We left Phakding around 8 am after a warm bowl of muesli and cup of sweet, milky black tea. I was a wee bit nervous, having been warned of the intensity of the days hike. It was our first real hiking day, the first taste of what the next 19 days would be like and my first opportunity to prove that I had what it took. How would I fair? I knew I could do it, but I didn't know how well I could do it. I was with three men, all of whom are professional trekkers and climbers... the bar was set and I didn't quite know if I would make the cut. Sometimes it amazes me how much credit I give myself (or in this case how little). I hike, happily, 12 - 14 miles in a day, come home and work some more. I have ridiculous amounts of energy, to the point of driving those around me nuts. Yet I still wasn't confident in myself! I didn't know what the altitude would do to me, or if despite my skills and energy level it still wasn't quite enough for the men I was with.
It began quite comfortably, meandering up and around hills, through small villages, following the river up the valley. We crossed several suspension bridges, which definitely put your balance and faith in general engineering to a test. Periodically coming upon streams of zokyo (a cow and yak crossbreed) and donkey carrying supplies we would push to the inside of the trail and patiently await them to pass, not daring to take on these animals that could easily throw you over the side of the valley into the river below. Amazing, watching these beasts going up and down the hills, traverses, stairs, rocks and bridges. Even more amazing are the porters, ranging in age from teens to mid fifties carrying two to three times their weight in bags, food and other provisions. I fight back the pangs of guilt for my wimpy day pack, reminding myself that this is a way of life that existed long before I showed up and will continue long after I leave. After all where work is scarce any way to make money is a good way.
After about two hours we stopped for tea in what was more a friend's home than a cafe. I hope I never forget the faces of job on the older couple who owned the home. Smooth cheeks and wrinkled eyes: the sign of a face that has spent many years laughing.
With our warmth and energy repleted we packed up and continued on, breaking into the Sagarmatha National Park. Sagarmatha is the Nepalese name for Mt. Everest, it means the "head of earth, touching heaven." At this point we descended way down to the river. A side note on descending: it seems great, until you remember back to the start of the day when you were told that you would be gaining 800 meters (2,625 feet) from the initial point, you do a little math and realize that a meter down will eventually mean a meter up. You silently curse every decline you come across in your head- much less the fact that at some point you will have to climb back up this damned drop off.
Finally we began the steep ascent up to the meeting point of two of the main rivers, as well as the high bridge. It didn't receive its name because it is high up in the hills, as I had hoped, but because it had to be built above the old bridge, which means that it is really friggin' high above the river that is charging below. Three hours in and this is where the real hiking begins: the traverses start, the incline kicks up a few grades and my viewfinder adjusts from lush green valley to incorporate snow-capped behemoths. So we continued on, one step at a time with an occasional rest to adjust our lungs and drink some water. It was a challenge but it was amazing; no pain, just gain.
We made it to Namche in significantly less time than originally expected, something that amazed me then filled me with pride, joy and gratitude for the body that had carried me so far. It wasn't easy, but that isn't why I signed up. I am aware that my body is capable of anything as long as I can control my mind. These are the teachings that I hold near and dear in my yoga practice: learn to control your mind and you can do anything. It became very apparent how well I've controlled my mind based upon my success on this day; I felt incredibly proud. This was huge, I don't feel pride in my accomplishments often. I have long believed that anyone can do anything they desire to do and this belief has made me the greatest critic of my own life. But something about today made me feel truly proud to be me. I don't know exactly what it was- my body's strength, my mind's strength, the positive attitude I joyfully maintained throughout, or some combination. Whatever it was, it worked and like the older couple we joined for tea earlier that day my face was showing the aged signs of pure joy.
Chelsea M Latham
When I was a kid my mom would occasionally refer to me as a Reverend, because I had the need to speak so passionately about just about everything. Little did she know that some day I would build a business upon sharing the wisdom that I am so passionate about. So here you go, here are some bits and bobs of thoughts strung together for your enjoyment.