About a month after this happened, I'm finally writing about it….wow, the photo uploading is proving to be very challenging where I currently am. Hopefully these nice pictures make up for my poor writing skills. Enjoy !
Stepping off the plane from the spotless and modern Kuala Lumpur airport onto the dark tarmac at Kathmandu, I realized I was in for a big change. I had met Erin, an English dive instructor, on the plane and we decided to do some trekking together. There on the tarmac, as we waited without any security for about ten minutes until the bus took us to immigration, we both came to understand how underdeveloped Nepal is. We spent the next day wandering around the dusty, noisy and hectic streets of Kathmandu making arrangements to start our trek, also buying and renting the cold weather gear we would need.
After a stop at the Indian consulate to start the visa application process for our next destination after Nepal, and some final trekking preparations, we boarded a small mini bus for the six hour trip to Pokhara, the jumping off point for most Himalayan treks. The mini bus got more and more crowded as it travelled the bumpy, windy, sketchy road until we were packed in like sardines. I counted 28 people including two babies in a bus with 15 seats. It was an exciting and challenging day but we made it to Pokhara at dusk and settled in with a nice meal knowing we would start our trek early the next morning. Unbeknownst to me, Erin was up most of the night in severe abdominal distress – she had an allergic reaction to something we ate…I will leave it at that. I suggested we put off our trek for a day so she could rest, but she was determined to start as planned. Off we went, and we started climbing fairly hard right away. Erin was a trooper and struggled onward, resting when she could. After hiking for about four hard hours, and getting a little help from a truck which took us a few kilometers, we made it to our intended guesthouse for the night….exhausted.
Here's the view we woke up to the next morning…
Erin was not looking or feeling good that morning, we had pushed too hard the previous day and her tiny body still wasn't keeping anything down. Due to her illness, she was weak; but her amazing positive attitude and smile shined which served as an amazing lesson for me days later as I too would struggle physically. We decided that it would be best for both of us if we separated, so that we could go at our own pace and make the most of this amazing experience. We knew we would see each other in the days ahead, as there is only one way up and back down. So, off I went on my solo mission to get to Annapurna base camp, elevation 14,380 feet. The days were sunny and warm, and I was hiking in shorts and a t-shirt, moving fast while mesmerized by the majestic beauty all around me.
These pictures cannot do justice to how magical this experience was. It was truly a spiritual journey – as the altitude increased I found myself focusing more and more on my breathe, and while climbing I often recited a mantra in Sanskrit, which roughly translates to 'may all beings be blessed and free, and may my thoughts and actions contribute to this'. Stopping to rest and have some tea along the way, I would chat with other trekkers though honestly what I was experiencing internally and emotionally was beyond expression. What I felt most was an incredible feeling of gratitude- for my strong body, for the good fortune that allowed me this moment and especially for the unbelievable natural beauty surrounding me.
On day four I reached Annapurna Base Camp…high on life. As I touched the last stair at the base camp lodge, I broke down in tears and prostrated myself to the mountain, to the Devine and to this moment.
I will never forget that feeling of peace and joy…then I played volleyball.
That night, bundled in my puffy down jacket, I experienced more sublime bliss looking up at the stars. Never before had I seen so many bright, vivid, gorgeous stars. All the rooms were full at the guesthouse, so I slept in the dining room with the guides and porters, drifting to sleep to the sounds of snores and other bodily noises. They nicknamed me Ganesh, maybe because of the strength, easy going nature and calmness they perceived in me, but probably for my loud snoring as well.
I woke up early for the sunrise that everyone said would be magical and I was not disappointed.
Beauty is everywhere
This Korean guy asked if I was a “professional trekker” – love it!
Students walking to school in the next village
I rested in the lakeside town of Pokhara for a few days, but the mountains seemed to follow me.
I got food poisoning in Pokhara, which had me in severe abdominal distress- I couldn't imagine trekking after feeling as aweful as I did and this made me respect and appreciate how tough Erin had been. Then I signed up to go parahawking, which was another expeirnence I'll never forget. Essentially, parahawking is like paragliding but they use specially trained vultures to help them find the thermal air currents. The vultures get rewarded with a tasty chunk of meat and the passengers get a wonderful lesson on vulture conservation, to learn more please check out www.parahawking.com .
Another amazing, spiritual moment on this magical journey around the globe. Flying and soaring with these graceful birds in this spectacular place helped me to connect with the Devine though a greater appreciation of the world around me.
I then returned to Kathmandu, where I experienced a more peaceful and holy side of the city. This will be the subject of my next blog post.