Here I sit, 2-days until I depart for the adventure of a lifetime in the Himalayas. My outdoor gear is purchased, my hiking shoes broken in, and my paperwork sorted and filed into a plastic folder to withstand the upcoming monsoons in Nepal. I’ve read the books, the articles, and watched videos about altitude sickness, leeches, and parasites. I’ve looked into ethical issues and carefully selected biodegradable shampoos and soaps to avoid potential damage to the mountain environment and gotten involved with a truly wonderful fundraising effort to finance refurbishments to a monastery I hope to visit while in the Langtang region.
And yet, with all that preparation, I know the trek will be anything but what I expect. I know the people will take me by surprise, the landscapes will take my breath away (although hopefully not literally), and that I will probably get something stolen by a rogue monkey at a temple in Kathmandu. And although I expect the unexpected, I know I will still find surprise around every corner.
In the interest of future-Rachel’s amusement, here is what I have prepared for and the questions I have yet to answer (please fill in my blanks if you can!).
- Water. This is pretty much my biggest anxiety. I know the water in Nepal is not something my already-weak western stomach can handle. I know this means avoiding water, ice and foods washed in that water. And beyond that, I know that bottled water would be safe. Easy solution, you say? Not quite. One of the major environmental threats to the Himalayas (one that I’ve looked into quite a bit) is the improper disposal of plastic water bottles on the mountain trails by tourists. I’ve read that iodine tablets and chlorine tablets only rid the water of most parasites and I don’t want to risk it. Right now, my friend and I are leaning towards carrying around a water purification system, but to be honest, I just don’t know enough about what the physically-safe and mutually-ethical choice is here.
- Leeches. I’m packing long socks, long pants and long shirts–all of which will be tucked into each other in an effort to divert these slimy critters. But based on the number of videos I’ve watched and tutorials I’ve read about how to remove leeches, I think I can handle these little suckers.
- Unpredictable ID requirements. I finally think I understand the IDs and VISAs that will be required for our trek (a tourist VISA upon entry and a trekker’s license for the Langtang region), but just in case there’s some secret, extra ID that I haven’t predicted, I’ve got tiny photos to spare and copies of my passport in the event of theft (more likely at the hands of monkeys than people).
- Culture. This one is hard to prepare for, but I now know how to greet people respectfully, when to take my shoes off and when to leave them on, and what dress is appropriate for women in Nepal. The rest I will learn as I go–be respectful is the name of the game.
- Altitude Sickness. I should have prepared more for this. I know what the symptoms are at this point, but not how to prevent it or reverse it. Any tips my fellow mountain hikers?
- Kids. I’ve got bead necklaces we can give to children we meet (as I hear candy is a bad idea in a country with little dental care). And I have pencils to give to any school teachers we might meet along our way.
- Rain. I’ve got my trusty poncho and plenty of pairs of dry socks–it is monsoon season after all.
I stand on the precipice of adventure. I feel completely prepared and completely unprepared all at once. As it should be.