“Hey, I have an idea,” my partner said one day out of the blue. His eyes were wide and his tongue was just short of hanging out in a happy pant —a facial expression that reads: I’m about to propose something c-ray-zee!

“What idea?” I asked.

“Let’s do a trek in Nepal.”

“A trek?” I said. “You mean, like: a really, really long hike?

“Not that long,” he said, turning his laptop screen to show me pictures of a place called Annapurna.”This one here is 12 days. You hike to the base of the mountain and you—”

“Hold up, cowboy,” I said, stopping him in his tracks with my outstretched palm. “12 days walking on foot? You’ve got to be kidding me! Do I look like a mule to you?”

2 months later …

We were on a plane to Nepal.

Our plane descended over a cluster of shanty towns surrounded by pumping arterials and dusty plumes. I braced myself for the chaos.

From the airport, a thousand honking vehicles led us into Kathmandu — a city of hagglers and careening rickshaws and very un-fresh mountain air.

 

 

After an exhilarating six-hour near-death bus ride along the crumbling twists of a sheer drop off, we arrived at the beginning of the trek. I felt sick with anxiety over the 12 days ahead of us. What will the terrain be like? I wondered, biting my lip. What if my body doesn’t hold up? Will we have to traverse along steep ledges and risk tumbling to our deaths? What if altitude sickness cause one of us start bleeding from the ear holes? Worry and me are fantastic friends, you see.

Our guide, Bharat (a Nepalese incarnation of Nick Lachey) sensed my anxiety and made a sincere promise: “Me? I take very good care of you,” he said. “Me? I make sure you safe.”

Our young porter, Kiran, strapped a 20 kilos bag of our thermalwear, books and spare undies to his forehead in the regular Sherpa fashion, while I battled internally with the moral dilemma of hiring a hard up 16 year old boy to carry the weight of our expensive gear. Kiran shot me a white-toothed grin, and I shrugged off the guilt.

Then, the four of us began putting one foot in front of the other up a jagged staircase, trailing at the ass-end of a line of mules.  “12 days to go,” I chanted in my head, swallowing back the taste of fear.

8 days later …

We were at the base of Annapurna, struggling to breathe in the icy high altitude air. I’m in the Himalayas! I reminded myself with a surge of pride. I was covered in tingles to be so close to the peak of planet earth; a place where great people come to conquer the greatest mountains.

I looked down at my hiking shoes, standing higher than I’ve ever stood at 13,550 feet. With a swelling of tears, I realized I’d gotten here on my own two feet. My own two feet!

“Thank you for bringing us here,” I told my partner. “This is really amazing.”

And it was: nobody had fallen off a cliff-face, or hurt a limb or bled from a place they shouldn’t. It was all just spectacular scenery and clean mountain air and feelings of being on top of the world — literally.

Then, we began to descend.

 

4 days later …

We spotted a car for the first time in 12 days, and just like that, the peaceful mountain serenity was ripped out from beneath us. I craved the solitude of the mountains, the friendly, welcoming teahouse accommodations and the warm companionship of Kiran and Bharat playing card games with us each night as we stuffed pizzas and cokes into our carb-hungry mouths. We thanked Bharat and Kiran for taking care of us, and then we jumped in a taxi.

A thousand honking vehicles led us back into Kathmandu.

2 hours later …

Back in our hotel, I unlaced my hiking boots and peeled off my rank socks.

“I have an idea,” my partner said, looking up from the guidebook. His eyes were wide and his tongue was just short of hanging out in a happy pant.

“What?” I asked, eyeballing him.

“I was thinking … how about we do another trek? This one here looks really good. It’s 24 days long.”

I turned to him, aghast. “Do I look like a mule to you?”

Check out the muscles of rock on the ox! The bull looks pretty strong too.

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18 Response Comments

  • Katja  February 3, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Oh! I did a similar trek when I was 17, and despite that now being half a lifetime ago (literally – I’m 34), I still remember that feeling of weirdness as you hit the modern world again. Really disconcerting …

    So, when are you off on the 24-day trek? 😉

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  February 9, 2011 at 8:15 am

      Good question! When I build up the nerve, I suppose.

      Reply
  • The Rhythm Method  February 3, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Beautiful. You can see the air quality in the mountains in the crisp light in your photos. This makes me want to go trekking.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  February 9, 2011 at 8:14 am

      Surprisingly, the air quality isn’t as clear as you might imagine because they burn off plastic rubbish (mostly water bottles brought in for tourists). They also bring in glass bottles of coke for trekkers like us, which I figured that, once empty, they strapped to a mule and marched back down to the recycling plant. Unfortunately no. One day I peeked out the small toilet window of a teahouse and saw a Mount Everest of glass coke bottles piled behind the building. I felt like human scum.

