nepal flat

south dakota flat

i’m used to south dakota ‘mountains.’ we have newton hills, the black hills and the badlands. south dakota is so flat, that the hills look like mountains because there is no other point of reference. one of my favorite books is ‘walk two moons’ by sharon creech. in the book, the main character describes south dakota like this:

after driving for so long through the flat south dakota prairie, it was a shock to come upon the badlands. it was as if someone had ironed out all the rest of south dakota and smooshed all the hills and valleys and rocks into this spot.

sharon creech, walk two moons

there is no better description of south dakota’s flatness. 

nepal has hills and mountains. but for me, the hills seem like mountains. i was enjoying the massive and expansive peaks. i kept calling them mountains and jen kept correcting me, they are hills.

then the mountains appeared…

for a large amount of my time in nepal, it was unseasonably cloudy and rainy. it’s summer in this part of the world and it isn’t usually rainy. an occasional summer storm, but not days of clouds and rain. which is what we had in nepal.

one morning, the clouds drifted away, the sun came out and we saw MOUNTAINS.

mountains so high that the snow never melts. mountains so high that some have never been summited. mountains so high that you can’t help but stop and awe at the amazing strength and power of our mother earth. mountains so high that even thinking about hiking anywhere near them fills me with a bit of fear and anxiety.

and we were going hiking. not in the mountains or even to the mountains. just in the hills. but remember, coming from south dakota, even the hills look like mountains to me. but the lodge said that the hike was easy. so i wasn’t too worried about my lack of physical preparation. plus jen said you only need tennis shoes, not actual hiking boots. so again, not too worried that i wouldn’t be able to physically do it.

but still a bit scary when you see these beautiful mountains towering over you when you are on an impressively high hill.

day 1

we started the hike in the pouring rain. and i didn’t have a rain coat. luckily, i was able to borrow one from one of the local staff at the lodge. without that, it would have been miserable 2 minutes in and i would have turned back to stay in the nice, warm and comfortable lodge. it was quickly apparent that the nepal description of ‘easy’ was drastically different than my own. but since i’m not an avid hiker, i wasn’t going to say anything because i have no benchmarks for these things.

while we started in the rain, it let up about an hour in. then we were just hiking in mist. but it didn’t feel cold, so that was a positive. and it was slightly uphill, some steps and a bit of flat-ish path. when we arrived at the hostel, it was foggy and misty. perfect napping weather! after a big lunch of rice and dhal, i took a lovely afternoon nap. 

a short first day of 3.5 hours of hiking. my phone tells me that i walked 14,143 steps or 6.5 miles or 10.46 kilometers.

day 2

the second day was a BIG one.

it was mostly up, which was manageable. but because of the unseasonal rain, thousands and thousands of leeches were everywhere! and these were not manageable. leeches were EVERYWHERE!!!!! you were forced to stop every 10 feet or so and check your shoes to flick the leeches off before they got into your socks. it was leecheville!! even though it was a bit intense, we kept our spirits up and continued pushing through!

in the last few hours of our day (and about 4 protein bars in) it started to lightning, thunder and pour with rain. thank goodness we had made our way out of the forest and onto the jeep track to walk. then it got cold. and i mean COLD! ​my pace slowed down tremendously, but so did everyone else’s. while i was slowing down, i was still moving forward. one step in front of the other.

​finally we came upon the village that our hostel was in and had 1 final staircase of stone steps to descend. i don’t think i’ve ever been so excited to see stairs in my whole life! we made it down, went to the room, took off all the wet clothes, put on ​my last dry outfit and crawled into the giant and warm comforter!!

this day was mentally challenging for me. it was tough having leeches everywhere. walking in the forest. flicking off leeches. walking on the jeep track. flicking off leeches. walking down stairs. flicking off leeches. walking up stairs. flicking off leeches. walking next to cliff faces that drop so far down you can’t see the bottom. walking in the rain. flicking off leeches. walking in the lightning and thunder. and still flicking off leeches. instead of complaining, i decided that i was just going to be in the moment and feel it all. good and bad. positive and negative. i was just going to experience it all. and while it was tough, and definitely not an ‘easy’ hike, i was there and i was going to finish it.

after an hour under the comforter, i was finally warm again. we ate dinner in our beds (thank goodness for our hiking guides who took such great care of us!!) and talked about our day. we played headspace on jen’s phone​,​ drank strong and burn-y nepali rum​ and had french fries and popcorn for dinner​. i slept very well!

my phone tells me i walked 20,958 steps or 9.5 miles or 15.28 kilometers. it was a LONG 7.5 hour walk indeed, but i finished it!

day 3

on the final day of our hike, we had 5 hours of walking. most of it downhill, which i usually prefer! but after a long 7.5 hours of hiking the day before? it was ROUGH. the stairs were steep but luckily not slippery since the sun decided to peak out for a brief moment.

a lot of physical feelings were arising in my body. i had jen’s yin yoga voice in my head, ‘it isn’t pain, it’s a sensation. listen to what your body is telling you.’ well, my knees are telling me that they hate doing thousands of stairs when I don’t do thousands of stairs EVER. so for my knees’ sake, i should probably keep exercising and keep them in better shape.

we reached a village across the lake from pokhara. it was impressive to look back up to the top of the hill and realize that i hiked all the way down. and i felt proud of myself! i made it all those miles. i didn’t collapse. i didn’t get bitten by leeches. i didn’t get blisters! and i hate to admit it, but i actually had fun doing physical activity! 

we took a public bus back into town. it was a typical developing country bus ride. a ton of people crammed in, people and luggage on the top, a kid throwing up and jenny (one of the ladies on the trip) ended up with someone’s kid in her lap!! we made it into town, had an amazing lunch of rice and dhal and came back to the lodge. in true ​hiking trip fashion, we arrived back in the rain​.​

my phone says that i walked 25,755 steps or 11.8 miles or 18.99 kilometers on day 3. that makes a total of 60,856 steps or 27.8 miles or 44.73 kilometers. much farther than that time me, lwendo and kim went off to some distant village and thought we were going to die because it was so far away!

nepal flat

in the dictionary description sense of the word, south dakota is flat. nepal is not. somewhere along the way, our guide introduced us to the concept of ‘nepal flat.’ because of all the hills and mountains, a dictionary description of flat is in short supply in nepal.

