It just turned Christmas five minutes ago here in Pokhara. Listening to Lyn on a wintry night, spending Christmas away from everything that's familar - all this time and distance hasn't stopped my mind from wandering to where it's not supposed to be, my heart from seeking what isn't mine.
I leave for my trek tomorrow. I wonder how it will change me, if at all.
Over dinner I met an elderly lady named Linda, who'd just returned from a trek to Annapurna base camp. She always spends Christmas away from home - last year she'd climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the year before she'd joined an expedition to Macchu Picchu.
Watching Linda made me sad. There was something in her dignified composure that spoke of loss. Maybe it was a loved one, maybe it's regret at something she did or didn't do. I hope she finds what she's looking for.
In case you're wondering, my roommate, Patty, turned out to be very pleasant and friendly. After I'd packed all my stuff to bring along for the trek and dumped the rest at the hotel, I walked over to Purna Yoga's office for a morning yoga session and breakfast after.
Didn't trust myself not to lose my passport and other valuables in the mountains, so I left them in the company's care. All meals during the course of the trek would be provided for so I only had to bring minimal cash for drinking water, snacks and souvenirs.
Lake Phewa's literally in Purna Yoga's backyard. The clouds above the hills you see in the picture are obscuring the World Peace Pagoda. When they clear it's a stunning sight; not one that my camera could do any justice.
It's a 1.5 hour drive from Pokhara to Naya Pul, where our trek begins. Along the way the Annapurna range comes into view. It's amazing how these snow-capped giants seem so docile from afar, like they don't mean to be anything but picturesque.
We take a short walk through the village of Naya Pul and prepare to say goodbye to civilization for the next week. Haha okay that's a bit of an exaggeration - the Poon Hill trek is a popular one, with little villages designated as rest stops along the way. From the ready way the kids here grin at us it's clear they're used to visitors.
Our trekking permits are checked before we cross the Modi Khola river via Birethanti Bridge. The metal suspension bridge is adorned with colorful prayer flags printed with Buddhist mantras. When hung in mountainous regions, their primary purpose is to bless trekkers with a safe and successful trek.
At this time of day the terraces etched into hillsides catch the sun's rays at just the right angle. Every bend we take holds surprises - one moment we're flanked on both sides by steep hills, the next we're walking along the Modi Khola river, placid and flowing languidly in this area.
For lunch I go for dal bhat. It's the national dish of Nepal and comprises dal (lentil soup), bhat (rice) and vegetable dishes like curried cauliflower, potatoes, pickles and a local spinach called saag. Most Nepalis have it for both lunch and dinner every day. This rendition isn't bad save for the soggy papadum.
When we set off for the second leg of our trek after lunch I warm up quickly, sweating profusely though I've stripped down to my last layer, which unfortunately happens to be heat-retaining thermals from Uniqlo that do their job a little too well. T-shirts only from tomorrow!
I'm surprised by how quickly the terrain seems to be steepening. At some points I find myself leaning forward and digging my heels and trekking pole into the soil so I won't slide back down the same slope I've just climbed laboriously. Uh oh. I begin wondering what I've gotten myself into.
With a sigh of relief I climb up the final flight of steps to our teahouse in Hille, where we'll be staying for the night. That was a lot more tiring than I'd expected.
While we're served hot cups of tea I take in our surroundings. The area is covered in rolling hills for as far as my eyes can see and the village directly across from us is shrouded in afternoon mist, its houses looking impossibly tiny.
Mahesh, our yoga teacher, takes us through a stretching session. It hurts like a bitch when you're applying pressure to your aching muscles, but trust me, they'll be thanking you afterward.
Loud but muffled music is being played in the village across from us, the pulsating beats bouncing off the hills and echoing through the valley. Now that my mind isn't fixated with surviving the day's trek I lapse into a somewhat melancholic mood - it's Christmas Day, and I'm spending it in the company of near strangers. This is exactly what I signed up for, I remind myself. Escape often goes hand in hand with loneliness.
After we're done unpacking, Mahesh has us lie in sleeping bags on beds in a darkened room for a yoga nidra session. If done right it supposedly places one in a state of lucid sleep, in which one is technically awake but only cognizant of one's dream environment, and not one's surroundings.
I'm naturally skeptical of everything so having never done this before I found the situation absurdly funny. Still, I followed Mahesh's instructions to a T - easy because he has such a soothing voice and reassuring presence.
2014 brought me through emotional highs and lows, and my thoughts have been all over the place because I've been putting off confronting facts I don't want to face. When Mahesh gently told us during the yoga nidra session to set a resolve for ourselves, something that we want to achieve in the distant future, and to repeat that resolve to ourselves thrice, the aim of my trip became immediately apparent to me. It was as if all my scattered thoughts had been distilled into a single line, clear as day, and when I awoke after the session I realized that my face was wet with tears. Scary, but helpful, I hope. Here's to facing the challenges that 2015 will bring.