The next morning I woke with a sense of sadness.
Today would see us out of the mountains, and back to Pokhara. Our time in this wilderness sanctuary was over. This idea was reinforced by our guides, who told us we could catch a jeep home after only a few hours walk. It felt weird to hear the words “jeep,” and consider riding in a car, when for the past ten days, we’d been on nothing but foot paths. I had kind of forgotten cars existed, up there in the steep mountains.
But modernity was beckoning.
We retraced our route down the Annapurna Valley without much incident. We stopped at Chhommrong for lunch, where I bartered with a Tibetan woman for some souvenirs. She sold me two yak-bone bracelets. One, containing the “om-mani-padme-hum” mantra, I would give to Holly, the last time I would ever see her. The other, depicting the eight auspicious Buddhist symbols, I would wear on my wrist every day for nine months, a reminder to live an ethical life, before losing it while on a 24-hour, blacked out bender in Las Vegas.
But I didn’t know that, then.
As I predicted, breakfast and departure from Annapurna Base Camp was a quick affair. Our objective accomplished, everyone had caught the scent of civilization. We’d get down about twice as fast as we had gotten up — we’d be back to Pokhara in three days.
The sign leaving Base Camp read “THANK YOU 4 BEING TOGETHER WITH US. HAVE A FANTASTIC TREKKING. SEE YOU AGAIN.”
It was one of the greatest signs I’d ever seen in my life.
(almost landed this chapter on 100… so close…)
I awoke shivering in my thin sleeping bag at Annapurna Base Camp. My sleep had been shaky, at best. This was probably the twelfth time I had awoken in the middle of the night, but this time, the room was ever-so-slightly lighter. I looked at my phone. 5:30 a.m. Good enough.
I clearly wasn’t going to be getting any more sleep.
Sunrise over Annapurna. This was what we’d come for.
We reached Machhapuchhre Base Camp before noon.
It was a bright, sunny morning, and we shed our layers all over the place as we sat outside and snacked at one of the area’s four trekking lodges.
Everyone was in good spirits; the valley took a sharp turn left at MBC, and our goal was finally, literally, in sight.
[this is a serial travel memoir about my experience traveling in Nepal. It’s best read from the beginning. Click for Chapter 1]