A girl came to open the door for Mr. Bhagwan and I when we arrived at the hostel nearing 11 pm on Saturday. Her name is Alex; she’s from Sydney, Australia, and we share a room in the hostel. It’s a hostel solely for volunteers, and Alex is on her way out. She’s been here six weeks, working in an orphanage. Today was her last day, and when she tells me how hard it was to leave those kids, I can see genuine love and care in her eyes. Tomorrow is her birthday – she’ll have drinks with friends in Thumel, the tourist part of Kathmandu – and then the next day she leaves to trek up to Everest base camp alone.
“Alone!” I almost squealed in surprise.
“Yeah,” she said in her no-worries-mate Australian accent, “hundreds of people are up there trekking each day; you can’t get lost, and if your bag is light enough there’s no need to pay a porter. You could easily do it!”
It wasn’t part of the original plan, but I’m thinking about it now. It would be a shame not to try, since I’ll be living in a monastery so close by. It wouldn’t be like the 4-day backpacking trip I took with my dad & family friends a few years ago up the Lost Coast in Northern California. We packed in all the gear we’d need for the entirety of the trip — sleeping bags, tents, food, cooking equipment, etc. No need for any of that here, since there are tea houses and hotel/hostels along the way which house trekkers and provide meals. I can imagine I’d meet some incredible people along the way.
Alex borrows some of my intensely concentrated mosquito repellent to resolve the cause of her insomnia tonight, and we finally go to bed. Though I slept the better part of my past 32 hours of traveling, somehow I’m still tired and fall asleep almost immediately. It’s warm, really warm, and I’m wearing long pants – nurse’s scrubs, since they’re functional, multi-purpose, and affordable – and a long-sleeve Under Armour top. In the same 85-degree night in the U.S., I’d strip down to shorts and a loose tee, but I’m more concerned about protecting myself from mosquitos and other bugs than almost anything else tonight.
Stray dogs bark all through the night. Around 4 am one of them starts so loudly that, judging by the sound coming through the open screened windows in our room, I’m almost certain that he’s sitting on the veranda right outside. The sun comes up around 5:30 and what starts with the loud sound of construction nearby and a few scattered voices morphs into a growing din of city life – traffic, horns, children crying and laughing, kitchen utensils, brooms sweeping... It’s Sunday, a work day in Nepal.