Before my trip to Nepal, the longest I’d gone sans shower was approximately 24 hours. At home, where hot water is ample and I’m at my leisure, I’m a two-showers-a-day kind of girl. Some people might call that excessive, luxurious, self-indulgent… and sure, maybe I harbour secret shame about my water usage. But I’ve grown too attached to my showering habits to let them go (to be fair, both showers are less than five minutes).
It’s safe to say that I was in for a bit of a shock when I went to Nepal. Hot water is touch and go there, largely due to power outages because of limited fuel resources (which is a whole other topic in itself which we will not talk about here because I’m too focused on showers right now to think about anything else).
My first non-shower day was my second day in Kathmandu. We returned to the Airbnb after a fairly exhausting day of visiting temples etc. (Monkey Stupa! Monkeys! At a stupa!) I was super grimy. I’d probably colonized at least three new species of bacteria on my skin. Or at least that’s how I felt. Alas, a shower that day was not to be. Not only was it excruciatingly cold inside the house but there was No. Hot. Water. It was the primal combination of these two things that made me decide, “NOPE,” or more accurately, “HELL NOPE.”
That was no-shower-day-one.
The next no-shower-day was much later. A few weeks down the track when we went for a five day hike up to Poon Hill near Pokhara. It started as a bit of a joke.
“Hahaha, I’m not going to shower for five days!”
I thought it was hilarious at the time. Me? No shower for five days? Challenge accepted! How hard could it be? Most teahouses on these hikes either have no hot water or you have to pay quite a lot to use it. I both hate cold showers and am unabashedly cheap. It’s like this challenge was designed for me.
The first day, it turned out the teahouse did have hot water. And for free. Everyone else in my hiking group took a hot shower. Me? I laughed in their faces. Weak. No self-control. Meanwhile, I reveled in my dried sweat as I used baby wipes to “cleanse.” Luckily, it was sufficiently cold in the mountains for me to not be too conscious of my unshowered state.
Day two, the hike got harder.
Again, it was cold enough for me to reject any suggestion of a shower pretty easily. I could barely tolerate my daily wet-wipe ritual at the end of the day as I shivered through them. There was no way I would tolerate a shower.
Day three passed pretty inconsequentially.
Sure, my hair began to feel a bit… infested (with what?!) and I made the mistake of wearing one of those quick dry t-shirts. “Great!” I’d initially thought. “Fast sweat absorption off my skin. What an invention!” Instead, what I got was a t-shirt that made me smell like the sweat concentrate of a whole soccer team of pubescent teenage boys. Awesome! What an invention!
That night was the first night of the hike when I thought to myself, “Wow. I think I really need a shower.” But after the first teahouse, none of the others had hot showers. Okay, one did but it was at a stage of the hike when I was still all, “Personal challenge. Must not shower. Build character. BUILD CHARACTER!” even as I watched everyone else traipse gleefully off to their steamy water hugs.
On the second last day, everyone else went to the hot springs where they “showered” in hot spring water. I’ve used quotation marks because, really? Is showering in hot spring water a shower at all? How do we know there’s not a decomposing yak carcass at the top of the mountain? I have watched too much Bear Grylls to be fooled like this.
So, to summarise, everyone else: 1.1-2.1 showers (I’ll give the hot spring 0.1 of a shower). Me: 0 showers.
I was proud of myself as we drove back home at the end of our hike. I can’t lie about that. Never have I embarked on such an emotionally charged journey. Never have I put my body to the test in such a way. And I made it through (dare I say with flying colours). I resisted temptation at every turn. I learned to embrace my natural odours and various bodily fluids. I conquered! You know, it was almost as fulfilling as actually getting to the top of Poon Hill.
But, I can’t lie. There was a moment as we approached our AirBnb that I caught a whiff of something. Just a little something mingling with the air. A touch of musk. A little off. “Hey, that’s me,” I realized. I was disgusted for a few seconds. And also ashamed and embarrassed (there were eight of us sitting in one van). But as I adjusted to my newfound scent, I began to feel proud of it.
I can honestly say that I don’t think I will ever go five days without showering again. For that reason, I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I stuck to my guns and trudged through the murkiness of my own stench. I do think I’ve gained a valuable life experience because of it and I’ve grown to appreciate the luxuries we have at home.
So, five days no shower? Done. And I’ll never forget it.