A journal entry from one particularly long night on the Annapurna trail when we were treated to some unexpected evening entertainment.

Barking dogs formed the symphony of the Himalaya last night as we attempted to sleep in a chicken yard in Ghasa, a village along the west side of the Annapurna circuit. First a dog on the path outside our yard started up with a few insistent barks at some unknown intruder, which then set off a dog across the river. The echoes from that dog’s howl carried farther up the valley to where another dog lay awake and pretty soon he joined the chorus only to be joined by innumerable others. It was an exponential progression that reached its great crescendo some time around 1am. Just as the barks were tapering off, one of the porters sleeping upstairs in the lodge had to use the toilet, which is in a shack in the chicken yard. Well, the door to the toilet shack squeaks, and apparently when the first porter woke to go pee, he woke a second porter, who woke a third and so on and so forth until the squeaky bathroom shack was a constant revolving door as one after the other after the other fulfilled his midnight quest for relief.

At last the dogs were settled, the porters had all peed and only the gently rushing waterfall draping down the opposite wall of the valley filled the night air. Really though, it may as well have been broad morning daylight; I was awake as could be  (as I’d been since the first dog started on hours before). So I laid for a while and stared at my dark tent ceiling, letting my mind wheels turn as the water fell down the hillside. I picked up my worn copy of Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and nearly finished its pages (which I hoped to stretch for five more days), plugged in my earphones for a little while and listened to Iron and Wine croon. I thought about sleep and thought about life and all of those things but they all alluded me, especially sleep. So I laid, and I waited.

I didn’t need to wait long before the dog outside caught whiff of a scent it didn’t like and the symphony began again. I was a sleeping bag and tent zipper away from stepping out and throwing my boot right in the barking dog’s face but I didn’t think that a very Buddhist thing to do and as we are passing through mostly Buddhist villages where my foreign status already feels a bit intrusive, I decided it wise to wait things out. So I thought a little more. I tried sleeping on my left side, rolled over to my right side, spent a few brief minutes on my stomach and settled on my back. Just as sleep was sinking in and I lost my awareness that it was, the first light of morning sun crested the valley ridge. There was no more sleep for me, the porters started peeing and hacking and carrying on, the kitchen boys fired up their kerosene stoves and put their pots of water to boil, the roosters started screaming the news: the sun is rising! Then, of course, I had to pee and it was really all over, which wasn’t so awful considering that I had gone to sleep when the sun fell around 8:30, but still it was a long night spent waiting around for something that left as soon as it arrived.

The air outside my tent flaps was cool and brisk. I watched sunlight creep down the green valley wall and shivered at the dew that wet my bare toes as I stepped onto the grass. Another breathtaking morning in Nepal, who could be so lucky? I sighed and glanced around as I headed toward the bathroom. There was not a dog in sight.

I bet they were sleeping.

Tea in the chicken yard before the dogs began barking