“For every unhappiness, there is an equal and opposite happiness.”
To be able to attain one state, you must expose yourself to its opposite.
Is that why some people choose to expose themselves to the harshest conditions possible? Do they venture into the depths of nature’s most powerful forces so that the chaos outside enables them to find peace on the inside?
I don’t mean to sound unnecessarily profound, but these were my exact thoughts as our miniature plane passed by the colossal peaks of the Himalayas. As the plane fluttered in the breeze like a butterfly’s wing, I thought of all the people who attempted to summit these peaks, wondering what their true intentions were.
The trail to Everest Base Camp (EBC), or as a great man (me) would call it later, ‘the trail to the snake’s head’, begins at a place known as Lukla. I met the group that I would be trekking with in Kathmandu and from there we flew on a 14-seater plane to Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla. Incidentally, this airport is fondly referred to by many as the world’s most dangerous airport, since its sloping runway literally ends on a cliff.
I’ll be honest here, that plane ride gave me one hell of an adrenaline rush. When we were approaching the cliff on which the runway was, I was already saying my prayers. I was also parallelly thinking about what I would be having for breakfast (strange how that works).
After landing, we had a quick breakfast and began our trek. Lukla is at an elevation of 2,860m and our destination for the day was a place known as Phakding, which is 2,610m high. Although Phakding is technically lower than Lukla, we still had to cross quite a few uphill stretches before descending. Being no stranger to trekking in the mountains, I really enjoyed this day.
One thing that really struck me when I was on the trail was how simple things were. If you want to reach your destination, you follow the trail. If you feel thirsty, you stop and drink. If you feel hungry, you stop and snack. If your skin burns, you apply sunscreen. Everything was in black and white and there was no grey area- we all knew what we had to do. The lives that we lead today, however, are not as simple as that. We’ve complicated things so much for ourselves that we now literally live in a grey area, where a lot of things aren’t clearly defined. Whether this is a good thing or not, I’m still not yet fully sure of.
On the way to Phakding, we crossed several suspension bridges, Buddhist prayer wheels and even some bars. Our meals for the day consisted of a Nepalese version of dal and rice since they are easy to digest and give you the energy that you need. While walking, I took the time to get to know a little bit about our 2 Sherpa guides. They had ferried groups from Lukla to EBC and back countless times by now. This trail was their life.
We were also joined by John, a 40 something American guy who was heading to EBC to try and summit Mt. Everest. He had some nice stories to tell, especially the one about his colleague whose father was in the Italian Mafia. That made me think of lasagne.
By the evening, we finally reached Sunrise Lodge in Phakding. It was a small lodge that provided us with the most basic of amenities.
Our arrival in Phakding marked the end of our first day. For me, it would also mark the last time that I would have a bath for the next 9 days. At this point, it may also interest you to know that I did not carry a deodorant with me.