The next morning we have to get up really early, at 5.30 am, because a long trekking day lies ahead of us. As for the weather, it is still quite chilly and one has a hard time believing that it is going to be really hot during the day – which is what our guide told us. I have an apple pancake for breakfast, along with the traditional “Chiya” or Milk tea (black tea, boiled up along with milk and sugar) and it tastes delicious.
As we are leaving, I strike up a conversation with a local, joking around and telling him that I look like a Christmas tree with all the many things around my neck. He replies: „Oh, Christmas trees, I have seen those in South Tyrol.“ I can not believe what he is saying: South Tyrol, the small autonomous region in north Italy – where I am from, originally?! Has he been there? Throughout our conversation I find out that this Nepalese man has studied at an agricultural school in South Tyrol and also interacted with Reinhold Messner: the South Tyrolian mountaineer legend who back in 1978 was the first person ever – along with Peter Habeler – to climb the Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen, even though the whole world thaught this is impossible; 2 years later, Messner, attempted the ascent again- this time from the tibetan side of Everest- and became the first person ever to climb Everest solo. The world is a really small place after all!
When we leave, it is 10 am already, and the sun is shining really intensely. We pass by the airport of Phablu and observe the departure of one local helicopter. It looks more like one of those toys my brother used to play with when we were kids, than like an actual aircraft. It is quite frightening to watch, but also very exciting.
Along the way we pass many villages and see children in their uniforms, heading for school. Since Phablu is the last village reachable by car, the children have no choice but to make their way to school by foot – which often takes about 3-4 hours – one way. I start to talk to a few of them, as I want to find out the time at which school starts. They say that it starts at 9.00 am and ends at 3.00 pm, and that they usually walk really slowly for the first hours of their trek, as they are still tired, and then they just start running.
It is a beautiful and clear day – no clouds to be seen. We can see several rivers and the path is simply amazing, offering great views through the whole valley. Since I am so busy enjoying the wonderful view and just happy that I am where I am, I do not realize that my bag is heavy enough to have created a cyst on my right shoulder. When we stop for lunch at a spot right before we have to overcome a steep hill – I can finally release some of that pressure, which feels awesome.
We are very hungry but as the lady cook is alone in the kitchen and everything is freshly prepared, we have to be patient. While waiting, I am observing the environment and so many things are happening – it feels almost unreal and like watching a movie: There are many groups of donkeys; some on their way up and some on their way down (donkeys are the main transportation medium for goods used in that area). Also, I see four men on their way to the hospital, carrying a sick person on a bamboo or wooden “stretcher”. This is the so-called “mountain ambulance”. There are other men, so-called porters, with incredible heavy loads on their backs. They all have a strap around their head to balance the weight, and are wearing mere slippers.
After some time it starts raining all of a sudden; after all, the monsoon season is starting and the weather in the mountains becomes unpredictable. It is incomprehensible for me how these porters, whose body weight cannot be more than 55 kg, are able to transport such heavy loads up a steep and slippery hill like this one. Although I am pretty tired, my shoulders are hurting a lot, and on top of that it is raining – so those men become my inspiration: I am telling myself: „If they can do it, you can do it as well“. So I pull myself together and start walking up that hill, one step after the other.
The road is very slippery and we have to be extra careful. While walking, we meet other trekkers: three indians – and they, too, are struggling. It is „nice“ to see that we are not alone in this. As soon as we reach the top we are hoping to be able to enjoy the view. But as it is raining and starting to become foggy it turns out to be impossible. The good news is, that from that point onwards we only have to go downhill. When asking the guide: „How much longer?“ he replies that it will take approximately one more hour until we reach our destination for tonight. Only later on, we shall discover that this one hour turns into 5 hours …
We walk down the mountain called “Taka Sindu”, and the rain turns into a heavy storm. We hear thunder and see lightning – it is quite scary. For a good amount of time we do not pass by any villages or people; every step is slippery and much like ice skating, and to make things worse, the backpack is pressing harder and harder on my shoulders, making it difficult to keep my balance. I “almost” fall many times – I stop counting – but I actually do take a fall only one time. As I lay there on the ground, I do not want to get up anymore – I simply have no energy left. But the guide helps me up and gives me his walking cane, which makes things a little bit easier. At this point I realize that no matter what difficulties I am going through, it is not only me who is experiencing them: This is not easy for anyone. I am also very much aware of the fact that I have put myself into this situation and that there is simply no giving up: nobody shall come and carry my backbag, nobody will make the rain stop, and no one will carry me down that hill. Stopping in the rain is no great help, also there is no shelter anywhere and it is about to get dark. So the only option available is to continue going downwards, which is what I do.
After some time, we pass by some houses and again I see porters carrying a door on their shoulder and little children carrying bamboo on their backs. They are not aware of the fact and probably never will be, but just watching them gives me the necessary energy to push forward – so I thank them for that.
When we finally reach Nunthala, the village where we are lodging overnight, my legs are trembling. This has never happened to me before in my whole life, not even after completing an 8h-mountain-marathon. I am exhausted, wet and full of mud.
We arrive at the guesthouse and push ourselves up the stairs to the room. The first thing I think when arriving is: “I am not going to make it without a porter (porters carry your backbag until the next destination) – that is impossible.” After regaining some of my strength, I tell myself that it is me who decided to carry so much – so I have to solve the problem by getting rid of some things that are not extremely essential. So I manage to drop around 3-4 kg at the guesthouse, hoping that the next day will not be such a torture.
We go down to have dinner and hang our clothes around the heater. The owner of the guesthouse observes how much we are struggling and offers some local hot rice wine called „Chaang“ to welcome us. It tastes like nothing I have ever tasted before and I cannot decide whether I like it or not. But it is hot and in that moment that feels awesome!
After dinner I try to contact my family, but again: there’s neither network nor electricity. I spoil myself with a nice hot “pocket shower”, consisting of boiled up water, put in a pot used for showering, and go to bed. And I am too tired to mind about the biggest spider I have ever seen running over my pillow …