Our accommodations in Shivalaya were quite simple: A small wood paneled room without insulation on the second floor of a rickety old lodge. Inside, there were two slabs of wood raised up on four legs with a thin piece of foam on top, which acted as our beds. The only other thing in the room was a light switch that hung on the wall and powered the single lightbulb up above our heads. The toilet was a hole in a cement floor with two white ceramic footrests on either side. The shower was a gas powered unit that hung on the wall that blasted piping hot water through a handheld shower head that had the teeniest amount of water pressure, slightly more than a dribble, and of course, cost about $2 per use. This would be typical of a place to rest our weary bodies for the next few weeks. We crawled into our extensively warm sleeping bags and fell asleep with the sound of a rushing river right outside our small window. This was the first peaceful rest we’d had since arriving in Nepal. We woke up in Shivalaya on the later side of things, and enjoyed the bright sunshine that shone upon our faces while we ate a leisurely breakfast with the sweet Nepali family that owned the guest house we were staying at. We left Shivalaya around noon and began the unrelentingly steep ascent to Bhandar, but not before being blessed by the local holy man. Team “Om” was now officially ready for action! For the next 6 days we trekked straight up steep mountains sides to epic expansive views at the top (with a tea break of course), only to come right back down the harrowingly steep other side. We walked through many terraced farmlands, a variety of noisy farm animals, colorful flowers, adorable Nepalese children chasing us down the path,
mystical forests that were reminiscent of the California wilderness, painted rocks, mani walls, prayer flags, the remains of earthquake ravaged structures, multiple suspension bridges over raging glacial melt rivers, and a multitude of villages, many still repairing the extensive damage from the 2015 earthquakes and others just going about their every day lives. On multiple occasions, our breath was taken away, sometimes by the ridiculously difficult ascent up a mountain side, sometimes by the beauty of the Himalayan landscapes and sometimes by the simplicity and grace of a pure mountain life.
We walked from 8am every morning until just after dark every evening, with just a slight pause for lunch or a Yak cheese and biscuit break. Every night we stumbled into the next village in the dark, feet and bodies aching, with hardly enough energy to eat a bowl of delicious soup before crashing out early in the hopes of regenerating our bodies for the next long day. It seems that if we really want to experience great beauty, we must be willing to earn it.
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness” ~John Muir