Enduring the High’s and Low’s of the Annapurna Circut – Melanie Style

Nepali sadhu performing a blessing. Français :...

Nepali sadhu performing a blessing. Français : Sadou à Kathmandu Nepal avril 2004 ‪Norsk (nynorsk)‬: Heilag mann i Katmandu i Nepal, med pannemerke, symbolmønstra klede, rosenkrans rundt halsen og handa forma i ein mudra. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m at Cheshire Coffee and I already downed one tall latte without uttering a single word into my blog.  Instead of writing, I found out from an anagram website that my full name spells out “Risen Lip To Chemist Ear,” which is strange because I want to be a chemist.

I want to write about my month long trip to Nepal, but the thought of reliving the experience by painstakingly capturing every saturated morsel with intimate choice words, describing the full actuality of what I endured last month, gives me high anxiety.

I shouldn’t of had that latte.  I shouldn’t order another……

Those first few sentences taken me about 15 minutes to write.  Words are not flowing easily today.

First off I need to make clear that this is not an Annapurna trekking travel guide.  It’s not a travel guide because I was lost half the time having no idea where I was, or what I was doing.  I just followed the trail and forged ahead, stopping at tea houses along the way and being grateful for a place to rest my pack – not catching the name of the tea houses, blurring villages and days together.  So yeah, don’t rely on this as a travel guide.  It’s just a random girls rendition of her 20 day trek.

Secondly you should know that I’m not a traveler.  I’m a homebody.  So much so that I still live at home with my folks (at the ripe old age of 32) and enjoying the solitude of video games and spider solitaire.  I’m not a trekker either.  I go on occasional hikes down the street to Sleeping Giant but I never hiked for more than 2 hours at a time.  I don’t exercise.  I did the P90X workout for a week and stopped because I was already satisfied with the results.

I’m a certified applicator of body lotion (AKA massage therapist), a denizen at the local watering hole, a dreamer, a ruminator, a writer, a lazy loafer and smoker of electronic cigarettes.

I’m anything but a traveler.  My body is stoic unless it’s wriggling around in an attempt to dance.

So that’s the framework.  The sketch of my personal design.

I prepared for my twenty day trek up a mountain by watching the Japanese anime series, Naruto.  That little ramen noodle lover doesn’t know when to quit.  I thought that by sitting on my ass and letting Naruto inspire me would make a good, reliable substitution for any real body exerting exercises.

Bushy Brow would be most upset with me if he knew about this (Naruto Character).

I would lay in my nice warm comfy bed watching Naruto on Netflix, get up to go to the bathroom, lay back in bed and think to myself, “pretty soon I’ll have to go outside in the cold to pee.  Pretty soon I won’t have TV.  Next time I open my eyes, I’ll be on a plane to Katmandu.  Pretty soon.”

And then I was.

“I’ll take it one day at a time and I’ll do fine, just fine.  No expectations, just take it all in and hopefully enjoy it.  Think Naruto.  Think Indiana Jones.”

I’m going to abbreviate the names of my fellow traveler’s because that’s what I notice most blogger’s doing.  I don’t see the harm in using first names, but I’ll err on the side of caution and use only their first initials.

I went on this journey with four other girls.  The one who invited me, K, is my close friend.  Her father drove us to the Newark airport and saw us off.  The plane took us to Brussels, then Delhi and finally Katmandu where my intestines screamed at me from the bowels of despair.

We taken Jet Airlines the whole way there.  It’s one of India’s primary airlines, so naturally they serve nothing but spicy Indian food.  I like Indian food, so I was all for it.  Completely unaware that Indian airline food is the same as having a caffeine enima.  My stomach started cramping up and gurgling after the first few bites.

I knew that Katmandu was the start of a new bathroom experience for me (squatting toilets and no toilet paper), but I thought for sure their airport would have clean working western toilet’s aplenty, as most airports do.  Nope.  At least not at the arrival terminal.  And before I could use the bathroom, I had to go through customs first.  I was at the end of a very long line of weary, disheveled travelers languidly lurching forward awaiting their turn.

When I finally got to the bathroom stalls, I found one that had the word “foreigners” sloppily scrawled on the door.  It was an upright western toilet made of plastic, like a toy toilet, and it was hooked up to hoses with faucets and there was a bucket of water next to it.  After I did my business, it wouldn’t flush.  So I tried pouring the bucket of water into the tank and trying again – it barely worked.  I gave up and left it.  For the rest of my trip, I actually sought out the squatting toilets because they were more sanitary and guaranteed to flush unless they were frozen solid.

Here is a quick tutorial of how the Nepalese people go to the bathroom:

The squatting toilets are essentially a hole in the ground with a nice white porcelain bowl and trim around it to place your feet.  They come equipped with a large bucket of water with a scooper.  After doing your business, you take up some water with the little scooper in your right hand and pour it down your backside, and with your left hand, you scrub yourself.  It’s different and sounds gross, but the only thing that makes it gross is not having soap or water to wash your hands with afterward.  This is why the Nepalese find it disrespectful to eat with their left hand.

I left the restrooms feeling semi-relieved and joined K near customs.  We found our luggage and got ushered outside where we waited for our fellow comrade, S, who was arriving around the same time as us.  We united with S and our journey into Katmandu was officially underway starting with our first glimpse of its streets from the back of a cramped taxi cab.

I love stuff like this – new experiences – new places, new customs, new environments no matter how chaotic, dirty and unpredictable – I absolutely love it.  Watching our skilled driver weave in and out of traffic, taking hairpin turns, millimeters away from hitting pedestrians, dogs, yaks (yes yaks shared the narrow roads!), it was all mesmerizing and brilliant.  Even the piles of garbage overflowing the gutters, rivers and abandoned dumpsters looked like mosaics to my inexperienced, unoffending eyes.

I was elated to be there.  I was ready for this.

We secured our place in the hostel, stretched our legs on its roof and soaked in the sun.

Day two:  Happy Holi

It was our luck to land in Kathmandu during an immense Hindu holiday called Holi.  It’s a religious spring festival celebrated by throwing water balloons and powdered color at people.  It was insane.  I mean really, insane!

It started off innocent enough with K and I getting pelted by water balloons (the water inside the balloons dyed with color) by little girls in the street who sheepishly struck us while giggling.

Me – “Oh no, here it comes.  Here it starts.”

At first I was apprehensive, but the little giggling girls had their sights set upon us, so I resigned myself to the onslaught.  “If you’re going to do it, than do it.”  I stopped walking and threw up my arms.

I ran back to my hostel and found amnesty on the rooftop where I stumbled upon our host of the hostel mixing dye into water and filling up balloons.

“Happy Holi.”  He says to me with a wide grin.  Then offered to load me up with his “ammo” to pelt people with.

Our view from the roof…..



 We stayed on our rooftop for a few hours until we decided to brave the color splattered streets of Kathmandu.  We headed for Durbar square where the real action was happening.  Little did we know that foreigners get the brunt of the attack – girls especially.  We were five American girls just asking for it.  We had to run.  There weren’t any little girls doing the onslaught this time, it was young men with big smiles and outstretched hands loaded with caked powder to rub all over our faces and arms and in some cases, chests.  Then there was the attack from the rooftops.  Bags dropping – not just dropping, but ferociously thrown at us.  I ran in my squishy, slippery flip-flops that wanted to skid off my feet.

“It’s all in good fun.  They don’t mean any harm.”  I fully believed this, and still do.  That thought alone was keeping me from turning that fun holiday into a nightmare.

We arrived at the square.  MADNESS!  Complete madness.  The square was essentially a huge night club, only it was outside during the day.  American dance music blared, little Nepalese men crowded in the center of the square dancing with each other. Not many women faced the hectic danger of the center square for fear of getting groped or getting kicked in the head by a crowd surfer.  It seemed a bit homo-erotic with guys wrapped around one another, sitting on each others shoulders.

We kept to the outside brim of the moshing and danced with a few well-behaved locals.  I warmed myself up with the alian environment and rolled with it.

This was the only video I could find.  I was there!

A huge fire hose been brought out and the crowd really went nuts.  Piling on top of each other, pushing, just to get squirted with the hose.  I didn’t get it, but I don’t get a lot of things.

We grew tired and hungry so we ate lunch and tried to find our way back to the hostel.  This is when the day started turning, our patience waning.  M, a girl from our group, almost slapped a little boy for throwing water balloons at us after we pleaded for him not to.  I felt the rage emanate off her as she ran over to him to get even.  I couldn’t watch.  She may have pushed him, but strained herself not to hit him.

We got lost on our way back, got cold and drenched once again but safely made it back to our domicile in one piece.

Here is the view from our hostel rooftop.  At night I would go up there to listen to my Ipod and dance.  I was the only one on top of their roof dancing in all of Kathmandu and it felt awesome.

 There were so many dogs laying in the streets.  This one was apparently engrossed in a newspaper.

Day 3:  Shopping for trekking supplies in Kathmandu and getting our permits and pictures taken.

On this day, I was a zombie.  Completely dazed and confused.  I felt like I floated through that day in a hazy funk.

Day 4:  Pokarah

We left a few of our bags locked up in our hostel.  We wouldn’t be needing everything we brought, such as extra clothes and books.  We would return to them after the trek.  We arranged for a bus ticket to Pokarah through the hostel and off we went on a wild bumpy ride.

The scenery was fantastic.  Tiers upon tiers of rice paddies with a mountainous backdrop.

It was beautiful until we reached Besisahar.  That’s where the real Nepalese life struck us in our faces.  Unflinching in its harshness.  Litter piled the streets, some of it on fire.  People made homes out of whatever shelter they could find.  Slabs of metal for rooftops held down by old wornout tires.  Homemade shacks stacked on top each other brimming with poverty.  I couldn’t turn away.  I felt guilty for staring out from the safety of the moving bus.  I wanted to see what was inside those rustic little domiciles.  I wanted to peer inside their lives, see their possessions, their food rations, what they did in their free time – everything.  I wanted to see and know, but all I could do was drive past them and stare like an ogling, snooping buffoon.  If I were them, I would hate me.  Staring at them while they brushed their teeth – so many people were outside brushing their teeth.

We arrived at our destination, got our packs off the roof of the bus and sat down for our first meal of dal baht.  Dal baht is a traditional Nepalese dish consisting of rice, lentil soup and curried vegetables.  It’s not always savoury, but it’s filling and you can get as much of it as you want.

After lunch, we filtered some water, checked in at TIMS and started day one of the circuit.

This is when I became nervous.  I was actually doing it – a 20 day trek up a mountain.  Within the first few steps I taken with my pack, I was wondering just what the hell I was getting myself into.  My Naruto inspiration fizzled away leaving me with my two wobbly legs and a 20 pound pack balanced on my scoliosised curved back.  I was following four other girls equipped with world traveling knowledge and all were physically prepared.

I kept my uneasiness to myself, stuck in my earbuds and played my Ipod.  Hoping for the best.

We hiked for four hours that day.  It turned out to be relatively easy for me except for when I drank all my water and was dying of thirst.  K and S lent me some of theirs, but I was afraid to drink it all for fear it wouldn’t be enough.  When we taken our first break at a little tea house, I splurged and ordered a cold bottle of water – I wasn’t planning on drinking bottled water because it’s hard to recycle out there, but I couldn’t help myself.  I drank my fill and felt 100 percent better.

We trekked a little while longer and arrived at our first scheduled stop.  A small village called Ngadi.  It was very rustic.  The villagers living there were practically all tea house owners.  It’s how they make their living.  Smiling faces came up to us offering us a place to stay and food to eat.

We settled for this place:

It was built with drafty plywood, but our host was a cute young man with a trusting smile.  He apologized for the simple accommodations.

We settled in and made ourselves at home.  We ordered our dal baht and waited 3 hours until the women handpicked what they needed from the garden and made everything from scratch – making me feel like a rich, greedy foreigner buying up slave labor for pennies.

While we waited for our meal, I taken my first solar shower.  A solar shower is essentially a big tub of water in a black barrel on top of an outside, enclosed, shower room.  It was cold.  Afterwards, I joined the girls at the plastic picnic table to get acquainted with mynew travel companions.

There wasn’t much to do but sit and talk to each other.  For the first time since we met, there was no distractions, nothing to do, but talk.  And that’s when I realized that I had absolutely nothing in common with anyone.

