What Women Fear
People tell me I should turn back, but I brush them off. The guy who says I should not trek alone. The guy who tells me to come back with a husband. The hiking route is beautiful, and clearly marked. A two foot wide, paved path leading through remote Himalayan villages, over high mountain passes and narrow suspension bridges swinging above the rapid rivers, swelled with the monsoon rains.
I know that, had I been a man, there would have been no such warnings. I ignore them. I hike. I sleep in isolated guesthouses held by lone caretakers. I don’t let myself worry about being a girl in the woods alone. I worry instead about all the things trekkers should be worrying about — the weather and the route, how fast my clothes will dry after the rain.
As always, when you step outside of the lines of the patriarchy, there is a backlash.
I pass through the very last village on my trekking route — Khati. It’s a beautiful mountain village where each house is brightly painted with intricate designs, and portraits of those who live inside, or their profession. A kettle on the Chai-stand, an old fashioned sewing machine on the tailors.
After leaving the village, I follow the path down to the river, pale turquoise-green, that perfect colour of mountains streams, rushing by so fast that I get vertigo as I cross the rickety bridge. From here on out, the path leads up and up, crossing no sign of human life. There are no other trekkers, either, the path is eerily empty since I began.
I like it that way. Trekking feels like meditation. Trekking feels like coming back to my body, a body that carries me for a thousand metres a day, walking for six or seven hours. I feel strong, and competent in the solitude. Even in the wilderness, I know that meeting another person — a man, at least — would be bittersweet.
When you are a woman, some fears get flipped around. Whereas another person’s presence in the wilderness should come as a comfort, I feel like I would rather encounter a bear or a snake than a lone man. There is a familiar…