The lower foothills of the Annapurnas offer lovely trek trails with decently sized villages all along the trails. As mine was a short trek on a well trodden trail, I decided against hiring a guide. As is often the case with me, the spring in my steps at the start of a trek day, is replaced by grunts and curses by noon. The ascent from Seuli Bazaar to Ghandruk is not as bad as the Nayapul to Ulleri stretch, which I wisely avoided. Even then, the seemingly unending stone steps were taking a toll on my “city” legs. I took it slow, much to the amusement of village kids hopping and skipping past me. It was mid afternoon when I gave up and found an inn to rest my feet.
The matronly innkeeper brings me tea. I look up, surprised. I hadn’t asked for it. She laughs. She tells me I am almost her son’s age. Her only son is a construction worker in Malaysia, and gets to visit home once every two years. She falls silent. I know that faraway look. For a while neither of us speak, each lost in thoughts. A mother for her son in distant lands, and a son for his mother lost to time. The late afternoon sun bathes Mount Hiunchuli in gold. Shadows get longer and deeper. The reverie is broken by a group of trekkers. I get up to bid adieu to my friend of a few hours. She clasps my hands and says she hopes we meet again. I tell her I hope her son earns a lot of money and returns home soon. One of the great joys of travel is meeting strangers, connecting with them, knowing fully well you may never cross paths again. The brief kinship is honest and heartfelt, akin to the closing lines of The Solitary Reaper “the music in my heart I bore, long after it was heard no more”.