They are travel fanatics.  They talk about little else but travel.  “I’ve been there, I’ve done that,” sort of talk.  I been nowhere and done nothing.  I had nothing to contribute.  Not only that, but I still live at home and I sensed they judged me for it.  I’m really sensitive and can pick up vibes easily and could tell it would be hard for these girls to give me a chance.

I started feeling lonely, but felt that if I was there on my own, I wouldn’t feel lonely.  I could relax and enjoy myself more if I was by myself and let the sweet Nepali family serve me their food and tell me about their lives.  But that wasn’t the case.  I had to get along with these people, make a strong attempt at least – and hope their first impressions of me didn’t ruin things.  I knew it was going to be a struggle.

I wasn’t prepared for this part of the trip.  Usually it’s no question that I get along with everyone.  I mean, I love people – all people.  But I’m not educated in worldly knowledge and I barely know my way around a travel guide-book.  So there I was – my true fragile colors exposed to the harsh eyes of my new professional traveling comrades.

The view from my bed.

I wanted to escape in a bottle of beer and a plume of cigarette smoke.

I kept staring at the little bit of art taped to the wall next to my bed.  It was cut out from a childrens book.

 Dinner was served.

This pic was taken the day before day one of the trek with B and M while the fellowship felt fresh and promising.

It was the end of Day One.  I already had two blisters on my pinkie toes, and my legs were sore.  I curled on top of my wooden bed with its thin mattress pad, snuggled myself under the sleeping bag and prayed.  It was cold that first night.  Heat escaped our little makeshift encampment.  Cold air swirled itself inside.  I clutched my pillow and shivered myself to sleep.

Day Two:

Journal entry:

I’m still lying in bed.  I got practically no sleep.  Mostly due to the cold.  I woke up to the sound of goats bleating and kids talking.  I’m still sore from trekking.  I have a tender body.  Tender and sinewy – bony in places but with a pouch for beer storage.  My hips jut into the plywood beneath me.  I’m an unseasoned adventurer sitting atop a doyley of white roses.  I’m still asleep.

I hiked for five hours after writing that entry and kept the pace well enough.  The girls warmed up to me again and I felt good, really good.  We shared a room with five narrow beds that night.   Had a nice hot shower, even some beer.  It was a good day, day two.  I washed my clothes in a spigot outside like a real Nepalese – brushed my teeth with unfiltered water.  I think we were in Chamche, 1,385 meters up.  I could handle 1,385.

Day 3:

Journal entry:

We got stuck on the road for a few hours while the military blew it up to widen it.  It sounded like a war zone.  The ground shook, dust flew up all around us and I prayed for no avalanches.

I’m doing fine except for my blisters.  I can barely walk because of them.  If it wasn’t for my blisters, I would be bulldozing this trek.  And my legs are sore.  The more I rest them, the more sore they become.  I feel stronger though, my pack feels lighter.

I’m starting to talk to myself as I trek.  Telling myself words of encouragement.  Tomorrow will be the true test of strength.  8 hours of trekking up the steepest ascent we had encountered yet.  I’m worried.  Very worried.

Day 4:

Day 4 broke me.  It broke my altitude limit – I witnessed its true effect on me.  I don’t know how far we ascended, don’t recall the name of the village we stayed at or its altitude, but I do know that my body didn’t want to cooperate.  We trekked for 7 and a half hours all uphill.  It kept getting colder and colder until finally it was snowing and the girls were going even faster up the mountain to escape the cold before it got dark.

I had to take breaks – lots of them.  And even after my breaks, any small exertion fatigued me.  I wanted to sit on a bench and let the snow cover me.  ‘Let me sleep on the bench.  Just leave me.  I’ll find my way to the tea house, but leave me for now.’

My fatigue was indescribable.  But I kept getting up and moving.  Slowly up the mountain in the snow.

I came to a long narrow bridge.  Passed the narrow bridge was yet another steep ascent up to an old rustic village with stone steps – if only I could get up to that village, I knew I would be okay.  I spotted a mule train making its way down the narrow trail on the other side of the bridge.  If I didn’t cross the bridge before the mules got to it, I would be stuck there for at least 15 minutes waiting for them to pass – holding everyone up even longer than I already have.  I had to get across that bridge first, which meant I had to run.  In my unbearably fatigued state, I ran across that bridge as fast as I could and made it to the other side before the mules ran me over.  I walked slowly up the ascent and made it to the village.

K was standing there waiting for me and told me we had to run fast to meet up with the others before it got dark, so I found myself running again.  I ran through the welcoming stone village.  I ran and didn’t stop until we saw two of our girls on the trail, both of them afraid to move ahead because of a drunk, bumbling man walking aimlessly around in circles and falling face first in the snow.  I wasn’t afraid of the man, he was helpless, but I enjoyed the few seconds of break time before we scooted past him and met up with the rest of the group at the check-in point.

That night we played bananagrams and drank whiskey – the whiskey hit me and was a bad idea, but I felt good and happy that I made it to the tea house instead of sleeping on the snowy bench outside.  I even made the girls laugh with my funny accent impressions, making them warm up to me even more.  I shared a room with B and S that night.  It was so cold that night.  I stuck on my instant body warmers and curled up under my sleeping bag and complimentary warm blanket.

Day 5:

Day 4’s altitude fatigue was nothing compared to day 5’s.  I found myself trekking alone for most of the day.  No one in sight.  I trekked through a forest, occasionally coming across prayer flags and prayer stone stacks.  I would’ve been lost if it wasn’t for the fresh layer of snow with a nice boot marked trail to lead me.  I don’t remember much of this day, only that I was tired beyond repair.  My legs having a will of their own and not listening to my commands.

I felt and looked like this dog…

I finally caught up to the girls for lunch at a tea house.  This was a turning point in my journey.  I decided to get a porter for the following day to take my shit and trek it straight to Manang.  I would be going through lower Pisang – the easy, four hour route instead of taking the ascent through upper Pisang which would tack on a few extra hours.  I told them this over our dal baht lunch and felt I was letting everyone down, or that maybe I didn’t want to trek with them anymore.  They suggested that I take the porter with me for the higher ascent route because without having to carry my pack, the trek would be manageable. But I insisted that I go it alone and take the low road with a porter – which was the ultimate blow separating me from the pack.  And once again I managed to tear open that gulf between us.  It opened with a fresh sting.  There was me, and then there was them.

When we got to the hostel, I shared a cold, icy room with K and felt she had a snippy tartness towards me.

When we got inside our room, I flung my achy body on the plank bed and curled myself up into a ball and started whimpering – I would have whimpered whether or not anyone was there to witness it, but K was there to see it and it annoyed her.  That marked the downward spiral of the rest of my trip.

Me – “It’s cold.”

K – “It’s not that cold.”

The way she said it was icier than the room.

At dinner she announced to everyone that I invited myself on the trip.  That I heard she was going and said, “That sounds like fun, I’ll go, too.”

That hurt, I mean really hurt.  My brain was foggy, my body completely shredded and I couldn’t comprehend for the life of me why she would say something like that.  I mentioned to the girls just moments before that I originally wanted to go to Thailand, but ended up in the Himalayas and for some reason, that flippant comment set her off.  I’m not taking the time to understand why.  I don’t think I’ll ever know.  But from that moment on, I felt I was walking on eggshells with her.  Everything I said or did was wrong.

And I didn’t invite myself on the trip!  I still have the text messages to prove it thanks to my trusty Iphone with its immense memory.

That night I curled up in bed wearing two long underwear, a t-shirt and three warm long sleeve shirts underneath my down jacket.  I had a very uneasy feeling of regret.  But I still managed to fall asleep easy thanks to my newly formed altitude fatigue.

Day 6:

I woke up with a splitting headache.  I woke up too early, maybe around 4:30, and couldn’t fall back to sleep.  My entire head throbbed like it was in a vice.  I’m not prone to headaches, so I knew something was off.

It eventually stopped throbbing, so I brushed it off as dehydration and tried to take a shower without getting wet.  Shivering coldness would follow after getting wet, so I opted for the washcloth method of bathing.  We all ate breakfast together without any fuss – actually, I barely touched my breakfast since I already felt full (being yet another symptom of altitude sickness).  I got my trusty old porter and headed up to Manang all by my lonesome.

The four-hour trek to Manang was a lofty one.  All even terrain with nice views.  Still though, I was fatigued.  I pushed through it and followed in my porters tracks who kept an even, viable pace.  We made it to Manang just shy of the 4 hour mark. I paid him and watched him jog away.  I was left standing there with my pack, too tired to move.

All I wanted to do was sleep.  Sleep and ruminate until I found peace of mind, which shouldnt’ve been hard since I was in an old, peaceful buddhist village up in the mountains.

I settled for the Yak hotel because I was standing right in front of it and I literally couldn’t move my legs any further.  My host showed me to my room.  I threw down my sleeping bag and curled up inside it.  I was too tired for anything else.  I was thirsty, running low on water, hungry, had to go to the bathroom – but all that didn’t matter.  That’s how tired I was.

The room was friged.  Three sides of it had huge windows that let out heat and brought in cold air from outside.  I didn’t have time to find peace of mind before drifting off.  I shivered myself into a light, disruptive sleep.

When I woke up, I didn’t know where I was or why I was alone, but then remembered and my heart sank.  I felt guilty like I made the wrong decision.  But I didn’t know what else to do!  My body was in the shitter, my brain malfunctioning.  Taking the low road to Manang was my only feasible option.  So why did I feel so miserable about it?

After my nap, I gathered my wit’s and knew I had to get up and eat.  I was still so tired and getting out of the sleeping bag meant instant cold, but I had to pee and drink and do all the simple human functions that come so easily back home.  It was like I had to relearn what it meant to be human and stay alive before my bladder bursts.  Oh but the cold…..and oh so tired……UP Melanie!  Get up, up UP!

I found myself hobbling down the stone walkway of the town and peering inside a bakery.  I went in and ordered seabuckthorn juice, tomato soup and a ham sandwich with yak cheese.  The soup was bland and the ham was some sort of processed goblin meat, but I gobbled it down because the bread was so good.  The juice was good too and woke me up from my funk.  The woman behind the counter hummed a sweet tune and set my spirit at ease.

“I’m okay, really okay.  I’m not going crazy, no, not me.”

I acquired new vigor and ventured out into the town to see what it had to offer.  Yup, it was definitely an old buddhist village.  Prayer flags everywhere, prayer wheels galore and I even spotted a monk sporting New Balance sneakers under his robes.

The buildings were made out of stone.  So old that most were crumbling.  I walked by two small movie theater’s that advertised having a fireplace inside.

I walked into a little shop and bought myself some nice purple fleece pants for $4 and asked the smiling man behind the counter which theater was better.

“The one on the left.  It has new projector.”

So on my first night in Manang, day 6 of my trek, I found myself in a cozy den of a theater sitting on a yak fur lined bench, eating complimentary popcorn and drinking hot tea while watching a cheesy film called “Into Thin Air:  Death on Everest.”  Not the upbeat vibe I was hoping for.  But the little den was filled with trekkers from around the world and they made funny comments every time someone died in the movie, such as “Those dumb Americans.”  Every time a trekker would shout out a Dumb American joke (particularly a Scottish guy), everyone in the den would burst out laughing.  And me being one of them nodding in agreement, “Yes.  I too am a dumb American.”  But when the asian lady died, everyone exhaled an “aww.” I held my tongue not to shout out, “Those dumb Asians.”

After the movie, I walked back to the Yak, got my jammies out of my pack.  Slipped on my new fleece pants and curled into my sack.

Day 7:

The girls came traipsing into town, swinging their poles when they spotted me.  A sigh of relief escaped me.  I was sincerely happy to see them and bunk up with them.  I changed tea houses telling them how bad the Yak was, and we nestled ourselves into Mountain side (or something like that).  It was packed with lively trekkers and even had a sunroom where I could finally get warm and do laundry to hang up to dry.

I had yet another throbbing headache when I woke up that morning of day 7.  I woke up very early, possibly as early as 3 A.M.  I wanted to blame it on dehydration, but I wasn’t thirsty.  I waited patiently until it passed.  It lasted for hours – unbearable throbbing hours.  I knew it was from the altitude, but I figured that as long as I stayed put and not ascend for the next few days, I would acclimate.  I felt a tinge of nausea, but it wasn’t an overpowering symptom like the headache.  I was still easily fatigued just by walking up and down the steps of the tea house and knew that this may be yet another part of the journey where I’d have to part ways from my travel companions.  That is, if my sickness didn’t wear off in time before it was time to move on.

