As we start the long walk back toward “civilization” I laugh as I say, “This is the best morning of the trek!” The problem is, it was the best, just like yesterday. I feel twenty years younger. We climbed mountains today with such ease and strength. At the highest pass of the day, after a short rest, I challenged Hem to a race to the top of a small knoll above the pass. We didn’t make it because we were laughing too hard at our madness. Oh! To have the energy and playfulness to sprint uphill at a 13,000′ Tibetan pass.
Here’s a later conversation between David and John about what really took place:
John: Hey David, do you remember the day on the trek when we had just spent four hours climbing to pass of almost 14,000’? When we arrived we could barely stand for a few minutes, then were ecstatically revived and screaming with life and joy?
David: Yes! That’s when Hem and I, our thirty-two year old Nepalese guide, challenged each other to a race up a hill above the pass. Yup, Hem and I looked at each other and ran full speed up the rocky slope, the four hour climb forgotten. Halfway up the John started desperately calling from below, “David! Don’t be stupid!” We started laughing so hard, gasping for air, we couldn’t run anymore.
Hiking down from the pass and the “stupid” sprint, we were treated constantly to shockingly beautiful new scenes, from 2,500 year old condo-caves carved into red rock, to views of the Anapurna Range. We climbed through rocky defiles only to find what looked like an old Rajasthani fort on one side and an endless row of ancient prayer wheels on the other.
Our horseback ride a couple days ago (which I am still unfortunately reminded of every time I sit down), ended in a village in the most remote corner of Mustang. There is no one living beyond that point, only a narrow, ancient, trading trail heading into an even more remote Tibet. Northeastern, Upper Mustang, this is the end of the Earth.