By the time we reached Jihnudanda, Linjon and I had been trying to get drunk for four or five days. I’m not really sure why the idea had taken hold with us, but alcohol had been a huge topic of conversation between us on the trail.
Every time we brought it up, our guides said two things: “wait until Jihnu,” and “We will drink raksi!”
Raksi is a local Nepali liquor, fermented from god knows what, bottled in whatever is handy, and sure to give you a nasty headache if you overdo it.
They have a liquor like this almost everywhere in the world, it turns out. Palinka in Hungary, Rakija in Serbia, Arak in Bali, Aguadiente in Colombia… the list goes on. Most of them are better than raksi.
But after a week of hearing about the stuff, laughing and joking with our guides — our friends — of course we were gonna try it.
Both Linjon and I ordered a bottle of Raksi with our dinner, to share around. Everyone in our group was excited to be at the terminus of the trek, and we knew we wouldn’t have much problem coaxing our friends to join us in a little celebration.
Linjon’s guide appeared carrying a wine bottle. “French Wine!” he exclaimed. “For the end of your trek. Congratulations.” He handed the bottle to Linjon, who looked at it for a second with confusion.
“Thank you!” he beamed. “But what about the raksi?”
We all laughed.
A moment of silence passed, and Linjon reiterated: “I want raksi though.”
“Pop it open mate,” someone said.
Linjon looked at his guide hesitantly, who nodded him on with a cheerful smile. Lin unscrewed the top of the bottle, and took a whiff. “Not wine,” he said, vehemently.
The group burst out laughing. “No idiot, that’s the raksi.”
“French wine,” the guide said again, with a wink. He brought out glasses for the table.
Linjon poured a few fingers for everyone, and we passed the drinks around. We raised our glasses into the air, a multilingual cheers.
The Nepali sipped their glasses with obvious relish. The rest of the group grimaced. I felt fire shoot down my esophagus. It was strong stuff.
“This isn’t going to make me go blind is it?’ Linjon asked.
The collective Nepali in the room shrugged. “One glass only. Two, two is too much.”
We flashed a thumbs-up, and Linjon and I caught each other’s eyes. “One and and a half?” I asked mischievously. He laughed, smiling. “Let’s get pissed, mate.”
Linjon started hitting on a pair of Finnish girls who were just starting their trek. They were doing the reverse of our route, and weren’t in such a celebratory mood. He wasn’t having much success. This was unsurprising, since his main tactic seemed to be asking if they were depressed and suicidal because of the long winters in Finland.
“No, we are just like everyone else,” the girls said, before walking away and sulking in a corner.
Linjon returned his attention to us, giving the group an incredulous look and spreading his hands as if to say: “what did I do?”
The diplomat and her daughter laughed, and spouted off a few phrases in German that sounded an awful lot like: They don’t like you much.
“Agh,” Linjon said throwing his hands up in the air. “At least I have this fine wine,” he said with a wink. He poured a little more into his glass. I reached across the table and touched the bottom of our glasses together. Prost!
We drank and we talked and we ate for an hour or so.
We ordered more beers. They were cheaper, here, than at Annapurna Base Camp. Linjon and I started trying to cajole our guides into letting us go back to the hot springs. Most of them didn’t seem to think that was such a good idea. We did get young Ankit on board, who asked Anker for permission.
“You’ll get eaten by a tiger,” Anker deadpanned in response.