Failing to Trek

I’ve been to Nepal twice and have yet to make it on a serious trek. What I did instead was hike smaller trails, walk around cities and towns, talk to people, think about where I was and what it meant, and write.

Below you will find the opening paragraphs to seven vignettes from Nepal. I have not included the entire text as these stories will be published in the near future. If you wish to read the full text or enquire about publishing rights, please contact me here.

1. Off to a Good Start

It could have been worse. I was in Thailand; I could have been rolled.

The first morning of the trip, I woke with a jolt and a fierce chill running up my spine. I fell out of the clean bed, the three-star bed chilled by three-star air-conditioning, and stumbled into the bathroom to vomit into the beige porcelain toilet. I stared at the spiral stains in the bowl, stains made from high mineral deposits that have flowed through the bowl for too many years, and waited for my stomach to empty. The wake-up call – a shrill double ring of the hotel phone – sounded again from the other room as my head continued to droop forward. I stood up and coughed, then washed my face and hands. I was afraid to look in the mirror.

2. Something in the Air

Katmandu had shed its night, the dark that descended as I walked alongside the Royal Palace, the dark that brought out the gargantuan bats, the dark that hid broken sidewalks and breaking streets. But as I walked the sleepiness out of my system that first morning, the monochrome grey light at six AM showed nothing more than small carrion birds fighting with the garbage. The city moved barely a twitch. With no real light, it didn’t seem alive.

3. Perambulations and Pick-me-ups

There’s an aspect to Asian travel I learned of personally during my days of shoestring hitching, but which I’d forgotten in these last few years: it involves never getting to your destination in the way you intend.

4. Double Chubby Chuck and a Side of Fries, Please

After flying into Katmandu with my guts significantly strung out, I was appreciably apprehensive about the food. I tried a single grilled cheese sandwich, and this led tentatively to soup, then rice. After my first morning walkabout, I stopped at The Bakery Café, a well-lighted restaurant near Durbar Marg, to test my constitution. Scrambled eggs should be safe enough, I thought, then paused to contemplate the bacon.

5. Walk on the Wild Side

“If you meet bear,” Kamal said, “be aggressive.”

Our group of five stooped low to the ground, the better to see below the brush that thickened at chest-height. The Chitwan jungle was a maze of animal paths that ran helter-skelter under a thick canopy above – boars, tigers, leopards, and bears lived, walked and fed here. Trees were coiled with vines and choked with thick, sweaty leaves; the sky was a forgotten blue; dark, green nature surrounded us. We walked slowly, cautiously, crinking our necks to see forward.

6. And Then There’s The Himal

Tal and Ina were staying in a bungalow next to mine. At first I thought they were French because they stared as I came and went but silently refused to respond to my greetings. Tal was medium-height and slightly overweight, he had thin black hair and was almost bald on the top and back. Ina was a Mediterranean beauty, small and buxom, innocent eyes, skin like olive oil, long wanton hair and a penchant for wearing skin-tight t-shirts and spandex leggings in bright colors. They were playful with each other, and too young to be passionate.

7. All Day, Doing Nothing

Pokhara is a comfort zone. It has the rocky roads of a frontier town, the oxen carts in the street, the piles of cinder blocks, the blacked-out nights, but it also offers hot water showers, fresh croissants, and the tranquil Lake Phewa to drift on or gaze across while contemplating nothing important at all. It is a silk cushion on an up-country train.