Stairmaster Himalayas

Tatopani means “hot water” and after a long day of downhill hiking we reached the village at 1190 meters. Our guesthouse had beautiful gardens and was right above the entrance to the hot springs that the village gets its name from.
At our hotel, we also ran into the Romanian guys, who we hadn’t seen since the day of the pass. When you travel (especially when you are all quite literally following the same route) you come across the same people again and again. They gain nationality-based nicknames – The Obnoxious Isreali Guys, The Cute Isreali Guys, The Canadian Couple, The Older Americans… and the Romanians, Marius and Catalin (Who called us “The American Girls,” a fact that the Canadians, who made up the majority of our group, were not pleased with). Most of the time, your interactions with these groups are superficial – all you have in common is a common experience.
I met Marius and Catalin back in Pisang (Day #6) and up until the pass we coincidentally ended up at the same guest houses, so we had quite a few nights of conversation and I had missed their presence over the past few evenings. Marius is a literary critic with what I understand to be the Romanian equivalent of The New Yorker. He secured funding for their trek by getting an advance on a travel book he is writing for a Romanian audience. Travel writing is apparently unheard of in Romania – few Romanians can afford to travel, and apparently it’s still an unusual thing in the former communist country.1 Catalin is in advertising and has a wife back home that he is absolutely in love with, an impression gathered by many sweet, yet somehow not nauseating comments made over the past few days.
Point being, they are two cool guys that I would actually hang out with outside of the context of travel and trekking.

The girls, Marius and I hung out in the hot springs that afternoon. During a thunderstorm (possibly not the brightest idea, but no harm done).
I can’t tell you how much better my muscles felt after that dip. It was amazing. I hadn’t even realized that I was sore. And then the dinner that night was good by western standards – as in, I would go to a restaurant that served that food back home.
It was a much needed afternoon and evening of relaxation (and discussions of literature) that preceded one of the hardest days of our whole trek.

The pass was hard mostly because of the altitude, the trail itself wasn’t that difficult beyond the first one-third.
The trail from Tatopani to Ghorepani (2,860 meters) gained 1,670 meters in eight hours.
Think about the steepness required of that gain.
Now, think about the fact that the villages along this path installed stairs through about two-thirds of that trail.

Right. It was a long, hard, day.

The idea was to get up to Ghorepani and then wake up really early the next morning to hike up nearby Poon Hill (remember what I said about Himalayan Hills) and watch the sunrise with its famous 360 degree view of the Himalayas before descending from our previous day’s elevation gain.

Marius and Catalin were with us for the last time [on the trail] in Ghorepani. Despite post-hike exhaustion, that evening involved inebriation (sorry, Mom), walks watching the way the full moon makes the mountains glow, and joining our porters in traditional Nepali dance in the middle of the dining hall.
At quarter to four in the morning, there was a huge cloud rolling across the mountains. We didn’t gamble on the hour’s hike and went back to bed, something I honestly don’t regret. Those last two hours were the only solid sleep I got all night.

The next day we went down a different set of steps. The rainy season was gearing up, so the morning was walking through a cloud (which has the unfortunate feeling of being both humid and cold so you really can’t layer properly) and the afternoon involved rain.
We spent our last night on the trail in Hille, counting the marks left on our feet and other random places (my elbow?) by enterprising leeches. They leave pairs of bloody dots and most of the time you don’t even notice them until all that’s left are their marks and a large amount of blood. I had half a dozen such marks, but I never saw one of the buggers in action.

That evening, there was more traditional Nepali dancing. My proder really loves to dance and sing (most Nepalis I’ve met do, but most also don’t spontaneously dance on the trail with 20 kg of gear on their back), and he led a group of them. Then they dragged us up for dancing too (“You danced last night, Amy!” – “I wasn’t sober last night!”), so somewhere there is photographic evidence of me bumbling through traditional Nepali dance.

Somewhere. As in not here.

1 I will possibly be mentioned in a published book that is in a language I cannot read.

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