The taxi ride was a little awkward.
There were four of us. The driver spoke no English, as far as I could tell. Our trekking guide sat up front, occasionally chatting with the driver in their native tongue. I shared the backseat with a small Malaysian man. We had all introduced ourselves, but the names were foreign, and hadn’t stuck.
For all intents and purposes, I was in a car with three strangers, heading for the remote mountains of Nepal.
My stomach clenched up with anxiety.
What was I doing here? Did I really have to do crazy things like this to justify my existence to myself? Spending your youth at home, comfortably surrounded by friends and your favorite activities didn’t sound so bad now.
But of course when I had been living in Colorado, skiing and climbing every day I could, I had dreamed of far-off places and uncomfortable situations. I had told myself there must be more than this.
Well, I thought to myself, back on terrifying Nepali roads once again. This is certainly something more.
After about an hour on the roads, we were firmly in the Himalayas. The windy roads reminded me of the Rocky Mountains of my home—although the livestock crossing the road at random certainly did not. Somewhere halfway up a series of winding switchbacks, our guide leaned back and asked my companion and I: “Okay to stop for the pee?”
We nodded in assent. He said a word to the driver, who immediately slammed on the brakes and pulled off the road. As I got out of the tiny car, I realized there wasn’t much difference between the road and the shoulder. Two of us went uphill and two of us went downhill. The fresh air tasted good, after the cramped car and the stale scenery of my long night.
As we all stepped back in the car, things did feel a little better. We all seemed loosened up, and conversation began to flow a little easier. Something about peeing outside just lightens the male soul.
The three of us trekkers started feeling each other out—what’s your name, where you from, what are we doing—that sort of stuff. While this was going on, the driver continued speeding up the mountain pass— a dangerous proposition on Nepali roads, where drivers pass on blind corners and potholes are the expectation, not the exception. Even on the roads to the mountains, all types of traffic could be observed: buses, trucks, taxis, rickshaws, pedestrians and livestock all laid their claims, while motorbikes constantly wove through the mess.
Although traffic had been bad in Chiang Mai and Bali, something in Nepal felt different. This was a whole different world from the one Holly and I had been hopping around in for the past five months. As our taxi pulled off the main road and came to a stop, I wondered what the next ten days would contain for me.