MOORE — It was time for an adventure. The year of planning was our daughter Shanna’s job. I was just along for the ride. I guess my job was to stay in shape and be ready for what was to come. Fortunately, when I retired, I was determined to exercise — the treadmill at home, zumba and aerobics at the Health Club and walking with a friend — as many days a week as I could.
On Oct. 14, Shanna, who lives in Oregon, and I left for our Nepal vacation. We met in Delhi, India, then shortly left for Katmandu where we stayed for two days sightseeing and preparing for our trek. We planned to hire a porter/guide. Shanna knew what she was looking for, usually a porter only carries bags and a guide just guides. Shanna asked many questions, then asked if he had questions for us. I’m sure that he was looking at me and thinking “what is this old lady doing here?” His only question, “can you walk?”
Fortunately, we found the combination we were looking for — Suzanne (our guide) would carry the heaviest backpack, that left Shanna with the middle and me the baby. Shanna had told me we would carry our own backpacks until, preparing for our trek, she climbed Mt. Shasta in California and realized that 30 or so extra pounds makes a huge difference.
The next day we traveled on a bumpy, dirty bus for about seven hours, then got on an overcrowded (sacks of feed, etc. filled the aisles) local bus for another hour then walked to a teahouse where our journey was to begin.
The next morning, we were off for our 20 day trek (paths that have been used for hundreds of years by the Nepali for trade routes and only opened to tourists in the 1970s.) It began in subtropical weather with beautiful plants and lovely mountain views. We usually walked about eight miles a day, we would be walking more than 100 miles.
Now, mind you, the path was not smooth, but rocky and sometimes narrow walking across many of high bridges. We met many donkey trains carrying packs up and down the paths. Also, there were many porters, some carrying 100 pound packs. Since there are no roads, this is the means of getting goods to and from the little villages. Women carried the sticks (firewood) on their back.
Along the path we met many people, mostly European. Since we were on the same path going to the same place and often staying at the same teahouse, we got to know them fairly well. As we trekked up, at least once a day and often twice we heard the medical helicopter — off to get someone to safety. The person would have to make it to the helicopter on their own. We had good information about altitude sickness and the word was if you make it to the helicopter you live, if you don’t you die.
A few days later as we climbed higher, the sights were spectacular, snow on the Himalayan mountains — the tallest in the world. The weather became colder because of the altitude. Other travelers and the Nepali were always asking “are you going over the pass?” and to me “how old are you?” Of course, our answers were that we planned to go over the pass and that I was 69.
Most trekkers are much younger than me. And apparently Nepali people are very incapacitated at this age. When we saw older men and women they were very stooped from carrying heavy packs for too many years.
Our trek was the Annapurna Circuit, or sometimes called Around Annapurna, and our goal was to go over Thorung La Pass at 17,769 feet (the highest pass in the world). This is often referred to as a Teahouse Trek — where every three hours or so there will be a lodge, or sometimes several, in the tiny towns where you can stay for the night. The rooms always had two rough beds where your sleeping bag was “a must.”
Rooms were cheap, so you had dinner and breakfast at your lodge. The rooms were never heated and though most had signs that said “hot water,” we decided they don’t know what hot means, after all they use a hand pump outside to bath, wash their hair, wash dishes and clothes. Then, if by chance the shower was hot, you turned off the water and were standing in a 40 degree or less shower room. We thought the food was wonderful, but remember we were walking about eight hours a day.
The Nepali people were very warm and nice. They value education and most are well educated and speak English. They appeared to be totally happy, but as Shanna talked to Suzanne, she learned that he felt he had a bleak future with no opportunities. He had a physics degree and spoke four languages, but if he had the chance he would migrate to the U.S. and be a migrate worker. It made Shanna really appreciate her job. The teahouses were part of their home and they cooked our food in their kitchen. In the low lands they are all Hindu and in high altitude Buddhist. Prayer flags fluttered in the wind everywhere.
After 12 days of trekking over rough and often times wadding through waterfalls on the paths and continually going higher, it was time for the pass. By this time we were way above treeline and cold — no water, so we were thankful for hand wipes. We spent the night at Thorung Phedi and started our trek with almost 200 other trekkers at 4 a.m. We were a stream of headlamps in the dark, snowy night. The water froze in our camelbacks, but we only had to stop for a minute and look overhead the black sky was so close and a million brilliant stars were sparking. At about 6 a.m., the sun was just beginning to come up — lovely views, but, hours to go.
So, onward, putting one foot in front of the other and at about 10 a.m. we reached the pass. It is an awesome feeling and one of great accomplishment.
Then it was time to start down. The descent was over a mile in elevation, very rocky, but we had to trek on to reach our night’s destination. Finally, at 5 p.m., 13 hours later, we reached our teahouse. We were tired, cold, but, oh, so happy.
We trekked four more days, then fog set in and we took busses first to Pokhara for a couple of days, then to Katmandu for a couple. We finished our trip with eight days in hot and dirty India where we saw the sights of Delhi, then to Agra for the beautiful Taj Mahal, to the “pink city” of Jaipur and last to Varanasi on the Ganges. This is the most sacred city for the Hindus and where they want to go to die and be cremated with their ashes going into the Ganges.
After midnight on Nov. 18, I finally arrived back home in Norman. It was a wonderful vacation with a wonderful daughter, a real sense of accomplishment, but oh, so glad and thankful to be back home — so thankful to be American and Christian.