[ed. note: I’m going to experiment by posting Nepal entries on Tuesday and Thursday instead of MWF. This is a way to let the weekend content breathe a little more, and for me to see if switching up the posting schedule affects traffic in a meaningful way. Thanks for your understanding!]
It was even colder in the teahouse when I woke up from my nap. I would have stayed in my sleeping bag, except I needed to use the bathroom. This lodge, luckily, had western-style toilets. I could not have been more happy to see them after my debacle with the squat toilets the night before.
In my trekking journal, I write: “It is a cold dormitory, plywood thin and relatively unfriendly. But it has a Western toilet, which may as well be the Four Seasons up here.”
I’m journaling downstairs in the common room, which is dim and cold. I’m actually wearing a pair of fuzzy fingerless gloves while I write, because my hands are chilly. I look a little like a multicolored clown, with my bright-blue fleece and my bright green gloves and my handmade maroon cap. I don’t mind though, as long as I’m warm.
I’m not here to please my vanity, and everyone kind of accepts that trekking isn’t a place to be glamorous.
Over the top of my journal though, I spot a person who does look glamorous.
It’s a young woman, sitting all alone. She’s wearing a thick sweater, cupping a mug of tea in between her hands, and is staring out the window wistfully. I’m captivated by her.
This is Sol.
“Like the sun,” she explains. It is a perfect name.
I sneak a picture of her sitting by the window—the image is too striking, too romantic, to leave only to memory.
Eventually, I muster the courage to talk to her. She is even more beautiful up close. Her skin browned and dappled with freckles, her smile natural and easy. She is from Argentina. Her English is pretty good, far better than my Spanish.
We switch between languages, although the conversation flows a lot easier when we are using English. Still, I appreciate having a partner willing to help me practice my Spanish, which has rusted significantly since high school. And I think she appreciates seeing someone else making the effort to speak to her in her native tongue—even if we both know I am butchering it.
“Your Spanish is very good!” she says with a smile.
“No it’s not,” I answer, laughing.
She laughs, qualifies her statement, and insists. “Muy bien!”
Still, we switch back to ingles.
She tells me she is on vacation after graduating university. Her degree is in psychology—she is afraid she will not be able to find a job when she returns.
“My—“ I pause, “my girlfriend,” I say, after choking on the word, “has her degree in psychology. She wasn’t able to find a job in her field either. She works in a restaurant.”
“Ah yes I also have a boyfriend,” Sol says, sounding relieved. “His degree is also psychology. This is the most popular study in Argentina—psychology. Buenos Aires is full of psychologists!” she says with a laugh. “I do not know why we are so fascinated by the mind.”
Sol is trekking alone, with a female trekking guide. Anker, Saffron and I had run into Sol’s guide several times on the trail, although we hadn’t exchanged words with Sol herself.
Anker seemed very interested in chatting with the female guide, although when we started dogging him about it, he was quick to clarify his views. Trekking was a man’s profession, and female guides suffered social shame. Nepali society is conservative in many ways, including about the role of women. There were a few agencies which provided female guides, for trekkers who felt more comfortable with a female touch, Anker said, but not many. A woman working in such a profession brought shame on herself and her family, he said. “Man’s work.”
For Sol, traveling alone into the high mountains, she preferred the company of another woman. Although the trekking circuit felt very safe and not too isolated, I couldn’t blame her.
“I can’t wait to be done,” Sol said. “We will see Poon Hill tomorrow, and then go back to Pokhara.”
“You can’t wait to be done?” I asked. “I feel like I’m just getting used to trekking.”
“I don’t like hiking,” she said. “I hate it actually.”
“You hate hiking? Then why trek?”
She gave me a funny look. “When you come to Nepal, you must trek,” she says, as if this is information everyone knows.
She is right, of course. Despite a broken heart, crushing depression, and travel-burn out so complete that the ashes are white and cold, I have dragged myself to the high Himalaya because, when you are in Nepal, you must trek.
I smile at her.
She smiles back.
Life is good, here in the high Himalaya.