A Travellerspoint blog

The Everest Chronicles, Part the Fifth

Taking my time to make a point...

overcast

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Traveling to the major tourist sites in Nepal reminds me, in a small way, of visiting a large, spread out Disneyland for grown-ups. I suppose the tone was set at my first stop, in Lumbini: the birthplace of Buddha, where nearly two dozen countries have built large, extravagant monasteries patterned after their native Buddhist architectural styles. There is definitely some one-upmanship going on as each new cloister is built, and the effect of having an eclectic collection of exaggerated and colorfully outlandish monasteries all clustered together, coupled with the admission charge for Buddha’s official birth spot/concrete-pond-next-to-a-flag-covered-tree, gives the entire complex the feeling of being a large Buddhist-flavored theme park.

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Spread around Nepal is all manner of adventure sports and other adrenaline-inducing pursuits. Trekking, mountain climbing, bungee jumping, canyoning, river rafting, paragliding, zip-lining, and going on jungle safari are just some of the options available, if you don’t mind taking bus trips or plane flights that are occasionally even more dangerous and thrilling than what you are headed to. Sure, you have to travel a lot farther in between attractions, but the way the Nepali entrepreneurs are setting up shop to usher ever more tourists through each adventure activity reminds me a bit of going on a ride, like say “Splash Mountain.” A snapshot of you screaming in blissful terror after flinging yourself off a rickety bridge towards your death and dismemberment at the bottom of a gorge 500 feet below is available for an extra charge, naturally.

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Of course, these are not amusement park rides meant to resemble what the trappings of an adventurous lifestyle might feel like if you lived one, but are, in fact, the real deal simply made more accessible to the paying public. Many of these “rides” are legitimately dangerous and every year, a number of unlucky tourists, (and locals,) are seriously hurt or killed. During my stay in Nepal alone, several people were buried in a landslide - including some Russian tourists, a solo Dutch woman was found beheaded on the Lang Tang trek, a tiger ate someone in Chitwan National Park, an elephant broke a German girl’s hip in half with his trunk in Bardia National Park, and an Agni Air plane crashed near Jomsom, killing fifteen people, and injuring six. Mt. Everest has managed to produce many high-profile deaths over the years people have attempted to summit it, and this year six climbers were killed while I was on my way up to Base Camp and four more had already perished before I even started.

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On the final leg of day one’s trek, I came around a rocky corner cut into the mountain high above the valley floor and the rushing river. A half dozen shaggy brown yaks were ambling slowly up the trail towards me, their yak-bells clanking a disorganized melody while they picked a route over uneven stone steps and exposed tree roots. Yaks have been known to knock the occasional unsavvy trekker, attempting to stand out of the way on the downhill side of the path, to an early death on the rocks below. So, I found a stone perch uphill, and motioned Adrian to join me while they passed.

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From where we stood, the river could be seen snaking its way through the staggered succession of ever-more-monstrous mountains that would reveal themselves to us slowly, and romantically, while we trekked, as a new lover undressing herself seductively, knowing she is exposing the beginning of her secrets for the first time. I wanted to stop like this, to savor as much of each wondrous moment out here as I could, as often as possible. And I wanted Adrian to know that I felt no need to rush through to Everest.

It was the beginning of May, the sun was in Taurus, Adrian had just celebrated his 33rd birthday, and to express my desire to proceed in a divinely bovine fashion up the trek, I decided to share something that I’ve noticed about his sun sign. Astrologically speaking, Taurus is an earth sign, and all of the earth signs manifest by the structures and forms we create to organize our lives. We make barriers and boundaries to channel our creative energies so that we might pursue what is important, vital, and necessary. The Taurus energy focuses on grounding us in enjoying life’s sensual pleasures, and in taking our pursuits one step at a time – typically slowly and contentedly.

Taurus is opposed and counter-balanced by Scorpio, which is a water sign. Whereas Taurus is stable and often plodding, Scorpio is deeply in motion and turbulent, like the river running through the mountains, the two are. Take the wide view, from a high mountaintop, and perhaps you might see the long course of the river running to the sea, just as if you were to take the long view on your life and perceive that it will eventually end in the metamorphosis of death. Scorpio, if embraced, wakes us up to the reality that we don’t have forever in a lifetime to dally around doing as we please, like cows grazing in a pasture. The river runs ever onward.

