Over the next seven days I had a rollercoaster experience – met some wonderful people, saw some spectacular sights and accumulated several simple yet powerful insights on life.
1. Take small steps
We got off our jeep on a hill side road and when I asked the guide where we had to go he pointed up the hill and started walking. As I gazed up with trepidation at the 30 degree incline our guide was disappearing into, my only way of overcoming panic was to bound up the slope after him. (If I had hesitated longer, I might have been heading back to base camp on the jeep that dropped us). By the fourth step I found myself slipping, sliding and stumbling till a sharp voice behind me exclaimed, “Takesmaller steps!” And sure enough things got a little better.
2. “Move with Commitment”
Even as I was following my ‘smaller steps’ policy, there were patches of loose mud and gravel over which my feet continued to slide. Just when I thought that I would have to get down on all fours, our guide Gyandev gently said, “Jamm ke rakhiye, koi dikkat nahi hoga”. And so instead of hesitant, furtive steps, my shoes came down with a more committed thump – and the results showed immediately - and I managed to steadily haul myself up the first slope without any damage.
3. Trust Yourself
So, as we forged higher and higher up the rough paths, (with small, firm steps!) my confidence too began steadily pointed upward. Till suddenly sometime on Day 2, the walking trail narrowed into a muddy, slippery, 18 inch ledge. Now this stretch extended only for a few feet and 18 inches is pretty much enough width for someone to walk in a straight line – except that the ledge tilted ever so slightly to the left, and after the 18 inches was a stony drop of about 18 feet! I stood frozen on the thinning path, peering down at the drop my left till someone said, “Just walk across normally – trust your feet”. A few seconds later I was safely on the other side, but had to pause several minutes to wait for my heart to complete its downward journey from my mouth.
4. Respect your constraints
The group had people of differing ability. Some found the ‘moderate’ trek an absolute cakewalk. Others struggled a bit. We had decided that the group would stick together and hence the pace was set by the slower trekkers. Every now and then the quicker walkers would stop and wait for the stragglers, before resuming.
Day 3 and 4 of our trek threatened to be very tough. Both days involved distances and continuously steep ascents to 14000 feet. By the end of second day it was felt that some members of the team would find it very exhausting to complete the trail before sundown (after which walking would be quite unsafe). Given this constraint everyone accepted the suggestion to reroute the trek through whereby the group remained together on a relatively do-able trail at around 12100 feet. (As it turned out, one of the fitter members developed mild altitude sickness and it would have been risky to climb higher anyway.)
5. It really pays to stick it out!
There would be many occasions during the trek where the moving stones, mud, thorns, logs, snow, slush and mule dung would get to me. Hours of climbing, descending, slipping, sliding, falling, plodding, stumbling, balancing, (where a single false step could result in a twisted ankle) would sometimes make me think to myself, “What on earth am I doing here?!”.