to which I naturally (and competitively) responded "Oh I have SO heard of those! Probably. Maybe. Let's check..."
Okay, out of the 10 that they listed, I had actually only heard of one. But I've also been there, so that should count for more, no? Are we being graded on the curve? What percentage of this goes toward our final grade? Does attendance count?
The winning place: Jomsom, Nepal.
I did what was known as the "Jomsom Trek" when I spent a month in Nepal in November of 1998. I'm totally hardcore. (Ed. note: amongst Nepal trekkers, Jomsom is considered the candy-ass route).
I actually did have to be a little hardcore, when the friend I had gone with dropped a bit of a bomb on me. It went a little something like this:
We had just purchased our trekking permits, in Pokhara, and were all set to start the trek the following morning. Friend and I had done "independent" stuff in the afternoon, and then met up for dinner:
ME: Hey, this Khukaro ko Masu is fantastic...do you think they forgot my Diet Coke?
FRIEND: Um, I'm leaving tomorrow.
ME: I know - we're going to have to get up EARLY to make that bus!
FRIEND: No, I mean, I'm going home-home.
So, while Friend profusely apologized, amidst much crying, and embarrassed forehead-in-hand gesturing - explaining that she just wasn't physically or mentally prepared for the trip, blah blah - I was thinking "you have GOT to be kidding me", and "who DOES that?", and "oh crap".
All the guidebooks expressly stated that you should not trek alone. Bring a buddy. Where's your buddy? Got your buddy?
Nope. My buddy decided she'd rather fly back to Kathmandu, and wait for 3 days until there was an available flight back to the U.S. - you know, filling the 3 days with yoga and such.
So, to shorten an unbearably long story, involving a humor-free trekking parter (met on bus on Day 1 - he would just stare blankly when I would make random jokey comments. Which was all the time.), numerous blisters, sporadic overindulgences of Twix and Snickers bars (we were trekking 10 hours a day - I ate whatever I damned well wanted to eat), a heavenly oasis of a guesthouse - run by a Nepalese man and his French wife who was a pastry chef (cake was ordered with every meal), various pleasant British couples as trekking partners, and an overstrained left knee...
I made it back to Pokhara alive, in 11 days (there and back), when it probably should have taken me 12 or 13. I was stubborn, and slightly fussy toward the end, and wanted very badly to escape having to trek with this creepy, aging British hippy who bore a strong resemblance to Randy Quaid.
Not Dennis. And oh my God I just found this photo:
That woman was not on the trail, but would have provided a fantastic distraction and aided in my escape. (Ed. note: actually Randy Quaid in photo -not creepy British guy - but resemblance is uncanny - particularly in Randy's psychedelic mumu.)
I rewarded myself by then flying to Ko Samet, Thailand, and spending a solid 7 days in a beachfront bungalow, swimming, sunning, reading, and stuffing myself with banana pancakes and the best Thai food I've ever eaten. Of course, there, they just call it "food" (wanh, wanh, wanh).
And can you guess who I saw, lumbering down the beach in his revolting blue Speedo?
That's right. Can we go back to talking about Britney now? My travel stories are too scary.
(Ed. note: successfully avoided creepy British guy, but was then Secret Squirrel-cautious for remainder of trip.)