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Reaching For The Sky Part VIII - The Long Walk

2016 09 25

After our session in Nagarkot, we were psyching ourselves up for more and more physical exertion in preparation for Thorung La, and we realised that we needed more than “The Hill” if we wanted to complete our expedition in the most comfortable way possible. Not that we’re anticipating comfort, but rather that we’re hoping to limit our discomfort as much as possible. First on our list of further training was a “long walk.” That-Man is a runner, and when he prepares for a marathon, he and his cronies will set off at what could well be called midnight (even though it would be a few hours after midnight, to be fair) on a “long run.” The long run is meant to train you to be able to keep on moving for long periods at time. It is not meant to test your speed, but rather endurance.

So we set off one morning on our long walk. We’d been wondering where the road would lead if we didn’t turn into the gate to Bhaisepati, so we decided to find out. As usual, we started towards Ekantakuna via the ledge, then over the Ring Road, through Nakkhu and up the three hills to Bhaisepati. Instead of turning through the gate that had become our beacon, we continued straight through what could be called “Main Street,” a busy and dusty tar road on top of the hill. Children were going to school, shops were opening and everyone seemed to be on their way somewhere. After some distance, the road made a turn and the flat landscape gave way to a meandering downhill track and the cityscape to farmland. On both sides the rice paddies lay sprawled along the valley. What a view! There is some construction along this part of the road, but it couldn’t spoil the sheer amount of greenery we were bombarded with. By now we had walked almost an hour, but we were aiming for much more, so after a few photos of the emerald vale we continued. The road changed from tar to dirt, and since the rainy season had not yet ended, the dirt was actually muddy. Still, that could not trump the view. We came along one small village, then another and then another.

By now it was difficult to remind ourselves that Kathmandu lay just on the other side of the hill we’d just crossed. No city traffic, no dust, no noise, almost no people . . . The lesson of the day seemed to be this: If you’re looking for an escape from the city, just cross the Ring Road and keep going. You’ll be out in some peaceful corner of Nepal in no time.

Close to the three hour mark, i informed That-Man that he needed to find me some sugar, and to be quick about it. Fortunately the villages are not far apart, and some Coke and cookies were waiting for us at the first shop. Turning around, we headed back towards Bhaisepati. That-Man had his mind set on a longer walk than me. He kept asking the same question over and over: “How many hours do you want to walk?” My answer also remained constant: “Until i can’t continue anymore.” Five minutes later the same question would be directed at me again. While i desperately attempted to reign patiently over these irritations, i couldn’t help but feel like the parents in the front seats when the kids start their “Are we there yet?” routine. For the first time i pondered the thought that kids might actually have a natural instinct when it comes to driving their parents mad, as i'm convinced That-Man has when it comes to driving me mad. Surely it was impossible for That-Man not to notice how desperately i wanted him to ask any other question than “How many hours do you want to walk?” Surely ANY other question than “How many hours do you want to walk?” would not be too much to ask for in a pleasant conversation? Surely he wasn’t doing all he could to drive me insane?

Maybe my body had been growing weary all by itself, or maybe my mind couldn’t take the single question anymore, but all of a sudden i noticed that my feet were in a whole different state of being than the rest of my body. Every step was a jolt to my soles and suddenly i noticed that my gait had adjusted to compensate for the pain. Maybe this had been continuing for some time now, and That-Man had noticed it, and he had merely been trying to distract me from realising that i had actually been in pain. Where i had been pondering ways to silence him just a minute before, my heart was now blossoming thankfulness instead. Whether he had actually ever meant to infuriate me or help me was beside the point. In my mind he had become That-Man-Who-Encourages-Me-To-Achieve-My-Goals again.

As we approached Bhaisepati, i indicated my willingness to return home (as if i'd actually been interested in going anywhere else!) That-Man wasn’t settling for that and convinced me that a few times up and down The Hill would be just the thing we needed to complete our training session. In an attempt to train myself mentally for a tough challenge, i agreed, but as soon as we hit The Hill, i realised that my training session was over. i headed for our local watering hole while That-Man completed some hills - maybe 5, maybe 10. Who knows? The number became irrelevant, as i was focused on one simple thing: not having the weight of my body and backpack on two fearfully fragile feet.

So i tried the freshly squeezed apple juice and as soon as i saw That-Man striding up the road, an order for his cappuccino was placed. After a short rest we set off homeward. The duration of the long walk was 5 hours for myself and around 6 for That-Man.

Long walk #1: tick! Next we’ll head for the hills around Kathmandu for a weekend.

Other articles in this series include:

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