While in Nepal, we took a 10-day hike through the Himalayas on a path called the Annapurna Circuit.
The trek was a highlight of our trip thus far, so we thought we’d share a few fun stories — Aesop-fable style.
Heading out of our first overnight in a Himalayan village, the riverside place of Tal, we hiked slowly and stopped for pictures, and to notice tiny, pretty aspects of nature. As we glanced around and took our time, a Nepalese man walked by.
“Don’t stop for long,” he says, “There are lots of falling rocks here.” He pointed up. We could see the steep cliff above us had dropped small ‘presents’ right along the path where we had stopped.
Moral of the Story: Note the clues in your surroundings. If you see fresh rocks, keep a’movin’.
When Hikers Come
It’s monsoon season in Nepal. Almost no trekkers are on the Annapurna Circuit. One day, we went the whole day without seeing another trekker. Joe and I talked and sang and whistled.
That afternoon, we found a clearing in the woods. I decided to take a “pit-stop” — toilet paper in hand. No less than three seconds from my sentence’s ending about my “pit-stop,” a hiker couple came up over the hill.
Moral of the Story: Even if you think there’s no way someone will hear you talking shit, there’s still a chance they might.
A Thing About Pace and Direction
The Annapurna Circuit is typically traveled from the towns of Besi Sahar to Muktinah, in about 21 days by foot, and includes a high pass, called La Throng Pass (5,400+ meters).
Anna, a young hiker we met along the journey, had trekked the “opposite” direction, over the Pass, all by herself. By the time we met her, she had already spent 28 days on the trail.
A Frenchman, who we met at the same guesthouse, was hustling up the mountain the “right” direction and planned to do the trek in 14 days, including the Pass.
And for us, due to a few reasons, we decided to hike for 10 days, going partway up the mountain to a little village named Pisang and heading back down the way we came (skipping the Pass). Each traveler enjoyed their very own route, trek, and pace. Each traveler didn’t judge the other for the Annapurna choices they were making.
Moral of the Story: Life’s path should be taken like the Annapurna trail — without pressure to do the “typical,” rush at a certain pace, or even go a particular direction.
When you trek through to a new village along the Annapurna trail, several eager hosts await you. Depending on the town, there could be 1 to 15 teahouses (guesthouses) as options. It being low tourist season, we were able to take our time in picking out the house that felt right — and promised hot showers. If you agree to eat dinner and breakfast at their guesthouse, the room is typically free.
In the Pisang village, our two female hosts were lovely and helpful. They made sure we had delicious food, hot water for our shower (and tea), and plenty of blankets. They took time to talk with us and share their Buddhist holy water and necklaces. With their limited English vocabulary and big smiles, they made us feel at home in the mountains.
Moral of the Story: Host when you can, offer hot water, smile.
A Butterfly All Its Own
Somewhere along the trail, a gorgeous butterfly caught my vision’s attention. The colors of its wings were unlike anything I’d seen before. It floated and fluttered around, eventually leaving our sight. While it remained in my view, though, I noticed the confidence of the butterfly.
It lived and soared, unaware of how different and beautiful it was.
Moral of the Story: Living out your truest colors even when it’s “different” is actually quite an attractive quality.
The Monk on the Mountain
A Buddhist monastery is perched atop a mountain in the village of Pisang. When we arrived to the monastery, a friendly monk greeted us and proceeded to teach us about his religion. He brought us to the temple, explained unique features, and described various rules of Buddhism, like reincarnation and monks’ ability to marry. He invited us to attend a special celebration the following day, which many villagers would attend.
The next day, we were warmly greeted with a hot bowl of Ramen and a cup of Tibetan tea made of yak milk, butter, and salt. Thanks to the monk’s teachings and welcome into the temple, we were able to enjoy Buddhist chanting, singing, and even a compulsory 10min nap mid-service with the Nepalese community.
Moral of the Story: Without expecting anything in return, we can teach someone something new.
Before embarking on the trek, I purchased a small journal constructed from special-made Nepalese paper. Throughout the hike, I documented the scores of cribbage games, contact information of new friends, to-do lists, daily happenings, and life philosophies. I brought the journal and a pen to every dinner and every breakfast. Because I made it easy and a habit, I wrote in my journal.
Moral of the Story: Make it easy and accessible to do the things you want — it increases your chances of doing it.
While witnessing the special village celebration in the Buddhist temple on-top the mountain, everyone — at an instant — turned their heads toward Buddha, laid down, and took a nap.
“For how long?” Joe asked. “Uhh.. 10 minutes,” a Nepalese man replied.
After 10 minutes, everyone sat up and began chanting again.
Moral of the Story: Sometimes, you just need to take a break.
Justin and the Jeep
The fact that every Jeep in the Annapurna mountain range has a back-end that reads, “One Miss Game Finish” didn’t reduce my fears of jumping in for a ride. But with it being our only option to get down part of the mountain, we climbed into the crowded bed — with all of the passenger luggage and six Nepali men.
As my Stegosaurus-like spine crashed into the Jeep’s metal side at every bump and dry-heaving from my motion sickness continued, I thought to myself, “Who would actually enjoy this? Who would love this ride?” I knew who: my friend, Justin — a guy always up for adventure. I remember him and his brothers taking us on a fun pick-up truck ride through the windy country roads all the way to a Michigan lake one summer. I pictured Justin hootin’ and cheerin’ out the back of the Jeep, coasting down the side of this Himalayan mountain.
Moral of the Story: Channel the energy of a friend when you need it.
Hike and Talk
As we made our way through majestic views of waterfalls, little villages, wooded path, and clusters of mountain goats, there was much to talk about. From ideas of our future home-garden to hosting guests to one-year goals and life dreams, we found hiking to be a perfect forum for brainstorming and sharing. At some points, it was easier to chat.
Some elements helped: no roaring river, ability to walk next to each other, confidence about where we were headed, easy non-slippery path, no pouring rain.
Moral of the Story: When the elements are right, walking and exploring can get your brain exploring, too.
Joe bought four bags of Tang powder (mango, mango orange, orange, and orange) for the hike – to make flavored water with electrolytes. I thought he was crazy for bringing so much with us. Turns out, we drank every last drop of that Tang.
Moral of the Story: Don’t forget to pack lots of the sweet stuff.