Everyone has heard the saying, "It’s about the journey. not the destination", but how many people actually believe it? I know four years ago, it was something I struggled with.
You see, for me I love a good challenge. I like to complete tasks, and it feels good when I reach the end and accomplish what I set out to do.
So, when Anthony and I decided to trek to Mount Everest Base Camp four years ago, there was that instant spark inside me that was excited to complete such a task. To say I trekked to Base Camp would be an awesome feeling. I know it’s not the summit or anything, but still, the bottom of the highest mountain in the world? That’s pretty impressive!
We ended up booking with Gecko’s Adventures on their 16 Day Everest Base Camp Tour. Once we arrived in Kathmandu from India, we instantly bonded with our group and guide and were excited for our imminent adventure. A day later we flew into Lukla and started our walk to the highest mountain in the world.
I remember, as I was walking along the trail I felt like a kid going to the zoo or something for the first time. Whenever I spotted the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas I would let out a squeal of excitement. Australia does not have mountains like the Himalayas, so I was constantly looking up admiring these geographic formations.
On day three of the trek we reached Namache Bazzar, also known as the gateway to the Himalayas. It was a hard day’s walk up a long, steep hill. This town is located 3500 metres above sea level and it was here we were going to stop for 2 days so we could properly acclimatised.
Namache Bazaar also marked the start of my severe altitude sickness.
I was feeling nauseous pretty much as soon as I reached the town. I was finding it hard to breathe and it felt like my head had been rammed into a wall.
To prevent getting altitude sickness I had been taking Diamox and also ordering plenty of garlic soup, but from Namache Bazaar onwards either did little to help me.
It only got worse.
Anthony and I ended up having to be split up from the group and walk a slightly different track each day with one of the secondary guides because I was feeling so sick.
Walking was so hard for me, I was taking baby steps and often having to stop for rests. I’d lost my appetite and was constantly vomiting on the trail. At night, Ant said he had trouble sleeping because my breathing was so erratic there were times I wouldn’t take a breath for so long he was afraid that I'd stopped breathing.
But I pushed myself onwards. I had to reach Base Camp.
I was only one day away from Base camp before I had to stop. It was a small village just past Dinbouche. It had gotten to the point where I had to put my health before the destination.
That night in the cold room of our guest house I cried. I felt like I had let myself down, I felt guilty for stopping Anthony reaching Base Camp and felt like a pain in the ass for the guide who was stuck with me.
It was only days later as we were making the slow descent back to Namache Bazaar, that some words out of my guide Phuri’s mouth pulled me out of the rut. He gently reminded me of the clichéd saying that the trek wasn’t about destination, it was the journey.
And he was right. No matter how badly I wanted to reach base camp, I had to think of all the other wonderful experiences I had along the way (minus feeling like death from the altitude sickness!)
We’d spoken to monks in the monastery of Thaynbouche, played cards with kids at night in the small guesthouses and seen some of the most breathtaking mountain scenery of my life - especially Ama Dablam.
While I was envious of the rest of the group who did reach base camp and hike up further to Kala Patar for the views of Everest, I was still enthralled by their recounts and ogled over their photos.
I began to learn that it didn’t matter that I hadn’t reached Base Camp…I’d trekked the Himalayas! If I couldn’t be happy with that then I really needed to reassess my values in life.
When I returned back to Sydney and had to retell my story to my friends and family, the first question out of their mouth was always “So, when will you go back and finish it?”
My answer to them was always the same “I’m not going back”
Not because I didn’t enjoy my time, or am afraid I will get sick again, but over time I've realised that it wasn’t about ‘finishing’ or ‘doing’ Base Camp. As corny as it does sound, my experience really became about the journey. Maybe that’s just an excuse for someone who didn’t make it, but it suits me just fine.
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