December 12, 2016

The next morning we said farewell to our beautiful hostess and started an intense seven-hour trek to Junbesi. Well, for me it was seven hours… the guidebook time is 3-4 hours, but remember you need to add an hour per decade above 50 years.

Not too long after we left, we crossed a high bridge over a river with spectacularly painted enormous mani stones below, which Lhakpa had told us her family had painted.

We climbed for several hours over trails with scary exposure, deep valleys, icy patches, and steep inclines, where you had to be vigilant every moment.

By midday we had reached a great restaurant recommended by a German couple we had met in Ringmu, The Everest View Lodge at Beni 7, Phurtvang.

There we enjoyed an exquisite curry made from fresh orange squash that looked like pumpkin, and had been picked right out of the garden. It was served by a peripatetic cook, who seemed to be on roller skates as he flew form one task to the next, with three pots going on the open stove.

We chatted with a father and son from Huntington, Long Island. They, like us, were trying to stay off the subject of our recent election, but that wasn’t to be. We would meet them several times down the trail as they forged ahead.

A range of snow-capped mountains followed us all day. Over on the left was Everest, but, as usual, it was so far away that it looked smaller than the rest.

We knew we were getting close to Junbesi when the road reappeared, and we saw construction work. Chutes for the river water were being built to generate hydroelectricity, and it was definitely tearing up the river and its banks.

Junbesi had been hit hard by the earthquake, which had mostly spared the areas we had been in the previous days. The stupa in the center of town was destroyed, as well as the school. Both were being rebuilt.

It was dinnertime by the time we reached our guesthouse in Jumbesi and I was all excited about writing up my feelings and observations after what, to me, was the best hiking day ever…when in walked Victor, a charming Norwegian gentleman. Two hours later we were still talking. I was struck by something he said that has been true of my travels for the last thirty years. It’s the people you meet along the way that add meaning and depth to the trekking experience. I always had this feeling during my earlier days when I was traveling alone with no contact with the outside world, whatsoever, and had the choice to write about the day’s excursion or interact with those with whom I came in contact. I usually chose the latter.

Something else also struck me during the next six days. This was the first time in all my trekking that I had encountered so many men traveling alone, most of them coming from Lukla and heading for Jiri. They were middle-aged, fit, and many returned every year to be alone in nature, get off the hamster wheel of their busy lives, and recharge their batteries to go back to “the world of restless men.” We met at last eight such men, some in the guesthouses and others on the trail. One fellow said he always starts around ten in the morning, after everyone else has left, and walks until dusk. If he can’t find a place to stay, he simply pitches his small tent in the woods for the night. These are men who love solitude and love being immersed in the wild.

Just before bedtime we were treated to a full moon over the mountains. No wonder we’re all a bit hyper. And I thought it was the clear mountain air!