The Top of the World

Nepal

The Top of the World

The thing is, you just keep going up and up and up. The little bus winds ever upward on roads definitively too small for its wheelbase, packed with people on the inside and laden with luggage and more people on the roof, not to mention the kid who sometimes hangs out the door watching the wheels intently and yelling directions to the driver, or sometimes jumps out and walks in front and motions with his arms, crouching down to make sure he can see each stone about to give way under the precariously situated tires. Somehow you get to your destination in one piece, and then you start walking. Up, up, up . . . . You walk and you breathe and you gaze and you walk, for a day, two days, three days, or more. The sunlight pierces and the wind chills and as a coating of ice crunches under your feet, you see things you’ve never dreamt you would. You meet with the most random people—a sociable soldier on break from his outpost; a silent, steady-footed porter; an ancient long-haired man sitting out in literally the middle of nowhere with great purpose, nobody to talk to, and a handful of religious trinkets as weathered as his steady hands. You stop along the way to watch a rainbow of prayer flags dancing in the wind or to share a celebratory drink with strangers or to enjoy a meal miraculously whipped up on somebody’s kitchen floor with one dish, a handful of ingredients, and a pile of dung set on fire. And then you keep walking. Up, up, up . . . . And when you get to the top of your climb, you look back on how far you’ve come and marvel. Then you look up ahead and realize, by all accounts, that you are at the bottom of a gigantic valley. Mountains upon mountains!

Langtang NP, Nepal