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There are endless possibilities for how we might spend our life’s energies, but given what Scorpio reveals, it is up to us to choose what and whom we want to focus those energies on. The evolution of Taurus then, is to learn how to channel the steady elements of our life-flow on enjoying that which we value the most, while the chance is alive.

I pointed out that Taurus represents the destination by focusing where we go, and Scorpio represents the journey by moving us along. But Adrian insisted that Taurus is also about the journey too, because it takes its time enjoying each step of the way. I said, “Yeah! Mt. Everest is up ahead, and if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, we are going to make it there, but this moment – these moments will arise only once, and they are every bit as magical as Everest itself, so let’s do our best to enjoy them while we can, by not rushing more than we have to.” Adrian agreed.

The yaks passed before our discussion ended; their clanking bells blending slowly, windingly back into the rushes of wind and the river’s roar, after they disappeared out of sight. And we stood there on that rocky promontory, letting the sun shine on a rare moment a little longer. Then we continued on our way, and it was not long that the echoes of our conversation were overwhelmed once again by the immense Himalayan spectacle of beauty; never more than yak-bells clunking along by for a moment on a dusty winding path through the mountains.

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Eventually, our feet brought us up a hundred or so yak dung-encrusted stone steps and into the town of Manjo, and by then we were tired and ready to collapse for the night. I stopped to survey the town and catch my breath, but Adrian kept moving on to find a guesthouse. A couple dozen buildings were spread out on a mountainside; their twinkling lights powered by the river’s flow. A stone-walled path cut through the middle of the homes and hotels, whose chimneys were busily sending puffs of smoke skyward into the dimming dusk light. An unknown Himalayan colossus loomed in the distance – the promise of another day’s adventure.

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I found Adrian talking to a Sherpa woman about staying in her hotel, and she invited us up some dusty wooden stairs to see the rooms on the second floor. Cold and built right onto the mountainside, the rooms still looked especially cozy and welcoming to a weary body, but there was one litmus test that they couldn’t pass: the beds were not long enough for me to sleep in comfortably. Achingly, we thanked her and moved on to see what else there was, despite our bodies urging us to just take the beds!

A stone courtyard with a flag post flying Tibetan prayer flags flapping in the breeze and a doorway covered by a heavy blanket to keep out the cold, led into the dining hall of a warm and lively guesthouse with a dozen trekkers gathered at tables around a central cast-iron woodstove. I found the proprietor busy in the kitchen with orders and sat down after she asked me to wait a moment while she cooked. The trekker sitting next to me assured us that the food he was eating was good, and told us that the rooms cost 500 rupees and came with a shower. Cash is not easy to come by up in the mountains, and on our long-term traveler budgets, Adrian didn’t want to pay more than 400, so he didn’t bother to get up from his seat while I looked at the room. But when I saw it, I knew this was the one I wanted. I hadn’t showered the night before in Kathmandu and I needed one – plus I doubted that hot showers would be common as we went further along on the trek. The views from the room looked out on sublime river and mountain scenery, the beds were super comfortable and most importantly, long enough! I managed to talk the owner down to 400 rupees for a night, and Adrian was on board and snoring away in his bed before dinner even arrived. In the end, it became our second favorite guesthouse on the whole trek, made possible by sticking to what mattered to each of us.

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Posted by TravelerTyler 05:06 Archived in Nepal Tagged trek everest Comments (0)

The Everest Chronicles, Part the Fourth

First Day Jitters

overcast 18 °C

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The Lonely Planet guidebook suggests spending the first night of the trek in Phakding, a town of maybe 60 buildings at 2610 meters above sea level. There are many guesthouses here and the township is larger than most every other settlement in the area, so clearly it is benefitting from the Lonely Planet’s advice. We stopped for some lunch and to decide whether or not to stay for the night or to press on until Monjo, another two and a half hours further along on the trail and 225 meters higher, per the advice of a German trekker we had met over breakfast in Lukla.