Only, there was a new kind of icy vibe creeping up from everyone.  Instead of just K sending it out, I was getting it from M and B as well.  I can’t tell you how sensitive I am to people’s thought’s.  I pick up on it briskly – nothing escapes me.  I clam up around this hidden emotional torture.  What did I do now?

Their cold shoulder’s were put on hold for the movie.  Yes, I went to that little theater again, only this time it was just us five girls in the den.  And without electricity.  The Nepalese men had to run the generator and it only worked with the tv, not the projector.  So they hammered together a tv stand and set a tv atop for us to watch Super Bad.

Day 8:

Again with the headache.  I shared a room with S and B, and in the middle of the night, I woke up from the pain.  It got so bad that I needed a damp washcloth to put over my eyes.  I prayed to God that if he made the headache go away, I promised to descend back to Pokarah.  But it didn’t go away, so I forfeited my promise.

The headache lasted until the end of breakfast.  I felt defeated and miserable.  The girls saw it and tried to ignore it.  By the end of breakfast, I was fine but weary of the new ostracizing wounds I was making for myself by complaining – none of these girls have much of a tolerance for complainers.  And I especially shouldn’t have complained about my headache since friends are scarce among this group of hard travelers.

We all amicably agreed to go see the Gumpa for our acclimation hike.  I was excited for this – to get blessed by a certified buddha master was certainly on my life’s To Do list.  I happily strolled up that mountain to see him.  One blessed step after the other.  The hike up wasn’t as strenuous as I thought it would be on me.  I knew that if I made it up that mountain to see him, I can make it through the pass unharmed – I just knew it.

We got up there, the little 96-year-old codger did his thing.  Smiled at us, blessed us, told us he’s 96 years old and said the same spiel to everyone before gently knocking our heads with something that looked like a brick.  I liked it, I thought it was cool.  His mistress tying to sell us genuine prayer beads made it seem a little less authentic and more money driven, but I bought some because, hell, I’m a sucker for prayer beads.  I need all the beads I can get.

I hit my head on the way out of his cave.  He really does live in a cave on the side of a mountain.  Or so, that’s what we trekkers want to believe.  At least I do.  But his damn door frame was too low.

We trekked back down to town for lunch at a bakery.  I ordered the enchilada which gave me a stomach ache from all the rich cheese and sauce – bread would have helped, but there was none.

Me holding my stomach – “That enchilada gave me a stomach ache.”

M – “What food doesn’t give you a stomach ache?”

Up until then, I haven’t complained about any stomach issue’s during the trek.  I have no friends here……

We went to the movies yet again.  This time to see Seven Years in Tibet.  Even during the movie I felt everyone’s uneasiness grow towards me.  I felt like the elephant in the room.

We got back to our tea house, ate dinner and after dinner was when it happened.  The attack.  A full-blown, planned attack.  I should have seen it coming.  It was almost orchestrated.  Everyone leaning towards kicking me out of the group.  I was left hapless and defenseless.

B – “So Melanie, whats going on tomorrow?  Are you hiring a porter?  If you’re hiring a porter, you should get one tonight.”

Me – “I was going to wait and see how my head feels.”

B – “Well we sorta need to figure this out now.”

Me – “Okay, I’ll get a porter tonight.  We’re only going for three hours, right?  I may not even need a porter.”

B – “But can you make it for three hours?”

How was I supposed to know, or answer that?  Everybody’s eyes were leering on me.  Searing my sparkle to a dull ash.

Me – “I, uhhh…..”

B – “If you come, it’s not only you in danger, it’s all of us.  You will endanger us.  You have to think about the group.”

How could I answer that without saying ‘fuck the group, I’m going?’

Me – “Okay, I guess I’ll stay here then.”

Then all in a jumble, I hear:

“I know you want to travel, but this isn’t for you.”

“You don’t seem to be having any fun.”

“You’re not motivated.”

“You shouldn’t go places just to get a stamp on your passport.”

“Is that what you want to do?”

Me – “Well, I wanted to go, but now I feel like no one here wants me to.”

K timidly said she wanted me to go, but clearly she was just trying to bypass the guilt by not saying it.  And she was the ringleader of this parade, so it had to be her to take the reins on that one.  She was afterall, my “good” friend.

I was devastated and heartbroken.  My one glorious trip to Nepal smashed into pieces by something I couldn’t control.  I can predict my own responses, but I can’t predict other people’s.  Throw people into the mix and you’ll never know what dish they’ll whip up at you.

I was the girl waiting to get the custard pie thrown at her face at the fair, or the dunce sitting on the lever above a tank full of water, waiting for someone to hit the bullseye.  I was the one.  Have I always been the one?  Once I fall, people don’t laugh, they just shake their heads and say, “See?  I told you.”  And I’m left dripping wet for the dogs to sniff at and walk by.

It’s a dog eat dog world, and I was standing there wearing kibbles coveralls.

I felt like a dripping wet, unloveable asshole.  No one likes a wet, dripping asshole when traveling.

I dejectedly walked up to my room, leaving the girls to prey on my fresh anguish and cluck to each other about it.

Once I was nestled in bed, I made a promise to myself that I will finish this damned trek.  I don’t give a fuck, I’m doing it.  And I’m doing it alone.

Day 9:

Journal entry:

I’m hiding from everyone.  I’m outside the village sitting on a rock by a little stream.  In front of me is Manang, a crumbly, old place with half it’s stone walls torn down and left in piles where little kids play hide and seek with cats.  Behind me is a majestic view of the mountains. 

People are working, hauling dirt, rocks and twigs inside baskets strapped to their heads – there is no age limit to be a hauler.  This is an old Tibetan village.  I always wanted to spin a prayer wheel, and here I am surrounded by hundreds of them.  Prayer flags everywhere, goats, cows, yaks roaming the cobbled streets.  It’s awesome here.  I bought a pack of Nepali cigarettes.  My first pack in 9 months.  I already smoked three of them and gave one to a young man carrying a heavy piece of wood on his shoulders. 

I have a long hike ahead of me.  It won’t be easy, but adventures aren’t supposed to be easy.  There is no adventure without danger.  My knee feel’s sprained, ankle’s are sore, my left thigh keeps cramping up – hell with it, I’ll walk it off.

I should get back to the tea house.  Hopefully the girls will be gone by now.  Maybe they left me a note, but probably not.  K said she’d meet me at the hot springs wherever the hell that is, I don’t know.  I don’t have a map.

As I was walking back to the tea house, I see B and M walking toward me.

‘Shit.  Shit shit shit!  Not only did they not leave, but I’m sure they’re going to go ape shit on me for ditching them.  Fuck!’

As soon as I woke up that morning, I couldn’t bear to show myself to them.  So I ran and hid away hoping they would gently leave without much ado.  Maybe write me a note – hopefully one that said they were sorry for kicking me out.

No, that didn’t happen.

I wanted to turn and run.  Or just walk past all calm and cool and say ‘hey’.

Them – “Melanie!  Everyone’s looking for you!”

Me – “I thought you guys would’ve been gone by now.”

Them – “No!  Everyone’s waiting back at the tea house.  K wants to talk to you.”

Doom.  Clear and present doom you mean.  Doom wants a word with me.

I got back to the tea house in a matter of minutes and there stood Doom outside calling me a child for running away.

Me – “I’m going to finish the trek, but I’m going to do it alone.”

K – “No you’re not, no way.”

I couldn’t imagine spending another minute with these people – especially not after the awkwardness of last night compiled with this mornings disappearance.  The buddha once said that “It’s better to travel well than to arrive” and traveling well for me meant severing the source of my malaise.

Me – “Yes I am……”

K – “Can I speak to you alone upstairs?”

Me – “About what?!”

I didn’t want to be alone with her, I needed witnesses.  But everyone walked off as if on cue.  It gave K the time she needed to figure out a response.

K – “So what, you’re going to hike it alone just to spite us?”

Me – “No, I just don’t want to go back down.”

K – “So you’re willing to just throw this friendship away?”


Me – “We been friends for a long time, we’ll be friends again after.  It’s just that this trip isn’t working out.”

We were at an impasse.  I had stalemate arguments with friends before – even on this caliber – it all felt eerily familiar.  But my mind was set, and I wasn’t about to budge.

K – “You can join back up with us but you have to promise to keep up and tell us the minute you start getting altitude sickness.”

Yuck, that sounds like a horrible idea.  Promise to keep up?  With these sore legs?  And I was already feeling sick just standing there.

Me – “No that’s okay, I’ll be fine on my own.”

K – “Then it will just be us then.  We don’t have to hike with the others.”

I started crying behind my glasses.  Thank god for them.

Me – “I don’t want to take you away from them.”

I forgot what she said after that, but it was more insisting that we hike together.

Me – “I endanger the group.  I’m a danger.”  I wipe my flushed cheek.

More insisting.

Me – “It would be awkward if we hike together.”

K – “Yes it would be awkward, but we’ll just have to deal with it.”

No.  No, I don’t have to deal with it.

Me – “We’ll run into them while we’re hiking.  Those girls don’t like me.”

K – “They like you.”

I dug down deep in the squishy folds of my brain to find the words to win her understanding, but all I could come up with was;

Me – “Just let me be on my own, please?”

I sounded truly like a child at this point, but I was being treated like a child.  I act in response to how I’m treated.

We argued back and forth until K gives up and said she’s never traveling with me again.  She made me promise her that I would find a group to trek with and then gave me torn out pages from her Lonely Planet guide to help me get through the rest of the trek.  I thankfully accepted them because I didn’t have anything else to go by – not even a compass.  Not even an internal compass.

She hugged me goodbye and I left her standing outside the tea house while I escaped inside it.

I turned back from inside the doorway and asked, “Are we still meeting at the hot springs, or no?”

K – “I don’t know.  I guess.  I’m almost ready to just give you our flight information.”

Me – “Oh, okay.  Bye.”

I wanted to end the conversation before it got nasty.

I ran up the stairs and into my little sunny alcove where trekkers hung their wash up to dry.  I sat cross-legged on the floor with K’s Lonely Planet pages scattered before me, trying to figure out where I was, where I’m going, and how long it would take for me to get there.

Shit what am I doing?

K came and found me one last time to tell me something, but I can’t remember what it was.  I only remember her telling me to have fun.

Me – “I will.  I’ll take lot’s of pictures.”

And she was gone.  I could hear them talking to each other outside directly below me.  I didn’t want to hear them.  I was afraid I would hear something sinister, or cruel about me.  But I didn’t.  They all left without wounding me one last time.

I took a deep breath.  I was on my own and I didn’t feel like doing shit.  I felt I was back to my first cold, lonely night in Manang where I had to relearn everything.  How to stand up, how to walk back to my room to pack up my stuff – I should eat something….

This was the first morning where I woke up without a headache.  At least I had that going for me.  A Clean bill of health.

On my way out of Manang, I stopped by the clinic to get some Diamox from the Himalayan Rescue Association.  The caring, gentile British man gave me a five minute lecture about them.

“They will not get you over the pass.  If you feel really sick, go down.”  He gave me a reassuring smile not to worry, but that I should worry nonetheless.  He was a true kind spirit and sensed my fears just by looking at me.  He made me promise that I would come down if I felt sick.

“Really, really promise me.”

“I really promise.”

And off I went.  Up and out of Manang, the beaten up bedraggled village.  I’m pretty sure the villagers only live there during the trekking season to make money, but that thought takes away the magic of the place – their timeless way of life!  I pushed it out of my head and prepared myself for my lone journey up the side of a freaking mountain.  Let the madness commence!

Always in good spirits.

If coffee cans can substitute for prayer wheels, than I can substitute for a real trekker!

Shy horsey, come here horsey.

I was trekking from Manang all the way to Letdar.  Only a four-hour hike, but I’d be ascending over the recommended 500 meters a day.  It will be 700 meters, so I’d have to take half of a Diamox for good measure.

About two hours into my trek, I stopped at a remote tea house to stock up on some yak cheese and take a breather.  I slipped off my pack and sat contemplating my cheese decision verses my money shortage.  Yup, cheese it is.

I slipped my pack back on up over my shoulders – my most dreaded ordeal.  I learned to dread it ever since I reached the higher altitudes.  It’s like Pavlov’s bell to me.  Slipping my pack back on equates to hardships and physical pain.

