Our Men of Steel

Posted on 17 Jul 2018

Once again, Nepal continues to surprise and delight us. Yes, we’ve had some monsoon rains and muddy trails to deal with but that’s to be expected given where we are and the time of year, but the majority of the time, the temperatures are good for hiking and the skies have cleared in the afternoons to give us views of the mountains and landscape.

We had a rest day at Rara Lake National Park and it was a beautiful blue with puffy clouds in the distance. What we thought might be an easier section of the GHT has proven to remain challenging.

The mountains are steep with jagged tops and are green with dense forest. Wherever there is an opportunity people have carved terraces into the hills to grow the usual grains, corn and rice.

In the distance there are peaks high enough to have glaciers and snow pockets. There are continual ascents and descents as we make our way across ridges and rivers on the way to Simicot.

When it comes to thanking people, there are four guys I think of as the men of steel: our kitchen staff – Nalo, Razoo, Amrit, and M.

These guys are responsible for all our meals; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They prep, cook, and clean up every meal 7 days a week. But that’s not all, they cook for the whole team not just the clients on the trip.

For instance, at every stop they source the cleanest water available, haul it to wherever the cook tent is, boil it to make it safe to consume and then deliver it in whatever form is requested: water, tea, coffee, milk or juice. I have no idea how many gallons it is, but it’s a lot. In addition to drinking water, there is all the water for cooking, sterilizing and cleaning that is also required. Plus, don’t forget they’ve covered all the same passes and kilometers we have while carrying a load. Thanks for everything guys, you’re the best!

The other man we’ll never forget is Jon, our mule handler.

Jon joined in Muktinath and will be leaving us in Simicot. He is quite a character and a delight to be around, always happy and willing to help with anything, and works well with the eight mules he brought with him. He has a 10-day trip home from Simicot to his wife and two little girls. Best of luck Jon!

Trail images: Dreamscapes

Most nights, after a few hours of hiking over ridges and down switchbacks and back up to amazing views, sleep comes easily on the GHT. Usually, my dream patterns are normal and I wander through memories of home and work and friends and remember only shadows in the morning.

Tonight was different. Tonight the dreams were of the trail. Reality-based memories that spanned the seemingly endless days of hiking. Dreams that made me remember why we were out here.

In my tent the sound of light rain, and the growl of the nearby river, make sleep come soundly...

Tsering tells me I’m good to go as I lean back against the rope and start my descent of West Col. I have very limited experience at this and wonder what drew me to take on the hardest of treks. The ice and snow cover most of the rocks, but there are short drops where I’m forced to trust the rope and myself to get the placement of my crampons right. After a few minutes of adrenaline – mixed with cold and sunshine – I am in awe at where I am as I reach the bottom. Hell yes, I can do this!

The rain shifts to a heavy drumming on the roof of the tent and I’m brought back to the reality that the GHT is not complete and another day is only a short time away. First light is filtered by the orange tent, but I roll over and drift back to dreaming.

The dining room is buzzing with different languages. Food from the kitchen is coming out regularly. The conversations recount the daring crossings of the local passes. I still have a buzz from watching the sunrise over Mount Everest this morning and am enjoying the easy banter with the rest of the trekking group  Ken, Jim, Steve and Mick, as we recount our trip over the GHT high passes and why Mick is wearing his lime green jacket.

The rhythmic sound of donkey bells over the rain brings me back to my half awake state. The steady rain causes a moment of concern about the day ahead. Not yet, I roll over and my dreams return.

Terraces cover nearly every inch of the slopes with shades of green and the rust color of grain that’s ready for harvest.

From the time we left camp, around 7am, the fields have had people working and it’s now afternoon as we wind our way down along the borders and occasionally traverse across ridges and through small villages  the greeting of namaste always ready.

The sound of the kerosene burner being fired up for morning tea brings me back again to today. I think about starting the daily ritual of packing my bags, but decide I can squeeze in 10 more minutes and close my eyes again. 

The yaks are taking the switchbacks down the hill across from our camp with some amount of order when suddenly the order folds and each takes their own path directly for the river at the bottom. The large animals with loads on their backs are surprisingly agile in their rush to the river to quench their thirst after crossing the pass above. They wade and drink as the herder behind calls out and whistles for them to keep moving. 

The bright light of morning finally penetrates my sleep for good. I shake off the dreams and tell myself the GHT reality is not over yet. There are still mountains to cross and dreams to live. It’s the start of another day. 

Up next: Yulsa (Hilsa)

We’re almost there! From Simicot, it’s five days to the border at Yulsa and then we turn around and walk back to Simicot for the flight to Kathmandu. I expect the days will be similar, but maybe a little drier than where we are now.

We are feeling the time on the trail and dreaming of the comforts of home, but are committed to finishing what we started. In a week we’ll give another report. 

Birthday wishes to Eddie and Maddie in Newcastle from Ken. 

Happy trails, 
Vince, Ken, Mar, and Bikash

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