Nepal's covetous beauty comes only to those who wait and work for it. One gets to experience her best only after enduring her worst. While descending into Kathmandu, you will stare longingly at the snow-capped peaks knowing that in order to be amongst them, you still have a long way to go. The plane will circle gingerly into the valley, coming to land in a mountainous bowl that seems to be noticeably different than the place where you originated. Once you're in, you'll have the distinct feeling that you're in another time and place. The congestion, the tall skinny buildings, the dust, and the medieval facades all tell the arduous story of Nepal's development. Plainly stated, it's hard to get in and out of the Kathmandu valley, and consequently, it's been hard for Nepal's potential as a nation to emerge.
In between you and the mountains lie hours of hard travel. Millenia of tectonic tension forced an uneven landscape which is beautiful to look at yet challenging to augment and navigate. In the last century, roads have managed to materialise. They were carved out of the sides of mountains, connecting previously isolated high hill villages. Dutifully, the roads cling to the rocky earth, wincing as buses, motorcycles, and cars whip around their treacherous corners. Loud Nepali music drones on in the background, a cheeky call and answer duet overlaid on hypnotic percussion. Does that help the driver concentrate? You will hang on, convincing yourself that the driver's brazen overtaking is part of his expertise, a technique you're just not used to. You will exchange a worried glance with your travel partner. We're going to get there alive, right? You notice that the locals don't seem to mind. They snack, smile, and laugh boisterously with each other as everyone sways with the constant movement of the bus. Hours in, a quarter of the way there, you'll start to become more comfortable with your surroundings. A montage of village life plays out through the window.
The mountains look different up close. They no longer give off a mere impression of themselves or seem to hover in the sky, no, their sheer rocky faces confront you with their greatness. The city is completely behind you. The sky is open, vast. You're finally going to set foot in the Himalayas.
Any trek in the world's tallest range of mountains is arduous, but those who are prepared won't feel that way. The mountains, though sometimes treacherous, can bring a calming effect. They lift you away from everything there ever was to be concerned about. The only thing to think about is the burning sensation in your legs as the gradient changes from gentle to steep or your internal temperature as you walk in and out of the rhododendron forests. Hours go by and you fall into a rhythm, walking ever forward, as it is the only thing you really have to do. A nightly pattern emerges quickly: pry off hiking boots, drink strong tea, contemplate a cold shower, slurp up garlic soup, fuel yourself with rice, swaddle your body under a heap of warmth, sleep restlessly, rise with the sun.
Arriving back in the city is a jarring experience. So little reaches the high hills of the Himalayas - so little noise, pollution, civility, and comfort. A strange mix of relief, accomplishment, and sadness ensue. You'll have earned this feeling. Now rest your weary legs.