“God this damn thing.”  I curse as I fumble with my water tube tangled in the strap as half my pack hangs to the side on one shoulder, throwing off my balance.  It’s a graceless act of buffoonery to watch me do it.  Damn stinkin’ pack.

And then I was off again with cheese in tow.  Off into places unknown, until they became really unknown and I had to double back, making my 4 hour trek into 5.

I started the trek really late in the day.  I wanted to organize myself in Manang before I left, which sucked up as much of my time as does putting on my pack.  It started getting dark.  I trekked into the shadows of a mountain where it got cold and gloomy.  I was listening to Bryan Adams, If You Believe, when I started to bawl.  Then I bawled to Adelle, but come on, how could a person not bawl to Adelle?

I was okay though, I really was.  I think I even wiped my tears away and started laughing like “Okay” people do.  A wise man once said, “In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these.”

There was an old woman coming my way on the narrow trail I was on.  We were clinging to the side of a steep mountain side, so there was really only room for one of us to pass.  She was carrying what seemed like a heavy load on her head, so I scampered up the dirt mountain side to make way for her.

She passed by me, stopped and turned around and smiled.  I came back down and said “Namaste.”  She started pointing to things on my person (what a weird phrase).

“What, this?  My water bottle?  It’s a hose for my water.  I drink from it.”

She kept pointing.

“I hold it up like this and ‘clug clug clug,’ I drink.”

She points to something else.

“What?  My watch?  You want to know what time it is?”

Then points to my red hanky.

“Oh this is gross.”  I take it out and wave it in front of her.  “You don’t want this, trust me.”  I mimed blowing my nose and then held the hanky up with my fingertips while scrunching my face.  “Yuck.”

She kept pointing.

“My camera?  Oh you want me to take your picture!  Okay, I can do that.  Smile, say Namaste!”  I grin broadly showing off my goofy ass teeth.

Then she just stared at me.  I stared back.

“I’m sorry, I don’t have any money.  Ha ha, I’m broke.”

She seemed satisfied with that response and continued on her way.  I was happy to have run into her because that meant I must’ve been close to Ledter, but if she was going in the opposite direction, she had a long way to go before seeing any form of life or establishment.  I couldn’t understand what was so important about those brambles of twigs she was carrying on her back to make her have to walk for hours and hours.

I turned back in puzzlement to watch her make her way down the slope.

“Strange.  Strange, strange people.”

I lifted my hand up to my clavicle strap so I could yank it away from my neck and I noticed blood pouring down the side of my knuckle.

“Oh, I guess that’s what she was pointing at.”

I hefted my pack up to nuzzle it comfortably against my shoulders, turned on my heel and headed for a long suspension bridge.  I started laughing to myself and calling myself a “Dumb American” in that trekkers Scottish accent.  Apparently I don’t need friends around to make me feel like a complete dunderhead.  I can do it all my own!  Like climb the Himalayas all my own!  I crossed the high, swaying suspension bridge with high hopes.  Not realizing it would be another few hours until I reached any civilization.

I finally made it to Letdar.  Or at least I thought it was Letdar.  I asked some locals where I was and they barked at me.

“Is this Letdar?”


I was talking to what appeared to be two identical men with undecipherable ages who barked the same sounds at me.

The other nodded and said, “Kharka.”

It was a halting, jolting sound.  Jarring to the unsuspecting ear.  Rough like sandpaper hitting the back of your throat.

“Um, okay.  Uhhhh…..Letdar?”

They both point and then look at me blankly.

“Okay, thanks anyway.”

A short while later I found out that I was in Yak Kharka.  ‘Yak Kharka isn’t on my map.  Where the hell am I?  Was the bramble lady telling me I was going the wrong way?’

I pushed on forward, singing to my Ipod, unencumbered by worry.  Lavishly falling into my fate of being a dumb American.

I was going in the right direction as it turned out.  I landed in a comely trekker town at dusk and set myself up in a hole in the wall tea house.  Cold and grey.  But I got an extra bed!  I was ecstatic to cannibalize my extra bed and use it for my own selfish, lone needs.  I ripped off the mattress pad and doubled it up on the other bed.  The extra blanket?  Hell yes the extra blanket!  I’ll use that shit for my scrawny, white hide.

The trekkers dream bed.

I ate some noodle soup, taken half a diamox and sunk myself deep into the soft mattress’ cavity.  It’s snug embrace soothed me and I fell asleep wearing all my layers, down jacket and some stick-on body warmers.  It was the perfect end to a rather traumatizing day.

Day 10:

Altitude does not like me.  It affects me most at night.  That’s when I get the headaches and weird dreams.  Last night I had a bizarre dream that the mattress was trying to eat me.  It was weird.  And there was a huge ape-like creature hanging off the side of my bed.  He was getting excited, Ooh’ing and ahh’ing about the mattress opening it’s cavernous mouth from under me.  I was kicking in my sleep and kicked off my sleeping bag along with all my blankets.  I woke up freezing and having to pee.  But I had my dreaded headache, and my face looked swollen – I was freezing, exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and yeah, I had to pee pretty bad.  I had to pee so bad in fact, that I looked for an empty container to go in.

“I’m not going to pee in my water bottle.  No, not going to happen.  I wish I had a Dunkin donuts cup, or at least a potted plant.”

These thoughts raced through my mind.

There was nothing, so I had to make a bee line to the potty before I had an accident.  I made it just in time.  Just in time to hear the swiss people who bunked in the room next to me, toot their loud Riccola commercial horn.

“What the hell, really?  What if I was still sleeping?”

I trudged back to my room and closed my door, laid back in bed and told myself that I didn’t have to do a damn thing today if I didn’t want to.  But the thought of doing nothing made me bored.  As tired and sick as I was, it didn’t trump the dread of boredom if I stayed cooped up in my room all day.

I decided to wait out my sickness.  Let it dissipate and have my face puff down to a reasonable size before I went anywhere.

I ended up spying outside my window for an hour or two like a batty old crone.

“Blast you stinkin’ swiss and your know-it-all knives!”  I cackle through my unflossed teeth.  “You Toot your own horns you show off swedish meatheads!  Blah ha ha haaaaa!”

Clearly I was losing it.  I really don’t have anything against the Swiss.

I started feeling better, but knew full well that going outside down the stairs to make another bathroom run, would tucker me out.  Going down stairs fatigued me.  Moving fatigued me.  I really was a haggard old crone.

The next town was so close – so unbelievably close that I felt I could make it.  It was a mere hour away with an ascent of only 250 meters.  And my water supply was running dangerously low (the abandoners taken their two water filters with them).  I didn’t trust the water from my tea house – my dwindling gut warned against it.  The next town, Letdar, had a fresh water station which hasn’t failed me yet.

I surmised that if I played my cards right and didn’t over-exert myself, but at the same time not lag so much where I consumed all my water, that I could make it in the wretched state I was in.  But I had to leave now.  Before I got thirsty.  My thirst had to wait until it counts.

Then I hear familiar voices outside my window.

BLAST!  It was my four disowning travel mates yacking it up having a grand old time.  I watched them go inside a tea house for breakfast, or lunch, whatever the hell time it was, I didn’t know.

The sight of them depressed me and reminded me why I was alone.  I was bad company, a horrible companion, a lousy travel buddy, a crybaby, complainer, sick……and whatever else they whipped up to hurl at me.  Wretched me.  Woe is wretched me and my racist cackle’s toward the Swiss.

How was I okay during all this?  Maybe I wasn’t okay.  Maybe I never been okay in my entire life so I don’t know what okay really feels like.  Or maybe I’m just a pig-headed brute who’d rather die an honerable trekkers death than to grovel my way back into the group.

Either way, I was stuck in my little room cold and hungry, while they were out there warm and fed.  My depresive thoughts stopped me from packing up.  I became tired again, so I laid back in bed and read a little until my wings grew back.  And when they did, I packed up my shit and high-tailed it out of that wayward popsicle stand making sure the abandoners were nowhere in site.

‘Where’s the trail?  How the hell did I lose the trail?  Was I even on a trail?’  If going down some stairs fatigued me, that’s nothing compared to losing a trail and finding yourself on an animal trail leading up the side of an astray mountain.

I finally found the trail.  The four abandoners were on it, so I trailed back and let them get far ahead of me, but not without them spotting me first.  I was so far away from them, sitting on a bench eating pistachio’s, but I could see them turning around looking in my direction.  I could clearly make them out, but for some reason I thought I was camouflaged and they wouldn’t be able to see my red pack with all my reflectors stuck all over it.  I was nearly delirious after all.

All my pistachio shells.

After a few minutes, they turned around and left.  I slowly got up and followed them.  I followed them because I didn’t really have a choice.

And I trekked.  I trekked to Letdar, listening to my Ipod and humming a tune.

This whole thing started feeling ridiculous – really ridiculous.  Yes, I clearly was suffering from AMS, but it wasn’t a severe case.  It may sound severe from the way I described it, well, it was bad but not severe.  British guy said, “If you start feeling really sick, go back down.”  And I didn’t feel really sick.  Just a little sick.  Just the ick in sick, that’s all.

I made it to the suspension bridge, crossed it and took a breather once I reached the other side.  There were small children with their parents doing some kind of yard work together.  They smiled and nodded at me.  I stopped and chatted with them and let another lone trekker idle up the bridge to join us in some friendly chit-chat where nobody knew what the other was saying.

Except for my newly acquainted trekker friend.

Me – “Are you here alone?”

Him – “Yep, here alone just like you.”

Me – “I’m actually not really alone, my friends are up ahead.  I was having altitude sickness so I had to take my time.”

We walked to the nearest tea house and I rented a room.  I was making myself at home by slovenly throwing my smelly belongings all about, when I heard my name being called from below.

“Hey Melanie!”


“Hey I’m actually going to stay here too.  Would you want to room together?  Save some money?”

The room cost the equivalent of a US dollar bill.

Me – “Uhhh……”

Him – “I’m a nice guy, I don’t snore.”

If I was clean, shaved, and looked somewhat decent – hell, I would’ve done it.  Maybe done it, I don’t know.

Me – “Why don’t you take that room right next to mine?”

I gestured over to the bathroom.

Him – “You want me to stay in the bathroom?”

I looked over and seen my mistake.

Me – “Oh, oops, ha ha how about the next room besides that?”

I looked atrocious, smelled like I passed through the system of a sick old woman, and this guy from Seattle wanted me to bunk with him to save himself 50 cents?  Ha ha ha!

I finish unpacking my stuff, scrubbed my filthy clothes out using my host’s laundry bar (my four jilted chums took the only one with them).  And settled myself down in the sunroom to scarf down some dal baht while enjoying the company of Frenchie, two cute brothers from Great Britain and Slutty Seattle.

After lunch, I went for a little waltz up a mountain and laid down in the sun in private.  It felt great.  I had forgotten how nice the sun felt to just lay in it.  Then I went up to my room and taken a well deserved nap.  The nap was phenominal!  I was warm, I was comfortable, brimming with hot chocolate and good food.  And my companions made me feel less crazy – maybe sexy even.  I slept until it was time for dinner.  I forgot what I ate, probably noodles of some sort, and then I went to bed.  Warm, safe and content.

I planned on having a late start the next day.  Only two hours of trekking until I reached Thorang Phedi, I could afford to take it easy.

Day 11:

I woke up not knowing where I was.  It’s like waking up from a dream, only to find yourself in another dream.  I’m not sure if my mind is able to stay calm because it accepts not knowing my location – or that maybe my mind is unable to rationalize the situation well enough to set itself into an established panic mode.  It just doesn’t compute, doesn’t register.  I stay dumb like broccoli.

Journal entry:

I’m laying in bed with the covers over me.  I never felt as lazy as I do now – not ever!  I’m waiting for AMS to subside.  It shouldn’t be long, it doesn’t feel severe.  The girls were right, I’m not motivated to do this hike.  But I must finish!  I must cleanse my soul through this odious venture!  It’s a Godforsaken pilgrimage dammit! 

I don’t want to leave this bed.

But I did leave the bed.

She is able who thinks She is able.

I felt grody and badly needed to shower.  Unfortunately there was no hot water.  All they had available was a bucket of hot water.  And when I say hot, I mean BOILING!  My host brought the bucket up the stairs and placed it on the bathroom floor next to the poop plopper.  I couldn’t resist taking a picture of it.

