‘If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?’- Bread in their song ‘If’.
That is precisely how I feel about the once-in-a-lifetime trek to the Everest Base Camp (EBC) that I embarked on recently. A thousand pictures, or an amount of writing equivalent to a 588-page book, can’t completely illustrate the wonderful experiences that the journey had endowed me with. How can I put it into words? Where do I start? When I checked my mailbox today, I saw the postcards I sent to myself from Kathmandu and Namche Bazaar (one of the points where we spent some nights during the trek). A smile crept on my face as beautiful memories from the trip wormed their way into my mind…
It all began when I came across in a local newspaper a black-and-white picture of a long suspension bridge erected high up in the mountains and across deep chasms, with the caption describing a trek in the Himalayan region of Nepal. It instantly piqued my curiosity. My interest was so intense that I spent the next few days making the necessary arrangements. Four months passed, and I was in the Khumbu region (homeland of the Sherpa), face-to-face with the adventure I had signed myself up for.
I wish I could wholly depict the beauty of the trek’s physical environment in words. A shortfall on my part could do a grave disservice to the grandeur of the Khumbu region (also known as the Everest region). A wild river with its raging currents snaked through the area.
The vegetation consisted of a diverse range of lowland and highland species; I was very lucky to have witnessed the bloom of the national flower of Nepal, the Rhododendron, when I was there.
The little towns/villages with their colorful buildings dotted the trekking route.
Snow-capped peaks loomed large in the distance, some of which are the world’s tallest. At higher points of the trek, I constantly feasted my eyes on the splendor of Ama Dablam.
Mount Everest was quite ‘stingy’ in making an appearance to people who had traveled near and far for its summit and base camp. I had my very first glimpse of a section of it in Tengboche, and it was truly a sight to behold! Again, a small part of it fed our hungry eyes on our way to and back from the Everest Base Camp.
I set my eyes on Mount Everest for the third and last time when I attempted the trek toward Kala Pattar at dawn. I was told that was the point where one could be rewarded with a view of 65% of the world’s highest mountain. I was determined to go as far as I could. The weather was not hospitable for the sunrise trek. It was snowing and brutally cold; the wind was howling, and I was physically sick. We were supposed to be able to see Mount Everest, but the clouds obstructed the visibility. The trek became something more than I could handle. I had to give up after 20% of the trek. A part of me was disappointed with myself for falling sick (of all the days, why today?! Of course, it was beyond my control!). Another part of me felt incomplete because the ‘mission’ was not accomplished. I slowly made my way down to the teahouse, with a guide who had walked with me for most parts of the trek. At one point, he said to me ‘look, the clouds have cleared’. My eyes followed the direction of his finger, and there, looming large in the distance, was a pyramid-shaped section of Mount Everest, with some rays of sun illuminating it. I felt the hands of clock had stopped ticking right there and then. It was just me, my guide and that small section of the world’s highest mountain. Despite my sickness, I let myself stare at it for I-don’t-know-how-long. It was not my first sight of it, but the moment was beyond-words beautiful and meaningful for me. It was so deep that my eyes went teary. A way to see it was that the Mother Nature showed mercy on me…
I imagined the great mountains and mighty river must have witnessed thousands of trekkers trudging through the rugged terrain of the region over the years. I described them as my most faithful travel companions. When I could not see them, I knew in my heart that they were there. The mountains were just behind the clouds, and the sound of the river’s raging currents told me it was there all along. Without a doubt, the region is a place of serenity, peace and beauty.
John Steinbeck said in his novel ‘Travels with Charley: In Search of America’ that a journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. I have previously done a number of treks. But as perfectly described by the author, the EBC trek has its own personality, atmosphere, and the experiences it has given me are novel and intimate.
The cultural landscape of the region and the people with whom I encountered all added to the depth of my EBC journey. Their contribution is so great that they inspire me to write a separate (my next) article.