Day 2: Kagbeni – Chele
These treks are getting tougher. Longer day along the Kali Gandaki with more climbs and a nice stop for a bowl of garlic soup for lunch. Took a nap there in a somewhat reclined chair with a kitty sleeping on my belly. Felt a bit like heaven to me, and a very needed rest after a few grueling hours. Passing a spot where the river runs through the mountain, and one last steep climb at the end of the day, we arrived at Chele, a small stone hamlet. Didn’t see much of it, not that there was too much to see, as I spent most of the remainder of the day reading, writing, and resting while some wind and rains swept through.
I’ve become a big fan of trekking poles. Love them. I picked up a couple of nice ones prior to this trek and I love how they enable me to engage the muscles in my upper body to support the work that the legs would otherwise be doing by themselves. Helps immensely. They also help to keep a rhythm going in a way that plain walking doesn’t quite have.
Guest houses are so inexpensive here, approximately $3/night, but it’s understood that you’ll purchase your meals there and they jack up the price on food. Nothing spectacularly expensive, but about $3.50 to $4.00/meal if you aren’t drinking special beverages. Feeling quite lucky that my favorite food in this country also happens to be the national dish, Dal Bhat. Basically it’s rice with a liquidy dal, with sides of a vegetable curry, cooked greens, a fried papad, and perhaps something pickled/spicy. It’s always an all-you-can-eat dish too which comes in handy after a long day of exertion. An expression in this country you’ll see on t-shirts occasionally is “dal bhat power, 24 hour.”
Day 3: Chele – Shangmochen
Today was an “ass kicker!,” if you’ll excuse my American parlance. We climbed 3-4 good climbs totaling at least 1,000 meters. Some of the climbs I could handle, but there was one long grueling one that I had to just zen my way through. I think it had a lot to do with adjustment to altitude because later in
the day with another good climb I actually did much better. Down to rivers and creeks, then back up to passes, along precarious high trails carved from mountain sides, back down again, back up again…. At it’s most challenging, I would take 60 steps with rhythmic breathing and then rest for 10 full breaths. I thought often of my father and how we backpacked in California together when he was in his 60s and he just kept his rhythm going up the tough climbs, despite the heat and the weight of his pack. In total, today was a 9 hour day which included a lunch stop along the way.
At one point we reached an amazing vista with a huge expanse of Nepal laid out before us. I was so joyous and free up there. The climb and ensuing lookout was a great metaphor for the payoff that can come with personal work. I feel that the inner work that I have continued to dive into for many years has been paying off in much more of a sense of liberation and freedom, with joy and wonder arising even within the mundane.
As we were readying to depart the vista point, a pair of friendly-enough German trekkers arrived. We’ve effectively been traveling together, trekking separately but staying in the same guest houses each evening (the guides and porters decide where we’ll stay and they always prefer to stay together). As we left them at the vista, I said something to myself along the lines of, “Yah, but they have to experience it with each other. I get to have ME.” What a joyful moment and realization, that I am so happy to have my own company these days. The more I’ve lived, the more I find that I actually like the person I’m becoming. My own inner work on this Nepal trip has largely been around examining issues around aloneness. Paying close attention to the issues that come up for me when I’m not in contact with a significant other in my life. It’s been a big exploration of the feelings I have and the devices I conjure to continue to stay connected in order to dissipate a sense of isolation. I haven’t written much about it here, but in many ways this time in Nepal has been an important time of personal learning and growth for me. So many issues never get the chance to reach the light of day for us when we are surrounded by our familiar lives, distractions, relationship and attention. Take those away and the vacancies which remain can be somewhat alarming and certainly illuminating. Through journaling, meditation and an ongoing written inquiry with my dear friend Celeste back in California, I’ve been able to dive in rather deep and uncover a passel of fears and reactivity and trace them back to more formative times in my life. In the process, I’ve learned much about my pull for female attention and how it functions. With the understanding comes awareness, and with awareness, the hooks aren’t so strong and something much more manageable results. In this process, I’ve developed a very sweet and dear relationship to my inner 6 year old named Little Teddy. Apparently he has still been seeking “mommy,” so I’ve been attending to him to help satisfy the needs he has so he doesn’t have to seek them from women in my life. Perhaps I’m not so alone on this trek as I had thought, as we’ve had several lengthy chats while trekking. He asks a lot of questions!
At another point, while overlooking the vastness that is Nepal, I recognized how far away from home I am and am continually getting yet further. It feels fine to me. What I’m realizing is that I am my own locus. As we pass beyond out comfort zones, we come face to face with ourselves. Many people, when they travel, bring their comfort zones with them – loved ones, communication devices, etc. Thus even when away, we have brought with us our comfort, connection and familiarity. When traveling alone, especially without connectivity, we quickly find out, as Oriah Mountain Dreamer once wrote, “…if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.” I seem to like my company and don’t feel angst-ridden in the slightest way. Feeling less and less the urge to reel in attention. It’s like the more I get from myself, the less I seem to need from the outside.
I also feel perhaps as still and calm as ever have I felt, feeling a strong pull to meditate, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. I want to go deeper and stay longer. As I enter further and further in to a concentratedly Buddhist area of the globe, it makes me wonder if I’m picking up on some of the millennia of meditative energy here. Since arriving in Nepal, I’ve had a daily meditation practice – over a month now. The deeper I drop, the more I seem to resonate with the lower frequencies of meditation and these mountains.
After a long day, we finally made it to the guest house at Shangmochen and I’ve had a big chill on since arriving. Cool winds were whipping through on our arrival and I had spent so much of my energy on motility that there wasn’t much left to actually generate body heat. I requested a hot shower but it was warm at best. As I was physically shivering while drying off portion by portion with a mini little pack towel I’m traveling with, I found myself visualizing getting into my hot tub back home or having a long steam shower at my father’s place in Thailand. Both of those are on my somewhat near-term agenda. Dreams of warmth and comfort…