‘Do you want a hot shower or a cold shower?’ my guide asks. We have arrived at the tea house, our accommodation for the first night of the trek. Still having vivid memories of the cold shower last night, when I waited over twenty minutes for any warm water to spout out of the tap in the hotel, there is no doubt in my mind: ‘Definitely a hot shower, please!!’ I answer eagerly. I need to wash away the sweat and grime after the first few hours of trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area. My hair is a mess, clinging to my face in damp tresses; my clothes feel clammy with perspiration, or should I admit soaked… I cannot wait for the comforting gush of warm water to relax my tired muscles; they are not yet aching, but the last bit of walking was reminiscent of Cape Town’s Table Mountain and I am fully aware that too many steps will eventually take their toll on anyone’s legs.
I inspect my meagre pile of clothes for something appropriate to wear… This does not prove easy as this morning, my carefully selected attire to see me through the six days in the mountains was rudely and drastically decimated by the guide. I cannot blame him as after all it will be his job to cart them up the mountain! But all I seem to have rescued are my British Flag Shorts! Whether they will keep me warm will have to be seen, but at least they look cute. You see, I do have my priorities right! I have pair of walking trousers and one pair of shorts, what more can a girl want… At least I will not while away the hours deciding which clothes to give an airing..
With towel, washing essentials and fresh, dry clothes in hand, I find the ‘hot’ shower. It is a ‘wet room’ with nowhere to put my change of clothes, my towel or anything else for that matter. I improvise and make use of the wonky windowsill and hope that the spray of water from the shower attachment, suspended on the ceiling, will not reach them. ‘Look on the left,’ the guide had helpfully shouted when he saw my puzzled face on opening the shower door. On the left I face a blank wall, but indeed, on the RIGHT are some taps linked to a hose pipe leading to the shower attachment. I have a sneaky feeling that my guide is having some issues with left and right as earlier on today he sent me to the ‘right’ toilet, which was clearly more intended for either Nepali people or men, whereas the left one was much more like what I was expecting.
I turn on the tap and a trickle of water appears, which slowly but surely heats up nicely. With some relief, I turn on the other tap to adjust the water temperature to my liking. More water flows and the trickle becomes a promising stream…but the water does not get any cooler. I turn the tap a little further, to no avail….and within minutes I am engulfed in steam. Exactly what I needed after a hard day’s slog: a sauna to open up the pores and sweat a little more.. I contemplate how to wash my hair and decide that if I put my head close enough to the floor the rays of burning water will have had some time to cool down. I see no other option so kneel down, lie on the cool floor and dampen my hair in the only fashion available to me, but it works to some extent and I feel so much better for it. I carefully flash each limb under the hot stream and cup my hands to catch and pour water over the rest of my body. Not how I would normally shower, but I get there in the end: all clean and fresh!
On returning to my room, I pass the guesthouse sign and read the note: ‘hot & cold shower’ and realise they mean it…literally… There is no in-between, no such thing as fiddling with taps to find the middle ground, or giving in/pampering to individual tastes. But then again, as the establishment is run by an ex-Ghurka (not anex Ghurka…), should this come as a surprise? Those Ghurkas are made of sturdier stuff; this is not a place for wimps…