Junbesi is a pretty little village, situated at ca. 2600 metres of altitude on the Himalayan trail between Kathmandu and Mount Everest. When I was looking for a volunteer assignment in Nepal, a chain of people got me into contact with their secondary school, which was founded by Sir Edmund Hillary for the education of the Sherpa children. I liked what I heard. The only question was how to get there – the closest airport was closed, and I would need to take the public bus and then walk for 3 days. Upon my anxious enquiry if a middle aged, totally unfit and untrained person who was no trekker and didn’t really like walking could do the walk without problems, I was assured that it would be an „easy“ walk, no problem at all. I envisioned the following: The bus is driving me up to an altitude of close to 2600 metres, and then I amble along, sleeping in nice guest houses (attached bathroom, common room with a roaring fire) and have a relaxed time (yes, it is possible to be that naive, I never was on a trek – I should have asked more questions). So I decided to do it, on one condition: I needed a porter for my luggage.
The First Day
My porter Kharma and I step onto the public bus in Kathmandu – quite full, but no chicken or goats, which wouldn’t have been a surprise. The bus sets off with loudly blaring Nepalese music, estimated duration of the journey 6-7 hours. Apparently, there were no more tickets to the final station, so we’ll have to get off one station earlier, and then start the trek.
Soon I know that I’ll never again be afraid of roller coaster rides – the bus ride along the abyss in Nepal is much worse. The bus careens around hair pin bends and manages to just evade oncoming traffic without falling off the cliff, the whole thing is exciting but not without danger (only later I hear that quite a number of busses go over the edge). I slowly start to realize that my vision of a relaxed amble is in danger too – Nepal seems to consist of individual mountains, and if one has to walk for three days, this must mean to climb up and down one and then the other – and these mountains are damn steep. I begin to feel concerned, and try to convince my porter to ask for tickets for the final station, so that I have one day’s less walk – but either he doesn’t understand me, or doesn’t want to do it, but in any case he doesn’t ask, and the ticket conductor doesn’t understand me either.
The 6-7 hours extend to 12.5 hours, thanks to breaks, a flat tyre, and just because; for the last hour, the bus slides over an off-road track which isn’t really suited to busses – by now I am happy that it is dark, and am looking forward to the pretty guest house, a shower, and good food.
Shortly afterwards, I am sitting in a dirty room with timber walls, with very hard beds, dirty bed linen, and apart from three beds and one bare light bulb there is nothing in the room, not even a curtain to the neighbouring room. The bathroom is a concret hut in the yard, stinking of urine, naturally with a squatting toilet, in the sink a large spider, which doesn’t really matter because there isn’t any water coming from the tab – that is spilling out from a wall faucet into and over a bucket, half the floor is under water. It is dark and cold. I have my first small crisis – I just didn’t expect any of this when I decided to do the trip. I go to bed grumbling, survive the night without too much damage, but with strong doubts about the „walk“ the next day.