20 days trekking in Nepal; 2 days of infamy in Canada

image “WE SURVIVED!”, Rose says, sitting next to me in a taxi. We’ve finished our 20-day trek around the Annapurna circuit and are on our way farther South to the laid-back, quiet town of Pokhara. Our plan is to stay there for two or three days holding an open audition to find the richest, fattiest foods we can gorge on, and sadists moonlighting as masseuses who have the skill to push their iron fingertips deep enough into our muscles to convince them, once and for all, there’s nothing more to worry about.

I look at Rose, and it still hasn’t sunk in. “20 days of 5-8 hour walks, cold sleeps, an altitude headache from reaching 17,500 feet, potatoes – potatoes -potatoes, a bloody toenail, a fiery hand from stinging nettle, foot blisters, balancing over crouch toilets on sore legs, watching rain fall for 27 hours straight huddled around a fire, lentils – lentils – lentils, gasping for breath at night because the air’s so thin, two knees absorbing seven hours of straight downhill, daily identity crises: “WTF am I doing here?, body stink – stink – stink, stepping in goat – yak – buffalo – cow – dog and sheep shit, showering from a bucket, and producing methane levels in sleeping bags that I’m sure could harm small animals.

I turn to her in disbelief: “Yeah, we survived.”. However, at that moment outside of our taxi, little did we know people weren’t quite so sure: image Our guide told us that same morning there was an avalanche at Thorong La pass – the highest spot on the Annapurna circuit at 17,500 feet. It was a gravel trail when we’d passed it five days earlier.

With electricity out, we spoke to everyone we could to find out anything we could – “20 dead and 150 missing?” “How many did you hear – 15 dead, 200 missing?”. Details were sketchy, but the significance was clear – there was a major tragedy, and even though Rose and I had emailed family back home after we’d safely passed the highest altitude, we both thought we had to reassure everyone, just in case they were worried.

And, as it turned out, they REALLY were:   image

Finally, after getting into Pokhara, finding a Wifi connection that wasn’t on an electrical fault line, we proved we were alive to family and seeing our faces across Canadian news sites thought also to pass it along to them:

image Reading about my possible death is as close as I’ve ever come to having an out of body experience. Rose and I have both talked back and forth about it, and the best I can explain it is that reading about us being lost was going from feeling sad that someone you cared about was lost then to panic that it couldn’t possibly be true, then followed by disbelief that “what if it was true?”, only to crash the whole party with logic after realizing I’m the story, and alive to read it.

Very strange. En tout cas, we are alive and well – and only hope Nepal’s trekking industry can continue to say the same. Right now from news reports there’s calls to tighten restrictions, get early weather warnings, and install other safeguards to help prevent what happened. I hope they do, because the truth is, while the trek was difficult in parts (i.e. let’s walk uphill for 4hrs straight!), there’s other sections where you can literally turn around and see this: image So, in the next few posts, I’ll get into our trek (once I’ve figured out how to get photos off a separate camera) including how the hell we even took part. Talk soon


One comment

  1. While you are coping with physical exhaustion we are coping with emotional exhaustion due to the lack of information on your fate for two crucial days.
    In this age of world wide instant information there is no excuse for even the most remote areas to be communications dead zones. An obvious answer for areas such as the Annapurna Circuit is satellite phones. If guides had these phones they could communicate with each other about conditions on the trail and with a central office on the status of their own group. At about $3/day rental fee, a cost of $60 for a 20 day trek is minimal when the cost of the trip is over $1,000/person; a fee than can be apportioned among the number of Trekkers in a group. A bulk rental of many phones by the Nepalese trekking firms would drive the cost down and make the trek safer for the more than 100,000 people who take it every year.
    It was a great relief to get your email when you got in a communications zone. Looking forward to the blogs describing your trekking experience.

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