Looking down on Dingboche: reflections on dating and divorce

31 October 2017

Today was a rest and acclimatisation day in Dingboche. We woke late and breakfasted before lightly loading our daypacks for a short hike. The path we would take began behind our teahouse and we met many other groups heading up the same path. The barren landscapes above 4,000m mean it’s easy to see people a long distance away, with no trees or shrubs to mask them. I could see the hikers ahead of us gaining altitude steadily. Today’s climb, while short in duration, would take us another 300m higher and then down again.

It was steep and, by necessity, the path switched back and forth. There was no one true path, but dozens of possibilities a hiker could take, depending on their agility and strength. The dirt was more like scree and ran loose beneath our boots. I saw more than one person slip and fall.

I wasn’t feeling at all keen about the day’s efforts but knew it was the best thing I could do for my body. As it turned out, it was one of the easier climbs of the trek. My breath was still coming hard but when I walked slowly, I was still able to appreciate what I saw around me. The views in all directions were beautiful. We were surrounded on all sides by snow-capped peaks, the village of Dingboche now looking small in the valley below.

The village of Dingboche far below me to the right.

I wore my new buff, a bit of a test run I suppose before I decided how comfortable I was wearing it. It felt unusual at first, like it would stifle breathing rather than aid it, but as the sun rose, and the wind picked up, our boots whipped up dust and the buff became invaluable. For 200 rupee ($2.50), it was a worthwhile investment.

I enjoyed the climb and the photos from the top were definitely worth it. But I had only brought one litre of water with me and I was conscious of running out. Our teahouse was still in view, so I certainly wouldn’t dehydrate but I could feel a headache coming on in spurts. I sucked back on my water, and the pressure eased.IMG_3082

Michael decided he wanted to sit at the top for a while but I was starting to get cold from the inactivity, despite wearing my windjacket and long-sleeved Merino. I headed down the path alone while Chuda stayed with Michael. I was making good time until I got over confident in the scree and the next thing I know I was on my bum. Thankfully I didn’t hurt anything but my pride. I dusted off my filthy hiking pants, and soon attached myself to another group I’d seen many times along the trek, two Australian women Barbara and Julie. They were an aunt and niece from Melbourne and were also staying at our teahouse.

Michael and our guide Chuda.

When Chuda and Michael returned maybe an hour later, we ate lunch as it lightly began to snow. I’m writing this in the dining room, trying to remember the last time I felt so cold. I’m wearing two pairs of ski socks and my toes are still numb. I’m wearing thermal pants under trackies, a singlet, long sleeved Merino top and a thick hoodie. On my head, a beanie, and my neck is covered by a scarf. The cold is thick, like ice cream. And it’s only going to get colder. The owner of the teahouse just told me there’s a “sunroom” upstairs that is supposed to be warmer.

The yak dung-fuelled heater is the only source of warmth in the teahouse.

I have just relocated and already I can feel my toes starting to thaw. The roof is made of clear but ancient corrugated Perspex that lets in the light and something of the setting sun. Compared to downstairs, it’s like stepping into a sauna.

I thought about AndrewNotChris (see My name is AndrewNotChris) a lot while walking yesterday and today. Part of it was appreciating his assistance with my training and preparation but mostly it was about what he did, the lies he told me and trying to understand his motivations for being a complete and utter dick. I know that I definitely made a mistake letting him back into my life after Terrible Tuesday (see My name is ChrisNotChris Part III). I had known him for only two weeks. It was a loss but one I would have got over. Against my better judgement, I did contact him and I still don’t understand why. Wanting to understand why a liar lies is never going to end well. No answer was ever going to satisfy me and I should have left it alone. Men who fuck up like he did don’t deserve a second chance.

But I have given him second, third, fourth chances, over and over I let him back into my life, and it eats me. I once believed that a connection like we had rarely came along so it was worth hanging onto, even if it cost me my self-respect. I now know that anyone who would lie to me like he did, has likely done to others as well, will likely do it again. He is no longer part of my truth.

