himalayan entry 2: “i’m too sweaty to be respected”

29 Dec

Hey! Here’s a great idea! Let’s go from Europe where we lived and breathed carbs and wine and then ascend 1300 meters our first day of trekking. It won’t be a thang.

1300 meters didn’t register in my mind when I heard it, even on the morning of. I was too consumed by how amazing my breakfast was. I was ignorant to the fact that something so amazing with sizzling potatoes and perfectly scrambled eggs could come from a run down shack on the side of a cliff. Heaven!

This is us eating our weight in carbs 2.5 weeks before our trek.

This is us eating our weight in carbs 2.5 weeks before our trek.

7:30am and we walk out the door. What a strange feeling, just walking out the door into the woods, sure that you want to do this, but beyond that, unsure of what comes.

We walked along the gravel road that veered off to the left, down into the green. At the turn off there was a man with a toothless smile, “Yak milk?” I looked at his Yak. “Aw, no dhanybhad (thank you)!” This man, with his toothless grin and muddy yak, set the mood for the day. It was going to be a great day with much to see and it was our second hardest day as well in terms of meters ascended. Did I mention that it was stupid hot?

When we started, we were both decked out in our full gear. I had my tights, ankle length skirt over top, Morano wool t-shit, running jacket, down-filled vest, grey sweater, rain jacket, hat, mitts and boots. Ten minutes into the trek I had stripped to my tights, the skirt and the the t-shirt. Why was I wearing an ankle length skirt? After doing the research, Lucas learned that women are more likely to be respected and accepted into homes and interactions with other women when they are dressed appropriately which, for the Nepalese, means a long skirt. I wore this particular skirt as I didn’t feel great about the other one we had picked up in Kathmandu. I caught the man who sold it to us touching himself after “helping” me with it. I found it odd that he was helping me in the first place and I was fully dressed with Lucas standing in near proximity. Bad omen. Bad vibes. I gave it away. Everything is an um, an experience… right?

The trek started out in beautiful, shady, forest but as we trekked upwards, it become dry and hot. As the hours passed I concentrated on the path and the ground right in front of me. I could barley look up to enjoy it unless we came to a stop or drank some water. It was incredibly steep and no matter how slow I walked, I was still panting, still feeling the lactic acid in my legs build up. At one point I was sure it would have been a good idea to stop and take a nap, I would have been ok with that. I didn’t care that it was in the middle of the forest, on a hill, in the sun.

Five hours into it we were at our first tea house. How excited I was! I made it to my first official “stop.” Lucas and I probably did a high five because we are nerds and said something nerdy to each other like, “who made it to the first stop? WE DID!” I remember it so vividly: it came out of nowhere, a log cabin with some picnic tables in front of it. Smoke was coming out of a chimney and the sky was so blue and so beautiful. We ordered garlic soup because it is supposed to help with altitude sickness and fried rice because it was fast to prepare. We wanted to get going as soon as we could breath easy once again.
First stop: garlic soup and fired rice lunch. Oh, and some classical music.

As I sat there, sterilizing the water, a group of 18 Parisians all sat down at a picnic table that had a lace tablecloth on it. Then I noticed that they had their own cooks and servers. They weren’t eating at the tea house, they were just using their facilities. As I walked around the property I saw  their own personal cooks and chefs behind the tea house quickly working away to get their cheese, peeled fruit, main course and fresh water on the table. I thought, oh, fair enough, these guys are older and they probably get one real holiday a year like the rest of us so good for them. And then the classical music started to blare.  Are. You. Kidding. Me? Did you really have the porter bring up a stereo so you could blast classical music while you ate your perfect, pristine lunch… on a mountain? Paaw-leease.

Lucas and I ate, sterilized some more water and started off again. Apparently the  second leg of this day’s journey was supposed to be “incredibly steep.” I kept asking Lucas who defined “steep” because I was pretty sure the first part of the day was incredibly steep as well.

As we were leaving, a group of young porters were sitting on the ground and I noticed their faces changed when they say me. I just thought I looked funny with hiking boots, a skirt, drenched in sweat so I thought nothing of it. A while later, while in the sun I looked down and realized that my black, Morano wool shirt is completely see through. They boys? Yes, they saw my braw, it’s shape and colour. If this were to have happened at home, I would have just changed my shirt and made a joke… no big deal but it’s extremely inappropriate to show such things in the Nepalese tradition. I looked at Lucas who was laughing and he made a comment about “wearing the appropriate dress” and “putting something else on, even though it’s hot… being respected.” I looked at him and said  “I’m too sweaty to be respected.” And that was that.


We went on and hours passed. The terrain became even more dry and dusty but we had set a good pace – consistent, practised – that I didn’t feel like I was going to die anymore. And then it happened… we saw the sign “Sing Ghompa, 3300m.” Lucas said “I think this is it.” I stopped and replied, “Can you be sure of that before I get excited, please?” It was and it was beautiful!

It seemed to have came out of nowhere.  Sing Ghompa was made up of five families, all with guest houses. One family had some ponies, all of them had chickens and gardens. It was magical being up here and I felt like I had been transported to another world. The light was different, the air was different. As I hung our laundry up, I was hanging it beside a cloud. Everything was tinted in a pink shade because of the sun. It was remarkable.

I walked out of the families home which is also where they serve the food and turned to my left. Two young boys bareback on their ponies came racing up the stone pathway and up stone steps. I was in heaven and if I wasn’t, I sure as hell was close enough at 3300m.

What left the biggest impact on me were the stars. I have never seen stars look so large and so bright. Venus looked unreal because of its size and brightness and you could see the faint strip of the milky way. I would love to write “and you could breath fresh mountain air into your lungs” but you couldn’t. At that altitude I could feel my heart beat off rhythm here and there. It was a bit scary but expected.

The days were long but felt short. The nights felt even shorter. It was the beginning of something I would have never dreamed of.


3 Responses to “himalayan entry 2: “i’m too sweaty to be respected””

  1. ddcleveDebra December 29, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    Although I understand your displeasure at the Parisian travellers, we all have different comfort zones and I give them kudos for making the trek, albeit in a snooty style. Myself I think I would have played a little of the Marley man….hahaha.

    • lutanatravel December 29, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

      Oh! There was no displeasure at all. We quite enjoyed observing it… It was more of an eye roll but as I said in the blog, good on them. Sometimes things can just get under your skin a bit!

  2. RMC December 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Another wonderful post great word pictures activates the imagination love it

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