Our group was resting at the top of a hill, enjoying some hard-earned rest after an hour of nonstop stair climbing. Saffron, Anker, and I had arrived at the top of the stairs to find Linjon, the sick German from Suile, and his guide already relaxing near a small lodge. They had beaten us out the gate in the morning, and we’d finally caught up.
They could not have picked a more beautiful spot to rest—although after an hour of walking up near-vertical stairs with a heavy pack, a garbage dump probably would have seemed perfect, too.
The spot atop the hill was far from that though. It had big stone benches to rest, views for days, and the distinctive silhouette of the Fishtail mountain peeking out in the far distance. I opened a bag of dried mangoes I had bought in Pokhara—precious snacks, this far from civilization. The ingredients list was simple. It read: “Mangoes, sugar.”
As I bit into one, it was the most succulent thing I had tasted in a long time. I closed my eyes and savored the taste.
I opened them after a moment, and saw Linjon laughing at me. “Good?” he asked with a smile.
“Amazing,” I said, handing them to him. “Try one.”
After a brief but good-natured back and forth about if he was going to accept my gift, he took one. “Oh, that is good,” he said. I proffered the package to everyone else that was lounging around. A few people took me up on the offer. I grabbed one more slice myself, then sealed up the package and stashed it back in my pack. I wanted to ration them; trekking food got repetitive fast. And although you could buy a Snickers bar for three or four dollars in a lodge, you couldn’t buy dried mangoes in the high Himalaya.
Having arrived before us and gotten well-rested enough to continue, Linjon and his guide bid us adieu. Saffron and I were feeling pretty gassed, so we waited around a while longer. A few more trekkers caught up with us, choosing to join us in our rest. The Canadians, and a German mother-daughter duo arrived shortly after Linjon left. We shared some small talk, complaining of the stairs, enjoying the bluebird view, and asking each other where we’d be staying the next night.
Sitting there talking to the group, the magic of the trekking experience was beginning to reveal itself to me. I wondered, how was it possible that I’d traveled for five months with Holly and we’d met almost no one, yet here, alone in Nepal for only a few weeks, I’d met so many amazing people? Was that just what happened when you were in a relationship, you fell into the other person? Or was that just a sign of co-dependency?
I’d left home hoping to fall in love with my girlfriend all over again.
Instead, I was falling in love with the world.
Soon enough we moved on— “to Chhomrong!” Anker encouraged. “From here, we go down. Down, down, down.” Anker grabbed a stick of wood off the ground to use as a walking stick. I lengthened the cheap trekking poles I’d bought in Pokhara. I politely offered one to Saffron, but he refused. I shrugged. Being an experienced hiker, I knew that poles were wonderful for long sections of down, especially when you were trekking with a heavy pack. He would learn, and in the meantime, I didn’t mind two poles.
The path looked long, and steep.
We started moving down.
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