My dad’s letter to me on this trip said so much more than I was expecting. I knew it would be poignant, and resonate with my truth, but I wasn’t anticipating him to say so much about what he thinks of me or of my divorce with S (see My marriage no longer exists). He hasn’t said it outright, but he does indicate that he feels I made a poor decision. He told me that while I had great capacity for love, that he was concerned that, like he, I would never be able to give myself completely over to loving someone.

And perhaps he’s right. The Professor told me something similar. Even the Italian Stallion told me I’m not a relationship person (albeit he said this after coming inside me). My dad says it’s because I can’t bear to lose control. Maybe it’s just selfishness.  Maybe it’s the same thing. But part of me also thinks: why do I have to change? If there is someone for everyone, a yin to my yang, then should I be trying to be a different person?

I think the other part of the issue is my inexperience with dating. Sure, I’ve made up for lost time this past year but prior to that I jumped from relationship to relationship, rarely stopping to take stock of whether that person actually offered me everything I was looking for in a partner (see Finding my way out of the purple patch).

I know I can and have scared men away. They’ve cited reasons that include my sexual energy, my intelligence, my independence, my stubborn argumentative bitch side, which obviously isn’t particularly loveable. I’ve even been described as the proverbial bull that rushes in and tramples my partner like so many china settings until there’s nothing left of who they are, only what I have done to them.

Let’s be clear; I don’t want to be alone. I do want a partner, in all aspects of the word. I miss cuddles and rainy days spent watching movies, cooking dinner together, going for random Sunday drives to nowhere. I even realised today that I miss hugs. Not even cuddles. Hugs.

I hugged Aaron and Paul goodbye today and they were deep, tight hugs and I realised that I couldn’t remember the last time I was hugged that way by a man. It brings tears to my eyes to even write that. I hadn’t cried a single day this trip until this morning when I read my dad’s letter.

Sometimes I wonder how greatly my depression was affecting me when I did Mt Kilimanjaro (see Climbing a mountain to nowhere). I cried at least once every day and sometimes several times. I would look up and ahead at what was still to climb and just burst into tears. Here, there has been none of that. I just stop, breathe, and take the next step. When my mind is distracted and thinking of something else, the steps pass more easily. The problem is the terrain is so uneven that it’s impossible not to watch your feet and that is not conducive to daydreaming. I think back often to those nights with Shane in Kathmandu and him telling me I was sexy (see Holiday sex is actually a thing). Such a simple thing but it’s usually enough to give me the shot of energy I need.

Every day of this trek I have surprised myself. Each climb that I thought would undo me has failed to even chink my armour. I am slow but determined. And I’m surprised by how much I am enjoying those small triumphs, getting to each new rest point. My delight in the scenery, the sight of falling snow. Sometimes I have actually caught myself wondering if I’m being too childlike in my awe of snow.

I haven’t really complained about anything and there are plenty of things I see and hear others complain about: the wifi, showers, toilets, heat or lack thereof in the teahouses, smoke from the yak dung fire, the dust, the food, the tea … compared to my experience on Kilimanjaro, there’s actually nothing I can complain about. I was not expecting a bed in a room with an ensuite. I was not expecting a shower, let alone a hot one. I was not expecting to be able to choose what I want to eat off a menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was not expecting a pillow and extra blanket waiting on my bed, or Mars bars and baked goods. I was not expecting watching movies in bakeries, or bottled water. This trip has exceeded and bested all my expectations.

Was that why Kili was so disappointing for me? The tents and rough sleeping? The set menu and bucket toilets? I had researched Kili in exhaustive detail for years before I finally booked. I’d read the blogs and travel reviews, all the books and first-hand accounts from the moment you land in Arusha to receiving your certificate. Know what I did for EBC? I read my booking confirmation from my travel company. That’s it. I came wholly unprepared in terms of knowing what to expect (although at least I was well-equipped unlike my travelling companion). And that has meant the entire trip, so far, has been magical. But cold. I can’t quite stress that enough. It’s fucking cold.

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