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Most all of the restaurants on the trail are part of a guesthouse and we found one that looked nice and was actually open, and went in. May is just after the second busiest trekking season in the Everest region, but with dust in the air and the heat building up, and the monsoons just around the corner, the numbers drop off quite a bit. The restaurant was empty and dark, and we had to yell upstairs for someone to come down to take our order. They in turn, had to fuss over what was not possible from the menu right now, and then went off outside somewhere to fetch the cook.

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After 4 hours of “breaking myself in” trekking, it felt really good to just sit back and take in the surroundings. Varnished logs made up the walls and a central support pillar. A picture commemorating the 50th anniversary of Tensing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary’s famous climb sat on the wall next to another signed group photo of one of the more recent Everest summit expeditions. A few signed expedition T-shirts and national flags were pinned to the bulging wood-plank ceiling. A selection of imported alcohols sat in a glass case hung on the pillar. A rack of over-priced postcards showing the Himalayas, or Base Camp, or perhaps a shaggy yak, was on the wall near the door. Candy Bars, cans of Pringles, and other tourist chow were available from a case under the register. Through the windows, I saw an occasional Sherpa pass by, hunched forward and laden down with goods.

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It was the first day and my body and mind were busy figuring out how much effort they were going to be needing to exert on this trip. It was heaven to have my backpack off; Adrian and I talked about maybe staying here for the night, but we would see how we felt after lunch. I had felt an unfamiliar tingling in my fingertips and a mild headache over the last hour, which had me worried about the possibility of altitude sickness. I had read about the symptoms but was unaccustomed to what they felt like. I didn’t want to push myself too hard, but I also didn’t want to psyche myself out simply because my comfort zones were pushing back in on me.

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My apple tea arrived, and I pulled out my map to circle the places we planned on staying at each night as the pages torn from our Lonely Planet, and our German friend suggested. Namche Bazaar on nights 2 and 3, Tengboche on night 4, Dingboche on 5 and 6, Thukla on 7, Lobuche on 8, and Gorak Shep on the 9th night, after we had dropped our gear off at a lodge and continued on to Everest Base Camp. A string of mysteries and questions spread across the map before me. But for now, I was mostly concerned with answering just one: Go on to Monjo or stay in Phakding?

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My attempts to arrive at the correct conclusion via reasoning and/or intuition were failing me entirely. Lunch came and went, deliciously. Adrian slumped back against the wall, into a post-food, post-trekking nap. When he awoke and I was still busy studying the map, guidebook, and chewing over my indecisiveness, he suggested that we just flip a coin. Though the tingling and the headache had disappeared with rest and food, this idea sounded a bit too risky to my mind, now driven to certainty-seeking analysis-paralysis. But he said that he would sometimes just ask God to give him the answer via a coin toss and it had always worked out in the past. Sometimes though, he hadn’t liked the answer and had changed his mind, but either way, he ended up with a good answer. I said, sure, why not? Pulled out a Nepali coin and called the side with Everest on it as ‘we go up the trail’ and the side with a map of Nepal on it as ‘we stay right here.’

It landed on Everest.

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Satisfied and getting excited again, we paid for lunch, pulled on our packs and got back out on the trail. It had clouded over a bit, obscuring the mountains in the distance, but otherwise the weather was holding and comfortable. But ten minutes later, the sky opened up and started pouring a thick cold rain on us, and we ducked into another guest lodge to reconsider the results of our coin flip. The rain kept up, so Adrian asked the owner about rooms and she took us to see what 200 rupees would buy for the night. I felt a little let down by the rain, but my body was already getting happy about the idea of sitting back down and not getting drenched. The room was a basic double with a common bath; two beds, wooden floors, and a window. We told the lady that we would think it over for a minute first and meet her inside with our answer. While we were discussing it over, the rain let up to a light drizzle. It wasn’t too bad to walk in, but the downpour might return and we had tasted the sweet possibility of collapsing for the day. Now we were both indecisive. Adrian told me to flip the coin again, to double check our answer.

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It landed on Everest.

Clearly, God and/or Benford's Law wanted us to head up to Monjo!

