Or perhaps this entry should be called the start of the road as we’ve finally hiked back to where the road begins and can take us back to Kathmandu tomorrow. I learned a few very interesting lessons today: (1) when they say the hike is 4-6 hours uphill, they mean that you are literally hiking straight uphill on rocks like stair steps and through little streams and mud for 4.5 hours, (2) they will try their best to make sure anything you could possibly want goes according to plan and they will work insanely hard to do this – only problem is realizing that you need to use your own reason to determine what is actually probably or not.
As I write this I feel a little guilty, it’s currently 8:30 p.m. and we just got into the lodge one hour ago despite our 5 a.m. start this morning. We had a break for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea along the way, so in total we were hiking for 11 hours today. The initial estimate of how long it would take us was 10 hours and that it would take the porters 12 hours. Therefore, we were expecting to get in some time in the early afternoon and hoping the porters (who are working tremendously hard) would get in around 5 p.m. The reason I feel guilty is the latest estimate is that the porters will be hiking for hours in the dark and get in some time after 11 p.m. tonight. That shouldn’t happen and I feel responsible for being the cause of that.
There’s no other way to put it than today’s hike was hard… extremely hard. We are all quite tired for the long days we’d been putting in getting down here and parts of the trail were quite muddy forcing one to slip and slide, but somehow we ended up staying on our feet! I guess all that practice on the glacier with loose rocks slipping underneath our feet has paid off. The uphill was one of the most brutal climbs I’ve done in a while. Leigh and I hiked in the Grand Canyon this past March and climbed from the river to Grandview Point in one day. That trek was pretty much straight uphill for hours and this one was quite similar. There were some spectacular waterfalls along the way and some beautiful flowers (some special lilies of which we were informed in the lodge that we missed!), but for large stretches I put my head down and just focused on one foot in front of the other and getting up the hill. Not to mention that it was quite hot with the sun and clear skies out (our flight today flew back to Kathmandu with no problems – we would have been on it and back in our hotel by 10 a.m. had we been patient and waited! Woops.), so my entire body was shortly dripping with sweat the whole way up. The 100% humidity didn’t help and it felt like half the time I was hiking with fogged glasses.
By the time we reached the top of the hill we still had 3.5 hours of hiking to go. From my state of exhaustion, this was hard to fathom, but we had a plan and with the end in site we made it to Phaplu just as it was getting dark enough to the point that it was difficult to see the road in front of you. I can only imagine how hard this day is on the porters and I apologize for it. The reason we started trekking was so that we could make a meeting in Kathmandu at 3 p.m. tomorrow. I believe the folks we were meeting with will understand. When we arrived at the lodge, we were all anxious to get moving. We had thought we had planned for an overnight ride back to Kathmandu. We quickly found out that this was not going to happen due to the danger of driving these winding roads in the dark and the number of drunk drivers that might be on the road.
Obviously, better to be safe than sorry, but it was a tough pill to swallow that we would not be taking off until tomorrow morning. Instead, we’ll be driving back to Kathmandu tomorrow in place of being back in time for the meeting. If I had known this was the case, we would have waited a day to see if we could fly and if it didn’t work, then we would have started trekking – instead I had opted for the sure thing, which in the end turned out to be a sure thing that it would not work… disappointing. Hence, I learned a valuable lesson that they will try and make everything work and that I need to wake up my common sense and realize when things will be too hard for the porters and when traveling will be too dangerous. Good to know for next time. So tonight is filled with a mix of emotions. We would have been in Kathmandu already had we waited on our plane, which is disappointing. We’ve been hiking from sun up to sun down, which was exhausting. Decisions I’ve made have forced the porters to work harder than they should or are paid to do, which make me feel guilty. At the same time, it has been a spectacular trip and these fleeting emotions of frustration will be gone in the morning or when we’re back in Kathmandu. With it being the last day of trekking, there should be feelings of joy and accomplishment – I’m sure that will sink in tomorrow as well.