Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Columbia Expedition 100 - Annapurna Base Camp (Part 3)

"In the mountains, worldly attachments are left behind, and in the absence of material distractions, we are opened up to spiritual thought. We should be attempting to carry the spiritual experience of the mountains with us everywhere."
— Jamling Tenzing Norgay
I agree whole-heartedly with the above sentiment. But, just what are some of these spiritual thoughts that we should apply in our everyday lives? Here's my take on it: 

1) Be open to getting to know new people and discovering new experiences

The best part of the trip for me was making new friends; People from various age groups, professions and life experiences. I love talking to Rahul about his previous stint as a UNHCR worker who was tasked with processing asylum seekers, or to Alif, about his experience doing relief work in Sudan, or to Kak Sarah, who seems to have travelled to all four corners of the world, or to Kak Maznah, the solo-adventurer extraordinaire, who has reached K2 Base Camp and has travelled the famed Silk Road via rail.

In the absence of internet connection, our phones were tucked away (except when taking pictures) and deep conversations happened. In a short span of time, strangers became friends; People who wouldn't have otherwise met, if not for this expedition.

I love this words penned by @pakatanbejalan:
Digunung kehidupan mudah
Kita sandarkan kepercayaan kita
Kepada teman sependakian
Kita satukan frekuensi kita
Agar segalanya sempurna
Aku kau dan kalian, menjadi kita
Apa yang aku tidak tahu, kau ajari
Apa yang kau tidak tahu, aku kongsi
Kau dan aku sama, ianya kita
Tiada yang hadapan, tiada yang belakang
Kita bersama bermula dan pulang
Dan hari ini,
Hari terakhir kita menjadi kita
Pulangnya nanti, kau kau dan aku aku
Kita itu akan hilang perlahan-lahan
Kerna kita itu kini hanya tinggal kenangan
Ya, kita pulang dan kita itu akan hilang
Semoga rasa kita itu, kekal selamanya.
It's so true, isn't it? In the mountains, you rely on your teammates (i.e. teman sependakian) and become firm friends with them. But once the trip is over, you go your separate ways: "kau kau dan aku aku, kita itu akan hilang perlahan-lahan". We may promise to keep in touch but our respective lives and responsibilities will eventually take over. Despite this inevitability,  I do fervently hope that: "Semoga rasa kita itu, kekal selamanya".

2) Be clear and steadfast to your goals

Hiking is a simple affair. You need to reach your summit or your destination and then you have to get down. Every day, you're supposed to make it to your pit stop. Your feet or knees may hurt, you may have a slight or severe headache, you may be rendered exhausted by diarrhea or vomiting - whatever it is, you have to follow the plan and make it to the predetermined stops, whether you feel like it or not. This state of mind teaches you that, in life, the important thing is to just keep moving and to put one foot in front of the other.

3) Eschew materialism & be grateful for small things

Because you packed and unpacked your stuff every day, and because you didn't want to be burdened by a heavy load, you carried only the essential items with you. You then realised that you need very little to survive and that having more stuff is actually impractical and cumbersome.

Further, when you witnessed poor standards of living among the locals (frequent blackouts, unpaved roads, disruptions to water supply, general poverty, etc.), you learn to complain less and appreciate the blessings in your life more. 

4) Appreciate nature

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."
—Albert Einstein

I've found that soaking in nature heals the soul. Make time to do this, as often as possible. 


5) Resign control and be prepared to get knocked out of your comfort zone

I thought I had it all figured out. Since I had been to Nepal last year, I knew what to expect this time round. I thought I was well-prepared: I had my sambal ikan bilis to make some of the dishes spicier, I had my spray to facilitate ablution in the sub-zero temperatures, and I knew what to pack more of and what to pack less of.
"A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you can control it."
—John Steinbeck
Steinbeck was right: Though I had packed enough of everything, there were some things that I couldn't have anticipated nor be prepared for.

The ABC wasn't as hard as the Gosaikunda Trek; in fact on some days, we only trekked for 3 to 4 hours. But though the hiking part was manageable, the weather was not. It was so cold that I had trouble sleeping on most nights. And waking up in the middle of the night to use the toilet was a teeth-chattering affair.

I've learnt that the best way to approach future trips, or life for that matter, is to make the best preparations possible but to expect that some things will go awry. What's a good story without interesting conflicts and unexpected plot twists, right? 😉


A shout-out to my amazing Group 2 members: Hadi, Umar, Faizal, Shirley, Afifza, Adrian, Boon, Alex, James, Thaya, Rahul, Aw, Caesar, Hema, Dr. Prathaban, Prasyaanth , and the 9 ASTRO crew members. You guys have made the trip so much fun! I'm privileged to have met all of you and be the recipient of your kindness and generosity 😘

Congrats to the organisers, especially NEX, for pulling off a difficult, if not impossible task of managing 100+ hikers to reach ABC. Thank you Adrian, Adeline, Koya, Sarah, Shariman & Kamal for putting up with our many enquiries and requests.

Lastly, to my travelling companions: Hadi, Umar & Faizal, thank you for helping me in so many ways:
  • For trying to bargain on my behalf when I wanted to buy a dry sack (though I probably sabotaged your efforts when I immediately took out my purse to pay for it when the seller quoted his starting price 🤣).
  • For ascertaining the qiblat whenever it was time to pray and looking up the prayer times
  • For allowing me to share your hotspot
  • Hadi, for taking good pictures of us. Though taking your pictures can sometimes be stressful because of your demanding standards 😝, we are indebted to you and your phone for the instagram-worthy pictures 👍
  • For walking with me even though I told you guys, you didn't have to.
  • For the marble cookies and coffee
  • For the Into Thin Air book
  • And for helping me to adjust my backpack straps when my shoulders hurt

You guys have been awesome (though you annoyed me sometimes with your constant bickering hahaha). So kosong-kosong eh. Sorry if I had been a less-than-ideal travelling buddy.

They say that the best adventure is always the next one. So let's start planning our 2018 exploits!


To read more about Columbia Expedition 100, check out the following links:
1) Annapurna Base Camp - here we come!
2) Selangor fan takes love of Red Giants to Annapurna
3) Never say it can't be done!
4) Bawa semangat harmoni

Additionally, you can view the two following videos:

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