‘nepal flat’ is a wonderful section of road or path that allows you to relax a bit and just walk. it might be slightly up, it might be slightly down, it might be slightly curvy. but it’s mostly flat. it’s flat-ish. it’s nepal flat.

in our group, we had a few people who have been on a few hikes in different parts of the world. they were discussing how the hike would not be labeled as ‘easy.’ this made me feel so much better about thinking it was a bit harder than ‘easy!’ an ‘easy’ hike is mostly flat. our hike was nowhere near flat!

but no matter how you describe the hike, we all finished and survived to tell the tale! and despite the leeches, rain, thunder, cold, sweat, clouds and cliffs, i had a wonderful time. and i would go hiking in nepal again!*

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*if the hike contained a considerable section of nepal flat. 

himalaya hiking

as a girl scout, i have had a variety of entertaining adventures. i camped. i had my own cookie business. i traveled. i learned how to change car tires. i was leader-in-training for a habitat for humanity neighborhood troop. i went to business camp. i was in an association of young women who ran activities and events that developed our leadership. during all of these activities, i enjoyed serving and supporting others the most. and i never expected any recognition.

my most life changing experience happened when i was 15 and got my very first passport. i needed one because i was selected to go to england for international camp and to visit pax lodge! since then i’ve traveled extensively through girl scouting.

in 2003, i went to haiti to complete my gold award project called kites for kids. we built solar ovens, conducted training sessions for local communities and distributed kites and toys that i had previously collected during donation drives. after i finished college, i volunteered for 5 months at sangam world centre in india where my love for international guiding and girl scouting, and traveling, was cemented for life.

girl scouting even introduced me to peace corps! i was in 6th grade when an adult member told me that she had done peace corps. it sounded like the most amazing experience in the world and i knew that i was going to do it one day!

my peace corps host family in 2011

i was a peace corps volunteer in zambia. i lived in a mud brick hut with a grass thatch roof in the middle of the bush. my water came from an open well 50 yards from my front door. the nearest electricity source was 35 kilometers (21 miles) away. i spent 2 years biking around the village: supporting the school, visiting neighbors, spending time at the clinic and chatting with hilarious old ladies.

i learned that no matter where you are in the world, life is tough. clean water, food, housing, medicine and education aren’t guaranteed. despite these hardships, we are all people, trying to survive and make our world better for the next generation.

during my time in zambia, my mind was often in sangam and india. so after i finished peace corps, i applied to be a sangam intern. i was accepted and off to india i went as community relations intern. i was just going for a year. 6 years later, i left as deputy world centre manager: operations.

first water into the new sangam swimming pool

working and living in india taught me how to work around, and through, any obstacle. kicking a hole through a wall turns into redoing the entire plumbing and sewage system. having to reboot a 5 year old server every other week turns into reconfiguring office space to create a dedicated server room with a brand new server. ordering more and more tankers to fill up a leaky swimming pool turns into building a brand new swimming pool. nothing in life comes easy, and sometimes it takes years to find solutions, but everything is possible.

i understand the importance of ‘using resources wisely’ and have gained the life skills to live that motto. i’ve met girl guiding and girl scouting sisters all around the world, i have places to stay on most continents (just haven’t met someone who lives in antartica – yet!).

i believe that empowering girls and young women will change our world because i’ve seen the changes that happen when you do! my host sister in zambia was pregnant and at risk for dropping out of school. family and friends in the us raised funds, collected baby formula and bottles and sent dozens of boxes to us. the baby could now be bottle feed while jacqueline went to school to complete her final year!

i’ve had numerous adventures and countless challenges, but it turns out that my highest, and toughest, adventure is yet to come…

over the years, i’ve learned a lot about myself. i can bungee jump. i can find a drink anywhere. i can navigate airports, missed connections and lost luggage. but when it comes to physical activity, i take the path of least resistance – which actually means i do nothing. it’s time to present myself with an opportunity to challenge my very sedentary daily habits.

pretending to hike in the blue mountains in australia

i have an intense obsession with the himalayas, hiking and rock climbing and mount everest. i watch documentaries, follow hiking and climbing blogs and faithfully watch the lucky few who attempt mount everest summits every april and may. yet i have no physical desire to hike or rock climb or summit mount everest or do much of anything that requires shoes… until now!

i’m going hiking. this april. in the himalayas.

because if i’m going to challenge myself, it might as well be in the place that i’ve seen in countless hours of documentaries. and if that just so happens to be in the highest mountain range in the world, i guess that’s what’s going to happen! go big or go home! right?!

this adventure is going to be different. on previous trips, i’ve written letters to friends and family. i’ve written hundreds of pages of journal entries. i’ve even blogged a bit. but nothing has been regular or reached a wide audience. and i’ve never made goals for an adventure. that is about to change!