A shift in my perception occured

high in the Himalaya.

It was the prayer flags

rustling,

the shape of shaggy yak

grazing,

the thinness of air,

shortness of breath,

the wrinkled brown creases

of the Nepali woman’s smile–

In a moment elongated,

stretched between rocky mountain peaks

I knew I would never be

the same again.

Ghyaru, a Buddhist village in shadow of the Annapurna, 12,400 ft

We all have one–that ground-breaking experience in surroundings entirely unfamiliar where we push past our boxes, our blinders, our common-place perceptions of the world, where we open ourselves to the reality of the ‘other’–other views, customs, foods, beliefs, environments, places. After we have one the world is never the same place again. We open and appreciate and the world softens, gives, becomes a little less foreign, Or we soften, give and feel a little less foreign. Regardless, we move forward changed somehow, more sure yet less sure of who we are, where our real place is in the world. We seek the experience again and again. The travel addict is born.

Nepal was that trip for me. Much of the content on this blog is inspired by or directly connected to the two months I spend wandering the Himalaya in 2009. Poems, stories, simple admirations of the mountains, it’s all here. But first, one girl’s take on Everest:

I dreamed of Everest, traveled to Everest, and wrote this upon arrival:

Welcome to the Khumbu where the dusty trails are packed with mask-wearing trekkers and loaded-down, lumbering zopkioks, where helicopters constantly zip between the air strips at Namche and Everest Base Camp, where the Europeans, North Americans, Aussies, Kiwis, Russians, Asians–and everyone else who walks this trail–outnumber the native people, where luxery lodges line the rocky path and each village is a row of trailside overnights boldly advertising Pasta! Cheese Pizza! Cold Beer! Hot Shower! Pool Table! (that’s right, pool table. God help the porter that had to walk that one in). Everyone and their grandmother, second cousin and overweight uncle appears to be walking the trail at once, shoving across bottlenecked bridges and steep uphills where the zopkioks loaded down with trekkers’ belongings steady crawl their hooves to camp.

Welcome to the world’s tallest mountain, welcome to the remote wilderness inclined, not doing it to say they did it trekkers’ hell. So many bodies, animals, lodges; so many porters staggering under their weight’s worth of cargo, transporting rice, instant noodle, beer, Coke a Cola, Snickers bars so the trekkers can fuel up for their I did it! mountain experience endeavors.

Do I speak harshly? I’m jaded, I’ll admit. A month around the Annapurna circuit left me with a fierce itch to abandon the crowds, to dig deeper into this Himalayan wilderness and experience it for what it really is, minus the masked trekkers ticking their trekking poles my way as they hastily shuffle pass. I’m not the first, I’m sure, to feel this way. Instead, unfortunately, I walked into the heart of the hustle and bustle of the Himalaya.

Welcome to the Khumbu, it’s going to be a long, crowded and dusty trail.

Traffic jam in the Khumbu


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One Response to “Himalayan Splendor”

  1. Mike Golubitsky Says:

    Hi Manasseh, I got a clear sense of your plight, and great photo! It’s rather ridiculous to look at this scene.

    I have watched a series of documentaries about the marketization of climbing Everest itself (inspired of course by first reading Into Thin Air) and can only imagine how much more intensely affected simply walking around the area must be.

    After reading your entry I briefly reflected- why do I want to go to places of wilderness and what point would there be to go halfway around the world to merely “tag” a summit etc. I came to an exciting conclusion: at present I am not drawn to going halfway around the world to tag summits.

    I am drawn to tagging summits in my own good old US of A because the experiences along the way give me a greater understanding of and connection to the land, its people, histories. When I meet people in the wilderness in my own land, be they American or of a different nationality coming to visit the beauty of this country, I am filled with interest, rather than contempt- what are they doing there? More often than not they are simply enjoying the beauty, seeking understanding, and happy to share a conversation and sometimes a beer. Sometimes they are most inspiring, as in the case of a 75yo man climbing a mountain for his birthday, continuing a decades-old tradition.

    I will admit that there is a perhaps unfounded sense of pride (then again when is pride ever justified?) that goes along with being able to say “I backpacked through so and so region and climbed this and that peak” and I will go on to admit that I am certainly guilty of such pride and boasting; but ultimately we are social creatures and we need to tell others of our exploits, for the same reason you wrote your entry, devastated by a scene that from a purist perspective seems artificial and obtrusive.

    Also, from what I understand the people of that region make relatively handsome livings based on this artificial, obtrusive I did it! industry.

    The sentiment of your entry raises questions that do not have immediate answers. They will certainly be among ones I ponder as I travel this coming summer. I enjoy your writing.

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