So, on we went, coming to a steel footbridge over the river Duhd Koshi. Adrian went ahead so that I could take a triumphant picture of him crossing the first of many bridges that would engage his fear of heights. He paused just long enough for the photo then hustled to the other side. (And surely he meant that I should also take a shot of me giving him the middle finger with my tongue out, while his back was turned. What else do you entrust your camera to a friend for?!)

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I took an extra moment to stand mid-span, savoring the raw intensity of the water surging and spitting over the rocks and around well-worn boulders below. Mountain winds sped down the valley, whipping prayer flags strung along the bridge and blowing a cold thrill across my face and into my soul. I would have stood there, suspended in the emotions rushing off the Himalayas, all day. A fully-loaded Sherpa started across, allowing just another moment of communion with the elements, before I had to get out of his way. But no matter; by the time I stepped foot on the opposite bank, my spirit was running as strong as the river and all reluctance to go on was washed cleanly away.

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Posted by TravelerTyler 09:21 Archived in Nepal Tagged trek everest Comments (0)

Writer’s Training while in India

On the packing of concepts and crowds...

sunny 38 °C

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Have you ever noticed a feeling of compression building up in the flow of your creativity when you are making some sort of art? I feel this way sometimes when I write. Like I really want to cook up a piece on the spot, and I have the ingredients all ready to go, but somehow it seems as though maybe they need to be prepared a little longer in the kitchen of my mind before the proper alchemy will be in place to bring the full flavors of my story out. To rush would be to undercook it. But wait too long and the moment will have passed; another experience will have saturated my awareness, and a new order is now sitting in the cook’s window next to the first one.

Then I would have two stories brewing in the cauldron of my artist’s soul, and steeping with them is the frustration that I won’t be able to pull both out and into form before time and distance dull the potency of their exquisitely deliciousness, and unique intimate details. Another customer will soon walk in the door, more ingredients will be tossed into the pot, and poignant flavors become lost in a mish-mashed slurry of composting former life-events.

I hate to mix metaphors right now as I would like to keep stewing your imagination in cooking imagery as I describe my writer’s dilemma, but capturing a story is a lot like catching really good surf: You have to feel into the oceanic dance of shifting and colliding waveforms if you really want to get up and hang your best ten. Screw up your timing and the wave either won’t have fully formed, or it will collapse under your board and drop you into the froth of the breaks.

All waves bounce off the shore and return out to sea, so if I have the time and the space to quiet my mind and listen well enough, I might be able to feel again, the energy of my memories-past arcing away off into the distance of life’s vast ocean. The story can still be told. But the further a memory goes out there, the more likely the waveform will change as it intermingles with ripples echoing other former and perhaps future tides. The wave as it was at its most surfable moment, often only comes along once.

There. Now perhaps you as a reader have a taste of what it is like to have the waves of multiple flavors colliding together on your own imagination’s tongue. Here is the story I have brewing, dude!

July 8th, 2012

I am now back in India, and I have just spent 2 days each in Varanasi and Bodhgaya. Today, I have arrived in Kolkata and already, I have many possible stories to tell, but I have to pick just one for now while I have a spare moment, as tomorrow, I will be beginning a week’s worth of volunteering at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Destitute and Dying. I can feel the undertow of that big wave pulling me into the next moment already, but while I have the chance, I want to talk about my train ride from Bodhgaya to Kolkata, before the story-train arrives at my next destination.

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I have ridden the Indian railway a few times before this: once from Udaipur to Agra, once from Agra to Varanasi, and once from Varanasi to Bodhgaya, and so I thought I had it figured out well enough. But, India loves show me just how naïve I really am and well, I will admit that this is probably a big reason why I came here to begin with.

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I have traveled via sleeper class each time, which is steps below the more luxurious 1st class AC and 2nd class AC, but steps above “2nd class,” which is where the Indians really pack themselves together, and “Luggage”, where you get to ride with the live chickens and whatever else can be put in a cardboard box and bound with twine. Each sleeper car has a string of berths which are designed for 8 people. During the day, people sit on the bottom beds (there are 3 stacks). At night, the seat backs convert into an extra bunk bed, and sitting is no longer plausible.

