I found Linjon, Saffron, and the diplomat’s daughter in the common room, as well as Anker, Ankit, and Linjon’s guide. Our lodge was a small place, so everyone seemed to be socializing. They all greeted me enthusiastically as I came in the room, and waved me over to sit with them.
We rolled into Deurali late in the afternoon, just as a moody fog was settling into the Annapurna valley. We had finally reached the elevation at which trees stopped growing, which gave the landscape an ethereal, stony feel. With no vegetation besides small shrubs and bushes, the towering rock formations around us took on a new, more formidable dimension.
We struck out fairly early. It was a sunny morning, which I was beginning to understand was typical Himalayan weather. The days here started sunny and clear, slowly accumulated moisture and storm clouds throughout the day, which usually dropped rain or snow in the afternoon, before clearing up in the evening for a cool, crisp night.
The diplomat’s daughter smiled at me a bit too long.
She laughed a bit too loud and talked a bit too fast when I was around.
She was the only woman on this trek anywhere near my age — Sol and the rest of the masses had turned towards home after Poon Hill, while we worked over towards Suile, and the most beautiful moment of my life.
As we made our way up the valley towards Annapurna Base Camp, my cast of recurring characters had narrowed to no more than a dozen. I was beginning to get to know them all, as we struggled upwards, in mutual agony and awe.