September 09, 2016

Taking family life to a whole new level

The time has come.

I've waited for this for 12 years. So have my hiking boots, which have been sitting in storage all this time, their tongues slack, their laces itching to be bound.

There was a time when I was nicknamed Wiley, for my love of the wilderness. There was a time when I could carry a 60 lb pack with nary a wince. You know that game, Two Truths and a Lie? I often win it (thought I won't now, after this post). "I once went 6 weeks without a shower," I say, and everyone assumes I'm lying. But I'm not. Six weeks in the Australian outback with not even so much as a bar of soap, let alone deodorant or a razor. Our N.O.L.S. instructors even forbade us to bring underwear (so we wouldn't have to wash them out!).

Yes that was me.

And then I became a mother, and I quickly learned that small children like to be in their own beds at regular times each night. So I hung up my pack and got down on the rug with a stack of board books, and didn't get back up again until this year.

Because this year my youngest two are 7, and my firstborn is 11, and every one of us can hike on our own two feet. We can all sleep through the night anywhere, in any time zone, and no one is so young that reasoning goes out the window after 9 p.m.

And for our first real family wilderness adventure, we didn't go just anywhere. Oh no. We went straight to the Himalayas. The actual Himalayas. As in, I had to walk through the yaks in the morning to take a pee Himalayas. As in, wild white horses running through our camp in the moonlight Himalayas. As in, we slept through a drizzly mountain night at 13,000 ft. Himalayas.

As in, we brought along oxygen Himalayas.

It was a 6-hour drive to the town where we spent our first night, nestled into a room of bunk beds at a hostel on a hillside above the town.

The foothills, still several hours out from our destination.
Potty stop. This woman had a toilet at her house that we used. Zion and Brave are watching the Olympics through her door, while Gene is making himself at home. The woman looks distraught, but in actual fact she is snoozing.
We made it to the little town where we spent our first night.
Zhilam Hostel, a backpackers paradise.
Family of 6 gets a whole bunk room to ourselves! Look how the room is robed in Tibetan decor.
We all pounded the water, in an attempt to stave off altitude sickness.
Daniel loaded up on firewood for us to burn on the mountain.
We spent the day acclimating to the altitude, and just generally enjoying ourselves.
Four foreign kids, a carven yak, two Tibetan grandmothers, and a soldier on the phone.
Those folks on the left are turning, turning, turning that prayer wheel. A thing to see.
I wasn't the only one ready to hit the trail. This guy is in his happy place.
We have very few pictures of the night we slept on the mountain. We were too busy, I guess. It was real outdoorsmen stuff, I tell you. I mean, 13,000 feet is no joke. Vomiting in the night from altitude sickness. Headaches like you wouldn't believe. Mist cloaking us in a cold dampness that could not be escaped. But we made it. Together. As a family. And we can do it again. And we will do it again.

Except, perhaps, not during the wet season.

Our fire shelter. The five of them are huddled under that tarp, roasting hot dogs.
This was our view in the morning. That pool of water is the high-altitude lake beside which we camped. The place is other-worldly, really. Unlike anywhere I've been.