The Himalayas (Stairway to Heaven?)
I was introduced to the Himalayas when I was extremely young. I probably didn’t notice it then, but now I realize how lucky I was/am. Since then, I’ve trekked almost every year in the mountains and I don’t quite think my year is complete without it. There’s something about them that stretches beyond the realms of just beauty. Being there is belittling, the sheer magnitude of the mountains reducing your significance to close to nothing, albeit in a good way.
Before I go further, I’ll just spew out a fact or two. There are 14 mountains that exceed 8000 meters in height in the world, and all of them are part of the Himalayan range. It is the youngest mountain range too, and still rises in height by a few centimeters every year. They’re getting taller? Really?
Treks in the Himalayas range in difficulty from stupidly easy 3 day hikes to month long life-sucking ordeals. You can surpass even that level and choose to summit a peak, and move out of the realms of mere difficulty and into the smirking arms of danger. Let me say this, regardless of what you choose to do, the satisfaction and clarity at the end of it is unparalleled. After days of incessant cursing and nursing, once you look back at what you’ve done, you will be proud. I can even apply this on a daily basis.
On an ordinary day in your moderately difficult trek, at a moderate height of 10,000 to 15,000 feet, and you being a moderately fit person, you would walk an average of about 6 to 8 hours, starting off at around 7 in the morning after a quick, light and nutritious breakfast. Lunch would be tiny and to be carried with you. Initially it’s wonderful, and you look forward to the day. Breakfast has settled, birds chirp, a cool sun shines, and the sky is clear. Gradually, an unwanted mixture of heat, perspiration, tiredness, cramps, and sores make their way into your unblemished day. And after hours of walking even after that, you reach your campsite and thump down your sack and collapse onto it. Yes, it certainly feels like an achievement. But here comes the even better part, you now have nothing to do for the next 5 hours of daylight. And you could spend those 5 hours doing relatively select things (since there is no electricity), one of which is write. Or think. Contemplate. Ruminate. Lose yourself. Walk fifteen minutes from the campsite and simply sit, surrounded by a silence broken only by wind and birds and snow-capped majestic mountains. In the night, you can lie down and stare at a sky that is more white than black. A night sky unlike one that you would ever see in a town or city. I guess what I’m really getting at is that trekking, being a physical activity, is obviously good for your body, but a lot of people never take into consideration how great it is for your mind. I would say it’s yet another path to self-discovery. That’s what I meant when I mentioned clarity in the previous paragraph.
The pictures I’ve enclosed are those taken in 2010 when I was in Nepal. They speak volumes themselves, even though I’m not the best photographer.
A point to note is that Nepal has very well organized trekking routes and fixed places to halt at, so camping in a tent is rarer as compared to India, which hasn’t much developed its treks.