10.26.2007

Trekking: Pro

My trekking permit for the Annapurna Conservation District.

So I recently returned from three weeks in Nepal, and our small group spent 12 days hiking through the countryside. I saw many things that I had never seen first hand before (water buffalo, rice paddies, religious pilgrimages, temples, etc. not too mention really spectacular mountains). When all was said and done, it was a good trip, and a positive experience, but I do have kind of mixed feelings about 'trekking'.

On the plus side: These days, I'm too connected to things I don't really want to be connected to. I don't even have a cell phone or watch cable television, and yet sometimes it feels like I'm living in some kind of video game. "How many contacts do I have" or "has anyone read this blog?" (usually not). It's a 24 hour news cycle and it seems like the world is perched uneasily on the precipice and that some appalling catastrophe could happen any day now. It's very discouraging and also numbing.

Trekking in a remote region of the world kind did put things in perspective. Our group went for days without seeing a jeep, tractor or even a motor cycle. Phone service to North America was extremely sketchy and Internet access was not at all common (televisions, computers, hot water heaters, refrigerators: All rare items on the Annapurna trekking circuit). English language newspapers were also very rare; I remember joking that Dick Cheney could have been president for all we knew.

In this isolated environment, life had a very simple rhythm: Get up in the morning, have a hearty breakfast with tea, walk for a couple of hours, stop for tea. Walk for a couple hours, have lunch (and more tea). Walk for a few hours more, stop at a lodge for the night, get cleaned up using water that was usually tepid at best, more tea, then dinner, yet more tea.... then go to bed. Repeat. I found that I soon lost track of all sense of 'normal' time: I didn't know what day of the week it was, or the date, etc. We tracked our progress on a map and observed how the landscape changed as we walked northwards. The internal combustion engine-less landscape was quiet except for sounds of livestock and birds.

When we eventually returned to the urban maelstrom (a very loud, congested, dirty place) of Kathmandu, it seemed all the more jarring and overwhelming after the relative quiet of the countryside. And now I'm back in the US, there's plenty of hot water, coffee, broadband Internet access, etc: But what do these creature comforts get me? I'm back to my old connected life, but something has been lost: The close connection to the land, and the rhythm of daily walking through the landscape dwarfed by the high mountains. I'm finding that sitting at a desk all day trying to recruit SAP analysts isn't nearly the same.

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