The four hour trek from Jhinu to Tolka felt like a walk in the park. If, let’s say, that park was actually a jungle with waterfalls, old suspension bridges with missing wooden planks, and oxen running through it.
I don’t mean to brag, but my room in Tolka had an outlet and real walls and a wooden door.
The toilet was still outdoors, but it was a western toilet and I was in absolute awe of my luxury. I couldn’t help but laugh at just how happy these simple things were making me. Soap and toilet paper were still nowhere to be found after ten days, but oh well.
Although ten days on the trail wasn’t always physically comfortable, these were some of the most wonderful days I’ve had.
Watching the sunset over the hills of the Himalayas, I started to feel a little nostalgic. Earlier in the day, in a rare showing of emotion, Gambu and I declared that we would both miss each other.
Gambu has been my guide for the entirety of the trek, but proved to be a lot more than that.
He was my companion, my protector, my medic, my teacher and my friend.
I learned early on that Gambu does not mess around. He’s been trekking through Nepal and Tibet for years, and knew every shortcut, every village, and pretty much everyone along the way.
At the start of trek, he picked a bamboo stick off the ground and handed it to me.
“Paul, take this stick.”
“Nah, I’m good.”
“Take the stick.”
Not even an hour in to my trek I realized the stick was my new best friend on the steep downhills.
The next morning, we were headed up to watch the sunrise at Poon Hill, and Gambu said,
“Paul take a hat.”
“Nah I’m good.”
“Take the hat.”
Sure enough, an hour later I was beyond grateful to have my hat. I realized that listening to Gambu was a very good idea.
He did everything from pushing oxen, donkeys and snakes out of my way (true story) to helping me drain my blisters at the top of ABC. While we walked, we kept a comfortable silence, but he would sometimes sing or whistle Nepalese tunes and the musical accompaniment was always incredibly soothing.
He pushed me harder than I would push myself saying, “You are strong. You walk fast. We go further.”
I appreciated that about him, and I learned to love how he always gave two distances, for example:
“It take six hours to get there. But we do it in four.”
Every morning he had a black coffee ready for me when I woke up, and in the evenings he always knew when it was time for ginger lemon tea. In fact, once when a lodge didn’t have ginger- he found some and grated it himself for my tea.
Sometimes I think Gambu knew me better than I knew myself. After I had a small salad for dinner at ABC, I was starving an hour later and Gambu knowingly turned to me and said,
“Still hungry? How about an apple pie? And if they don’t have them- I’ll make one myself.”
Part guide- part mind reader, I tell you.
Now, is it possible to do the trek without a guide? Yes. But- I cannot imagine doing it without Gambu. I would have missed out on an entire encyclopedia of Nepali knowledge.
In fact, trekkers without guides would often overhear me talking to Gambu and would ask him questions or advice.
They would later turn to me and say, “you have a great guide.”
I always smiled and said, “I know.”
I never had to worry about reservations for accommodations, and I always wound up with a nicer room or an extra blanket. It was also comforting to have an extra set of eyes on my things at all times. And, as a female traveling alone, even when some other guides or porters gave me the heebie jeebies, I always felt safe because Gambu was never more than a few steps away from the moment I woke up to when I went to sleep.
When we parted ways, I gifted him my ASICS and we half joked about how next we have to conquer Everest Basecamp!
If any of you dear readers find yourself heading to Nepal, let me know and I can put you in contact with my guide. It will be the single best decision of your trek!
Namaste Gambu and dhanyabad and for everything!