Exhausted and dehydrated, we jump onto the first bus we see. As I squeeze aboard, I could see that every seat was taken, so I stand in the back, shoulder-to-shoulder with those around me. There was hardly a place to breathe with 70 people packed in like sardines.
And it was 30 minutes to our stop.
A man slept in a seat behind me. Firmly wedged between everyone, I couldn't even reach for my camera. Both hands were occupied, gripping onto metal bars for dear life as I fell forward and backwards as the bus took corners along a rural road. My arms were so extended to reach the bars on opposite sides of the bus it felt like one quick turn would snap them off.
29 more minutes to go, I told myself.
Six hours earlier...
I woke at 6AM to grab a taxi with Ashmita, my colleague and friend here in Nepal. I wasn't feeling too hot from the spicy dinner from the night before. My stomach hated me, but I rallied. Then my Accountability Lab co-workers and I traveled an hour to a rural town to hike.
We hiked over hills and through rural villages until we saw it — Champa Devi, a 7,496-foot "hill" to the south of the Kathmandu valley. At this point I couldn't help but find it so beautiful, yet feel exhausted by just how far away it actually still was. Would we reach the top?
Drenched in sweat, I take each step expecting leeches to try and worm their way into my shoe. The stone and mud-packed steps become slippery as it begins raining. I fell twice. Camera in hand. Safe!
At a certain point, I noticed a stone below my feet with "1500 more steps" scribbled in chalk. My heart sank. I was already so tired and ready to reach the top already, but I knew I had more in me, so I kept going. Maybe they got it wrong and it was actually 1400? One step after the other, it got harder to breathe. I'm thinking the altitude had a part to play in that.
But after three hours, even with taking frequent rests, we did reach the top, which overlooks the central and western Himalayan range.
We were given biscuits, cookies and tea by some local men who carry food and water to the top multiple times a day. They make it look easy, man. Then, after a short break, we head back down for another three hour hike back to civilization. Or at least I thought it was down. Some of the journey back was right up another hill just to go down a different way. My legs shook in between every step.
Back on the bus...
The left rail broke off sending it flying into someone's head. Now, I had to hold onto the slippery wall on the back of the bus to keep myself from falling on the still sleeping man behind me. How could he sleep? I counted down the minutes until our stop.
But it happened. My body gave up on me. Five minutes before getting off, I start feeling dizzy. My vision was getting fuzzy. I couldn't breathe. Only five more minutes, I told myself. Just five more. I couldn't help it. I lost my hearing and everything went black.
I fell into my friend and she forced our group off the bus, a stop early. They sat me down on a pile of rubble on the side of the road as people hang their heads out the bus windows to stare. I was white as a ghost. So, we hitched a ride back in a smaller taxi.
I felt like such an idiot. We had one stop to go. Just one. And I went and fainted. Well, all I can say is that I'm so glad to be around such good people. With the Accountability Lab staff I feel safe, taken care of, and valued. I'm really excited to be able to work with them and produce some amazing stuff this summer. They're also introducing me to so many of the great wonders of Nepal each weekend.
So as my friend Tom put it, "You fainted on a bus in a foreign country after climbing a mountain in Nepal... you, my dear, are officially adventuring now."
Yes Tom, I am adventuring — and it's only been a week. More to come....