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Previously, my trips had started late at night, and so it was nearly time to sleep when I arrived and there weren’t too many extra people hanging around who didn’t belong to specific seat number. The beds are only six feet long and I have to creatively cram in my 6’4” body in, along with my sizeable backpack, which is less than comfortable, but at least the seat configuration during the day works for me, so long as I don’t mind trading hours of glancing and staring at just about everyone in eyeshot. This trip would also be an overnighter and upon departure from Bodhgaya, the seats hadn’t even filled to their 8 person occupancy. Everything was going normally.

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But then, as time went on, a few more people packed in for a few stops. It was a noon departure and the beds don’t come down until around eight, so it wasn’t such a big deal to make a little extra room. I was enjoying alternating between watching the grassy farmland/village scenery go whizzing by, reading “Into Hot Air”, and reminiscing on my adventures so far. Then a few more people got on.

At first it was a large group of Hindus wearing all orange clothes and no shoes, who were heading on pilgrimage to a town 3 hours down the line. The numbers in my berth rose to about 18 people. 4 on each seat and two sitting next to the bags Adrian and I had each placed on our top bunks over the three bed stacks. The air outside was uncomfortably hot, but with all the windows open and the breeze whipping through, it was pleasantly cool while the train chugged along. With 10 extra people, the extra body heat made it sweltering every time we stopped and all I wanted was to get going again so the wind would dry up the sheen of sweat seeping from my body.

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Before I left, one of my friends gave me some extra money to pay for a nice train ticket in the AC compartments when I rode the trains in India, at least once. Her son had previously traveled there packed in with the hordes and come down sick as a result, and she kindly wanted to help me avoid his experience. I thought about this now, as the sweat slowly soaked into my shirt. Air Conditioned, private berths would be nice. But, all of my tickets were bought last minute, as my plans formed and the 2nd class AC seats were no longer available. Besides, this was another adventure (!), I thought; maybe one I would write about…

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Around two o’clock, the after-work crowd started filtering onto the train. At first, they stood in the aisles huffing and sweating up the place even more. Then one person squeezed his way onto the bench opposite me, making it 5 people. Of course, it didn’t take long for someone else to see that there was some imbalanced math happening with my bench, and he wedged himself in too, pushing me into the aisle a bit. More people squeezed onto the third bench, and more still onto the upper beds. The aisles filled up so much that the chai-wallah couldn’t squeeze through, and he had to yell, “Chai! Chai! Chai!” through the windows on the outside, vending from his humongous tea kettle, whenever the train stopped. By 4 o’clock, there were 25 people crammed into the berth. There was room for no more unless we started stacking people on top of each other. At least, that’s what I thought until number 26 squeezed in, and didn’t get off until 6 o’clock.

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Now, I had to angle my head just right to see out a window. The waves of body heat now lightly outdid the moving train’s cooling breath of the wind, drawing out a slow sweat. One woman toed at me to let her friend take my seat, but I told her no and that was the end of that. An old lady, I would have moved for, but not a young woman who wanted to pack into our 26 person sweatbox just to gab at her friend across the aisle. Very few people had reading material or entertainment of any kind, and every time I glanced up, I noticed ten or more faces staring at me unashamedly from the bench across or above or down the train. If I was reading, the guys next to me would lean over into my space and try to read too. If one guy struck up a conversation with me, then everyone would lean in, even the ones who had been acting polite or like they were uninterested before.

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I had to laugh at it all though. I came for adventure more than I came for comfort, and like it or not, the pack-the-train-full game is one more adventure before I go home to my well-regulated country. I don’t have to endure this every day of my life just to survive and I can feel thankful for that!

Eventually most of the extras got off, and the last few, we kicked out when it was time to go to sleep. I don’t know where they went to.

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There really is a lot more I could say about the train trip. I spoke a combination of Spanish/Hindi/and English with one guy for a couple of hours. I spent two more hours practicing a list of Hindi words. There was plenty of scenery and train stations to discuss. I could talk about the stream of beggars who work the passengers over at each station or guys walking the aisle selling chai and various Indian food treats. But this time, I am not going to over-pack this story with details, like the train was with people.

