The Situation in Sete

Every day we had the same routine: we woke up at sunrise, got dressed and packed up our bags, ate a quick breakfast and made sure we were on our way by 8am. We would walk all day at a relatively brisk pace, passing a variety of mountain village life along the way. Down in the valleys between the steep, densely packed mountains, we hiked through expansive, lush farmland that spread as far as the eye could see. We met many sweet animal friends, so curious and eager to interact with us. Our path was filled with the bright colors of the clear blue mountain sky, the vivid green of the many kinds of foliage and farms, and the rainbows of flowers planted along the path. We walked by many abandoned dwellings that were destroyed during the earthquake of 2015, which claimed nearly 9000 lives in total. Entire villages seemed to have been completely abandoned depending on whether or not the families living there had the means to rebuild.

Over the course of the first three days of our trek, we’d somehow gotten into the unfortunate habit of arriving at every small village destination just after the sky had gotten dark with only the light of our headlamps to guide us to a decent place to sleep. Usually exhausted, cold, sore, hungry, out of breath and slightly delirious, we would stumble into the nearest lodge that looked like it was in one piece, change into warm, dry clothes, possibly take a shower if we were lucky, have some hot soup and tea, and crash out for the night around 8pm.

We arrived in Sete, a very small village set beside a dark forest, after one of our most challenging days. The sky had just gotten dark and the first stars were beginning to shine as we walked up the empty path in search of a lodge with some lights turned on. As we were making a turn onto a higher path to check out what we thought might be a potential lodge up on the hill, an elderly Nepali man walking his cow home asked us if we were looking for a place to stay for the night. In our exhausted state of mind, we decided just to go with the flow and stay at the “lodge” run by this man and his family. Maybe if we had clearer heads we would have realized that the entire home was dark except for one small dim lightbulb in the kitchen area. Perhaps we would have noticed the smell of the man as he walked past us, some combination of not having bathed in weeks along with that unmistakeable wreak of booze. We may have seen the piles and piles of junk and rubble on the way up to the room in which we stayed, which was reminiscent of an attic or barn from a hundred years ago, complete with rickety wooden floors and dusty picture frames outfitted with photographs of long deceased relatives. We could have been turned away by the dirty and tattered sheets and blankets that lay on the beds, smelling of someone else’s funk. But we were half asleep and our bellies were empty and, hey, this was just going to be a unique rustic experience and that was cool, right?

After we changed into some dry clothing for the evening, we headed into the dining area, which was basically a wooden bench covered in cloth next to a wooden “table” of sorts, in the dimmest light imaginable that also doubled as a bedroom for at least one member of the family. We ordered soup and tea and this was simple and decent enough. We slurped up our warm liquids as the old man watched us eat, and headed off to our room in the rickety old barn to organize our things for the morning, take a “shower” with a half bucket of lukewarm water in a room covered in spiders, and eventually hopefully get some shut eye.

As we’re packing up our things, we hear the door creak open to the hallway outside our room. The old man proceeds to go into the bedroom right next door. We think nothing of it at that moment, as its common for the families to stay in the lodge rooms. The interesting thing about these rooms was that there was a square cut out of the wall where a single light bulb hung that was used to give light to both rooms at the same time. Very sustainable. However, as we were midway through organizing and packing, the man proceeds to turn off the light and go to bed without saying a word to us. Ok, its his house. At least we have headlamps! Eventually we lay our weary heads to rest, excited to get some sleep before the climb up to the the pass at over 3500 meters the following day.

Just as we were falling asleep, a kitten that slept inside the hallway area started howling. About 30 minutes later, the old man starts hacking up a lung, every five minutes. And its the loudest, most awful, eyes-wide-opening hacking cough imaginable. Soon enough the brother and sister come upstairs and go to bed in the room on the other side of us. Within a few minutes, the walls of our room start rumbling with the snores of the siblings. Needless to say, this commotion continued ALL NIGHT LONG. We hardly got a wink and all we could do was accept our circumstances, have a good laugh at our ridiculous little adventure and hope for a better situation the next time around. The insight we received into the life of this family, was unparalleled and it definitely made us appreciate our own blessings just a little bit more.

“Happiness can exist only in acceptance” ~George Orwell

10 thoughts on “The Situation in Sete

  1. OMG this sounds like the night from hell…. it went from bad to worse to worst. I wonder what Joe Trekkers bed looked like 🙂 Nothing like a night like this to make one count one’s blessing, that is for sure. Love the photos of the animals, especially the up close of the cow. (I am laughing at the thought of your parents reading this post! You guys are such great sports with great attitudes! And clearly a ton of energy.


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  2. I’m going to need to remember that Orwell quote . Thank you for taking me along on your hike virtually with your magnificent images and visuals.

    What an adventure you are on. Here I think I’m roughing it and then I read this and realize I’m living the easy life in comparison. But then we all have it easier than those who had to live through that quake and abandon their villages. Heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lisa, it was quite the mix of emotions to witness with the beauty of the land and the people and the utter devastation many of them suffered; and still there was so much kindness and generosity.

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