The Valley View Lodge had one semi-western toilet for every two rooms. Dovile and I shared one with Ele and Amanda. When I say semi-western, I'm describing a toilet that you could sit on if it wasn't public, with a big bucket of water and a pitcher nearby for flushing purposes. Ideally, one scoop of water would be enough to "flush" but this was rarely the case. As there were four women trying with minimal success to be polite, we were out of toilet-flushing water by the next morning. Amanda made it her mission to get more water for the toilet. Her insistence inspired the quote of the trip when Ele exclaimed in a slightly exasperated tone; "Don't worry about flushing the toilet... we're on holiday!!" Ha! Perfect. It's in. From then on out, just about anything became "Don't worry about _____, we're on holiday!!" Lonely Planet. I couldn't imagine wanting to do this trek on my own, or even necessarily with a partner as they were. Our group was way too much fun. Meeting these amazing people and enjoying the HimaYAYA experience with them was what made the trip pure magic. Our day's acclimatization hike was up the hill behind us called Nangkartshang. We wouldn't summit, according to my map the top was about 18,425 ft. / 5,616 m, we just walked up the trail to what was probably about 16,000 ft. / 4,877 m. On top of the first ridge sat a stupa where many porters stopped to rest, visit with each other, and smoke cigarettes. Wait a minute. Smoking cigarettes at 15,000 ft??? What the...? Man, these dudes were tough. Almost as tough as Chuck Norris. An enormous valley loomed ahead of us. Along the bottom ran a tiny little pinstripe trail with a miniscule speck of a man walking along it. This would be tomorrow's destination. The view was humbling to say the least.We sat outside on plastic chairs that beautiful sunny morning, enjoyed breakfast, and chatted with a couple of independent trekkers from Washington D.C. When we asked them how they managed to plan all of this on their own, they referred us to
After the morning's tea I inevitably had to answer the call of nature. We were high enough now that my body was losing the ability to hold it comfortably for any length of time. The only suitable rocks were inconveniently located downhill from the trail. There was nothing for it so I trotted down. With the rocks sufficiently watered, I tried a brisk walk back up and was gasping for air by the time I caught up with the others.
"That'd be the altitude," said DK.
You think? Guess there wouldn't be any Everest Marathons in my near future.
We walked back down to our plastic chairs and sunshine. Our friends from D.C. pointed out a metal basin that we could use to wash socks.
"Laundry? Whaaat? That's not fun!" I joked. I still had plenty of relatively clean clothes at the time since the cold weather gear had barely been touched.
A few minutes later DK showed us how it was done. Take the basin, add water, wet and soap up your socks and scrub away at them with a plastic brush. Then rinse and wring them out and stick them on the clothesline. Expect them to blow away in the wind because there weren't many pins. Had I been ambitious enough to follow his lead, my great-grandparents would have been proud.
"I love the common miracles... the hardship and simplicity... the contentment of doing one thing at a time. Though we talk little here, I am never lonely; I am returned into myself," Matthiessen (228).
This experience seemed to be shared among us, though we were all slightly worn from the journey by now, smiles were more common and every day more social barriers dissolved.
Later in the common room I overheard a man from another tour say he wanted to go home. How strange that sounded. In the mountains I was happy, at peace... content. Yet in the back of my mind I knew eventually I would have to leave. What was it then that I would return to?
"No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place," quoted Matthiessen (281).
This brought be back to the present and reminded me that for now I was meant to be there in that place that I loved. The evening card players invited me to join them but I passed in favor of finishing The Snow Leopard. I laid flat on one of the bench seats under my heavy tea house blanket and turned the pages. Sudip came over and handed me a pillow. Dhanyabad (thank you), my friend. It's always the little things. We may not remember what people say and do, but we always remember the way they made us feel. At that moment, I felt at home.