“Wait until Jihnudana,” Ankit, the young porter, had told me again and again. “There, we dance.”
I had never thought that after nine days on the trail, walking miles and miles every day with a heavy load on my back, that I’d feel like dancing at the end of the day. But, come Jihnudanda, there I was, along with all my new friends: late night in the mountains, dancing and laughing until the neighbors told us to shut off the music.
We had the taste of raksi on our lips, but not too much. I wasn’t drunk on the alcohol, when the music started and the Nepali urged us all outside to dance. I never did get there, with the beers, or with the raksi. Just a simple, quiet buzz. Never the raging drunk I often chased, back home, where more was always better, right up until the room was spinning.
But as the crowd inside the lodge filtered out onto the patio outside, I did start to feel a smile creep over my face. The lodge owner found a step stool, and he pointed his speakers out the windows. A vicious argument swept through the Nepali about what sort of music to play. We quickly alternated through traditional-sounding music, Bollywood tunes, Western pop, EDM, latin music, and a bunch of other genres I couldn’t even identify. A warmth spread inside of me. I was feeling a little drunk, I realized. I was drunk on the people, the place, and the moment.
I started to sway side to side.
“Yes, Dan!” Young Ankit encouraged me. I looked around. Although I felt terribly self-conscious, no one was dancing any better than I . The diplomat stepped around awkwardly, Linjon couldn’t put one foot in front of the other — from drunkeness or clumsiness, I couldn’t tell, and Saffron wasn’t committing to much. Even the Nepali didn’t seem to be great dancers — with the exception of Ankit, who was clearly enjoying himself.
But everyone had a smile on their face. We all looked around at each other, and any time we made eye contact, we laughed. Real, honest, true laughs. Not the awkward, embarrassed things you might find at an American nightclub. Honest joy.
There had been plenty of moments of natural beauty on the trek, from the sunrise at Poon Hill, to the Rainbow in Suile, to the stunning views of Macchupuchre on the final approach to ABC. But here, at the end of things, I knew the views weren’t the point of the trek. It was the people.
Tomorrow we’d part.
But we’d always have these ten days — long after the conversations faded, the faces blurred, and the occupations occluded, we’d remember the feel. Trekking slowly with the diplomat, keeping her chattering to keep her moving.Talking Trump beneath benign mountain breezes and fluttering prayer flags, a world away. Looking up in mutual awe at peaks that seem to defy human comprehension,
We’d might forget names and faces, but we’d remember all that.
And as young Ankit put on Michael Jackson and moonwalked to our whoops of joy and encouragement, I knew we’d remember this night, too.