I waited and waited until it cooled down, but still burnt myself with it.  I burnt the tip of my right ear with the scalding water when I poured some over my oily tresses.

After my hot bucket bath and a bowl of their finest Apple Muesli, I headed off to Thorang Phedi.  The last stop before the pass.  People died trying to cross the pass.  Have I mentioned that?

‘I’m sitting in a dining hall with a bunch of soft spoken, polite Brit’s in Thorang Phedi.  They’re older than me.  Some by more than 20 years, except for one young lass.  Her age is indecipherable.  She overheard my conversation with my table companions and came over to speak with me.  She told me that its way too dangerous for someone to cross the pass alone.  And that I needed to join her group for safety sake.  Her name is Angie.  Angie the Angel!  I seriously never met anyone as kind as her.  And to come to me right in the nick of time?  When dinner was finished and things were wrapping up?!’

Exodus is the name of her trekking group.  Can you believe that?  An Angel straight out of Exodus is leading me to safety.  It just fits too well.  Oddly well.  If I was taking this trek to find God, I think I just did.

Angie – “We are meeting at 3:30 for breakfast.  How’s your knee?”

She saw me absent-mindedly bending and flexing it.

My first thought was, ‘no one has ever cared to ask me that.’

Me – “Oh, uhh….well, it’s a little sore.  I can walk on it okay, I just can’t jump.”

Angie – “Okay, well you should hire a porter tonight.  It will make it easier.”

I completely forgot about hiring a porter.  I was going to do it anyway, but completely forgot.

Me – “Oh yeah, I forgot about porters.”

Angie – “And you should pre-order your breakfast so it’s ready in time.”

This girl was brilliant.  Brilliant!  She taken my tattered, shattered vacation and turned it into something shimmering and gem-like.

I felt safe, and even saved 2000 rupies off my porter because I simply didn’t have enough money to pay him.  2000 rupies is quite the hefty sum for them to lob off and give me a saintly porter for half the price.  My new porter was always smiling and looking angelic thru the glow of my pack reflectors.

Okay, so I was saved.  But that still left my friends out there.  I haven’t seen them in a while and I was worried about them crossing the shifty landslide area into Thorang Phedi.  The rocks underneath my feet felt loose like they could slide at any moment – you could see they’ve been sliding for a long time.  I wondered if they were worried about me, too.

No, most likely not.

I’m laying in bed freezing.  I have two peel and stick body warmers stuck on me, 3 long underwear, 3 long sleeve heavy base layers, my windbreaker, my down jacket, sleeping bag and two heavy blankets over me and I’m still cold.  Being up in this high altitude having to pee so much, I opted for the more expensive suite with an indoor pooper plopper attatched to my room.  The hole was frozen solid.

Aint it luxurious?

I don’t know where that wetness around the hole came from…….

Oh and look!  It came with it’s own bucket of strange exotic water!

Unfortunately, even with the indoor plumbing, getting out from under the sleeping bag proved to be just as fretful as stepping outside into an invincible ice storm.

I packed up most of my belongings, left out only the essential items, set my two alarm clocks – one on my Iphone and the other on my Ipod, and fell asleep feeling safe and cared for.

Day 12:  The pass

See the sunrise over the Himalaya’s?  Check!

Aint no mountain higher than me!  Well, besides Everest.

I slept like a baby before waking up at 3 A.M.  I actually set my alarm to the wrong time.  I ended up sleeping later than I wanted, leaving me with about 5 minutes to pack my bags, dress, pee and then I hear a knock on my door from one of the British ladies asking me if I was awake yet – I LOVE them.  LOVE THEM!

I got my breakfast, my porter, and my new trekking pals all being well and happy.

Then we were off to conquer the Pass of Thorung.  Why do people do this?  I have no idea.  But I’m doing it.  Hell.

The Exodus guide methodically led the team up the mountain.  The medic trailed the rear, sometimes scoping out each individual by walking up and down the line of trekkers.  Angie wasn’t fooling when she said they went slow.  I popped in my earbuds and listened to quintessential soft melody’s.  Some classical, some Bon Jovi.  And why go fast?  The peak isn’t going to sprout legs and run away.

It was moving and raw.  Drooling up a mountain in the dead of night listening to Bach with a trail of loving strangers following me.  All the stars visible and shining down on us.  I was in a trance, standing back watching the earth in orbit with a trekking pole in my hand.  Me being a little fleshy ball of molecules sashaying through the wind, the altitude and transversing through different universes to end at an apex.

Why do people do this?  For these quiet moments of cognizance.  Before seeing the thunderous mountains flare up from sun.  Those are the soulveniers to take back home.  Not the abandonment issues, but the nirvana.  To not come back as a lost little puppy, but a strong, willful, loving woman who seen a side of bliss.

It reminds me of the Ganzfeld effect when you blind yourself by seeing only one color until you can’t see it anymore.  Your eyes start hallucinating like they’re asleep.  Maybe that’s what love is – the color that blinds you.  And everything else is nothing but an illusion, halucinations and constructs of your own mind.  If you asked a fish what water is, do you think they know?

We reached High Camp just after the sun began to rise.  That’s when I saw the girls.  Outside and waiting to use the bathroom.  They all looked cold, shaking, but excited.  Kristina ran up to me as if nothing happened, with a big smile on her face.  I was glad to see everyone safe.  But hate when people act as if nothing happened between us.  I’m suffering the trip alone because they kicked me out.   They should at least show a little ache toward my plight.  A little reckognition of what I was doing was hard.  But I guess that’s a selfish thought.  ‘It’s an illusion Mel, all in your head.’

We continued on up after the bathroom break.  Leaving the girls behind.  Slowly moving.  Up and up until my little gaggle finally made it to the top.  We drank down cups of soapy, sudsy, ginger tea water – mostly just to get warm and get out of the elements.  The wind was unrelenting and almost knocked me down a few times.

It was finally time to go downhill.  Downhill was the easy part, right?  Wrong.  No, it wasn’t easy.  After a while my feet throbbed, my ankles became weak and unsteady and my calf muscles hardened into little volatile lumps of dark matter.  But I didn’t care.  I was going downhill.  Away from the altitude, away from the headaches and fatigue and unworkable limbs.  I was happy.

I had to carry my pack now since I only hired the porter to take it to the top.  It bounced up and down on my shoulders causing neck pain, shoulder pain – Even hiking with the abandoners at a faster pace, still never hurt as much as this did.  I was the only one who had to carry her pack, so breaks weren’t as necessary for them.  The ease of going up, balanced out the pain I felt from going down.  Down, down down we went.  Very slowly at times over the slippery, snowy area’s where the trail was buried and all that was left was a narrow rocky ledge.

The trek lasted a total of 12 hours.  No one wanted to stop for breaks on the way down – everyone got ahead of me.  Angie stayed by me to dispense me my water from my unreachable compartment on the side of my pack.  What an Angel – a peach!

They at least stopped for lunch.  That was one very welcomed break.  I had no food on me, but I didn’t care.  I could go a long time without food, but everyone gave me some of theirs.  I even got pieces of real English chocolate, and a whole fruit bar to myself.  Everyone not knowing how grateful I was of them.

We finally made it to Muktinah.  I saw that the village was enclosed by a tall rock wall that I needed to circumvent.  It was endless and daunting.  My ankles felt like broken, knobby twigs.  I was there at the town but couldn’t get in!  This is where I parted ways with my saviours and went on my own.  Ever so slowly.  Treading lightly on my sore, crumpled toes.  I sludged my way into town.  My walk was more like a crawl.  Villagers smiled and chuckled at me as I passed by their little shops – going easy on me, trying not to hound me too much by asking me to “take a look.”

I was hunched over, clutching the straps of my pack, dragging my feet and I really REALLY had to pee.  At one point I buckled over on a step trying hard not to wet myself.  Why do I let myself hold it for so long?

I went to two tea houses that were fully booked.  The third housed me.  I was saved.

After peeing, I flung my pack against the wall and crawled on the bed.  Made myself into a tight little ball and openly, unencumberedly whimpered the pain away.

But alas I had to eat.  It was a matter of survival.  I went downstairs and sat down with Denmark.  We had a nice chat about the faux villages set up along the route just to cater to trekkers.

Me – “If they are there only for us, than the place loses its magic.  It becomes more like an amusement park, you know?  Just being there for our pleasure?”

Denmark – “Don’t worry, there are some real towns out there to see.”

Then Austria sat down with his bottle of Everest.  He was big and surly.  Not too friendly at first, but brightened up pretty quick.  We all warmed our legs on the burning coals under the squat table as we ate dinner and talked trek.

‘Wow I’m a trekker!  I’m holding a conversation about traveling and trekking!  I am a good companion dammit.’

I ordered the yak stew.

It looks tasty, but I needed to sharpen my teeth to eat it.

Right now, in present time – I’m exhausted.  I’ve been up all night writing this post.  And I mean ALL night, ALL morning, only stopping to take a shower and give someone a massage.  Now I’m back on typing.  It’s 4:26 pm on Sunday the 7th.  Exactly one month ago I was running away from children in the streets of Kathmandu.  And now I’m home eating venison stew.  Having visions and memories stuck like glue.

Day 13:  The reunion

I went to see the temples in Muktinuh with a man named Gobinda.  He was staying at my tea house and was the surly Austrians trail guide.  I didn’t know he was Austria’s trail guide, I thought he just worked at the tea house because he kept offering me tea.

He offered to take me there, no strings attached.  I had a feeling he may have had alterior motives, but I didn’t care cause I got to have my very own free escort to show me around and tell me a few things.  And we wouldn’t be alone, there were ton’s of people getting blessed.

On my way up to the holy temple, I ran into Angie the Angel.  She wrote down her email and we snapped a picture together.  She was leaving that day to go back home.

She’s not only nice, but pretty too!  I’m going to email her as soon as I finish this rediculously long blog post and send her the link.

This is a sacred pool of water where worshipers strip off their clothes and wade in the bessed water.  I didn’t take my chances with it.

Pilgrims in line waiting to be blessed.

108 sacred water spouts.  Men and women skantily clad in their undergarments run under all 108 spouts in order to cleanse their spirit.

I had Gobinda fill my empty water bottle with holy water.  I would now  be trekking with a full liter of holy water added to the weight of everything else.  To the left of the photo, a man in his speedo.

Wow, my face looks really red here.

I got blessed again.

Gobinda walked me to a clearing free of people claiming that the veiws would be great.  Uh oh….

We sat down for a smoke and chatted.  He’s a really sweet guy, but comes on too strong.  The life expectancy in Nepal is 65 years, so there’s not much time for beating around the bush.  He tried kissing me, but I turned my face away.  Then he started rubbing his newly minted tilak all over my cheek.  Nuzzling my face with his forehead like a kitten.  And for the whole time I was with him, he kept playing Puff Daddy’s “I’ll be missing you” over and over on his phone.  I heard it play at least 20 times.

That’s the dot on the forehead, a tilak.  That’s before he smudged it on my face.

Before Gobinda taken me to the secluded place, I ran into the girls at the temple.  I thought that since the worst of the trek was over and done with, we could at least finish it together.  But no one gave any inclination of wanting me back in, and I wasn’t about to straight up and ask.  I couldn’t handle that kind of rejection – at least not when I’m still licking my wounds from their last rejection of me.  They told me they were going to lunch at the Bob Marley hotel – not inviting me along, but not uninviting me.  I took it as an invitation and met with them after washing out my underwear in the center of town’s water spigot.

Lunch went okay.  I told them that Gobinda wanted to take me to dinner that night, but I didn’t want to go after he put the moves on me.  This was an indication for them to invite me back in – but, nope.  Didn’t happen.  They obviously hated me.  After lunch, everyone had to either go fill their water bottles or go to the bathroom.  They didn’t trust to leave me alone with their packs, so one of them had to be present at all times.  One of those people was S.  S invited me back into the group.

K came back to the table and relieved S of her guard duty and went to go fill up her water bottle.  That’s when K invited me back in too.  She said it would be just her and I hiking together.  I figured it was because B and M didn’t want me back.  I was hurt, but I didn’t want to be alone anymore.

I quickly went back to my hotel, packed up my stuff and paid for my room.  I told the host to appologize to Gobinda for me for ditching dinner.  When I got back to K, everyone was there with her waiting for me.  I tightly held onto the shoulder straps of my pack as I nervously appoached them, hoping they wouldn’t roll their eyes and trail away in front of me.  But they didn’t.  They didn’t exactly give me a good hardy “She’s back” welcome either, but I take what I can get.

