We were moved and motivated each day by Hem’s confidence in us and his delight in and acknowledgement of, our accomplishments. We were never told enough to fear what was to come or we would have worried, sapping our strength, determination and enjoyment. We always knew we’d make it. He is a brilliant trek leader who completely loves his work. He has everything it takes to have a trek be successful, from knowing the territory and choosing an excellent crew, to flawless planning and seamless adjustments to current realities. We were necessarily pushed hard, but with his constant vigilance, we were not endangered. What was most delightful was his low-key wisdom, thoughtfulness, even temperament, and subtle sense of humor.
In the mornings we’d ask our guide Hem about the day’s trek and he’d say, “We are in the mountains.” Then he’d ask, “What do you do in the mountains?” Then we’d laugh, “We Trek! First up, then down, up then down, up, down.” He would say this with a dead pan face and laughter in his eyes. What a joy. It was also a reminder of where we were and how simple our part of the trek was.
The kitchen crew was up an hour before us, usually at 4:45 am. We were brought “bed tea” at 5:50 am, followed by a small bowl of hot water to wash up. The white washcloth I brought along was never white again after the first day. The wind-born dust covered us each day, finding its way into every nook and cranny leaving its indelible mark on my washcloth. I wished I’d brought a brown washcloth. The couple cups of warm water in a bowl brought to the tent early morning and after the day’s hike was a welcome treat, as it was five days before an Indian-style bucket and dipper bath was possible.