I awoke around 4:30 a.m., shivering in my sleeping bag.
The cheap thing I had rented in Pokhara was performing about as well as I’d feared it would.
Anker had threatened us with a 4:45 a.m. start to catch the sunrise from Poon Hill, so I didn’t bother going back to sleep.
I stumbled to the bathroom. The dormitory was rising, loudly, but that wasn’t really an issue, since everyone in the lodge was going to do the sunrise hike to the nearby hilltop. Everyone had trekked here specifically to see the sun rise over the Annapurna and Dhalaguiri ranges— home to the eighth and tenth tallest mountains in the world. If anything’s worth getting up at 4:45 a.m. for, surely that sight must be near the top of the list.
I was awoken after what seemed like three minutes.
Our guide had barged into our room. We were staying in a trekking lodge in Ulleri, also known as a “teahouse.” We’d been enjoying a well-earned nap after a tough first day of trekking. “Dinnertime,” our guide said cheerfully.
I shook the sleep from my eyes and glanced across the tiny room. My Malaysian trekking partner had apparently been taking a nap too, because he looked just as confused as I felt.
“Slowly, slowly,” our guide says as we leave lunch behind, and step back on to the trail.
He doesn’t tell us this, but we still have 1,000 meters of vertical to gain today. On Day 1 of our trek. Of course, if he’d told us this—and if we understood what it entailed—we probably would have turned around and hailed the nearest taxi back to Pokhara.
Our guide was a pro though. He knew all he had to say was “slowly, slowly.” We didn’t need to know the struggles that lay ahead of us, We could overcome them, but if we spent too much time thinking about their magnitude, we would surely convince ourselves that it was impossible.
I was trekking with two strangers into the remote mountains of Nepal.
My relationship, my job, and my life all hung up in the air—juggler’s balls abandoned to the whims of gravity—while I walked upwards, and away. The absurdity of the situation didn’t escape me. It seemed almost mythical, like something out of a movie. Walk into the mountains and return enlightened.
We began our trek in a small town, Birethani. Our guide, whose name I had forgotten, told me the name of the town as we started walking. I promptly forgot it.