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Day 1 and 2: Broken Already

View Teenie Travels Around the World on chschen's travel map.


It's a broken girl who wakes up this morning, sits on her bear can, and basks in the sun's weak heat. Day one was rough for me, carrying a 30-pound bag up 1,200 meters of elevation gain, the last 2 km straight up the mountain over loose gravel and rock. Then back down, again over loose rock as well as slushy snow. At one point on the snow field we were lost in fog, with only old footprints to guide our way.


The snow has been melting all day and night. It feeds the peaceful stream that babbled us to sleep in the evening and greeted me this morning, playful as ever. Luckily the elevation here is high enough that few insects disturb us.


As I sit here calm and fatigued, it's easy to see what I like about backpacking: hard work rewarded by breathtaking vistas, the camaraderie between strangers on the trail, the silence form human noise, the glimpses of wildlife--precious and personal in their rarity. But suffering up the last 400 meters and slip-sliding the 200 meters back down to our campsite, I had nothing but bitterness and complaint in my head. At one point Chris took both of our bags (60, perhaps 70 pounds for him?) so we could increase our pace, and I pranced off like a billy goat, my tail bone kicking up on its own, amazed that it hadn't 30 pounds to push anymore. But then Chris got tired, gave me back my weight, and misery descended again. By the time we got to the campsite I was so exhausted I could hardly eat. And then it got chilly and dark, and we were still fumbling around outside with food and laundry. I couldn't stop my body from shaking with cold once I got my hair wet in snow melt in a failed attempt to wash it. I could go on with my list of mishaps, which Chris seemed to find inexplicably funny, but once I was snug and warm in my sleeping bag I found I could be cheerful again. Chris was chatty, too, but he quickly gave out, and then it was just me, the brook, and his breathing.

* * * * *

Our campsite looking so pleasant in the morning sunshine

Chris decided to return to the peak we ascended and descended yesterday to get the view unobstructed by cloud cover. Knowing what tough days lay ahead, I stayed at camp. This was the route we descended the day before.

Geothermal activity always makes for such interesting colors! (We saw the same effect in Iceland)

So many layers!

I was a little jealous of all the pretty views Chris got to see that I didn't have the legs for

Doing my part, taking down the tent

Oh, haha. That's funny. I must have been feeling cocky.

My favorite shot of the day

Alpine wildflowers!

Ooo, is that a hut in the distance?

Not so solitary camp this time. No showering for Chris (he got scolded for trying).

* * * * *


Today was supposed to be a lighter day, but I'm just as broken as I was yesterday. Sitting in our tent, I can't help but worry about the next three days, which are all supposed to be tougher. Whenever my worry reaches a peak, I pull out the map and study it, hoping to find something reassuring there. Going uphill is tiring, but it's downhill that kills me--each step is agonizing, pushing my toes into the hard leather, toes already crumpled because my boots are too small. And then, if the path is rocky, as it often is, my right knee begins giving out. When we go uphill or walk on flat terrain I dare not slow down and rest since we lose so much time going down.

We arrived at camp around 2:30 pm. The fog was just beginning to roll in. We are now over two days away from any place reachable by car. I begin to understand Taraz's fear. There's no turning back, and, ironically, in the middle of all this space, I start to feel trapped.

But part of why I travel and backpack is to find these uncomfortable edges of myself, the parts where I begin to fall apart. I want to cross my limits and know myself there--raw, animalistic, terrified, despairing. It turns out I'm easily given to despair, which I suppose I knew before, and yet I'm still surprised and horrified and curious. Despair is such a useless emotion; yet, why does it come so naturally to me?

I'm amazed by these Japanese hikers, most of which are old men and women, past retirement age. They surround us on the trail with their tinkling bear bells, and they all seem more fit than me. I guessed that their packs must be lighter than ours, but peeking into their tents I started to doubt this. One man even brought a full-sized hammer with which to pound in his stakes (albeit he was a bit younger than the others--perhaps middle-aged). It looked new. In fact, much of the gear (especially the packs) look barely used. How do they manage to keep even camping gear so clean?

As soon as the sun is folded behind a cloud, it immediately begins to get cold. We can't stand to be outside for long, and yet we feel it's too early to be in our tents, so we stare morosely at our bags and shiver. Finally, we give up and go into our sleeping bags, snuggle down, and fall asleep.

Our new friend Yoshi, who thankfully steered us away from a more ambitious route. I think he might have saved our lives.

Posted by chschen 05:00 Archived in Japan

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