It wasn’t just them giving me a second chance, I was offering them a second chance, too.  Although, it wasn’t seen that way.  They didn’t need me, but I needed them.  I was just dead weight, inconsequential to them.  I wrapped up my second chance and let it alight my happy.  It was the only thing I had to do it with.  I can stretch out the smallest offerings of kindness and work with them.

Our next stop on the trek was Kagbeni, a stoney mideival town a couple hours away.  A lot of trekkers go home once they reach Muktinah because that’s where the trail turns into a newly built road.  But there are some die-hard trekkers intent on creating their own trails to follow – staying free and clear from the ugliness of the road.  And I was one of them.  Not by choice, but I wasn’t about to tell everyone, “Hey let’s just keep to the road, we’ll get there faster.” That suggestion would have gotten me kicked out of the group again.  ‘Eggshells Melanie, eggshells.’

So I followed these girls on a long, arduous journey.  Hopping from rock to slippery rock over turbulant waters and making our own trail up the side of a mountain.  Only to get lost in Jhong.

These guys don’t see many trekkers.

We ended up on the road.  It had a deserted view of a dusty landscape.  Still, I thought it was beautiful.

We finally made it after several hours.  Nothing is ever simple here.  I could’ve easily fallen to my death several times that day.

Kagbeni turned out to be an awesome town.  Everything was made out of stone and well cared for.  It was a small village, but big in character.  They even had a Yak Donald’s.

Yak Menu:

We stayed at a tea house that housed us in their upstairs loft and served us breakfast and dinner up there.  It was my favorite tea house on the trek.  We stayed for two nights and ate pasta with handpicked vegetables from their garden.  And I was once again, getting along swimmingly with everyone.  The second day of Kagbeni, even K started coming around.

Day 14:

Even though the girls were being nice to me, I still felt compelled to buy these little bottles of booze and keep one in hand at all times.  I taken my little bottle of booze and my pack of Surya cigarettes and followed them up a mountain to see a remote village that had more chickens than it did people.  Then came back down to Kagbani to check out a monestary.

I love doors that lead to nowhere.  They’re way extisential.

If you look closely, you can see this Nepali balancing himself on one leg of his ladder mere inches from slipping off the ledge of a steep cliff.  This was the most suspensful part of my day.

It was a good day.  We celebrated by drinking homemade apricot alcohol and hard apple cider.  The bottles they were served in were old plastic water bottles that needed to be recycled.  They were crumpled and had dirt caked into them.  We drank from the bottles and listened to music on an Ipod.  I even gave a shoulder massage to B.  The world was good.  I was good and happy.

Until the next day…….

Day 15:  Meltdown

We left the serenity of Kagbeni and hit the dirty dusty road to Jomsom, which was also dirty and dusty.  We stopped for a break after three hours of easy trekking and sat on the stoop of a shop to take our packs off.

‘I’m literally homeless here.  Sitting on a stoop, dirt poor and eating cookies with my grubby hands.’

Jomsom was the one and only place that had an ATM and a few of us were tapped out.  Only, the ATM wasn’t working.  K and I decided to stay the night in Jomson while the others went on ahead to Marpha.  We were hoping the ATM would kick on, or at least the banks would open for a money transfer.

I wasn’t too worried about it.  I knew I would get money out sooner or later and I wouldn’t starve.  But, I don’t worry myself with details like that.  I worry about my gallbladder and trying not to piss my friends off.  But I still manage to.  Piss my friends off, that is.

She waited until we were alone in the hotel room to start in on me.  I can’t remember what brought it on.  I did nothing!  If I did, I would own up to it and put it on here for everyone to read.

K – “You’re like a baby when you travel, you need your hand held.”

I was on my own for five days!  No friends, no porter or guide and carrying around a heavy, lonesome heart in a third world country.  Who held my hand for that?!  I wish someone was there to hold my hand.  Maybe I am a baby.  But people want to do things for me, I can’t help it.

K – “You don’t tell us where you want to go or what places you want to see.”

Me – “I don’t have a map…..”

And the trail is linear.  There’s nowhere to go except follow the trail.

K – “I can’t travel with you anymore.  At least not with people you don’t know.  It’s embarrassing.”

K – “M was glad you had dinner plans so you wouldn’t have to join us again.  She was happy we were going to be one day ahead of you.”

Me – “I didn’t know that.”

K – “You should have apologized to us and asked to be let back into the group.  We shouldn’ve had to ask you.  You should’ve been more adult to ask us.”

K – “We had to talk M into letting you back in.”

K – “It’s frustrating traveling with you.”

K – “You don’t communicate.”

K – “I know your personality, I know how you are, but they don’t.  It’s embarrassing.”

K – “Why are you so mopey, what are you moping about?”

Was she serious?  She just ripped me a new one and she was asking me why I was mopey?  I was looking out the window and seeing a group of travelers sitting down for a meal.  All looking happy and laughing.  I envied them.

Me – “I’m fine.  I’m not moping.”

K – “See, this is the communication problem I’m talking about.”

What could I possibly say after that attack?  I’m sorry for who I am?  Hell no!

I sat there and took it.  One mean thing after another – hurtful things!  Not said in a nice way, but an angry temper tantrum way and I just let it happen, saying nothing.   I been in arguments like that before with my mother and learned that there’s no sense arguing with angry people who won’t listen.

We ate dinner together and she read her book the whole time ignoring me.  After dinner she said she would play cards or bananagrams, but she didn’t think I wanted to.  But she was the one ignoring me during dinner!  I don’t understand it, will never understand it.

Its like a mind trip.  An emotional beat down.  And she did it to me every 3 or 4 days.  ‘Time to beat down the dog, she looks too content.’

Its not that I didn’t consider everything she was telling me.  Was I really impartial to the trek and the people I traveled with?  Was it my ignorance that made me indifferent or was it a lack of apathy?  I don’t know and I don’t care.  Ha ha….

Day 16:  Marpha

We got our money out of the ATM and took the unmarked trekkers trail to Marpha.  I’m not a fan of the unmarked trails, but felt too deflated to say anything.  I almost told her that I’d just meet her there, but stopped myself because I didn’t want to hurt her.  I’m incapeable of hurting others – I’m sure I still do in some way, but I have no idea how.

We got lost again, no surprise.  And I found myself standing on a slippery rock with my bare feet getting slashed at by cold icy currents trying to cross rapids.  ‘This is what I get for following along.’

I was relieved when we found the road.  Sweet, sweet windy, dusty road.  The road took us to Marpha which turned out to be another awesome little town.

K and I strolled into a random tea house because of a freshly baked chocolate cake in the window.  We sat down, drank tea and played a game of Jenga.  Coincedentally it was the same tea house B, M and S were staying in.  They ambled on in and sat down with us – shocked and happy that we randomly chose their tea house for lunch.

After lunch, K and I went up a long flight of stairs to check out the monestary.

Here I am tackling the biggest prayer wheel of them all mwahh haha.  Give me strength oh mighty prayer wheel!Even though I was having the most trouble getting along with K, we ended up doing things together just her and I.  We walked down the road to an old Tibetan refugee camp, ignoring the wind and the rain.

 Here horsey.  Nice horsey.

It turned out to be a good day.  No crazy incedences or getting bitched at.  It was as if the night before never happened.  I was truly going crazy.  We had a nice dinner of bananagrams and dal baht with the girls before K and I walked back to the outskirts of Marpha to our tea house.

Day 17:  Cheating the circuit

We got on a brutal, unforgiving bus to Tatopani.  It was packed with people and boxes.  Four hours we clenched our buttcheeks and held on for dear life as the bus leaned towards the edge of a deep abyss.  I got out my Dad’s rosery ring and said my prayers.

Bathroom break.  Than off to the races again.

My favorite part of the bus ride was going through a waterfall.  The bridge was crumbled and eaten away, so the driver went around the bridge, driving into a babbling brook of two feet of water next to a pretty little waterfall that splashed at our rooftop.

All the old rickety plank bridges we went over that were’nt eaten away, had just enough room for the bus and little more.

It felt like a phychadelic Willy Wonka ride.  Nepalese men were hanging off the side of the bus overlooking a sheer drop.  Indian music played on the speakers and every few seconds, we heard the loud, batty, boisterous bus horn.

We arrived in Tatopani unscathed, soaked in the community hot spring, ate dinner and played movie trivia games until it was time for bed.

I don’t know why, but this plant looks erotic to me.  I felt naughty touching it.

It was weird to be in such tropical climate after undergoing the wintery trek we came from.

Day 18:  The serene hike

It was time to get our trek on.  We did a lot of trekking uphill to get to Ghorepani.  I actually did okay on the uphill.  I went slow and steady, not getting overwhelmingly tired and I kept up the pace.  It’s easy when you don’t throw in crazy high altitudes.  My legs were cooperating just fine and I didn’t need a lot of breaks.  I even kept up with the lead girl in front, B.

This is when my journal writing stopped for 4 days, so I can’t remember this leg of the jouney well.  I can’t recall if it taken us one day to get to Ghorepani or two.  No wait, I remember.  It taken us two.  And the scenery was astounding.  I was getting along outstanding with everyone, so there wasn’t really much drama to write home about.  Perhaps I create the drama to make my life more interesting?  Ha ha no, that’s silly talk.

We ate lunch here.

We stayed at a tea house that had some delectable art on the wall.

Day 19-20?  Getting along

We hiked through an amazing Rhodadendrin forest before reaching Ghorapani.

I don’t know if it was the place, maybe the beauty we seen trekking that day, whatever it was, we were all in a high spirited mood come night.

Trekker’s yelled at us to be quiet in our room at the hostel in Ghorapani.  All five of us were brushing our teeth, filtering water and singing in the room K and I shared.  We kept singing all sorts of songs until a woman knocked on our door telling us not to be so loud.  That was fun.

In the morning before dawn, we hiked an hour up to Poon Hill.  It’s a little peak about 3,200 meters high and having no obsticles to obscure our veiw, we were able to see everything.  Including a spectacular sunrise.

We trekked back down to the hostel, ate breakfast and said our goodbye’s to one another.  B, M and S were staying a few more days than K and I, so they continued their journey in the opposite direction.  K and I had to go back down the mountain to Nayapul, a steep decent with a lot of stone stairs.  ENDLESS, ruthless stone stairs.  I was scared of these stairs more than I was of the bus ride.  They ranged from all different shapes and sizes, some so narrow you couldn’t fit your boot onto.  And I was to descend nonstop for 1800 meters in order to catch a bus to Pokarah.

I’m a careful climber.  I know that when a person starts feeling fatigued, they need to rest or they get clumsy.  In the case with these stone steps, getting clumsy meant instant death.  So I played it safe and trudged down the mountain one step at a time, telling myself “these steps are not endless.  They are not endless.  They will stop eventually.”  That’s when a sprite older Chinese woman darted passed me.

“Pfff…..she’s not carrying a pack.”

My ankles started giving out.  The thin twining muscles surrounding my ankles, became putty in my boots.  They were never strong to begin with, but now felt like soft linguini.  Not to mention I was carrying a 20 pound pack.  And I was nervous going down these steps.  Being nervous while going down scary midieval steps for awhile, your legs tend to get wobbly – knee’s knock together from a build up of anxiety.  I felt like a pirate having sea legs.

K stayed ahead of me the whole time, looking back making sure I was still alive.  I was still alive, but ran out of water.  My mouth was so dry – my tongue like sandpaper.  I followed K into a town and stopped at a little store front for water, letting K get far ahead of me.  The young Nepali man selling the water was mentally slow, and had to fetch his mother who insisted I sat down to rest.

“Oh no no thank you, my friend is waiting.  I really can’t stay.”

I was actually scared of K catching me sitting down.  Not just a little scared, but felt real fear!

But it was too late.  She brought me out a chair cushion and put it on a ledge for me to sit.  So I sat and drank half a liter of water in under two minutes.  After those allotted two minutes, K came and found me sitting down – this terrified me.  I didn’t want to get yelled at anymore, I couldn’t handle it.  I started blubbering out excuses as I bolted off my seat.  She was pissed and told me we were going to miss the bus, but it wasn’t the relentless attack I was expecting.  The water and chair cushion turned out to be well worth it.

