Monday, August 30, 2010

hello, himalaya.

My cough still rattling around in my lungs, I took the short 500 rupee cab ride up the enormous hill to Sarangkot for what was promised to be a spectacular view of the Annapurna range. I was not disappointed. I sat breathless, wordless, pulled out my sketchbook and stared a while before setting my pen to the paper.

Suddenly I was surrounded by a bus load of excited Greek tourists who happily snapped the scene away with all sorts of cameras.

"Where are you from?"
"I'm an American living in Istanbul."
"Wow! Are you here with friends?"
"No I came to Nepal alone."
"What? You came here alone? You weren't afraid?"
"No," I laughed. "I generally travel alone."
"Wow... Hey Maria!" (I forgot her real name) "Come look at this girl!
She's American and she came here alone! She's not afraid!
And how are you getting down from here? By taxi?"
"No I plan on hiking down the hill."
"By yourself?"
"Yes, I've been told the trail has a lot of hikers on it."

The women kindly wished me luck and hopped onto their bus in a flurry of Greek. I began to search for the trail down to the lake— which was not easy to find— and once I had climbed down a considerably steep section, I suddenly became aware that I was completely and utterly alone in the woods. I had been repeatedly told by various people that the trail was safe with a continuous flow of hikers, but here I was, on a beautiful but slippery steep path that often disappeared under a mountain stream. If I fell, no one would find me. If I was mugged, no one could help me. This was potentially one of the dumbest decisions I had made, but I had been told I'd be fine. I decided that it would be easier and quicker to keep heading downhill than to climb back up to Sarangkot.

I slipped on a wet rock. My right leg was gashed open in two places and blood was running down into my boot. I washed my leg as best as I could with my water bottle and applied pressure with a few napkins. The wounds were so clogged with dirt that the bleeding soon stopped. Thankfully I didn't slip off the side of the hill or twist my ankle! I picked myself up, took in the beauty around me, and continued down my path.

It took me about two hours to get back to Peace Eye, where I showed off my stupidity to Olan, who shook his head with a smile. I vowed never to hike alone, even if an entire village tells me it's ok.


TenLayers said...

I think it was the cartoon Hagar that said, "Ignorance is the mother of adventure". You had an adventure hiking back alone, everything turned out ok. What more could you have asked for?

szaza said...

Oh believe me I was thankful and I had a glorious time doing it, but it was a bit unwise considering the muggings that occur in the area and the possibility of a more serious injury.

I admit I do grin with satisfaction when I look down at my curved scars.

lilasvb said...

very nice post, it is a pleasure to follow you

szaza said...

Thank you Lila!

Julia Kay said...

Stumbled on your work on flickr, really enjoying your blog as well. Just got back from a few days hiking in the sierra nevadas - alone! I carry a whistle, don't stray off trail, and hope there are enough other hikers to hear me should something go wrong. So far - no problems. Of course you need to take the possibility of unsavory characters into account, but don't give up entirely on the pleasures of hiking alone - just be choosy about where. (That's my two cents anyway)

Thanks for the great sketches and photos - I loved my time in Istanbul in the 80s and would love to get back to that fine city.

szaza said...

Thanks for your encouragement, Julia! I really enjoyed the hike alone, I had just realised when I fell that there was no way anyone could help or find me, should I have injured myself in a more serious way. Plus I found out later that muggings commonly occur on the trail.

Here in Turkey, I'd feel just fine hiking alone. I don't plan on completely counting out hiking alone, it was just a feeling I had had when I got back to the guesthouse.

It's great to hear that you were alone for days with no problems— I've repeatedly come across people during my travels who think I'm insane for travelling anywhere alone!