Postcard: Steeped in Tea
When I spent 25 days trekking the Himalayas in Nepal last year, I began an addiction to tea.
Loose, jasmine-flavored green tea leaves are thrown into small pots in the restaurants in Kathmandu, the city where our team first gathered.
Once we began our trek, one of our cook staff would awaken us each morning with a soft, "Bed tea, sir?" He squatted outside our expedition tents, holding a cheap metal pot of hot tea and some dented tin cups. The tea's heat and caffeine were a welcome start to another day of facing oxygen depletion, cold, dust, and rain or snow.
Each noon, while we stopped for lunch, we'd watch thick grey clouds heading up the valley, heralding mist, snow, and a plunge in temperature. Those clouds resembled the Angel of Death approaching Egypt in Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments." We washed down lunch with hot "lemon tea," which warmed and motivated us.
But my most memorable tea experience came at the height of the trek. The day before, we had hiked to Gorak Shep, the last civilization before Everest Base Camp. Dazed, I had counted each step to keep my mind on walking.
The next morning, wondering where I would find the energy, I set off with two others to hike to the summit of Kala Patar. Kala Patar, at 18,400 feet, is one of the smaller peaks in the region.
I was late reaching the summit. As I lingered to take in the view of Everest Base Camp dotted with red and blue tents far below, and the summit of Everest itself, the temperature was dropping fast, and the Angel of Death was sliding up the valley. Before me was the slippery descent and the long hike to our next camp.
I trekked across the desolate, boulder-strewn trail. Soon, my American guide suggested I let the porter carry my pack. Reluctantly, I gave it up, for the first and only time, and the porter set off at a brisk pace, while I limped in the rear.
During one rest break, the guide and I stood by the trailside, isolated completely by the fog. Suddenly, one of the cook staff materialized out of the billowing mist, holding his metal pot and two dented tin cups.
"Hot lemon tea, sirs?" He asked in his typically quiet voice. He had hiked up through the whiteout from our next camp to offer us this boost. I drank, now feeling I could walk back to America.
These days I start each morning with a cup of jasmine green tea. Though tea is a minor addiction to use for facing life, as I've learned, it keeps you energized, and helps you take steps, and treks, you might otherwise have thought impossible.
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