“Here comes the bus!” Kumar said, as a pack of mules rounded the corner.
Two days into our trek, we were sitting under a sheltered, family-style table waiting for the rain to pass, and these mules looked like wet puppies, trudging through the mess.
We had stopped for lunch a convenient 20 minutes before the pour came, joining a few others- a Slovenian woman and her two porter/guides- at the tea-house restaurant. All three were charming and energetic, a perfect trio with whom to pass the raining time.
Kumar and Gunnis were the names of the two Nepalese- Kumar speaking almost fluent English, and Gunnis not so far behind. The restaurant owner, who also joined our half-time party, had a comprehensive grasop on our language as well, being able to explain the housing loan market (16-22% interest) and the price of a college education (12 bucks a month for tuition, room and board in Nepal’s capitol city, Kathmandu). Wow on both parenthesis.
After Greg and I finished our fried noodles and chicken curry, respectively, Kumar pulled out a volleyball he’d packed for the trek.
We played a semi-game at the table, tipping the ball from one upright-sitting player to the next and laughing at the occasional tricks we’d all play on each other. It was such simple fun, and I always find myself enjoying this type the most.
The tricks continued with a few that Kumar and Gunnis had up their sleeves. They were mostly bar tricks- first, safely slashing a dollar bill from between two bottles without having them tumble, and second, turning a handkerchief into a toy mouse then having it jump to scare the built-up rice out of me. To calm my nerves and continue to pass the mini-storm, we began singing and taking turns serenading each other with love songs from our respective countries. Again, such simple fun, no pressure, no restraints, no judgment, just fun.
Now 4 days into the trek, we’ve had a few more simply enjoyable experiences, let alone the unbelievable joy in being surrounded by the world’s highest mountain range.
This morning, we were walking out of the village called Chame (Kah-may) that we’d stayed the night in. A little boy, who was most likely 5, but looked no older than an American 3 year old, was also on our same trail, lollygagging around. He had an all red outfit on- a red knitted hat, a red sweatshirt and a pair of red sweatpants that sagged in the back some to reveal a little munchkin cheek. He had a smile that was unyielding and a high energy I’d kill for (especially after hiking a total of 21 hours in the past 3 days and having 7 more long days to go). The boy took a quick liking to Greg and they started chasing one another around, even up steep inclines. When they both settled, we were hundreds of feet out of town. The boy cut the competition and reached for Greg’s arm. I’d never seen something so cute as how bouncy the boy walked holding hands with my sure-footed boyfriend.
My jealously then raged, at either of them. I, too, wanted someone to hold my hand through the Himalayas, so I ran to catch them and grabbed on to the little boy.
We tried signaling to share our names. At first, the small one said his name was Baht, but then he pointed at a pile of ever-present mule poop and called it baht too… Who knows.
I began singing a song Kumar and Gunnis had taught me that was famous in Nepal. Baht-man, we ended up calling him, caught on and in his itsy teeny cutie voice, he began singing too. My heart dropped and filled up at the same time.
I turned to see if his dad was close behind but all I could see was our porter. I hoped Baht-man understood me when I asked, “Where mommy, where daddy?” Pointing in the same direction we were going, I imagined he got my question, but when our porter came from behind to confirm with the boy, I was fully confident he was heading back home.
So we continued and along the way, precious Baht-man had gone to the side of the trail to pick flowers for both Greg and I to place in our ears. He also collected some pine cones and leaves for Greg alone to have. We thought he was just the sweetest little boy angel ever, ever, ever.
By the time we got to the next small village we’d been walking merrily with Baht-man for almost 30 minutes. I wondered which house we were coming up on would be his, and so I asked.
Where is Matir (we’d come to learn this meant mommy)?
Baht-man didn’t say a word and all the villages looked at him confused. I got immediately worried, thinking he was lost, poor boy. Thankfully, this man always saves the day, our porter came from a few minutes behind to Sherlock Holmes this situation. After some back and forth of almost bickering, our porter says to Greg and I, as if the just past being a baby had stolen out of our pockets and used that very same money to send a hitman after us, “he’s a liar”.
Turns out, Baht-man was actually from Chame, our starting-point village and had just tagged along as far as he could. Baht-man looked slightly ashamed but I gave him smiles, kisses and reassurance that we were happy to have played with him, deceiving son of a gun or not.
Again, thankfully, our porter worked it out with one of the local villagers to walk Baht-man back to Chame. We waved good-bye to our sweetheart manipulating bad boy and continued our day’s hike. And another again, I say, though simple fun can notably go awry- it’s still my favorite kind.