I didn’t sleep well the night before my trek.
Anxiety kept me from falling asleep, and when I finally did fall asleep, I kept waking up with an irritated stomach—a physical manifestation of the anxiety I felt.
I texted my trekking plans to Holly.
I go trekking then I come home.
Every time I fell asleep and woke up, I’d have a new message or four.
While the texts still brought a jump to my chest, I couldn’t help but feel they were nothing more than agonal breathing—the last, automatic gasps of a dying thing. We weren’t totally done with each other—but it felt like an invisible cord had been severed in Hong Kong, when she walked away and I remained.
I had wanted to go… but I had to trust in fate at this point.
My stomach bubbled at the thought.
The feeling was still there in the pit of my stomach when I woke up at 6:30 the next morning. I’d slept very poorly, but as the morning light started filtering in through the room’s only window, I knew I may as well get up. I certainly wasn’t going to get any more sleep at this point.
I got up and threw on my clothes before walking out onto the terrace at Hotel Snow Leopard. A cup of coffee would be nice right now, I thought, before remembering that you can’t expect amenities like free coffee at a hotel which costs $5 a night. I scampered up to the roof again to see if the mountains were visible. Again, they were obscured by haze.
Their failure to appear barely merited a mental shrug from me this morning, as I knew I would be trekking in those invisible mountains within a short few hours. I went back downstairs and took as long of a shower as I could tolerate. In Nepal the hot water never lasts very long—if there’s even hot water to begin with.
All clean, dressed and packed, I looked around the room one last time. I was out of distractions. I sat down on the bed and laced up the sketchy, knockoff hiking boots I’d rented in Thamel. I really hope these hold together, I thought as I laced them up as tight as they’d go. I shouldered my rented pack, turned off the lights, and headed downstairs. There was no one at the reception desk when I arrived, so I simply left my key on the counter and walked out into the alley.
Lakeside was sleepy at 7 a.m.
As I walked towards the trekking agency, I caught glimpses of shopkeepers sweeping their stoops, of chickens pecking around for their breakfast, and children walking around with fresh cinnamon rolls. I stopped a kid and bought a cinnamon roll off him, figuring that although my stomach was still a little queasy, it probably wasn’t a bad idea to put some fuel in the tank before I started hiking. Plus, they smelled amazing. How could I say no?
I strolled through the streets of Pokhara, eating my cinnamon roll. The early-morning air was cool and crisp, and traffic hadn’t yet begun. It was a pleasant moment. This was a pleasant city. My anxiety piped up, and asked why I was leaving such a pleasant place to go toil in the mountains for a week and a half. The pit in my stomach hurt, a little bit, but I kept walking. True, I hadn’t made Everest Base Camp as I’d wanted to, but I would still go trekking. I’d chased my dreams here, and I wasn’t going to go home empty-handed.
I’ve always been a bit too stubborn for my own good.
I was the first one to arrive at Eastern Light Trekking. The agent was there waiting for me, but neither the guide nor the other person who was supposed to be trekking with me were present. I killed some time chatting idly with the agent. I paid him his fee. The rest of my rupees—dozens of crisp, 1000 rupee notes, I folded up and put in a ziplock bag inside my trekking pack. I’d still need to pay for food and lodging along the trek, and there definitely weren’t ATMs in the trekking villages. I had about 30,000 rupees with me—roughly $300— which I thought would be more than enough for a 10-day trek.
I left my bag at the trekking agency and stepped out on the streets in search of a cup of coffee. It took a surprisingly long time to find what I was looking for; by the time I got back to Eastern Light, the other two people had showed up. At first blush, due to the Malaysian’s dark skin, I could not tell which one was the guide and which one was the client. The agent introduced us all, we talked a few logistics with the guide, and that was that.
We hopped in a taxi and left Pokhara, headed for adventure.