BOOKS, trekking and mountains may not seem to have much in common at first glance but they are actually very much related especially on lonely nights. Books became my new best friend on those nights I ran out of conversational topic with my porter due to language barrier and I’ve decided to dismiss him early. I brought several e-books with me saved in my smart phone. I’ve even finished reading “Seven Years in Tibet” during Annapurna Base Camp trek.
Although I went to Nepal with my sister on our quest of what we hoped to be a spiritual journey, she couldn’t join me on the Annapurna leg. She had just recovered not too long ago from a major surgery last year. This trip was made possible as I had some savings set aside for her surgical expenses just in case her application got rejected. We had no control over the date of the surgery. Surgeons in public hospitals are never short of patients. Miraculously, she received the green light to have the surgery performed by a leading surgeon in a public hospital. Thank God the surgery was a huge success. The entire experience had been really nerve wrecking. There was no better time to go on a pilgrimage to Nepal together after her recovery. I was extremely grateful that we were given a new lease in life to atone for our past sins.
ANNAPURNA means sustenance in Sanskrit. Indeed, I needed some nourishment for my depleted soul before completing the rest of the journey. More importantly, I needed some time alone prior to the pilgrimage with my sister. We haven’t gone on a trip together in many years ago so I needed some time apart to prepare myself. Distance does makes the heart grow fonder. I was still unable to forgive her even after all that had happened. Forgiveness is never easy. I found myself snapping at her more often than necessary when we were together. What happened between us goes way back and it was too complex to resolve. For many years it was too painful for me to talk about it. It’s best that I share the story in another blog.
CHOMRONG was such a pain in the ass (please don’t mind the language). The legendary 4000 steps which were kind of like never-ending stairway to heaven literally killed my knees. My legs decided to go on a strike after four hours of trekking so we had to stop for the night in BAMBOO on day 3 of trekking. At that point, I was not only sunburnt but also depressed about the poor state of my legs which were not reacting too optimistically.
I was sulking on the steps of the guesthouse unsure about carrying on with my personal journey to redemption. One will crossed path with many people on the way up to the Annapurna Base Camp. Somehow, I tended to remember a certain people more vividly than others not that the rest were less important. Perhaps I have a selective memory. It was then that I met the most unusual man out of nowhere. He had the kindest smile I’ve ever seen. I returned his smile before asking him about his origins. The man was from Austria.
For some strange reason, I poured out all my frustrations onto him. The Austrian man went into his room and returned shortly with a tube of ointment for my sunburnt arms. After that, he advised me on exercises for strengthening the knees. It was a combination of advice and mockery but he put it in a way that was not at all offensive. In fact, I loved his animated Austrian accent.
Later that evening, as we got to know each other better, I almost died laughing after I found out that he was actually a recreational marijuana user. No wonder he mocked me with such fervor. His risky practices included smoking like a chimney and not having to carry expensive winter gears unlike most people yet he was able to reach the Annapurna Base Camp unaffected by the cold and muscle pain.
Drug is like a double-edged sword. Too little might develop into resistance while overdose could turn into poison. It has to be just the right amount to perform optimally. I was indefinitely grateful that he didn’t fell off any cliff along the way. I would have missed out on his invaluable advice. Mr. Austria is a man nearing retirement age. A cool person who has lived his life. We didn’t even exchange names.
Another interesting person I met was at elevation 2900m, the HIMALAYA Hotel & Restaurant. I wouldn’t have trekked this far if it hadn’t been for my porter and the Austrian man’s mockery. My porter and I stopped there for lunch on our 4th day of trekking. As I was taking a photo of the signboard of the guesthouse while waiting for my lunch, someone greeted me with a cheerful “Hi!” I had the shocked of my life when I turned around as he was a very handsome man. He reminded me of Liam Hemsworth.
I must have jumped a little because the next thing that came out of his mouth was “Don’t be scared!” Though handsome men had every potential to be a serial killer too but that was the least that crossed my mind. All I was thinking about then was why he had to greet me when I felt the least attractive. For the record, I felt ugly, sweaty and stinky. No good looking man ever greeted me when I was all made up, dressed in my prettiest outfit paired with killer heels to boot. Life had to be ironic like that!