On the second day, after a breakfast of eggs and black tea with some orange peel, I left 1 of my already empty water bottles because I had begun to feel more confident with the abundance of water sources. We began our hardest day of trekking at 8:00am and climbed 1,300m up to Ghorepani (2,750m) in 8 hours; once again at a slow pace. We weren’t stingy with breaks or snacks.

If you travel at the same pace as another person or group, you end up taking turns at who passes who, when one or the other takes a break. We met one such couple this way, early on in the day, listening to one of Alan Watts’ lectures — it seemed more than an invitation to me to comment on how much I admired him and his work. He was from Michigan and she was from Berlin. We traveled up together to Ghorepani the rest of the day and had interesting talks about their experiences with Permaculture, Bamboo-Building workshops and farms in India and Nepal.

She talked about Indian food with such succulence and flair that my mouth watered, second only to the grumbling of my belly as we hiked several thousands of stone steps comprised of large flat stones that probably came from the mountains themselves. He talked about being a yoga teacher in the past and how he disliked where the industry was going, with more and more yoga-related injuries due to the improper training of teachers and the boom of yoga retreats centered on highest profit and not spirit and self-development.

They are both avid rock climbers, as was I, many years ago. And I can’t help but develop an extra liking for people with whom I’ve shared a hobby or passion. We settled down in the same guest house — for free! And just in time, too. It had begun to lightly hail pellets 30 minutes before we got to Ghorepani.

We learned from them that if you bargained with the owners, promising to have dinner and breakfast in their place, they would give us the rooms for free. Quite understandable, as I’m sure they make huge profits from the heavily priced food and drink. I heard about free beds up on mountain trails on my first few days in Nepal from an Australian traveler who did Everest Base Camp on his own, but it slipped my mind completely.

A cacophony of dog barks, goat bleeps, thunder and heavy hail on the villages’ corrugated steel roofs had begun as I stepped out of the hot shower, the only one I was able to take in 5 days. I was relieved the hailstorm held up until we had settled in.

After an early dinner of Dal Bhat, once again, the 4 of us cosied up to the fireplace, stuck our feet up to the low cement platform that hugged the fireplace and chatted away. The guest house had a furnace made all out of steel at the center of the room that the proprietor fed logs as the common area was filling up with local and foreign tourists alike. It had a chimney that stretched through past the ceiling, out of sight, saving us from all the smoke.

At full capacity, it swept the ice off the muscles, joints and flesh of 20 weary souls — chairs, benches and couches pulled up close like the four walls of a pen. Clothes lines hung taut on top of the closed furnace; I took advantage of this and hung up the clothes I had just washed before dinner.

There was a group of about 6 Nepali youths trekking together and one of the men started singing  Nepali songs in his beautiful tenor voice as the rest joined in when they knew the words. They explained what each song meant; most were love songs but not literal and straightforward — playful analogies and metaphors involving silk or rain displayed Nepali creativity. They were very pleasing to the ear: as colorful as a kaleidoscope in sunlight.

We had a few rounds of their clear local wine called “Raksi,” a fermented and distilled millet drink, served hot. It was easily the cheapest comfort we could get besides overpriced bottles of Chilean wine or American whisky, at Rs100 a glass.

There were also 2 other young German girls with us at the fire, 3 middle-aged Italian women and their 2 Nepali guides — a younger, more sprightly fellow named Gopal and a jovial, yet reserved, bulky older man named Dandee Sherpa. Gopal sang to us as well, in his own countertenor, some popular Nepali songs and some of his own compositions. It seemed Nepali talent wasn’t hard to come by. At the least, it outshone the usual off-key karaoke melodies so notoriously known in every barangay back home.

The banter between myself and the two guides was surprisingly fresh and hilarious. No doubt the Raksi had helped on my part, but their easy-going nature and easy laughs rendered the language barrier all but unnoticeable. The hailstorm kept on and they expressed their doubts on the pre-dawn hike we were all hoping for the next morning. I kept telling them I felt lucky and we would see, as Dandee Sherpa laughed like thunder and slapped his bulging belly saying: “We will see how lucky you are in the morning!”

The night didn’t end late. Most, if not all of us were weary from the steep climb. Little by little, the groups dwindled up to chilly rooms as the fire dwindled in size and warmth. I don’t know if the owner let the fire weaken to coerce us to bed or he had a knack for knowing when his guests were about to retire, but the timing was perfect, and no heat was wasted as the damp clothes hanging above the furnace absorbed the last of the heat.

(Photos to follow)

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