A letter sent to my friends, October 2008.
last couple of weeks:
1. I walked 140 km in 12 days
2. I climbed to the imaginary height of 5416 meter and crossed what is known to be the world’s largest pass
3. I sustained the impossible weather of -15 degrees Celsius in dormitories at the most remote settlements of the Himalayas – villages where only 10- 15 families live, always with no heating in the rooms, sometimes with no electricity at all at.
4. Me, who wakes up when someones open a door at the apartment next door, slept in dormitories with three more people – all snoring, farting and barbing (because the food was most of the time impossible)
Before I go on I would like to remind everyone in this mail group that this was my first ever trek and that I am not one of those people who like to climb mountains, trek, camp or do any other extreme sports. I am not an athlete. I am not regularly involved in mountain cycling, diving or triathlon nor do I train for the marathon, navigate, jump to high or far distances or even lift weights at the gym. I did attend spinning classed three times a week for the past two years yet almost everybody whom I met on the circuit is involved in one or more of the activities listed above.
So, as you can imagine, I struggled allot. I must admit, and those who truly know me would probably understand exactly what I mean when I say that till the last day I couldn’t understand “what the hell I was doing there” and how did that happen to me. Many moments seemed to me like a dream and sometimes a nightmare: cliimbing mountains with heavy luggage on my back, sleeping in a sleeping bag in a dormitory with terrible conditions in extremely high altitudes with no heating in the room. Sometimes I didn’t shower for two-three days because there were no hot water. I struggled daily and especially nightly with the cold weather, developed blisters, in growing toenails, flu and bronchitis.
I know that already sounds like I had lots of fun but wait – there’s more to come….
I still have no answer as to if or why I wanted to cross the world’s largest pass and am not sure I even understand what it actually means. What I do know is that the on the day I crossed the pass (5416 meters) I actually put my body in the most extreme physical conditions I was ever exposed to: extremely high altitudes, -15 degrees outside and very very very strong winds. I was down with the flu and also had all the symptoms of altitude sickness which meant I was struggling for every breath as the oxygen level was so limited. On top of the horrific conditions I was also climbing some 1000 meters in three hours at one of the steepest climbs of the route. What a nightmare!!!!
Now I am going to surprise you and try to explain how come I actually did enjoyed the trek and why sometimes I was jumping, walked really fast, tanned in the sun and danced Salsa at altitudes of 4000 meters.
The obvios reason is that the views were just spectacular but this is an insofficient answer so I will try harder
First of all I must admit I did take a few shortcuts that helped me to continue the trek:
1. After two days of trekking and approximately 25 km of carrying my own backpack I made the smartest decision of the last month and hired a porter to carry my backpack. I honestly don’t think I would have been able to continue without Ste’s (my Porter’s name) help and it was probably the most well spent 30 nis a day in the past year.
2. On the day we crossed the world’s largest pass I felt seriously physically sick as described above, yet I was determined not to return and so I did an act which shocked all the divers, thriatlons and marathon runners who were crossing the pass with me at the same day and hired what I thought to be a horse, though some of my friends claim it was actually a donkey. And so, I actually crossed the pass while sitting on a horse who took me over the last 400 meters. This “bold” and “against the rules” act granted me the nickname “Princess”.
3. On day 13 I decided that 2/3 of the circuit and 140 km is more than enough for me and decided to cut short (If I was to complete the circuit I would have walked 210 km in 17 days). I was lucky enough to receive a sit on an airplane the next morning and just flew away to Pokara.
What else made me so happy on the trail? I realized that trekking felt to me many times as a meditative act. I had to pay allot of attention as to where I put my leg so I will not slip or twist my ankle. Most of the times I found myself so concentrqated on my steps that I had no idea where the trail was going, I was so focused on the present moment over and over and over again which felt to me as a very meditative experience.
Nontheless, the main reason I found myself so happy so many times in the midst of this potential nightmare was the people who surrounded me: Jonas from Sweden (whom we named “The Zohan” and if you haven’t seen the movie go and see!!!!), Annette from Australia and Daniel from Wales.
You can imagine that 12 days of traveling with the same four people yield different types of intensive interactions. It was just the five of us (four friends and my porter), with no guide and for many days not allot of other travellers, which means we had mostly just ourselves and that was the beautiful part. Once again I was reminded that complete strangers and people I’ve just met a day or two previously can become genuinely good and true friends. These people which I hardly knew, remained by my side, tuned their pace with mine and promised they will not leave me behind although I am not a climber or a trekker and that no matter how slow I walk or how weak I was they are there with me. On the other hand I also had some good opportunities to take care of my friends – make sure they are healthy, give massages (I knew that sometime I would find good use to the Thai massage course), fix room service to sick friends, listen and entertain others when needed. These people and our interactions made this whole experience worthwhile and they were the reason for me laughing, jumping and dancing in high altitudes.
Out of the four people I traveled with I developed a very special relationship with Daniel who turned out to be very important for me. In fact, I would probably not be doing the circuit at all if it wasn’t for Daniel as I only planned to do a 7 days easy trek, but I met him on the plan from Bangkok and the rest is already history. I do know that Daniel’s presence and friendship and the intensive relationship we’ve developed over the past three weeks has turned the Nepali experience so far and of course the trek into a truly positive and unforgettable adventure for me.
When I reread the last few paragraphs I realize that once again I regard the interactions I have with people that I meet on my way as the highlights of my journey and I do mean every single word written or unwritten here.
Me and Daniel landed in Pokara on Monday after two weeks of complete detachment from the world. We had a minor culture shock when exposed to the noises of people and traffic, sounds of music, mobile phones, and even the noises of preparing food as for two weeks we experienced complete silence with hardly any background voices.
We were also amazed to learn that terrorists killed some 200 people in Mumbai and that hundreds of thousands of people were unable to leave Thailand for a week due to the closure of the international airport in Thailand or as my mom wrote “the world had gone mad”. In fact, I think that only once returned to “reality” I realized how significant the treking experience was for me and how big an adventure it was.
Finally, I would like to explain the headline of this letter and say that “old bird” is a way that Welsh people sometimes refer their mothers. I thought it was quite funny, especially in the Hebrew translation.
One last word is that I will be entering the Vipassana retreat within the coming week. I am actually heading towards Lumbini tomorrow but I do need some more days for proper goodbyes. You are welcome to mail, text either my Israeli or Nepali numbers or call me for very cheap via skype on my Nepali mobile phone. Beginning next week I will be inaccessible for a period of one hundred days (and although t could be more or less that is the plan for now). I will probably write an other mail just before I enter “Hotel California” and will try and contact some of you in person over the phone yet I will be more than happy to hear from each and everyone of you in the next few days.
Till the next time,
Lots of love,
Your bird, the Princess – Adva