Dr. Joan’s Sports Psych Talk: Nepal, Himalayan jewel (Part 1)
Dr. Joan’s Sports Psych Talk-
Marin is full of athletic adventurers. This year, our athletic journey took us to Nepal, a Himalayan jewel, for trekking. This is part 1 of a three-part series.
The wild, wild east atmosphere of Katmandu lies in direct contrast to the underlying calm of the Himalaya. We arrived in Kathmandu to marigold leis in the traditional Nepalese style, along with our guides, Pancha and Amar. Driving through the city reminded me of Bangkok 20 years ago, except with significantly more cars. The roads are packed with bicycles, rickshaws, scooters, cars, and buses, driving every which way. You ride along watching the whole crazy scene and hope for the best. If you were to describe Kathmandu in one word…vivid. A living, breathing organism that takes on a life of it’s own.
Between the many temples, Hindis, Buddhists, Muslims, hustlers, trekkers, tourists, political tensions and chaotic traffic, Kathmandu takes you back in time. It creates a feeling of excitement and wonder, yet awareness that underneath, lays much suffering. From a 25%+ poverty rate and the sale of young girls into servitude and prostitution by their families, this pain simmers beneath the outsiders’ view.
In Thamal, the roads are narrow and lined with shops; people zip by on bicycles, rickshaws, scooters, and small cars. The roads were full of Nepalese and Indians and very few tourists, as this was pre-season for trekking and climbing. Billboards compete for space on buildings. Vegetables are sold on the side of the road while cyclists ride by loaded with more. Indian women watch over their shops. All ages participate in shop management. On our second day, Amar and Pancha retrieved us to peruse the steep stairs of the monkey temple and a spectacular Hindu temple.
Near the Hindu temple, we encountered faux Swamis and Hindu mystics interested in photos for cash. Quietly, a beggar fed a monkey ice cream. Next to the shore of the river, cement slabs provided open air crematoriums where both high and low caste Hindus paid tribute to their loved ones.
The next day, we were to fly to Lukla to begin our trek. Rising at 5:00 a.m., we dressed hurridly before heading to the airport for a 6:30 a.m. departure. However, we quickly learned that inter-country travel involves patience, waiting and hurrying.
Arriving at the airport in plenty of time, our guides instructed us to sit down and wait. Little did we know that a plane bound for Lukla hadn’t made it out in nine days. We sat. We waited. The scene at the airport was chaos. Guides, porters, and trekkers were everywhere. Everyone was in a hurry although they were going nowhere fast. We waited some more. 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 8:30 a.m…. The energy was frenetic. Each airline hoped to be the first. At 9:30 a.m., we were told to hurry up and hustle through security, separate women’s and men’s. I emerged first and was directed to yet another waiting area where we waited yet again. Time to board the bus. Hurry up once again. Drive to the plane, board and wait again only to observe the left prop not start. Tensions began to rise. We were back on the bus once again and driven to the terminal. The excuse was bad weather although other airplanes were taking off left and right. They left us on the bus, facing the terminal, so we would not see the repairs being made. After waiting a considerable amount of time again, we returned to the plane and boarded. Tensions were even higher. As we started to taxi, one male passenger yelled out that there was a flat tire. Luckily, this was a false alarm. Finally, I asked my guide if this was the airline that had crashed several weeks before. He reluctantly told me yes. Now, I began praying, and prayed the whole entire flight.
Amazingly, we managed to fly (without incident) to Lukla where we would begin our trek. But, the waiting was not over. Upon arriving, we were told one of our porters was supposed to come on the second flight. Sit down and guess what, wait again. This wait? One-a-half-hours only to find out the porter was not aboard. Time to wait again while Amar rounded up another porter. This was done quickly, and we were off…
(Parts 2 and 3 of Dr. Joan’s Nepal adventure will be posted later this week.
All photos by jepoulson)
Dr. Joan Steidinger is a sports and clinical psychologist with offices in Mill Valley and San Francisco. She has been practicing sports psychology with clients ranging from recreational to pro athletes for the past 17 years.
As an athlete herself, she has been a competitive ultrarunner, Ride & Tie competitor, and ultradistance cyclist.