I had stuffed my small backpack full in the hope that it would be exactly the things I would need for a longer trekking time in the Annapurna region. What I would do there was not really planned, I wanted to decide every day how I would feel and where I would go. A few more trekking faces had gathered at the bus station and enterprising Nepalis provided us with coffee, tea and baked items. Then the bus came, we got on and I got to sit in the last row – window seat after all.
And then the shaking started again. At the very back it shook you even more and sometimes you really jumped up from your seat. I still had no joy in Nepal. None at all. The sky was overcast, the landscape boring for me and I wondered for the umpteenth time why so many people travel to Nepal. In order not to get into a completely bad mood, I hummed the Krishna Bhajan to myself (Achyutam Keshavam Krishna Damodaram) – not because I was looking for divine help, but as I always get in a better mood when listening to one special Version on Youtube.
After a break, the person next to me started talking to me. That was just as exhausting as the ride. A 53 year old Argentinean who had accidents and illnesses and was threatened with a wheelchair, only helped himself out of it with the help of his “mind” and was now enjoying full physical functionality again and embarking on a journey to find out even more about his and others’ “minds”. He was extremely eager to share his collected knowledge with me and boasted about how many other people he would ask and thus collect further knowledge. Only from me he didn’t really want to find out anything, although at first I happily entered into the conversation and was looking forward to a good exchange. But nothing there. Exhausting. But to be fair to him, he was still quite friendly and offered me his jacket when he thought I was freezing.
So we chugged up to Besisahar, a larger village at 780 m altitude where the “paved road” ends and you could start the trek. Or you could take a shared taxi and continue. The weather continued to be poor, the passengers jumped back and forth and I looked for a shared taxi and found one. However, I had to wait until 5 fellow travellers would find each other and that took time. So a bit of loitering. A wedding party came by, but otherwise there wasn’t much going on.
Finally the car was full – and full also means stuffed full. It’s one of those pick-up trucks where a lot of goods are taken upwards together with the passengers. I sat in the back with a couple my age and their son (sitting means squeezed forward on half buttocks, because our bottoms didn’t all fit properly next to each other) and it turned out to be quite nice. The family enjoyed a lot of jokes and laughed happily all the time and I got involved too, which was nice. The son is – I think – 24 and a lieutenant in the army stationed in Chame and wanted to show his parents his workplace. What the army would actually be practising for, who would be the enemy? Not an enemy – when you are surrounded by 2 great powers India and China, you cannot afford enmity, only friendship. And who would be the better friend? One should not favour any friend, that would not be wise. Wouldn’t the Chinese support/interfere more? He could not say exactly, but they would help, especially with the construction of hydroelectric power stations, etc., and send special forces. And yes, again there were quite a lot of Chinese characters.
And then they pondered again about my status. Unmarried? Ah well, no tension, but freedom. 59 years old? Wow, in Nepal, women at 60 would just sit at home and nurse their illnesses.
The road was really only dirt track and we made very slow progress. It started to rain. We saw some trekkers in raincoats struggling up the paths. A shared taxi full of tourists had broken down. We could only offer the rear space, which did not seem attractive to them. Another car had broken down as well, but our driver was probably able to help with repairs. There was not much going on along the route. But the landscape was quite spectacular. Just I could hardly take pictures because of the rocking.
I started to suffer again – my hip kept banging against the car door and hurting. It was getting colder and colder and I was shivering in my too thin trousers (backpack under the tarpaulin on the loading area). The driver, behind whom I was sitting, also had to leave the window open because of window fogging, which he had to wipe constantly anyway. It was getting dark and it seemed to me that I would never arrive.
And yet! Suddenly the houses of Chame appeared. This is at 2,650 m and was to be my trekking starting point. The driver stopped in front of a lodge and “ordered” me: Here is your hotel! Oh yeah? Why this one? It’s the best! Very well – I stumbled, shivering, into a room where there was a stove around which tourists and guides sat, a fat landlady welcomed me and assigned me a room, I slipped into all the warm clothes I had with me and settled down by the stove. I was given very tasty momos, the warmth spread through me, the people all spoke to me and I began to feel at ease. Maybe the trek wouldn’t be so bad after all?
The people were: 1 Australian with female guide and porter, 1 Belgian couple where he was a doctor and both already started taking Diamox against altitude sickness with porter and guide, who had also worked in Ladakh and with whom I chatted about it and 2 polite nice Brits, one living in Canada, the other in Africa (changing countries) and their guide (no porter). The atmosphere was really nice, which I somehow didn’t expect. And so I snuggled into my sleeping bag under a thick blanket and was curious about the next day.