We made it to civilization.  It was a 10 minute walk from my two minute pseudo rest  – a civilization with taxi’s, not buses.

We hitched a taxi and squished our packs and ourselves into the snug backseat to take us back to Pokarah – ahhhh yes, Pokarah!

Day 21:  Rest day?

My Mother loves to send out email forwards.  She is the forwarding QUEEN.  She sent me this one while I was in Pokarah and I found it fitting.

If you look closely, you can see little dots on the dam.

Upon closer inspection, you see that they aren’t just dots, they’re goats!  They are European Ibex and they like to eat the moss and lichen and lick the salt off the dam wall.

I’m just like these dam goats.  I don’t belong on a huge mountain, it’s not natural.  It looks weird.  Or trek the Himalaya’s – me being inexperienced in well, everything.  But here I am damn it.  Eating up the succulent life of nature and people and culture.  Licking it up with my cat-like sandpaper tongue.  Tramping around in my dusty, ripped pants that can no longer stay up without a belt.

I’m here doing it, defying all odds – and I mean ALL odds.

Day 21 was a day of rest.  A day to lounge around and read.  That’s just what K and I did.  Read in complete unnerving silence.  I know how to read in silence with friends, but this silence was unsettling.  We went out for dinner and I accidentally let slip a brief moment when I was trekking alone, and just mentioning it upset her.  I wasn’t trying to upset her or bring up anything about being separated from the group, but it slipped out – something so innocent and irrelevant sent her spinning.  We had yet another spat over dinner.

When we got back to our room, I felt stifled with just her and I in there.  And I wanted to avoid hearing things like;

K – “I bunked up with you every night because no one else wanted to.”

Me – “I didn’t think my personality was that horrible.”


K – “You spent all this money on a trip that you’re miserable on.  It’s not for you.  You didn’t prepare yourself.  You should’ve went to Italy instead.  You could’ve spent two nice weeks in Italy.”


K – “Going hiking with Dave, drinking beer and shooting guns is NOT preparation!”

That last one was hard to argue with…

But I was trekking splendidly, getting along with everyone at the end, but still…it wasn’t enough.

I fled the barrage of attacks and checked out the drum circle happening in the tea house’s restaurant and zoned out to melodic beats and drank Everest beer while K stayed in to read…more.

Someone handed me a drum to beat on, and I chatted with a Norwegian woman.  The atmosphere was fantastic and I soaked up as much of it as I could while listening to a big guy with dreads singing softly and smoothly.

When I got back to my room, the argument started up again.

Me – “I can feel your negative vibes shooting off of you and what I feel is probably 100 times worse than what it really is, but I feel like I can’t say anything to you without pissing you off.  Anything I say, you would get mad at.”

K – “Well maybe we shouldn’t be friends anymore so you don’t have to deal with my negative vibes!”

She shouted this.  A second earlier she was calm and we were having a good honest chat – I thought it safe for me to lay this on her now while she was calm.  No one attacking anyone, no one yelling – just letting out feelings.  Bad idea.

Me – “Jesus Christ!”

K – “And you know what you sound like right now?”

I felt like I was going to puke.  She was laying in bed with her book, straining her neck to yell at me.  I curl up in my sleeping bag, clutching it for protection.

Me – “Oh please don’t say anything hurtful.”

K – “You sound NEEDY!”

Me – “Okay, so I’m needy.  I like having people around.  I don’t like to be alone.”

I didn’t want to look at her, talk to her, be near her, and I was stuck with her – still friggin’ stuck with her.  I closed my eyes and tried to sleep.  I was exhausted.  But about 10 minutes after closing my eyes, I felt a strong force compelling me to get out of that room immediately.  I grabbed my headlamp, my cigarettes and went outside.

Some guy – “Oh sorry I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

He was making noise moving around chairs.

Me – “It’s okay, you didn’t wake me.  I came out here for a smoke.”

Guy – “Oh okay good!  You smoke gange?”

He was a hippie cook from Canada there by himself.

Me – “Absolutely.”

And so I got to smoke Nepali pot the second to last day I was there.

Me – “What’s your name?”

Guy – “Mitchell.”

Me – “Mitchell is the street I live on.  I’m Melanie, nice to meet you.”

We talked non-stop, sharing a blunt and smoking two cigarettes each.  He was just what I needed.

Mitchell – “There’s love everywhere, all around.”

Me – “Yeah, I guess you can find it in animals….nature…..”

Mitchell – “People…..”

Me – “Ha, yeah, sometimes.”

Mitchell – “No really, it’s there.  It’s always there.”

I crawled back under my sleeping bag, clicked off my headlamp and felt that something, or someone up there was looking out for me.

Day 22:  Back to Katmandu

Journal Entry:

I’m sitting on the rooftop of Family Peace House.  K is napping.  All she wants to do is sleep.  We had a long bus ride.  I went on Facebook and sent Holly and Stephanie messages telling them I’m ready to go home.  Now I need to go buy souvenires for everyone, but I don’t want to go back out there.  My legs are sore and there’s too many ways to die out there.  I just snapped a branch off a potted plant and cleaned my ears with it.

I’m so gross.

Today at the bus depot, there was a fresh band of tourists there – lots of them.  One British woman came out of the “better” bathroom and said it was disgusting.

Brit – “That was the most dreadful bathroom ever!”

I started laughing and went over to the poorer unlit bathroom and squatted down to go.  I can go anywhere now as long as there’s a hole.

After K woke up, we went out to dinner and shopped for souvenires.  I was meandering by a store front and noticed they were selling Gorka beer for 150 rupees instead of the usual 300 and that’s when I fell and twisted my ankle.  I fell on the jagged pavement with all it’s uneven dips and holes and landed in a gutter.  I sprained my ankle bad – really bad.  I felt lightheaded and my eyes spotted over in darkness.

K – “Want me to hold your stuff while you get up?”

She held out her hand toward me.  I felt there was no possible way I could get up, no way, no how, not happening.  A concerned Nepali man stopped and asked if I was okay.

I thought to myself, ‘I better take her hand now before she takes it away.’  I would have felt too embarrassed to ask for the hand of the kind Nepali man while my friend was standing right there next to him.  Her hand was supposed to be for my stuff, not me.  But even without my bags, I would’ve still needed a hand getting up and knew that this moment was my only chance for one.  This realization made me hideously depressed.

I grabbed her hand and as fast as I could, stood up and let go.

K – “Oh,…”

I limped back to the hostel with my tail between my legs.  I laid myself down on the bed and openly cried like a baby.  I cried because it hurt so bad, and cried because I had to cheat K for her hand to help me – that hurt more than my ankle.

I wiped away my tears and thought about Mitchell, Angie and Gobinda.  I wondered if they all found something terribly wrong with me too.

“What’s wrong with me?  Really, what is it?”

Then I thought about the last few days with S, B and M – seemingly enjoying my company.  Angie helping me with my water bottle, Gobinda smudging his tilock on my cheek, Mitchell laughing at my jokes.  And then there’s my friends back home – and all the people I’ve met throughout my life that knew and loved me.

How could this trip have gone so badly?  How could I have been so unaccepted?

K said I was needy.  Maybe during the trip I was reaching out for something that wasn’t there – a friend.

But how did this happen?  Why?  I don’t understand it and don’t think I ever will understand it.  Maybe when I’m an old lady and can accept the things that happen as random, non-personal events.  Nothing can be personal if nobody really knows me, and who really knows me?

Maybe nobody really knows anyone, but can feel brief moments of connection.  And those brief moments can string together – happening more frequently until there’s just a solid line of understanding and trust.  The personality is just a facade, but the love is real.

During the trek I managed to sever this connectedness making those brief moments few and far between.

There are always two sides of the story.  Maybe I deserved my bashings, who knows.  I’ll be ready to accept that, or at least try to understand it.  But then again, its probably best to let it go.  Our friendship is nearly irreparable, but she’s always around.  Always inviting my best friends to do things with her and purposely leaving me out – right in front of me.  ‘Let it go Mel, let it go.’

At least she doesn’t read my blog.

I can’t grasp this.  I’ve never been able to.  But it is what it is.

I wanted to end this post on a high note, but is there one?  It’s turning out to be a Greek tragedy.  And writing about it is my catharsis.

With all said and done, I’m still glad I went.  There’s tragedy everywhere in the world, at least no one died in mine.  And I can say it wasn’t exactly horribly tragic.  Not really, anyway.

Its April 14’th, Monday.  Ten days after getting back from my trip.  The fresh stings are fading, my blistered toes healing.  I had trouble picking up this post again after my first initial purge.

I had trouble continuing it because I wasn’t sure how my friends would take reading it.  It’s kind of humiliating and I don’t shed the best light on K.  Writing something like this is hard.  Publishing it is even harder.  And hearing my friends responses to it – dreadful.

I’ve been drinking just about everyday I been back – going out to bars, smoking pot while hiking with friends, backyard camp fires.  I’m re-aligning myself.  Trying not to feel so autistic with people.  I’m pretty much there.  I could do without the pot, but a little medication to help grease the wheels of change never hurt.

I’m going to have to change soon.  To slide into an adult persona before I sink too much, lodging myself into a perpetual transition period filled with booze and empty pockets.  It’s time for Melanie to grow up.

My list of To Do’s:

Start my own business

Move out of my parents house

Go to school

It’s hard to stop  writing this damn post.  I keep thinking it’s going to get better, that it needs a bit more explaining.  But this is my life.  There is no proper ending for the telling of my life.  I should’ve just ended it with day 21, but I was at Cheshire Coffee getting high off my electronic cigarette and bubble tea with tapioca balls.

I’ll end it here.

The end.

This post is so long that an error messege popped up when I tried using the spell check.


Filed under Annapurna Circuit, journal, Travel

33 responses to “Enduring the High’s and Low’s of the Annapurna Circut – Melanie Style

  1. That may be the longest most amazing blog post I have ever read. Very cool…

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  3. Hi Melanie

    I happened upon your blog when googling wordpress for the Annapurna Circuit which we are considering ‚doing‘ some time.

    Firstly, I read the whole post, which I think is an achievement in itself☺ Secondly, I gave it to my husband to read and he did so too, and also enjoyed it.

    I’d say that what you lacked in preparation for your expedition was made up by your verve and engaging style:) You say you are not well travelled and pretty much a couch potato (if I remember correctly, I read your post a couple of days ago) but you show in different points your appreciation of the wonderful landscapes and scenery you saw. Your amusing descriptions of your relationship with your friend, while candid and perhaps hurtful for you, were rendered in such a touching way that I am sure your friend will be wise enough to forgive any little foibles you may have. Foibles which you both have I am sure.

    I traveled recently with three girlfriends to Ethiopia, one of the girls being a very close friend of mine with whom I have traveled many times to places far afield, but usually without the other two. Believe me, we had similar clashes and moments of irritation and have not indeed met up since getting back a couple of months ago, apart from one photos exchange reunion. But I know it will blow over and we will make up once we’ve licked our wounds, so to speak.

    So, hang on in there Melanie. You did really well, after all, you completed the trek, which wasn’t all that obvious from early parts of your account. You managed to keep the suspense and momentum going in your story and that is a major achievement in itself.

    The main point I am trying to make is , do not give up writing whatever else you do! You have a talent, and should even think of taking a writing course to develop that skill of yours. Good luck ☺

    • Thanks for taking the time to read the whole post. Nepal was definitely worth the experience.
      I hope you’re right about my friends making up with me. We’re at a stand still right now.
      One thing I know for sure is that I’ll never stop writing. I love it way too much. Even while I was trekking by myself I kept saying that it’s worth it as long as I can write about it. As long as I can write about my experiences, no matter how painful or dreadful, it’s worth it if I can capture it on paper (or online).
      Someday I’ll take a writing course.

      Thanks for your kind words, they mean a lot to me.

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  5. junbug

    I got here much the same way pianinka did. It is absolutely commendable that with zero preparation or experience you finished this trek to begin with, but that you pushed through the AMS and in the end had only blisters and soreness is fantastic. (I purposely left out the sprained ankle, not because it doesn’t count as an injury, but it didn’t happen while hiking, so more power to you).

