ate, we poured over our Trekking Nepal book. For a while, the Everest region stole the spotlight. It has the name, the fame, and the jaw-dropping skyline. We tossed around a few itineraries, but it soon became clear that either we didn’t have enough time or enough money. One option ment that we would have to hike in to Lukla for 6 days and then out again the same way; it was only once we were in Lukla that we could begin the Gokyo or other Everest treks. That was over 20 days of trekking, and we just don’t have enough time. The other option would be to fly one or both ways from Lukla which is what most people do, but we just don’t have that kind of money.
We looked at Langtang. Reading the descriptions, we realized that this is more of what we wanted anyway: here, there are fewer large groups of trekkers. It’s easier to get to, but there are many sections of trail that are quite remote and untouched. These villages have a reason for existing beyond feeding trekkers. It’s not as crowded, and it’s beautiful. There are high alpine lakes, gompas, and even homestays.
Langtang it is. We can combine a number of the treks listed in our guide book for a 19 day journey. We looked at our pizzas and cuba libres. They were almost gone. Our tummies were happily full, the rum had gone straight to our heads, and we felt great. Only three hours off trail, and we were already cooking up a way to get back on. Spread out in front of the us, the lake glittered. The light grew weaker, and we watched as lights flicked on.
Decided on Langtang, we paid and linked elbows, walking down the street in search of something sweet. At a little German Bakery, we sat down for a chocolate crumble and apple butter pie.
In a coma of pizza, liquor, and sugar, we made our way to the internet to call family. We called everyone and raved about Nepal and how happy we were. We listened to warm, loving voices and felt good about everything: the month we have left and our return, too. It’s all good. We’re excited to be here and travel for another month. We’re excited to see our English family just before the holidays, and we’re excited to go back and live near family and friends.
When we finished our calls and checking e-mails, we headed back to the hotel, exhausted. Crawling under the blankets, we feel straight asleep.
November 10, 2010
In the morning, we packed and went into the dining hall for breakfast. The Seattlite and Las Vegan were nursing a hangover. While we gobbled up our hashbrowns and porridge, we talked to a couple across the table. The two were from Australia, and they had done a similar trip, combining both the Circuit and Base Camp treks. While they had skipped the road from Jomsom to Tatopani, they’d been on trail for the same amount of days. We compared notes, agreeing that we had enjoyed the early days of the Circuit most, but that the view from Base Camp had been incredible.
Once we had finished eating, we paid and headed out on trail. The walk from Bamboo to Landruk takes about 7 hours, and the first hour or so out of Bamboo is all up hill. Although you might think that coming out of Base Camp would be all down hill, it’s not. The trail dips up and over a series of humps, and there are great stretches stairs going both up and down.
We made our way up to Sinuwa, and on the other side, we descended again into a steep valley. Chommrong was at the top of another long set of stairs, and it took nearly an hour to crest the next ridge. By then, we were positively dripping with sweat. It was hot, and I was already exhausted.
From Chommrong, we turned off the trail we had taken up to Base Camp and headed towards Jhinu. Down a thousand steps, we made our way into a small village resting above some hot springs. We may have considered taking a dip if we hadn’t already felt like we were swimming in a hot spring of our own creation.
At a lovely guest house, we sat in the courtyard and ordered Dal Bhaat. Large, red flowers dripped over the tables and chairs. A breeze cooled us a bit, and we gazed out and over the valley. It was the perfect place to stop, and the Dal Bhaat was able to replenish our energy. When we headed back on the road, we didn’t feel quite so exhausted.
It takes about 2 hours to hike from Jhinu to Landruk. Descending further into the valley, we crossed a couple of particulary rickety suspension bridges and made our way along the river. I bought a couple of mandarins from a man carrying them up the trail, and we peeled them as we went, enjoying a sour after-lunch snack.
Things were green and warm again. The sound of the river made us feel like we were in some tropical forest. Up ahead, we could see the guest houses of Landruk perched above rice paddies.
We walked, enjoying the smell of flowers and hot earth, and when we got to Landruk, we stopped at one of the first guest houses, Maya Guest House. In the garden, a man grinned up at us and gestured towards his lovely courtyard. ‘Come! Come!’ he said. Once he had settled us in, he went back to the garden where he was weaving a basket out of reeds.
Dumping our packs, we sat out on the porch, overlooking the valley. Marigolds dotted the courtyard in front of us, and a woman brought us tea. We read for a while, enjoying the light, the flowers, and the tea, and when we got hungry again, we ordered tomato soup and corn bread. When it came, the tomato soup was fresh and home-made. The cornbread was hot. It was delicious.
When light fell, we thanked the cook for our fabulous dinner and went in to bed. I slept for 11 hours.