Trekking in Nepal: A Diary - Part 6 of 6

In our final instalment, our plucky heroine gets over her ill-health and finally breaks free of her difficult Frenchman. All she’s got to do is walk back to Jomsom and board her return flight to Pokhara. As easy as, well, trekking in the Himalayas, surely?

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DAY THIRTEEN: JHARKOT – JOMSOM


Woke up still feeling bad but with the increasing feeling that I had to get out of this place! Pierre tried to persuade me to go up to Muktinath, offering to carry my stuff. But really, the way I felt I didn’t want to go anywhere, but there was no way I was staying in Jharkot. At first he accepted that we should go our separate ways, then he made a last ditch attempt at drawing me up, saying it was only a stomach-upset and that I wasn’t being very courageous.

But I know myself. If this stomach thing is psychosomatic then it’s not going to leave until I’m in Pokhara, maybe if I’m lucky Jomsom. The thought of climbing steeply uphill to another dismal, dreary little mountain town and another dark, dingy lodge with revolting loo and no washing facilities was just too much for me.

We said our goodbyes and I started walking through the Godforsaken village and out, singing to myself: ‘We’ve gotta get out of this place!’ My stomach felt bad but at least I was gong downhill – that was the main thing. Then I started thinking about how I really didn’t want to spend a day in Kagbeni – another Godforsaken dump with dingy old guesthouses, and resolved myself to the creepy, windswept walk back to Jomsom.

I could maybe even bring my flight forward by a day and be in Pokhara in almost 26 hours! I even had a brief fantasy that there’d be an extra flight laid on this afternoon for some reason and that I’d get on it.

And all the time I kept wondering if I was wimping out and not demonstrating the courage of a true trekker. I think my biggest failing was in failing to see what Pierre did in this scenery. I kept turning back to Jharkot, the favourite special village he refuses to tell people about, trying to see the magic and the charm he can, only I could see nothing but a medieval, claustrophobic old dump. I’m blinded by my twentieth century cravings and my near-phobia of small rural places. I think it really is almost a phobia – I never feel at home unless I’m in a big city or on a beach. I really feel uneasy in the country, although everything was fine(ish) until we left Jomsom. That dismal walk, those huge brown mountains – I just hated the very places that Pierre raved about.

I kept turning back, wondering if he could see me from wherever he was along my barren trail. My stomach ached like hell but the incentive was there – civilisation! A hot shower, my nice room in Pokhara, my Diana Ross tape – even chocolate if I felt up to it.

Selfishly I kept hoping Sarah and Doug would be delayed at Jomsom so I could talk to them. It’s funny how you feel close to strangers, just because they’re there.

I followed the trail (and a group of Germans) and it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected, the whole walk took from 7:25 to about 11:30. At the entrance to Jomsom I sat and stared back at the view. I just couldn’t see it. Give me the forests and rhododendrons leading to Gorepani, give me the gentle river at Tatopani, for Christ’s sake even the walk to Sarangkot, but not these dry, barren mountains and rocks and nothingness.

Jomsom hadn’t improved since I last saw it. Checked into Snowland (my room conveniently located next to the loo and shower) but it was choc-a-block full of Germans who I hoped were just there for lunch.

Went to the ticket office and they were serving at 1:30. I’m on the waiting list for tomorrow – I’ll just show up at 7:30 and hope for the best. But it’s better than nothing.

When I got back to the lodge all the Germans had gone and a group of English arrived. The two guys were a) also hating it and b) stranded. That made me feel a lot better.

Bliss
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DAY FOURTEEN: JOMSOM

Yesterday evening passed more quickly and more pleasantly than I could have hoped for, with two English girls, a chatty Canadian and his less-friendly English cronies.

At the airport there were Sarah and Doug and another couple, Jeff and Louise. Their Monday flight had been cancelled (as had the Sunday and Saturday ones) so there was a big build-up. My chances of making this flight were slim, and anyway, compared to these people, I didn’t deserve it.

They all got through, I didn’t. How I envied them, all travelling together, and felt terribly alone. (Editor’s Note: why you didn’t just trek with them from the start is beyond me!) I decided to kill some time by watching the plane take off, and that later I’d walk to Marfa for a slice of much-praised apple crumble.

Anyway the plane came in and I stood there feeling sorry for myself, when suddenly Sarah and Doug were there, inviting me to join them for breakfast. They’d been thrown off – despite having boarding passes, despite having been searched and their luggage placed on the runway – because the guy had mistakenly checked too many people in! It had been between them and the other couple, and Jeff had refused even to discuss it, had insisted on getting the plane and had pushed his way to the front of the line. No talk of tossing a coin or anything. So much for the happy friendly group I’d envied.

So Sarah, Doug and I had some breakfast together and then walked down to Marfa, which took about 1 ½ hours. Naturally enough they weren’t in the best of spirits but I really appreciated their company. Sarah said she’d had a feeling they wouldn’t make that flight, and that we’d all be travelling back together.

On the way back from Marfa my stomach started playing up again. So it’s walking that’s doing it!

DAY FIFTEEN: JOMOSOM – POKHARA (in nineteen minutes)

Bingo! Got the flight no problem and was back in civilisation in less than half an hour! The relief! As expected, the views from the plane were stunning, and I kept thinking about how much I preferred them from the comfort of a 21-seater bi-plane. Even so, comparing this with a helicopter ride I once took over Manhattan, I still find that the most exciting view. I’m just a city girl at heart.

Sarah and I were discussing having seen Gorepani and the rhododendrons from the plane and Doug just said, ‘I liked the bit when we touched down in Pokhara.’

That just about summed it all up. Maybe it was my favourite part of the trek, too.

IN CONCLUSION:

For the vast majority, trekking is an exciting and challenging pastime, bound to guarantee the most amazing memories. But for most people it’s undertaken in a supportive and encouraging group, usually with porters adding some local colour. My experience, as you’ll know by now, was quite different. Looking at photos posted all over the web, I see now how extraordinary some of these places I visited were, and wonder at my own negativity. That said, it’s hard to appreciate the most amazing scenery when you’re weary, lonely and your stomach’s collapsed! I would still say that trekking was an extraordinary life experience, and one I’m thrilled to have undertaken.

This diary is intended to be nothing more than a vaguely humorous description of my own personal experience. Please, for goodness sake, don’t let it discourage you!!

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