I can honestly say that Everest Base Camp was never on my radar as a holiday destination. Before visiting Nepal, I had never really hiked for more than an hour and I had no real desire to further dabble in the pastime.
Trekking to Everest Base Camp was in fact my boyfriend’s idea. He suggested we join a group of close friends and absolute strangers on a 20-day trek of the Himalayas.
And being a supporting partner, I agreed, thinking the whole thing would never eventuate. I was soon to be proven wrong.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to Nepal. I was just concerned with my mental fitness (more so than the level of fitness required for the adventure). Unlike my partner and a lot of our friends joining us on the trek, I tend to err more on the introverted side of the personality spectrum. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy in social situations and interactions. I like people.
I just also enjoy not being around people. Think of me as the slow-cooker variety of personalities; It’s not until several hours (years) after switching me on (getting to know me) that the chicken gets cooked (I get interesting).
Until now I’d successfully avoided group travel. Most of my past adventures had been either by myself or with a carefully selected other. When I did find myself in larger group situations, I relished the free time moments, when I could go exploring and get lost in the side streets and back alleys away from my companions, on my own time and at my own pace.
Trekking through the Himalayas for 20 days in a group meant no escaping to little nooks or quiet alone time. The panic alarms were sounding in my head. I was anxious. I was nervous. I thought I would end up being the complete weirdo of the group. I was wrong (again).
The connections formed during the trek, I realised, play out like a giant game of join the dots; the group connected by forming bonds between similarities and shared experiences, whilst being part of something much bigger than all of us. We were connected to each other and to the place: the incredible Khumbu region of Nepal.
Sure, I knew some of these people before embarking. But by spending so much time with each of them, sun up to sun down, without the distractions or boundaries of social media and online life, I was able to learn so much about them, and myself.
I learnt that my partner is afraid of heights. And by afraid, I mean the fear of 1000 men. I discovered the depth of this fear when it came time to cross a suspension bridge, known simply as ‘The High Bridge’. It hangs 60 metres above the extreme white waters of the Dudh Kosi (Milk River) and is built high to avoid being washed away yearly by floodwaters.
I have never, in my entire time of being, seen anyone turn such a shade of white or move so quickly and determinedly across a bridge. But I also learnt that, as a person, my partner had an unshakeable determination to overcome his own insecurities and get stuff done.
I also learnt that one of our guides, Mingma Sherpa, had in fact summited Everest only several years earlier. Mingma was of the Sherpa people, an ethnicity from the mountainous Khumbu region, high in the Himalayas. Genetically and physiologically, Sherpa people are equip for mountaineering; their bodies function extraordinarily well at high altitudes. Their agility and natural ability to adapt is held in great regard by the international climbing community.
I learnt how to get fully naked and clean my whole body with just a bowl of water in less than 20 minutes…all whilst sharing a room.
I learnt that physical strength and fitness may get you to the trek, but only listening to your guide and taking each step as it comes will get you to Base Camp.
I learnt just how quickly these friends, some old and some new, will turn into your own personal cheer squad, if it means getting you up that mountain (or in my partners case, across that bridge).
It was these connections that pushed each and everyone one of us to take a few more steps when sometimes all we wanted to do was sit on the nearest rock and cry. It was these connections that made us laugh uncontrollably, when again, all we wanted to do was sit on the nearest rock and cry. It with these connections that I was lucky enough to share some of my fondest memories and proudest accomplishments: trekking to the highest point on the trail – Kala Pattar’s peak that stands 5,644 metres above sea level; every single day, being witness to breathtaking views; meeting the Khumbu people of Nepal that are equal parts beautiful and wise.
I learnt the pride the Nepalese have for the Khumbu and how enthusiastic they are to share it with travellers. I learnt to respect both the path we tread and those with whom we shared it.