Delhi: Bouncing along the Marsyangdi river valley to Besisahar, my rear was initiated to a soreness that was soon to become a familiar foe—a discomfort I almost missed when I returned home. We (eight of us of various nationalities) were briefed about the road being ‘seasonal’ and, by the look of things, this did not seem to be the right season.
Luckily, we soon began our trek through wet subtropical forests and even wetter paddy fields. The lovely and large German girl (called Sita, if you please) in the group loomed behind me like a late evening shadow. I had a feeling that she was captivated by my impressive agility. But by the time she screamed, “F#@k my legs are covered with leeches,” it was clear. She was definitely trying to reach out to me. Before I could rescue her from her predicament, however, there exploded, from nowhere, an international debate on the parasites.
The sherpas, who obviously had the best remedy, were immediately ignored. Hans, the Swiss cynic, insisted on rubbing tobacco on them. Chris, an unbearably sprightly Aussie, claimed to be a leech vet and was searching for limejuice.
The two American girls were extremely helpful as they promptly vomited at the sight of the throbbing creatures that had now grown to alarmingly large proportions. So when I suggested me pissing on the damn things, Sita shot me a scowl indicating that our potential holiday affair was kaput.
I’m not going to get into the names of the various places that we went through. Not for any other reason than the fact that I can’t remember them and apart from the sheer magnificence of the landscape, nothing exciting happened.
All I can tell you is that we walked and walked and walked. We crossed rivers, jungles, canyons, and ridges, and waterlogged terraced fields. For mysterious reasons, the American girls had opted out of the trek a few days earlier. This was great news—we could now relieve a part of our loads on the extra sherpas whom they had already paid.
The sherpas found our struggle with the altitude rather amusing. “Thorung La, Thorung La,” they laughed while giving us the old you-are-going-to-be-buggered-soon gesture. Thorung La would come up sooner or later, a pass that stood at 17,700ft. Oh joy!
The dry arid region of Manang is called Nyesyang. Since this area also falls in the rain shadow area of the Himalayas, with our marvellous luck, we experienced a freak snowstorm. Once the storm subsided, we ventured along the valley floor enjoying spectacular views of Annapurna III and IV, along with Gangapuran and Tilicho peaks lingering in the distance. This was possibly the best day for viewing mountains. There seemed to be a tangible crispness in the air. Chris was all set to tear up the mountain. As I stood by Sita, I felt as if I could have grabbed the peaks with my hand. Even Sita was grinning manically and beginning to look rather delectable until she deliberately crushed my toe with her boot.
At the base of Thorung La we were all gasping and I was limping. The weather was good and we set out earlier than usual. My ass was worn out, I needed to rest after every 300ft of dragging my numb limbs. I was ready to take on the leeches any day. The pass itself was marked by a formation of rocks, which revealed themselves through patches of snow. We were at the highest point, 17,700ft, of our expedition. We had scaled our very own Mount Everest. After some cheesy hugging, we indulged in a photo frenzy, which Chris took to another level by pulling out the Aussie flag. The sherpas found this hysterical and, doubling over in peals of laughter, they almost rolled down to Muktinath.
Several villages, forests, smiley villagers and spectacular vistas later, we reached Pokhara. More than 23 days had passed. A hot tub, with a beer cooler by my side. I felt exalted. As I lay there triumphant, I contemplated the absurdity of my masochistic adventure. I love the mountains, but hate the cold. I have a weakness for the great outdoors, but loathe trudging knee-deep in snow with painfully numb toes and taunting visions of my warm bed very, very far away. I resigned myself to being a wimp and opted for an alpine trek as opposed to a high altitude heavy-duty climb. If I had known what lay ahead of me, I would have, undoubtedly, wimped out a lot more. But it taught me respect and gave me a glimpse of something I wouldn't dare aspire to be. It taught me to admire—not try and make sense of their madness—just admire, a breed called mountaineers.
Write to Homi at firstname.lastname@example.org