For the past five days I have been on a trek towards Machapuchare, Fishtail mountain, on the Mardi Himal trek route. Each night of the trek we stayed at a guesthouse along the route, providing us with food, fun and a warm, only slightly damp, place to sleep. On the trek was myself, the three other students, our instructor and two ‘guides’: these guides being much more like friends of Dragons tagging along to show us the way, then any ‘ol hired hand.
Before I experienced trekking in Nepal, I assumed that when people referred to trekking they were using a different word for what I would call backpacking. I have now come to understand that there are several important differences between the colloquial usage of these words, and the subsequent actions the stand to represent. When I think of backpacking I think about going into the mountains, distancing myself from the ever growing megaplex that is the urban world. I think of going into pristine, untouched wilderness to fend for myself; setting up a tent, making a fire, eating oatmeal, strolling around carelessly in the fresh air amongst trees and birds and marmots. Ultimately, I think of a respite from all the hustle and bustle that comes with living in the development of human settlements. However, this same description would not be entirely accurate in describing my experience trekking.
As opposed to the United states, where areas of land are sectioned off as national parks, prohibiting any permanent settlements, the area of “wilderness’ I was traveling through are integrated with human life. Up until around 11,000 feet, where the last building stands, the going road of the Mardi Himal trek is speckled with tea huts and hotel-restaurants. Part of me definitely loves being in uninhabited wilderness, characteristic of backpacking, but I have found that I greatly enjoy the integration of prakriti (nature) and aakriti (structure) characteristic of the Nepali trekking. With a roof and a bed in the forest I did not need to bring a tent or sleeping bag or many of the other odds and ends necessary when venturing into national parks. Along with allowing for a light backpack, the guesthouses along the trek are nodes of international interaction. Over dahlbhat and chiya I spoke with people from all over the world, exchanging stories and smiles, laughs and muscle-soar moans. In these places of communal rest, I experienced one of my most strongly held prayers of global love and harmony.