Elusive Cheese

elusive cheese 1

Border post along the trail dividing India and Nepal

We went for a hike. We went for a very long hike that went up and up toward the cold, clear sky. We hiked into another world, that other-world where the air is thin and the mind is blurred. We met an old lady along the trail; she told us of the spirits who speak to her mind. We couldn’t hear them, but she could. That’s the sort of encounter you’ll have above 12,000 feet in the nip of winter.

We hiked and hiked (about 42 miles in 4 days), cursing the pain of steep ascents, but embracing the euphoria. These are places rarely seen — not by many people, really, in the greater scheme of things; and not very often in a lifetime.

We broke for lunch one sunny afternoon, leaning our backs against a warm, grassy hillside. We ate chocolate, raisins, peanuts and cheese. The best cheese. Quite possibly the very best Gouda I have ever had (thanks, in part, to the magnificent views). Sikkim cheese, “made with Swiss technology,” said the label. We had bought the small round package at a dry-goods shop in Darjeeling. We didn’t take a picture. We figured we would find more.

But we never did. We traveled to and through Sikkim, and never saw this cheese again. A shame! It was such a good one.

I guess it was meant to be savored on that hillside, high in that other world, with Mount Everest to our right and Khangchendzonga behind us. Sometimes the best bites are tasted only once, then remembered forever.

elusive cheese 2

View from Sandakphu

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