The term “base camp trek” is one of the great tricks of Nepali marketing.
For me at least, when I hear the term “Everest Base Camp,” for example, I imagine a sprawling encampment of climber’s tents: guiding companies, porters, sherpa, and people intensely discussing the weather forecast and acclimatization techniques.
Which is, of course, what goes on at Everest Base Camp.
But the Everest Base Camp trek doesn’t actually go to that spot. It stops a little bit short, at the last trekking lodges. To go further, to the actual base camp, one needs to be an actual climber.
The same is true at Annapurna. Our Base Camp trek ended short of the actual glacier — before anything got serious.
[I’m going back to posting these entries three times a week, in hopes of finishing this series sooner rather than later. Got some exciting things coming up in the near future, and I want to be able to dedicate the blog entirely to those!]
I wouldn’t have wanted to go any further that night anyways. It was cold enough in the lodge. As the afternoon wilted away, we each added more and more layers. We went from t-shirts and shorts to long sleeves to jackets, to hats and gloves under heavy woolen blankets provided by the lodge. Even then, it was still cold.
I bought a bottle of whisky for a princely sum, and we shared it around the table, dolloping it in our teas. It helped a little bit.
Everyone was a bit tired and ill-feeling — from the trek or from the altitude, or both — so I had some trouble finding drinking partners. I ended up putting down the better part of the small bottle myself, which I certainly didn’t mind. I felt warm, and it had cost a lot.
There was no party here, at the top of the trek.
“Wait till Jihnudanda,” Ankit the young porter said. “At the hot springs, we will dance!”
The prospect of a party sounded nice; but far off. Jihnudanda was two nights hence — it would be our final night together on the trek. The end of our temporary little family.
I sipped at my whisky,
In two days I would be back in Pokhara, where I would have to interview for a job in Austria. Then, assuming it went well, as job interviews usually did for me — I’d have to face some huge choices.
The mountains were seeming less like a place to come for answers, than a temporary escape that was quickly ending.
Even sharing a blanket with the diplomat’s daughter, I felt cold.
I sipped my whisky.
There was higher to go here, but we were going back.
I sipped my whisky, silently.