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I really have many more stories to tell than I comfortably have time to tell while in the middle of traveling, and I am learning how to pick and choose. Some are little extra details like I just mentioned, and some are true gems that will have to wait for later when I have the time and space to give them the attention that they deserve. The last thing I want to do is undercook my surfboard!

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Posted by TravelerTyler 05:17 Archived in India Comments (0)

The Everest Chronicles, Part the Third

Toward the Open Sky

semi-overcast 20 °C

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On the first day of the Everest Trek, between Lukla and Manjo, there are fairly regular settlements strung along the path and dotting the hillsides across the valley cut by the Bote Khotse. A wood-walled farmstead, a hole in the wall supply shop, or a stone guest lodge are never that far away. The hills near the trail are a patchwork of farmers’ fields, separated by a stitching of waist-high stone walls. A farmer working her field of mint or apples may look up and smile as I pass, or may just keep working. Some 30,000 or more trekkers come through this way per year, and so we aren’t too strange a sight to be ignored.

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Still, there aren’t that many people here, and beyond the farms, the forest blankets the hills and waits patiently to reclaim what meager portions of this land humans have carved out for their own. The air is crisp and clean. No longer am I in the slick of smog hanging out like a pack of cigarette-smoking hoodlums with nothing better to do, in Kathmandu. The hilltops touch the bottoms of wispy clouds drifting up the valley on breezes born from the sea, and the snowcapped mountains on the horizon reach ever upwards towards the dazzlingly blue sky. There is breathing room here that can’t be found in a city. The soundscape is devoid of honking and yelling and jabber. The wind whips through the trees, rustling leaves and needles, and the river gushes across the rocks below, and occasionally the bells of a yak herd carry on the wind from somewhere unseen.

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It feels so good to be out here; to be heading into a great expanse of wilderness; away from the press and stink of city life and the known world. I am instantly refreshed and supercharged with excitement. It enthralls me knowing that it will take more than a week of passing through scenery so sublime, just to get to base camp.

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Adrian and I both take turns gasping about how stunning this place is. Our breathless descriptions include, “Like poetry,” “God’s artistry,” and “How will I be able to tell people back home about this? I can’t find the words.” A couple of times, we get caught up on the trail, in the midst of some large group of foreign trekkers and their guides and porters, and we double-time it to get well ahead of them, again to the breath of spaciousness. But for the most part, we do our best to take it slow and steady so that we might enjoy the day just a little bit more.

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Most of the time, we walk together, keeping pace with each other’s steps and rapturous wonder. But once or twice, I tell Adrian that I will catch up with him, and fall back to walk along in solitude. In these moments, the full impact of aliveness I am feeling is able to touch deeply into my soul. I feel the strength it has taken to get myself over to this part of the world and up here, flowing powerfully from within.

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People come to places in the wilderness like this, in part, because they want to get away from the crowds. Nature offers many chances to feel the stark emptiness of solitude. The mindscape out here is as unpolluted by the collective emotions and energies shooting around a city, as the air is unpolluted by noise and toxic fumes. A person can feel the wilds within, away from the organized distractions and cluttered chaos of city life.

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I left on this year-long trip in part to embrace solitude; to strip away the masks and mental machinery used to survive in the communal world. I wanted to develop a deeper sense of self-reliance and individuality so that I might better navigate my life from a place of personal truth and integrity. In the moments of walking alone I felt this energy most profoundly, in a way that was not consistent when I walked along with Adrian. At first, I thought that this indicated some weakness on my part. I believed that I was catering my energy to his and unbalancing myself by doing so. If only I could determine and correct what I was doing wrong, I would feel just as powerful as I do when I walk alone!

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But as the day went on, and I pulsed in and out of solitude, I came to the realization that I am neither an individual nor a group creature, but rather inhabit both worlds simultaneously. The strengths I have developed and the weaknesses I have overcome in solitude are different from the strengths and weaknesses I have in a group. There is no need to attain individuality. It is an immutable fact of life. The question has become for me, “how do I balance solitude with togetherness?”

