The winding taxi ride from Pokhara to Ghandruk in the Annapurna mountains of central Nepal was brought to a halt with the taxi driver’s pronouncement of a “shortcut.” My parents had lived in Nepal and knew enough Nepali to confirm what our cabbie had said. Apparently this route was an easier way to get to Ghorepani for the night. Apparently, it was the way of the locals. After snapping the requisite clips and taking the “pre-trek” picture, we began on the small trail that our helpful driver had pointed out. He had already left, leaving a trail of foul smoke in his wake.
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We enthusiastically began our hike. It was exhilarating to begin a journey powered by our own feet and in the almost legendary nation of Nepal, no less. The terrain was gorgeous—bursting with giant Rhododendrons, tumbling valleys and countless switchbacks. My favorite moment was meeting some little girls. They were shy, but also incredibly curious. We shared our snacks with them and enjoyed the view.
However, my parents were uneasy. There were no other recreational hikers on the path. In a village, my father went over to speak with a man on a rooftop. He was a school teacher and the roof he was repairing was his school. After conversing for a little, which allowed for our legs to rest, we were pointed in the right direction.
The family trotted down the steep path, singing, drinking water and taking photos. At the bottom of a valley we found a river, and a woman washing clothes stopped to talk with my confused parents. She said we should have turned right on a long-passed fork in the trail. Confused as ever, we turned back and found a lunch spot. Munching on dried fruit and dahlmot my parents consulted about our next move. It was already 15:00 and we were not even sure of our location. It was very unlikely that we would find Ghorepani before nightfall. We consulted maps and decided upon the most logical path. It appeared that we had not yet reached the intended starting point of Ghandruk for our trek!
This was not a shortcut.
My family uncertainly continued hiking, worried we were heading into the enormous Annapurna Mountain Range. Early monsoon rains fell upon our lost quartet and the moon was glimmering through the sal trees by seven o’clock. My parents seriously discussed what we were going to do. My little brother began to cry. We had been hiking for nearly nine hours.
My Dad called to two boys walking across the terraced fields, “Malai syug garna sukincha?” “Can you help us?”
He spoke with the boys in a mix of Nepali and emphatic gesturing. Their names were Raja and Rabindra, and they knew of a nearby hotel. We trudged on, not on the path, but through fields and past huts. It was another “shortcut,” I realized with dread.
It was now completely dark. The boys walked at an astonishing pace. My brother sniffled, I unknowingly got a leech bite and our prospects for finding this mythical hotel seemed dismal.
Suddenly, we saw electric lights on the hillside. It was the Hotel Buddha! We walked towards the building with relief. Amazingly, we had made it. My Dad gave gifts to the boys for their assistance and we fell into a wonderful sleep.
Nepal offered some amazing adventures for my family and we now understand the danger in cutting corners. Our trek in the Annapurnas taught the value of following the true paths through life.
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