On the third day, the monsoon hit with a vengeance, and I decided I hated trekking. The monsoon in the mountains? WTF?!
It rained and poured, and I was soaked to the bone. My shitty REI jacket did nothing to protect me, my feet sloshed in my boots, and everything in my small daypack was flooded; money, paperback books, half-finished packet of crackers.
We kept trekking though, higher and higher, up stairs that seemed like they would never end. I was getting angrier and angrier at my guide, wanting to blame him for the misery of endless, dripping trails, wet leg warmers, and hair plastered to my forehead.
I found myself adamantly declaring that we must stop and rest, even though our lunch break was only ten minutes away. I angrily pounded my boots on the wood floor of the shack where we stopped, watching a small river of water dribble out and darken the planks. I stretched dramatically, allowing the pain of my sore calves to show all over my face. I was completely indulging my petulant inner child.
When we stopped for lunch, the real suffering began. I sat on the bench in the cold, drafty room that passed as a dining room, and waited for my food. I could see my breath, and suddenly the steamy heat that had previously been pulsing out of my body as we climbed those evil stairs was gone, replaced by a shivering cold that the stationary sitting induced. I was freezing. When the tea came, I ran the mug up and down my soaked pant legs, trying to glean what little heat I could. When the soup arrived, I ate with it in my lap, making sure that every part of the hot bowl was connecting with some part of my cold body.
I fantasized about a suite at the Four Seasons, a huge bed with crisp white sheets turned back, and a steaming bath that had just been drawn up for me by a proper servant or butler. I would tear off my wet clothes, burn my stupid boots, order everything to be taken out of my sight and destroyed. Then I would dive into the tub and sink under the hot waters, rinsing my hair clean, thawing out my frozen limbs.
Back to reality. I was shivering cold, and still had three hours of hiking ahead of me. BULLSHIT! Then I took a deep breath, and allowed my Buddhist training to come into play. I watched the anger and cold move through my body, and tried not to identify with them. This too shall pass, I said over and over. This too shall pass.
When we got back out in the icy rain, I was shivering so hard I couldn’t speak. Give me more uphill, I thought violently. I need to climb right now if I’m going to get warm.
I got it.
We climbed straight up for another two hours.
I also got leeches and nettles. That day really sucked.
My guide pulled one leech off of my waist, and another off of my leg. Later I found one sucking between my toes. I don’t know how those little fuckers got in there, but they did. Their suction cup mouths came off with a protesting No!… leaving perfect circles of blood in their wake. They took the skin straight off.
The nettles brushed up against my arms, instantly burning and raising in welts.
By the time we got to our lodge that night, I was speaking in short sentences, and moving around stiffly from the cold. The small bucket of hot water the Nepalese woman drew for me helped wash the grime off my face and body, but it did little to warm me up. In fact, I think I was even colder when I finished with that “shower” than I had been before. I shivered violently in the drafty shack as I quickly dried my body, and then I ran upstairs to my tiny room and pulled on every piece of dry clothing I could find.
My level of discomfort was clear to me when I got down to the dark little kitchen some time later. I sat as close to the fire as possible, and uncharacteristically ordered a bottle of whiskey with a large pot of black tea. I wanted the burning heat to fill my body and ease my mind. And it did. I slept like a baby.