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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  H. Jackson Brown Jnr

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MOUNTAIN GODDESSES, BROKEN PROMISES, MOODY MONKS AND SNOW

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They say mountain life is unpredictable and that the mountains themselves are goddesses - powerful, brooding and vengeful but with a beauty and benevolence so great that when they choose to reveal themselves from shrouds of frozen clouds, mere mortals can do nothing except fall to their knees and weep.

No one should show anger or speak unkindly in their shadows as to do so will incur the devastating and destructive wrath of the mountain goddesses.

The morning began for us at 6am as we awakened to the sound of torrential rain and the condensation from our slumbering breath in the cold night air had left our sleeping bags wet on the outside. Water dripped down the walls and clothes we had hung hopefully up to air were damper still.

It was not a good way to start another challenging eight hour trek.

Extreme trekking requires not only good equipment and clothing it also requires the right food, plenty of clean water, sleep and a strong spirit for when the going gets tough and demoralisation is lingering in the periphery of your energy field waiting to pounce.

Last night a dear friend text me to say; “think of nice things to keep you going”. The truth is I have to think of the hardest challenges I have ever faced in my life to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have to think of my Beautiful Girl and the destruction of the life I felt sure was forever. 

If I can stand strong as I did when her perfect body was lowered into the ground, if I can keep walking forward just as I promised her I would, then it will take more than an angry Mountain Goddess to fell me.

The worst has already happened to me.

 

Jangbu shakes his head at breakfast and says the weather is “crazy” it should be more settled and warmer - we even brought shorts! 

Breakfast is a subdued affair but as quickly as it dashed our hopes, the rain stops, the mist starts to lift and the goddesses command the sun to show itself.

In less than half an hour we are outside, peeling off layers and digging in our backpacks for sunglasses.

With a brand new toilet roll safely stashed away and the promise of our own indoor toilet at Tengboche - we really couldn’t have been happier!

We started uphill but our breathing this time was strong, our strides determined and the views exhilarating. An eagle flew overhead, colourful prayer flags flew in the gentle wind and clouds moved away to reveal blinding blue sky and powerful sun.

The goddesses were surely happy.

Three and half hours of trekking up hills and along beautiful slow inclines peppered with trees bursting with blossom, we could feel our bodies acclimatising. 

Then we stopped for lunch.

Every day we eat the same thing.

Garlic soup for lunch, nuts and energy bars for snacks and Dhal Bhat for dinner.

We settled in the sunshine to drink our soup and compare photos from the day when suddenly the unpredictability of mountain life became all the more apparent.

I don’t know if it was our mutterings about the pretty gruesome Slumdog Millionaire-style toilet on that particular hillside or the fact we questioned the garlic soup being vegetarian but some pretty cheesed-off mountain goddess took umbrage to something and without warning the sky shuddered dark, the sun was snatched from view and an icy blast of wind was summoned to blow over a table laden with crockery.

 

Jangbu looked serious. 

We must make tracks before the rain comes he said, looking to the brooding sky.

Well that’s all very well but you don’t mess with altitude.

You take your steps very, very slowly, you stop to breathe and to take on water.

Rushing isn’t an option.

We placed our waterproofs at the top of our bags and headed for the steep trail.

I can’t tell you how hard it is to get going again after a rest but the first 15 minutes are a true test of endurance.

The afternoon trek to the monastery was arduous as it was steeper than the morning and the wind left us reluctant to to take out our cameras but to be fair the glory of the morning was gone. Whipped away by a furious goddess who stole away her beauty as punishment.

She didn’t need to worry, we felt her wrath but kept trekking forward.

Felix battling an old neck injury and a touch of altitude ‘head squeeze’ but she battled on with the  help of a paracetamol after a consultation with Jangbu, who was fearful of masking any symptoms of the dreaded altitude sickness.

We really are in good hands with our Sherpa. He watches what we eat, what we drink, our pace, our breathing and alters our route accordingly. We arrived an hour ahead of schedule feeling strong and ready for replenishment and a hot cup of the obligatory ginger, honey and lemon tea.

We were feeling so happy with him - well, we were, until we arrived at our latest Tea House.

Now I have seen some pretty bad toilets though my travels in India and Tibet and Felix and I have developed a strong preference for toilet-ing in the open air rather than squatting over holes and straw but our promised “nice room” with a inside toilet was nothing of the sort!

We were one choice from kicking off. Instead we gritted our teeth, I thought Felix was going to cry but she is made of much sterner stuff.

Our room was outside, no bigger than a tool shed, the bedding was filthy (more filthy than the others) and in patches, stiff from dirt and our toilet was OUTSIDE.

Not only was it outside but it was a rickety tin shed with a hole in the ground and instead of the preferred straw there was a wet, stinky piece of carpet which was soaked with urine.

The stench was unthinkable.

 

Back at the room, the disgust on our faces was almost comical - except it really wasn’t funny. 

There was nothing for it.

We would have to resort to bribery.

With a pocketful of dollars we headed off in search of Jangbu.

He explained our indoor room had been given to a group and there was nothing else available anywhere. There are only three shack-like guest houses here at the monastery and one horrible looking hotel that was also full and he shook his head.

It seemed there was no money that could buy us out of here.

We trudged back to the room, the elation of doing so well with the trek was long gone and just like the mountain goddesses our smiley, hopeful faces had given way to a touch of fury.

But we are nothing if not resilient and we put on all our warm clothes, shoved hand warmers into our gloves and headed for the much-lauded “chanting with monks”.

We would make the best of it.

The monastery was freezing and we sat on the cold floor while five rather sullen monks chanted for about fifteen minutes before telling us all “Go now. It’s finished”.

We trudged back to our sad shed-room, grabbed our phones, iPads and books and made our way to the communal dining room to get warm.

We would stay here as long as possible after dinner - after all it was only one night.

But it wasn’t.

Jangbu sheepishly informed us that the next two places we were to stay are a littler WORSE!

The higher we trek, the worse the facilities. 

Breathing is the only response to such a blow and that’s what we did - in between offering all the family silver in exchange for a hot shower and a nice room for just one night.

Our sweet, Sherpa’s face looked grave. 

It cannot be done.

It seems it is not only the mountains that are unpredictable - the tea room owners are pretty unpredictable  too and even when he has paid and booked ahead it is common for him to turn up with his guests to find no room at the inn.

His face forced a little smile: “You are very lucky”

I can tell you we don’t bloody feel it!

 

But this type of trek is for the brave, it is about endurance on so many levels and we are both up to the challenge.

We ordered another ginger tea, demanded the fire in the communal room be lit immediately - the glint in our eyes told him these two little earth goddesses who had not showered for almost five days, were capable of smashing the furniture to make a fire, so just like our mountain counterparts our bidding was done.

I write this awaiting dinner, cheeks warm from the fire and touch of the sun from the heat of the morning, looking to the window I see it has started to snow. . . 

Jangbu shakes his head.

This is not good.

You don’t say Jangbu, you don’t say . . . 

 

If you are feeling sorry for me and want to donate to my Just Giving page I can’t tell you how that seeing all those donation notifications in my inbox when I get enough signal to check, give me a lovely warm glow.

Than you so much to all who have already donated. I am so very grateful and I know little Gabriel’s mum and dad are deeply touched that so many of you care. 

If you want to donate to Gabriel’s op here is the link .  .  .

Thank you from my deepest heart for all our messages and comments. X

 

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