Last Sunday night I returned from a five day trek in the Annapurna Himalayas (a word which, by the way, means "mountains" in Nepali). The trip was exhausting, beautiful, and surprising.
We spent the first day steadily walking along the river, passing rice patties and small villages as we began our ascent. We stayed in a tiny village called Hille, which essentially consists of a couple houses and a lot of land.
We continued on to Ghorepani, where we woke up at 4:30am in order to see the sun rise over Poon Hill. We joined the pilgrimage in the dark, following a trail of lights like fireflies weaving up into the sky. Arriving at the summit was like entering a freezer with the vents on -- wind pounded at my cheeks and I added every layer in my backpack. As the sky began to lighten, it became clear that we were not going to see the mountains as a whole. Clouds covered the horizon line, yet pockets of snow covered jagged rocks poked through. I was floored by the majesty, even though I couldn't see it all at once. We stayed until the day had decidedly begun, watching strokes of blue appear behind one another like Chinese silk paintings as the sun rose over the Annapurnas.
During the day we stopped at a rest stop, where I got to hold an adorable three month old baby named Elena while her sister Reyna swung in a whicker cradle attached to the roof frame. Perhaps it was the similarity between these twins names and my sisters and mine, but I was struck by how very different this baby's life would be from my own. Right now she will sleep in a cradle outside, where her family and passers-by can share the responsibility of rocking her to sleep. She will know all about caring for animals and growing things. When she goes to school the trek will be long, if she goes to school at all. She will trek up and down the mountain carrying supplies for her family's restaurant and guest house, which she will likely help run. She will meet trekkers from around the world, but it will be up to her to leave if she chooses. Yet right now she is just a hiccuping baby like many others I know.
On our third day we went to Tadepani, a beautiful little town with a clear (!) view of the Annapurna mountains. We woke up early again to see them, and were not disappointed.
We continued on to Ghorka, a beautiful little town, where we relaxed, visited a local museum with handwritten labels, and ate fresh popcorn off the cob.
We ended our journey back in Pokhara, where we ate dinner with the wonderful women who guided us and carried our bags. Our guides and assistants (as the porters are called) are from 3 Sisters Trekking agency, a women's empowerment organization in Nepal.