The common room in Suile was cramped; just two communal tables, wedged up to walls of windows. The only solid wall in the building was covered in a giant photograph of Lhasa, the capital of nearby Tibet. In Pokhara and the Annapurna mountains, Tibetan culture and refugees are a common sight. I wondered if the owners of the guesthouse were Tibetan.
After a long afternoon of trekking, we finally reached our destination: the settlement of Suile.
To call Suile a “village” would be a little misleading, as it seemed to be no more than a number of farms perched on a hill, with, as far as I could tell, only a singular trekking lodge. Most people, Anker said, either stopped earlier in the day, or stretched on to the major village of Chhomrong.
After 11 hours of trekking, I was happy Anker wasn’t making us stretch on. If he’d told me stopping a few hours earlier was an option, I might have lost the will to keep on. The final steps into Suile had been pure torture. In the end though, I’m glad Anker hadn’t suggested either option, because Suile ended up being a place I will remember for the rest of my life.
Three years ago to the day, I almost died.
As strange as it may sound, I tend to forget about this event until the Super Bowl rolls around. For those of you who haven’t almost died, it probably seems like the sort of experience which would dominate your life.
When I got out of the hospital though, I just wanted to move on as quickly as possible.
The stairs to Ulleri were never-ending.
We were off the dirt trail now, and climbing steep stone steps up, up, up. I had no idea who had made these stairs, or when; but whoever it was, they were clearly a sadist. Our guide remained silent on the topic, breathing steadily as we ascended slowly, slowly, towards our goal: the trekking lodges in the settlement of Ulleri.
I took a few more games from the Malaysian. Either he had gotten too stoned, or I was starting to understand his playing style.
“Tomorrow, we will play again?” he asked me as I stepped back from the board.
“Nah, I have to go trekking tomorrow,” I said. “Need to redeem your reputation, losing against this youngster?” I say, half-joking. He had handily taken the majority of games from me. I knew he was the better player.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” the Malaysian said, looking down. “You are not that young.”
“I’m only 23!” I protested.
“Exactly,” he said. “That is not that young.”
I stepped back, slightly offended. He was probably right. He seemed like the sort of man who was usually right about things.