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What better place to ask this question than out here, climbing up towards the desolate high peaks of the Himalaya, and away from the busy hives of the lowland cities? Eventually, I will return to civilization and its demands. But that day is far, far away as my imagination soars upwards along with the migrating clouds, and my feet touch down only on the path in front of me, and every breath of air, bend of wind-blown branch, and unfamiliar turn is revealed moment by moment, out of the eternal now.

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Posted by TravelerTyler 08:31 Archived in Nepal Tagged trek everest Comments (0)

What Kathmandu has left me with...

sunny 30 °C

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One thing that I can say about Kathmandu and Nepal in general, after having spent just over three months here, is that one way or another, they manage to make things work. Often I feel both frustrated and delighted at the same time that this place is so chaotic. From an urban planning perspective, Kathmandu is a mess! There are no street names – were you to send mail here, it would be addressed to a district, which includes many unnamed streets, alleys, walkways and paths. I don’t know how the mail even gets delivered to some people. Yet, still I can manage to find my way to the main sites around town with just a map and a few questions asked.

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When I extended my visa by two weeks, I followed the map in my Lonely Planet to the Central Immigration Office, only to find it deserted. There was an alternate map outside the building, but the wind had wrapped it around a post. I had to find a guy to ask before this was cleared up, but I made it to the new office in time just the same. As I don’t speak the local languages around here all that well, nor do I know where I am going, nor do I have completely reliable maps, nor are the streets organized in any reasonable fashion, traveling in this region is somewhat akin to being on a giant scavenger hunt in some friend’s neighborhood I’ve just met. I like that. It makes me feel like a kid again.

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A few years ago, I played in a couple of big kid scavenger hunts in Seattle and Vancouver, put on by City Chase. We ran all over the cities trying to beat various challenges like tightrope walking, asking random people to dance, or drawing nude portraits (bonus points for getting nude and having your partner draw you!) When in Seattle, I spent at least a good month and a half driving all over the city, learning landmarks, studying street names, learning bus routes, practicing things like rock climbing and coordinating strategy with my teammates. All said and done, we finished the race just before the time ran out, and well after the winners. When we went to race in Vancouver, I did next to no research beforehand. I hardly knew the city versus having lived in Seattle my whole life. My friends also didn’t know it where anything was. Yet, we still managed to finish the race in the same amount of time just by asking around and following people that were obviously on to something.

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As far as civil engineering goes, a well-thought-out city plan goes a long way in helping to develop the future for that city and its people. But the truth is that cities without a ton of planning – that are just thrown up helter skelter by their inhabitants, and strung together like so many overburdened telephone poles and city busses – these cities manage to work somehow as well, and people there manage to find happiness just the same.

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Of course, no matter what sort of planning or lack of planning is going on, there are always going to be problems and challenges that come up. Not everyone is going to be made happy. Not everyone is going to be well served, especially when the city reaches the edges of its capacities to handle the people and environmental conditions at the same time. Eventually Kathmandu is going to have another big earthquake, and a lot of people are going to die when the poorly constructed cement and brick buildings come down on top of them. But things will be made to work again.

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In my life, I do a lot of research and planning. I coordinate my time and resources well. I have organization systems for my organization systems. But on this trip, I have learned a lot about letting go and just allowing life to unfold as it needs to and on its own time. Occasionally, this has left me feeling like I am floundering or fooling myself, but inevitably it all comes together as it needs to. Now that I am seven months into my trip, I have a few questions to answer about what is coming up next in my life. Naturally, I want to select very good decisions about my future and this will require adequate research and development to pull off. I get meticulous when I get into master planning.

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But maybe, just maybe, I should take a page from the Kathmandu book before I go. Or one from the Vancouver City Chase book. Maybe I don’t need to have everything dialed in 100 percent in order to make it all work. Maybe a general direction will be good enough from time to time and I should just let things grow up organically. I don’t know what my answers are for my future right now. Not precisely. And I am not saying that Kathmandu has given me the answers I am seeking. Perhaps it has just given me another way to look at the question

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Posted by TravelerTyler 03:21 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

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