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.
After our race, Young Ankit and I struck up some conversation as we sat waiting for the rest of our group to catch up with us. Ankit was working as a porter, carrying the diplomat’s pack, but I had noticed that he seemed a little different from the rest of the porters. Younger, less beat-down. He was more wide-eyed, and certainly more social. Many of the other porters didn’t even speak English. Ankit was animated, articulate, and curious about life in countries other than his own.
It turned out, this was his first-ever trek. He was 15.
It was all still an adventure to him.
Saffron, Linjon and I were sharing a room. Here at ABC, space was limited, and they were putting us three to a room, instead of just two.
I didn’t mind the extra company — Linjon had been an amigo on the trail, and after all, we were just going to be sleeping. Why would the presence of another person in the room matter to me?
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.
The German woman who had leaned into our conversation about Linjon turned out to be quite a character herself. As we kept chatting, I became fascinated with her life story. This happened quite frequently while you were traveling, I was beginning to understand.
She was a diplomat — attached to the ambassador’s office in Kathmandu. Her daughter, on break from university, had joined her for a few weeks of holiday in Nepal. Being able to tour around amazing places and new cultures was just one of the perks of working in the foreign service.
“Well, really the only perk, if your job is like mine,” the diplomat told me as we hit the trail again. “Unfortunately, I spend most of my time working, and very little time to enjoy the country. My boss, on the other hand, he loves to trek. He is in Mustang right now I think, trekking.”
“Walk in for thirteen days, look at a damaged monastery, write a check, hike out for thirteen days, and call it work?” I joked.
She laughed, a wheezy exhalation as we made our way up some steps. “How did you know?!”