I love Nepal. I have loved her since the day I met her. Our first meeting wasn’t easy. A failed attempt to mimick a friend, Sorrel Wilby, by undertaking a very risky solo adventure across icy mountains. Humility at the decision to turn back 3 hours into that 30 day trip just because of an omen. Simply I decided that I didn’t want to die walking through mountains for no good reason. It was in fact my first taste of the idea that there may be a reason for living greater than myself. Me, me and I were my favourite words until that moment.
The real reason I was in Nepal in the first place was because of that obsession with me, me and I. But that’s another story. But I do remember saying a few years later, “I climbed a mountain in Nepal trying to find myself. I found that I was the same person at the top as I was at the bottom, a very disappointing result given where I was at.”
50 trips to Nepal later, I’ve slipped, broken bits, caught pleurisy 10 times, suffered spine damage that’s kept me in and about of hospital for the past five years and is about to become a significant surgical procedure. I’ve fallen in love with a Nepali Sherpani and become engaged, and I’ve busted my butt in freezing snow storms, searing heat and intolerable tummy bugs from Kathmadu. But it’s been worth it. And there’s a great reason why.
I didn’t do it for me.
That first trip taught me that you have to have a reason to do stuff that’s tough in life, like bring up babies, wrestle with traffic, deal with violence – that’s bigger than you. They call it a purpose but I call it a person. You need to have someone in the world, sometimes tens. Of thousands of persons in the world, that you do things for. Those fifty extra trips to Nepal were to take other “persons” to experience what I’d experienced, to feel what I felt, to learn what I’d learnt, walking along safe trails, in the foothills of Mt Everest, in the Himalays of Nepal.
When that first trip failed, I had 30 days up my sleeve, gear up my kazoo and money I didn’t spend on helicopters. I asked Pandi, my Kathmandu host and now friend what to do and the next thing I knew I was on a bus to Jiri, a small miserable outpost where porters pick up loads and walk to deliver them to the bars and restaurants of the mountains.
It’s a hard slog from there up to Namche Bazaar. Most tourists fly over it and straight to Lukla. Understandably so, especially since Lukla got itself a bitumen landing strip which, did nothing to change the reputation of Lukla as the most dangerous airstrip in the world, but makes it less bumpy to land. So, back when my spine didn’t know better I put a 25kg pack on, and single handedly trudged side by side with men and women half my size carrying twice the weight, up and down the foothills, ascending and descending roughly the height of Mt Everest, just to get t the half way mark of the Everest base camp trek.
Alone, you meet people. You meet other backpackers, locals, and trouble. I learnt the hard way that Tibetan Butter tea causes an extreme bowel cleanse better than Picoprep. I learnt that where tourist are with wealth, robbers are waiting with a life or death proposition. And I learnt to cry, alone and console myself. And to be brave, and trust my judgement, and love unconditionally.
I’m not totally sure how it all happened. That trip, 30 days in the mountains alone, living in huts, carrying too much luggage, getting smashed with near pneumonia and ending up in the Hillary rescue hospital, meeting monks and nuns of the greatest joy, and being surrounded by mountains that are so high that it hurts your neck to keep looking up at them.
Must close now. More of this to come.