My cough still rattling around in my lungs, I took the short 500 rupee cab ride up the enormous hill to Sarangkot for what was promised to be a spectacular view of the Annapurna range. I was not disappointed. I sat breathless, wordless, pulled out my sketchbook and stared a while before setting my pen to the paper.
Suddenly I was surrounded by a bus load of excited Greek tourists who happily snapped the scene away with all sorts of cameras.
"Where are you from?"
"I'm an American living in Istanbul."
"Wow! Are you here with friends?"
"No I came to Nepal alone."
"What? You came here alone? You weren't afraid?"
"No," I laughed. "I generally travel alone."
"Wow... Hey Maria!" (I forgot her real name) "Come look at this girl!
She's American and she came here alone! She's not afraid!
And how are you getting down from here? By taxi?"
"No I plan on hiking down the hill."
"Yes, I've been told the trail has a lot of hikers on it."
The women kindly wished me luck and hopped onto their bus in a flurry of Greek. I began to search for the trail down to the lake— which was not easy to find— and once I had climbed down a considerably steep section, I suddenly became aware that I was completely and utterly alone in the woods. I had been repeatedly told by various people that the trail was safe with a continuous flow of hikers, but here I was, on a beautiful but slippery steep path that often disappeared under a mountain stream. If I fell, no one would find me. If I was mugged, no one could help me. This was potentially one of the dumbest decisions I had made, but I had been told I'd be fine. I decided that it would be easier and quicker to keep heading downhill than to climb back up to Sarangkot.
I slipped on a wet rock. My right leg was gashed open in two places and blood was running down into my boot. I washed my leg as best as I could with my water bottle and applied pressure with a few napkins. The wounds were so clogged with dirt that the bleeding soon stopped. Thankfully I didn't slip off the side of the hill or twist my ankle! I picked myself up, took in the beauty around me, and continued down my path.
It took me about two hours to get back to Peace Eye, where I showed off my stupidity to Olan, who shook his head with a smile. I vowed never to hike alone, even if an entire village tells me it's ok.