Recently I became a published author.
In a book of travels, there are ten short stories written by maybe 6 people. I haven’t counted because I don’t care enough, but I am one of them.
I wrote 10,000 words. half on the driving experience in Vietnam, and the other half on… well it was something about the Himalayas, I don’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure it was interesting, since they chose me from a large list of applicants, and now I get to earn about $1 a year from sales.
Anyway, what little memory I have of the Himalayan writing was that how it will affect my life, and I can tell now, 9-10 months later, that I was totally right. Not a day has passed where I haven’t had emotional flashbacks of my time up in those Annapurna mountains.
Even just single-second flashes, they affect me even so.
Today the main theme of the flashback was a location where most trekkers choose to rest for a day and clean up etc, about 2 weeks – or halfway – into the trek (If you do the full month trek, which apparently not many do). They choose it because it is the most ‘developed’. It has a ‘sauna’, restaurants and even a sorrowful excuse for an internet connection. I was hugely impressed by this but it kind of falls flat when you get half the day without power, and internet that takes 20 minutes to load Google.
But the flashback resides on the roof of the LUXURY hotel we stayed at just for one night, since we had our rest day in another location called Kagbeni – which is another story in itself. The luxury hotel earns that title because it had a western toilet. Still no heated water in freezing altitudes but who cares – a western toilet.
I sit down, legs aching after a 7.5 hour trek, on the roof, not long after slicing my finger open attempting to make a bow and arrow from some bamboo I acquired through a little jungle path we trekked on the way there, and a knife from my trekking pal from the internet. For some reason I found it a good idea to slice the bamboo downwards, coincidentally the exact same direction as my gripping hand. I cut the gripping fingers, then attempted it again and cut it worse. So I had a little pain throbbing there, but it was at the back of my mind because I had to pretend it was fine so nobody emphasised how much of a moron I was.
On the roof I sat, with my Russian internet friend and my British internet friend (both of which I met for the first time in Nepal, after emailing them the night before my flight to see if we can make a trio trip for fun). I was learning Russian, the Russian was learning English and the British was writing his diary and basking in general glory. The sun was out, it was… warm-ish. We had trekked for almost 8 hours but we started around 6AM so it was mid-afternoon at this point.
The table was a round one, and I’m not sure but I remember it as one of those cheap barbeque plastic ones with matching chairs. I was sitting there studying the Cyrillic alphabet whilst wondering where the Austrians were.
The Austrians were a couple of 70 year-old’s who decided they could spend a month hiking 5,500 metres in the blistering cold for a month, too. And honestly they did a damn sight better job than me. Not an ounce of complaining. One time my trio took a detour to a special icy lake, and the journey there was so exhausting, so overwhelmingly painful to my legs and my lungs, that, upon arriving at the top, I collapsed to my knees in some kind of relieved horror, wishing I never had to get up again. Meanwhile, the Austrian 70-year-old’s were nonchalantly pondering about, somehow already at the top, even though we left earlier, taking photos saying ‘Guten tag! hahah, this iz good, ya?’.
So yes, the Austrians were capable climbers who we met on one of the earlier days and decided to sort of align our treks with each other for some fun company. They were great people. but on this day, they weren’t around. I was unsure if they had already gone ahead, were lingering behind or were sitting around in another hotel. Moments later, in they come; ‘Guten tag!’ with smug faces full of energy presumably acquired directly from the sun’s core.
Initially this was to be their rest day location, but because we had ours before, they decided to skip their rest day entirely so they could traipse along with us. How kind.
They took a table nearby with their Guide and I was left to ponder some more. I look up, in response to the sound of a helicopter. This was one of two helicopters I would see in the trek. Helicopters, of course, are only around when somebody is in life threatening danger. Usually altitude sickness which can very often kill. Somebody I met on the plane had that exact experience and was 30 minutes away from death if they didn’t rush her downhill again.
The visuals that I focused on at this point is the primary flashback that I was referring to at the beginning of this long-winded post. Ahead of me was a wall of trees, shrubbery, jungle and general green. This wall ascended hundreds of metres above, blocking out most of the sky. This wall represented one side of the valley in which we were staying. To my left was the length of the valley. I could make out the roofs of other buildings – of which there weren’t many. It was called a village but it was really just a row of buildings that happened to serve food and water, and one place for beer.
The valley went on in sight for hundreds upon hundreds of metres. Dare I say thousands? At the very horizon of the valley, the real towers of the Himalayas loomed with a crispy cloudless sky whisping around, breaking up the edges of the snowy-topped monoliths with its own atmospheric thickness.
From top to bottom, colours were so vibrant, yet chalky. mystical. The blue of the sky, the white of the snow-topped peaks, the grey of the mountain, the brown of the dusty sides, attempting to grow life but with too little oxygen to succeed, the green of the high altitude trees just below. Like a trifle cake.
The outline was a little like a natural W shape, with the middle prong of the W being the mountain, and the left and right sides being the valley, only the middle peak was much higher, making out to be a rather ridiculous font.
And that’s it really, that is m flashback. Shortly after, my order of Dal Baht arrived and I stuffed my face.
The emotions of achievement and peace and the freshness of my soul, so far from the rest of the world and the online lifestyle; no phones, no power, no friends, no family. Just me, my two strangers, the two Austrians and our guides. That was my life. I was with my trio 24 hours a day. The only time we were apart were trips to the bathroom. We slept together, ate, walked, laughed, climbed together. And nobody got sick of anybody.
So why did I ignore his email and Facebook friend invitation, and never spoke to either of them again?