Annapurna Base Camp: A trek to cognizance
Last year, I vented my anger on facebook on how Dashain has been a total nuisance rather than an amusing festival. I reasoned how the time of Dashain could be more fruitful/fun if one opted to NOT celebrate the ‘monotonous’ Dashain and decide to visit our own beautiful Nepal in that period instead. This year, I decided to tail what I presented last year. I packed my bags and went for the Glory. Luckily, my parents did not coerce me to stay at home despite having just three members in the family. My exclusion in Dashain meant that Dad and mom had to sojourn at home in festive period without me. As a son, if I pictured the scenario from my parents’ stance I would definitely rate this Dashain as one of the bitterest Dashains. Dashain usually means family members being together, sharing-laughs, stories and precious moments. For my parents, it was complete contrast as their eldest son and his family were close only on skype and the other son was on his way to the mountains. He was definitely close yet so far. Thus, before leaving, I could picture how miserable my parents’ Dashain was going to be.
Despite all those, I managed to place my feet outside the emotional zone. Four people including myself set out our journey to Annapurna Base Camp. Day 1 was from Kathmandu to Pokhara. We caught the bus from Kalanki (at 2:30 PM) and reached Pokhara around 9 PM. Day 2 started early (2 AM) from Pokhara. We caught the night bus to Nayapul. And started our genuine trek from there. It was Saturday morning and we walked 9-12 hours per day to reach ABC within Tuesday. Nayapul – Birethanti-Ulleri-Ghorepani in Day 2. Ghorepani-Poonhill-Ghorepani-Tadapani-Gurjhung-Chhomrong in Day 3. Chhomrong-Sinuwa-Bamboo-Dovan-Himalaya-Deurali in Day 4. Deurali-MBC-ABC- back to MBC- Deurali- Himalaya- Dovan- Bamboo in Day 5. Bamboo-Sinuwa-Chhomrong-Jhinu-New Bridge- Siwai in Day 6. Siwai - Syauli Bazar - Birethanti - Naya Pul – Pokhara- Kathmandu in Day 7.
Reaching Annapurna Base Camp was not a walk in the park especially when you are among those who do not exercise in your daily life. Stairs from the bottom of the hill to the top was not a motivation either. Trek from Birethanti to Ulleri to Ghorepani was particularly challenging and eye opener about what our journey ahead consisted of. Stairs, Stairs, Stairs, more stairs and even more stairs. I have to say that the second day was hardly any fun. It was glum as I only loved walking in plain areas and downhill. But the uphill climbing via the stairs was what I despised most. And second day till we reached Ghorepani, it was all uphill climbing leaving some areas where it was fairly easy walk.
On the way to Ghorepani, we had glimpses of Machchhapuchhre Mountain. That majestic view and the delightful meal at Ulleri spurred our walk. It was from the third day that I started linking the trek with life. Everything in life and in trekking seemed to have carried the same message. Each step I took, I figured out more about life. It was like a meditation. The more my feelings went deep, the more I got ‘enlightened’. By enlightenment, I meant I became more aware to the things around me. The ‘good /wise’ person in me took over and I started visualizing life from a broader term. Trekking was getting the best out of me.
When I was at the foot of the hill, I saw the never ending uphill stairs welcoming me. My first and second days’ approach was all wrong. I always looked at the top and got demotivated (imagining the difficult climb ahead). Consequently, my body used to give up and no matter how long or short (easy or hard) path came my way, I got fatigued frequently and needed more rest or breaks. But that changed from the third day as I altered my approach. After that, I did not see the goal at the top of the mountain. I set small goals first. My goal was to climb the next stair I encounter. The destination was far away but my goals were always near. I did not have to hustle or be worried about my goal. All I did was welcome the next stair and complete my challenge. Aren’t the life goals be achieved that way? One step at a time? That way, I was always steady and I did not fear my goal. I kept on moving towards my destination with ease as my next goal needed exactly the same amount of effort that I put in achieving the previous one (which was not much). I have ambitions with life. Gigantic ones and they have often made me unnerved. I have always feared my goals with life. But now I know how I have to move towards them. I should stop lurching towards them. My steps should be placid and well weighed.
My own (new) approach to the destination/goals was a great motivation. But the motivation was at rife while trekking. Children below 10, elders above 65 were seen scaling their way to ABC. Not only that, porters with big loads were climbing uphill. Locals or not, habit or not, it’s never easy to carry heavy load and climb the hill. You see them and question yourself about the excuse you are making of being tired. The cool zephyr, clear weather, blue rivers with a magical sound directly from Himalayas, the beautiful scenes, exquisite smile of the snow-covered mountains, songs of birds and animals, the ‘homelike’ jungles and so many other things were inarguably the best of the motivations. But what trekking did to me was it helped me notice the simplest of things that went unnoticed in my daily life before.
The other thing that the trek taught me is to spread love even to the ones that you do not know. Thousands of tourists from all around the world trekked at the same time. Around 90% tourists greeted us with a smile and a ‘Namaste’. No matter how tired they were, no matter what, they always had something to say to us. If not, they offered a smile. While walking if they heard your shriek of pain, they would stop and ask if you were alright. People from different countries with different languages speaking one common language ‘love’, how beautiful is that? What difference did it make then? It made a huge difference. For the split seconds, you forget how bushed you are. ‘You smile at the world and the world will smile with you.’ Now imagine meeting one tourist every 3 seconds. In one minute, I smiled for 20 seconds. Meaning, the travelling was more pleasing. It’s not just about tourists. The locals treated us the same. They were ecstatic to see the local tourists and treated us very well everywhere. Considerable discounts were provided on the hotels and lodges. They conversed with us about our hometowns, our jobs, and studies and even shared a view about politics. Moreover, we shared love. Isn’t our lives lacking love? Are we loving enough? Haven’t we become too self-centered to even wave at our neighbour or smile at them? Aren’t we lacking the essence of life? How can we reap happiness when we sow revulsion in our heart? “Let us make one point, that we meet each other with a smile, when it is difficult to smile.” – Mother Teresa.
As I was edging close to the ABC, I went through the tremendous emotional turbulence. I was euphoric as well as hollow within. Some astounding feelings overwhelmed my heart and mind. I could hardly prognosticate the situation I was going through. I was dumbfounded. As I reached ABC, I figured out what was wrong with me. I wanted to stay there forever and at the same time, I wanted to come back home to my loved ones. I remembered my family: parents and siblings, I missed my beloved one and my buddies. I evoked all the sweets moments with them. Their laughs, smile and their certain reaction to magnificence. I recalled how they would react after they saw what was just inches in front of me (the Annapurna). How I wished they were there with me. I have been recluse most of my life. I love solitary. I avoid crowds. Even at my own home, I am always found inside my room alone. Thus, I was astonished (despite my nature) to fathom that I wanted to be with my loved ones to share my exhilaration. Mayhap, I comprehended the true meaning of happiness then. I thought of the quote from the book ‘Into the Wild’ by Christopher McCandless and smiled big. “Happiness only real when shared.” My travelling companions with me in the ABC discerned my smile. Little did they know the genuine reason behind it.