      Reply
  • Sheryll  February 3, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    I would have fought my boyfriend all day and night if he tried to make me trek 12 days in the mountains. But your beautiful storytelling makes me want to give it a try. The mountain shots are gorgeous!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  February 9, 2011 at 8:10 am

      You’ll have to go trekking in Thailand. There are some beautiful treks. Break in your hiking shoes! Or maybe just hire and elephant and let him do all the walking?

      Reply
  • Monica  February 4, 2011 at 1:17 am

    OH my sweet Torre….I am so glad you did that experience and enjoyed the walk, the view on top of the mountain,the possibilities to do all the trips at young age…….All of us are waiting to see where you go next……LIFE IS GREAT….. KISSES Monica

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  February 9, 2011 at 8:09 am

      Thank you, Monica.

      Reply
  • Laurie  February 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Torre, this is so inspiring…good for you for conquering your fear, and putting your foot out not knowing where the stepping stone will be. Your photos are marvelous! Blessings to you on your next adventure 🙂

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  February 9, 2011 at 8:09 am

      Thanks, Laurie. I saw your blog: I want to see Pitcairn Island too! Such a peculiar place, they still speak a little bit of ye ol’ seafaring English there.

      Reply
  • Kim  February 21, 2011 at 7:54 am

    I love it. Beautiful photos! Trekking in Nepal is at the top of my RTW to-do list.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  February 21, 2011 at 11:14 am

      Thank you. You’ll love Nepal, just don’t eat meat on the treks unless you want the sharts (I nabbed this excellent word from a friend of mine).

      Reply
  • Heather  July 10, 2011 at 8:54 am

    I think this is my 3rd or 4th post on one of your many blog entries, so I feel like I am a bit of a stalker, but I couldn’t help it! I need to ask about how you held up with the high altitude, did you take any meds to help with that (besides that little happy blue pill)? What trekking equipment do you recommend that helped make your journey easier? AND you mentioned you had a guide, did you go through a particular trekking travel company? I am doing a similar trek in Nepal next September and need all the advice I can get, googling can only get me so far before I start to feel like curling up into an overwhelmed ball with all the options!

    From one fearful adventurer to another, andy advice would help, thanks!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  July 10, 2011 at 9:29 am

      Hi Heather. I welcome all stalkers too my blog. 🙂

      I was fine with the altitude up until about 4,000 meters, then I started to get a splitting headache. We were only above 4,000 for an hour or so, then we turned around and came back down. I didn’t take any meds, but the guide was fantastic at acclimatizing us slowly. We found the guide once we got to Nepal through a company called Trek Nepal in Thamal. Our guide was Bharat and he was so professional and friendly – I still keep contact with him. Email me (contact page) if you’d like his details, but it’s much cheaper to arrange once you’re there. There are so many guides competing for your business all over the streets in Kathmandu, so you’ll have no problem finding a guide. We had a private guide and a porter, which I’d recommend if you’re willing to pay a little more. As we weren’t with a group, we could take it at our own pace. One day, I didn’t feel well and I decided to rest an extra day before carrying on. You can’t do this with a group.

      As for equipment: worn-in hiking shoes!! I carried a trekking pole which I liked, but it’s not essential. I loved my CamelBak, but the straw froze above 3,500 meters. I wish I had a Kindle, I took one book and I hated it. Icebreaker clothes are fantastic (mohair that doesn’t get smelly). A travel towel. A quality down jacket. A toasty sleeping bag. Slip-on shoes for camp. Water purifying tablets. A good camera (wide-angle). Knee braces if you suffer knee pain going up/down stairs. Hmm … that’s all I can think of. I’m jealous, you’ll love it! Which trek?

      Reply
  • Sarahsomewhere  October 29, 2011 at 3:08 am

    Hi Torre, my reaction was similar to yours when my boyfriend suggested hiking in the Himalayas! But alas, it was an amazing experience! I LOVE your writing style, and I feel like I’m chatting to an old friend (a very funny, insightful and creative one!) when I read your posts. Please keep writing!! The world needs you, I just finished your book, and I’m grieving a bit.

    Reply
  • Daniel McBane - Funny Travel Stories  December 15, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    I did this same trek and it was one of the coolest things I’ve even done. Didn’t do it in 12 days though, as it took us 14 just to make it to Manang. We were in no hurry though.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  December 16, 2012 at 3:04 am

      A leisurely stroll: That’s the best way to do it!

      Reply

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