We walked down the mountain from Gorapani in a light rain, slipping and sliding down the stone steps. Along the way, a wild dog took to me and started to follow me down the trail. He was heavily scarred and kept his distance, yet over the miles he gradually moved closer. I was trekking by myself, having become separated from the rest of my party. At points along the trail, miles would separate us.
At one point, two large wild dogs ran aggressively down the side of a steep embankment, growling and heading straight for me. Like lightning, my new friend jumped on the foremost canine quickly wrestling it to the ground as the two of them rolled like a buzz saw on the trail. Then as quickly, he quickly shifted across in front of me and clamped his powerful teeth into the hindquarters of the second assailant. The two attacking dogs squealed and ran back up the hill, and my trail dog that I now named scar, came and laid on the trail in front of me. I took out a piece of beef jerky and tentatively held it out, and he came warily forward and gently took it out of my hand.
At that moment, I came to realize what it must have been like when our ancestors first connected with a wolf. From that point on, Scar walked by my side and I shared many a philosophical thought as we worked our way down the steep mountain path. As we neared the bottom, I began to worry that he would be lost and perhaps even think that he could go with me, but as the trail reached the last of the high mountain villages, Scar rubbed against my leg and looked up at me as though saying goodbye, and then he turned and started back up the trail leaving an empty place in my heart.
We all met in the last high village and accessed our physical condition. Each of us had really reached the end of our abilities and I couldn’t imagine gong any farther. Our guide told us that in order to make our flight connection back in Pokahara, we had to get down the rest of the mountain before dark. It was still a four-hour walk and my legs were starting to buckle with every step. Nina could no longer make it on her own, and several others needed assistance. At one point on the last leg of the journey down, Luc walked past me staring into space and didn’t even recognize me.
In the last two hours, my legs gave way entirely, and I sat down on trail and began to slide one stone step at a time on my butt. Eventually, I couldn’t even do that and so I just stopped, content to stay where I was until I either starved or died from exposure. In my life, I have never been challenged at such a level.
Then I saw a long piece of bamboo and crawled into the forest to retrieve it. I hadn’t seen any of the rest of our party for a couple of hours since the guides loaded several of them on small but powerful mountain ponies and I didn’t know if those still behind me had given up or were trying to continue forward like me.
I used the bamboo staff to rise to my feet, and started down again, literally one-step at a time. I have no memory how I made it down the steps, but as the stone steps gave way to dirt,
I sat down against a boulder to see if anyone else would come.
About thirty minutes later, Diane came shuffling down the trail. I could tell immediately that she was in as bad a shape as I.
The two of us made the last few miles of the trail together, barely conscious. Several times, we discussed just giving in and dying. This was serious stuff and by no means a joke. Somehow we made it, and so did everyone else. It wasn’t until then that we learned that we had made a trek that was listed by the Nepal Trekking Association as taking five to six days in two, and that the trek we thought we had picked as “easy”, was actually listed as advanced and difficult.
Once everyone was there, we had Nepali tea and rested while Jimmy Lama contracted two “taxis” to take us back on the over the mountain shortcut to Pokahara.
There is so much to share about that two-hour drive, but I haven’t the strength to tell it. But imagine a Taxi racing on high mountain roads in deep fog on a moonless night around hairpin turns, where the driver is driving with his lights off to save gasoline. And as if that isn’t enough, he’s talking on his cell phone, and when we challenge him to put it down and turn on the lights, he tells us that he will drop us off where we are high in the Himalayas with not one of us being able to even walk. Needless to say, we all released any connection with earthly desires, and I closed my eyes and visualized myself floating down a warm gentle stream in California, until the telltale surge action of a washing machine announced our return to Pokahara.