One of many on the way up Julia Hubbel

Watch out for what you want: the result could be disastrous...or at least hilarious

Marie strode by my open door, her hair wet, vigorously rubbing it dry.

You've gotta be kidding me, I thought. It's freezing. Where the hell did she find a shower?

We were at the last tea house after a failed big push to Everest Base Camp. It was May, 2014, and I was fresh off Mount Kilimanjaro and Macchu Picchu. Sixty-one and in terrific shape, I was eager to do so many things.

Everest Base Camp was one of those things, and we were so close to the top.

The last tea house before Everest Base Camp Julia Hubbel

My group, organized by Ace the Himalaya and expertly guided by his crew, was lodged at this tea house at Gorak Shep for a few days extra, thanks to one heck of a snowstorm which had blanketed the area. There, most of us turned back. That was in no small part due to our sherpas wisely refusing to go on.

As we discovered on the trek up, tea houses typically had a single source of heat: a huge stove in the common room, a place often festooned with dirty, sweaty, drying socks and enough people to fill an NFL stadium. Okay not really, but it felt that way, and smelled like a guy's locker room after the game. It stank but it was warm...-ish, and you could get food and booze.

When I was there, no electricity or much else. If you wanted to be warm you brought gear which was hiked up ahead of you by your sherpas. If you really wanted to be warm you bought booze, had hot soup.

Those had been laboriously hiked up the mountain on the backs of endless lines of people and oxen, donkeys and anything fit to carry bags of chips and bottles of Cokes or the equally endless lines of people carrying material for repairs. Mountains are tough on buildings, to say nothing of the backs of these people and their animals.

Oxen carryig a load heading down Julia Hubbel 

Until just a few days prior we had enjoyed the brilliant sunshine and flowers typical of May weather. Also typical of high country, however, the blizzard socked in all the trails to the point where pushing through even a few feet was hard work. That hard work meant sweat, and sweat meant, well, stink.

All of us had been hiking between five and eight hours a day without a shower. We were all pretty putrid.

Had there been paint on the walls, it would have peeled off as we peeled off our duds. Since the tea house had no heat anywhere other than in the common room, said "peeling" was mercilessly swift, if we bothered to disrobe at all.

I'd been putting off taking off my clothing when Marie sped by.

Smelling like spring rain.

It took me less than ten seconds to find out that for the princely sum of five bucks, I too could have a "hot shower."

My version, and expectation of, "hot shower" and the top-of-the- mountain at eighteen thousand feet version of said "hot shower," didn't necessarily align.

I paid the hotel manager and he gave me the key to a tiny room that was snugged into an equally-tiny corner of the hotel. Outside the snow was stacked against the windows. All I could think of was what it was going to feel like when that hot water cascaded endlessly over my overworked, sweaty, smelly body.

And a shampoo? Orgasmic.

Not exactly.

The shower room was lined with ice and the floor covered with soap bubbles. It was freezing. I put up my camp towel, and stripped down, by chance stepping in the bubbles.

Not bubbles.


The floor of our shower. Not bubbles. Julia Hubbel

The plastic that lined the shower was frozen solid. The "shower" itself was a tiny handheld device which spat out a thin stream of lukewarm water. I guess Marie had emptied the tank (I would have, too, had I gone first).

I spent the next three minutes scrubbing what I could as fast as I could. The air in the shower was so cold that I feared the water would solidify before it hit the shower floor.

My skin felt like it was icing over.

I WAS icing over.

There was no orgasmic shampoo.

I hurriedly pulled my smelly clothing back on, some of which had snow stuffed inside it, and scampered back to my frigid room.

It would be another five days before I found myself having that "orgasmic" shower in my Kathmandu hotel, watching the filth from my hair curl down the drain. I drained their hot water tank.

Probably for the entire hotel.

Sometimes it's best to be warm and stink, as opposed to being dangerously cold but clean.

I did have to capture my socks as they ran down the hallway, trying to get away from a good wash. They developed a life of their own.

I need to train them to do this:

After this, I brought, and packed out, wet wipes. Lesson learned.


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