    I hope your friendship is repaired by now. It sounds like you both needed to communicate a lot better, and I hope that’s happened. You don’t say much about talking with K before the trip – except the inviting yourself vs. not inviting yourself part – but I would assume (hope) that after it was clear that you were going (no matter how the inviting went), K would make it clear that the other people in the group had similar experience in trekking and traveling as she did, and so you were the most inexperienced of the bunch. From there, to me it’s your responsibility to speak up or ask for help if you need it to prepare for the trip (by doing more than reading, which is a great start). It’s clear not only by the nature of the trip but from what you wrote that there was group organization beforehand since between the four or five of you you had two water filters and a few laundry bars and other rations meant for the group to overall lighten the load, so that when you split from the group to go it alone they didn’t so much “take” them as you didn’t ask for them or get them for yourself before the trip. Maybe they assumed that since you didn’t ask, then you had your own, because they assumed that was basic preparation even for an inexperienced person. But for that it was your responsibility to speak up, not theirs to ask.

    I obviously do not know the real tone or even words that your friend used, but even if it was as it reads in your story I would hope that by now you understand that it seems like she was doing everything she could to keep you and the group safe. She offered to hike just the two of you to go at your pace and let the others go ahead, and when you said no insisted that you join a group (did she mention many guided tours have oxygen to help combat your AMS?). It seems, even by your story, that she did everything short of signing you up for a group before leaving. You say you’re in your 30’s – even inexperienced, your friend cannot force you to do the safest thing for you. You are an adult. She can only let her feelings be known, and if it’s how it reads in the story then, yes, maybe she could’ve done a better job doing it. But I don’t blame her for being frustrated at the time.

    Nor do I blame you for being hurt. I do not want to discount how you felt about the group dynamic on your journey. I just hope that after time you came to your senses a little bit, and not just in getting better from the AMS 😉 You should’ve known from your preparation before the trip that with these treks, those lapses in preparation can literally be the difference between life and death. If you didn’t know it then, you certainly know it now from the experience and can, I’m sure, appreciate where your friend was coming from with some of her views – not about your personality, but your approach to the trip. It sounds to me like you had an amazing journey, and that is wonderful, but the reality is you got lucky that it turned out that way.

    I hope that journey inspired you to do some more trekking up mountains with K, better prepared this time 😉

    • Thanks for the comment I appreciate it. K made it perfectly clear to me that she never wants to travel with me again, and I’m honestly okay with that – more than okay with it. She actually said those words several times to me, “I never want to go anywhere with you ever again.”

      When we got back from the trip, I stopped hearing from her completely and she made sure not to involve me in things.
      I’m not going to kiss her ass in order to make up with her. The girl is a bitch and treated me like the scum of the earth. I don’t care if she was trying to keep me safe – she’s a huge bitch with control issues, trust me.

      The whole Nepal trip may seem like an amazing journey, but I wish I went by myself or with different people. I would have had a much better time going it alone than listening to K either bitch at me or not speak to me for days at a time. She actually did not say one word to me for several days in a row. To this day I still don’t know what her problem was.

      As for my preparation, I don’t know. I could’ve prepared a little better, but I was still able to do the trek. The altitude got to me, but on the decent I was fine. The AMS wasn’t severe, just made me groggy and hard to move my legs. I knew deep down that I could get over the mountain.

      And I did get over it – I got over the damn thing the same day the girls did.

      K wanted me out of the group, so why would I want to go on hiking with someone who was kicking me out of it?

      I get along great with nearly everyone, except for this girl. We had problems before the trip began – our personalities don’t match up. She’s vain with a huge ego. I’m mellow and laid back. One of her arguments toward me was that I’m too laid back. She was screaming bloody murder telling me that I’m too laid back. She was screaming and I was sitting there not saying one word and it pissed her off even more.

      It’s my fault for joining her on the trek – I knew she would do something messed up like this. She’s crazy.

      But I’m finally over the whole traumatic experience. I just got back from another trip and met a few new awesome travel companions. There’s so many fantastic people out there in the world, why settle for the one’s who treat me like shit? Not me, not doing it. I’m too awesome. She’s the one who needs to suck up to me and kiss my ass if she ever wants to see me again.

      • junbug0176

        Well I’m sorry it worked out that way with K. That’s a sad follow-up. To see her again and have her yell at you that you were too laid back? She’s obviously still not over the experience. I suspect it’s a little raw for you, too, still. You write very passionately about the situation, like it happened very recently. I can’t blame you if this is what happened after the trip.

        I’d still like to believe there’s hope for you guys, in time. When both of you clear your heads a little, and you can actually communicate. It seems like you need real closure, Melanie – to clear the air – even if that closure means you guys decide not to be friends anymore. In the mean time I’ll update my hope that you continue trekking up mountains, but find a better match of people to do it with. But you still have to prepare!!! 😉

        Ok, I’m not sure I’ve ever posted on a stranger’s blog, let alone followed up. Yours is an intriguing story to someone with little trekking experience but lots of interest and plans. Back to real life, and off to bed. Early morning with the kiddos tomorrow.

        Take care and best of luck to you.

      • junbug

        Woops! 0176? That’s what I get for multitasking. That was meant for my shopping browswer

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  8. Ava

    When are you doing St James Pilgrimmage? I’m in! Feeling like a bit of a stalker now…but I promise, I’m really not! You have an interesting cadence to your writing and a healthy dose of self-reflection. Sorry for the trauma of K. Surround yourself with those who lift you; if in the company of none or none capable, be grateful for the added challenge and strive to lift yourself.

    Seriously, Espana… when? 🙂

  9. Came across this while researching doing the trek alone…..

    Your friends were assholes. They had to make you feel like shit because they needed to justify being selfish. Being oh-so well-traveled they all should have been way more tolerant and supportive. Deciding that you are at different paces and parting ways for a time is one thing. Being complete self-absorbed, irrational bitches is another. Glad you found it in yourself to just push through.

    • Yes thank you! K was being emotionally abusive towards me the entire time. I didn’t know exactly the signs of emotional abuse until just recently and it was like going through a check list. I’m almost positive it was her that left that comment under the name of June bug or whatever (she loves the name June).

      Life can be completely insane. I’m glad I’m learning, but it sure sucks especially when friends turn on you. What a horrible feeling! If I go back, I would re-think who I’m taking with me. You can absolutely do it alone because there are so many awesome people out there to walk with, you will never be alone on the journey. And what a feeling of freedom you’ll have by not being yelled at. K yelled at me for bringing a travel size sunscreen! She yelled at me for everything and it didn’t even have to make sense.

      They are truly bitches. And this is said by someone who gets along with everyone and loves people! Damn,crazy shit.

      • I am meeting a friend later on to do the Sanctuary, so at least for that part I won’t be solo. You did mention you hired a porter last minute. Is that fairly easy to do if I decide my pack is killing me? And thanks for the optimism 🙂

        Btw – the first thing I asked my friend was what would happen if she decided to turn back, or to hang in a village, or if she needed to trek much slower – how would she feel if I trekked on? Would she feel comfortable trekking down alone if she was sick, etc.  – just so that we were clear on all this, before we even agreed it was a good idea to trek together. I’m the one in better shape/more experience, so I felt it was ON ME to call out these possibilities and sort them before we even agreed to trek. Doesn’t mean it’s all written in stone – if she gets really sick, of course, I will accompany her down and take care of her. But, this is also why I am doing a part of it alone, so that I don’t have to worry about this – and, neither does she!

        • Yes you can totally hire a porter last minute. Check with the tea hut you’re staying in and they always have a guy hanging around looking for work. They want to help you out, they like it.

          Good question to ask about your friend. Just the fact that you’re asking says a lot, it says you care. K and I also had this discussion before we left for Nepal, and I said it was perfectly okay to go on without me (I actually wanted to spend a portion of the trip alone), however, the way the group handled it was not with care. They pushed me out and basically said I was a burden. I would’ve been happy with hanging back in Manang an extra day to acclimatize, and meet the girls once over the pass, I would’ve loved that idea actually – but they didn’t want to hear it, they wanted absolutely nothing to do with me for the rest of the trip.

          What happened to me will not happen to you or your friend. You will both have an awesome time. K is just insane and vindictive, and totally brainwashed those girls against me.

          You’re friend will most likely lag behind big time when the altitude hits. When it happened to me, it was nice to go on at my own pace without having to worry about everyone else. Feeling like I was holding the others up, made me feel horrible. Trekking alone was enjoyable other than that. Your friend, if she’s anything like me, will want you to go on ahead.

          Hope that helps with any awkward situations that may arise. Anyone can do the trek if they set their mind to it and are in relatively good health. Just some may be slower than others.

  10. Thank you Melanie for sharing this! Lovely way to prepare myself for the worst – and happy I will be going on my own, not messing up any of my friendships..Guess you should be glad to not have K around you too much around anymore – you’re too much of a positive chick for that 🙂

  11. Oli

    Read your whole blog. Brilliantly written and very interesting. Heads up to you Mel.
    By the way, similar experience with an old friend of mine, traveling through India 2 years back…..now friends no more. That’s how the cookie crumbles…

    • Thanks for reading the whole thing. I knew way back when that the girl was crazy but I figured it was ok cause I accepted that about her but man oh man when stuff starts getting personal like that forget it. Some crazy people aren’t worth that much trouble.

  12. See this post? Amazing. If I ever meet those fools you were with initially I’m going to bitch slap them.

    • Lol thanks Treat! Yeah, what happened there sucked on that mountain. It’s because those girls started gossiping about me behind my back and all hell broke loose. I had no idea what was happening or why they treated me so horribly. Gossip is so powerful. If you can get at least one person on your side, that just feeds into the whole delusion of everything. It all started because they thought I didn’t want to walk with them, and it escalated from there.

      But the fighting is starting to come to an end. I’m glad this happened to me. It taught me how to be more mindful and compassionate towards people, and to never believe anything I hear in gossip. Everyone has feelings, and no one should ever feel the way I did. I improved from it.

  13. Tom N

    Thanks for posting a most riveting story. As a chemist, actually a nutritional biochemist, I have a perspective about the communication that you encountered that most people would either object to, or simply not understand. There is much more going on in this world than meets the eye. The important clue to mystery of the poor interpersonal dynamics is the headaches you suffered from. They were “the canary in the mine” indicating a failure to maintain cellular and neuronal energy status, cerebral edema and impaired neurological function. Under such conditions you and others at this altitude cannot expect normal brain function nor normal communication. The hypothesis I propose is that altitude sickness induces the equivalent of mental illness. If more university-trained psychologists would have the kind of courage you manifested, then they might have more measures of communication effectiveness during altitude sickness. But that’s asking them to do something practical. Sorry for the attitude— I’m a recovering psych major. When brain function is compromised the worst qualities often come out of us. So I propose the strange communication is not your fellow travelers fault nor yours. Blame the hurtful communication on the limits of biology and misfiring neurons. According to this biological perspective, I’d predict that generally speaking, the most fit people you encountered manifested the least cognitive dysfunction. Additionally you don’t know how your traveling mates perceived you since their statements were being filtered by a edematous dysfunctional brain, and their brains may have been similarly dysfunctional. Maybe they had similar headaches, but were in denial being keen on putting on a good face and having a good time. It might be worthwhile to contact them to try to understand what it was like to be in their shoes. Now that time has passed they might be more able to be honest with themselves and with you. For instance, your swollen face combined with poor communication and an indomitable spirit may have subconsciously frightened them. If I were in such circumstances, I might have thought you might die if you continued ever upward. They simply may have not known how to deal with this horrific vision and wanted to flee this possibility. Forgive those who hurt you and forgive yourself. There are a few references to altitude sickness and neurocognitive dysfunction in the literature. This link will get you to some of these. http://www.elsevier.es/en-revista-neurologia-english-edition–495-articulo-high-altitude-headache-acute-mountain-sickness-S2173580814001321

    • Thanks so much for this! I’m friends again with Kristina and Sarah. I haven’t looked back to read my Annapurna story in a long time and I’m scared to in fear I’ll get upset all over again. I know I wasn’t thinking clearly, and kristina definitely wasn’t thinking clearly, she also didn’t poop the first two weeks we were there! Megan is a bitch though, screw her. She’s a certified Bitch. I’m happy I experienced what I did because I ended up never being alone even after I parted ways with my friends, I made new friends. And all my other trips I taken afterwards by myself, I was never alone because I’d meet other travelers. Life is magical and mysterious like that. And my blog saved me when I was there. I kept thinking about what a great story this’ll make and it forced me to keep my head and trudge forward so I can be the hero of my own tale. It’s still to this day the worst experience of my life though.

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