Min loves children. “Come, look!” he beckons. I don’t want to go into the private bedroom, I feel it is disrespectful. “Come on… babies. Twins. Sleeping.” I walk in. There, wrapped in many blankets, are twin baby girls, sleeping in the middle of a double bed. We admire them then return outside to have our tea. One wakes and starts to cry. Min gathers her, rings her outside, and rocks her. Minutes later, the other wakes and begins to cry. I take the first twin while Min takes the second. She’s beautiful – large black eyes, small gold earrings, fine dark hair.
As soon as we start the trail a donkey train approaches from behind. Min, Durga, and I step to the side to allow the burros to pass on the narrow path, barely wide enough for one person. We begin walking behind them. The pace suits me fine. Not fast, not slow, just right, plodding along. The donkey herder tsks and hollers at the donkeys, occasionally throwing a stone at one at the front of the bunch, not so gently encouraging it to move faster.
I take advantage of the pace to look around me. The brilliant green of the mountains, piercing white clouds meeting blue sky. Other trekkers approach from behind. They are irritated and annoyed with the pace. A tall German passes me, then tries to overtake the donkeys, walking on the cliff side of them, motioning for his wife to follow. I look at Min. “Is that a good idea?” Seriously, he shakes his head. “No, very bad idea.”
I watch as several groups of trekkers try to overtake the donkeys, confident I’m going to bear witness to a catastrophe – a trekker being trampled, knocked off the cliff, but I don’t.
We are ascending. The trek up is actually a stream flowing down. I carefully choose rocks to step on, to avoid submerging my boots in water. After 15 minutes of this, I have to stop and rest. I breathe heavily, resting on my walking stick. I look out at the mountain. I’m in awe of the massiveness. I look up. There is no end in sight to the ascent.
Arm in arm they are coming towards me, laughing. I smile, laughing at their joy. “Pen?” they ask in unison. “No pen,” I say. “Sweet?” “No sweet. Sorry.” “Photo?” This surprises me. “Me? Take your photo?” They laugh and nod. I take a photo and show them. The cackle hysterically. “Photo!” they exclaim. I take another photo, as one is blowing a bubble with her chewing gum. She is saying something I don’t understand. “Another photo?” She says the word again. “Oh, by yourself?” She nods. I take a solo photo of her then her sister insists on one as well.
Min points to the side of the trail where a large snake lies. I’m not terrified, but have a healthy sense of fear. I look over to see the younger sister picking up a stone and throwing it at the snake. My healthy sense of fear multiplies. The stone lands, thud! And the snake doesn’t move. It’s already dead.
I am faced by another cinder block trickle of a cold shower. I am so over this part of the trip. Which doesn’t bode well; I have 14 more days of this ahead of me.