Ups and downs

During the project we set off into the mountains on a daily basis. However, it is nothing compared to the opportunity of trekking through the Himalayas during our free time on the weekends. This is where the real adventure is! It offers you a chance to face your physical and spiritual weaknesses, as sometimes it is hard to believe that you can climb 3700 masl if you experience problems with breathing 700 meters below. But the treks we undertook to the higher parts of the mountains in Annapurna Conservation Area were actually some of the most beautiful moments I have had here.

While trekking in the Himalayas you can really explore the country and its culture. Small villages and temples we passed on our way – everything here is new, fresh and exciting! If you combine it with the company of Nepali friends who will be able to explain to you what exactly are those places, when and why people are gathering there, or just tell you what to have for dinner so it is both tasty and healty (garlic soup best for altitude sickness) – it is just worth living for!

You will be able to try sechuan pepper fresh from the bush that will make your tongue and half of your face numb for at least 20 minutes. You might also see monkeys moving from one side of the forest to the other – carrying their babies around and jumping around the trees. Strange nepali raspberry – you might find one on the way to Dobato or Poon Hill – which are delicious, sweet and much longer then the european ones!

But watch out – do not even think about doing all those things alone as not every plant that might remind you of raspberry will be one indeed! Unfortunately or fortunately I recoomend you taking the local guide while trekking around. Why? Isn’t it possible to trek around Annapurna alone? Of course it is, however you will get only partial experience of nepali mountains. You will still get wonderful mountain views and wonderful experience of travel, however you will miss out the majority of cultural experience and whole richness of nepali nature, that only person living here might be able to show you.

When travelling alone you should not taste berries and wild fruit on your travels as this might be dangerous or harmful to your health. For majority of time, you will not be able to see the different species of animals in the forest – lizards that change colour over time or crazy Hoopoe birds that show up only between monsoon and dry seasons. Other than Nepali people, no one will show you where to put flowers on the temple to ask for good weather, luck of health and will take time to prepare you a bamboo stick before a steep descent.

I do not want you to think that it is just a cheap advertisment of Nepali guides. On numerous times I was grateful for having a local person around! I will not even mention the stories being told here and there about the tourists having missed their way to Dobato during the monsoon season – never found, never heard of after departure from the mountain lodge… Is it indeed true? I do not know, however I know that the group of tourists that were killed by the avalanche in Thorong La pass in the Annapurna Circuit where actually warned by local guides not to go due to changing of weather conditions – they did not listen, and they died. So regardless of the fact that if you decide to trek around Nepal with local guide or all by yourself, my advice is just: Listen to the local people and be open to the wisdom and knowledge of those who have spent their whole lives in the Himalayas.

One more piece of advice would be to that when you trek in Himalayas leave your pride at the foot of the mountain! Mountains and especially the HIMALAYAN mountains, they teach us humility. Everyday we rush, we aspire to be first when it comes to work, professional achievements or even family life – best mum, best daughter, best, best… I have been there, done that. This kind of attitude is not the one you want to take with you for the Himalayan trek. Here is how it works otherwise – sometimes it is just useless to rush as you might miss the beauty around you! Sometimes it is just good to accept your weaknesses – I just do not feel strong enought to walk so fast, I am the last one, it really does not matter – I will get there either way! It is not a competition. Sometimes it’s crucial to recieve help from someone when you are struggling on the ascent. We would normally prefer to give than to take – giving is simple. Depending on others makes us feel weak and vulnerable and this is not a pleasant feeling. Today I want to encourage you all to start loving your weaknesses – it is thanks to them we open up to other people. This is something I have learnt while exploring the Himalayas. In the next two weeks I will be heading to Everest Base Camp. Am I scared? Maybe a bit! But I am also really excited and I plan to leave my pride at home and just cherish every moment of this trek and every possibility to be close to the nature!

In conclusion, a small story as an incentive to keep on trekking even though sometimes it may be hard… After trekking for 8 hours we finally got to Dobato 3400 meters above sea level. We ascended 1400m during the day. We were dirty, sweaty and really tired. Luckily, there was a hot shower and warm food in the place we stayed. So we demolished garlic soup, noodles and drank wonderful Nepali lemon tea. Suddenly, the sky got darker and cloudy – a minute later, there was lightning. Just for a second, the cloud became this huge lamp on the sky, enabling us to see the Annapurna’s summit on the horizon. Next came lightning and then thunder! The moon was up in the sky and it was almost full. I took a picture and it is nothing compared to reality!

Author: Joanna Zubkow

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