My group, including three other trekkers, a yoga teacher, a guide and four porters, is driven to the small town of Naya Pul from the pretty town of Pokhara. The pace on the first day is slow and steady as we give our bodies the chance to adjust to the higher altitude. The scenery is spectacular; the cliff side villages give way to mountain greenery, waterfalls and swinging bridges covered in colourful prayer flags. After we arrive at the tea house where we’ll spend the night, our group takes the opportunity to sun-bake on the lawn and get to know each other. But the ease of the first day gives me a false sense of security….I have no idea how tough some of the days are to come.
Starting every day with a yoga practice is the perfect way to warm up our sore muscles, as well as prepare us for what is ahead. Our teacher, Mahesh, embodies many of the things I love about yoga. Calm, present, patient and spiritual, he is the perfect guide on this journey. Every morning he takes us through meditation, wrapped in blankets to protect against the cool mountain air. As I sit on my yoga mat, I try not to be distracted by the spectacular views just over Mahesh’ shoulder.
The trek though is almost 80 kms and reality certainly hits on day 3 of the trek (which later we laughingly refer to as The Unmentionable Day). A 4am start in the freezing cold and pitch black to climb up Poon Hill (elevation 3210m) for the glorious sunrise leaves me struggling for breath but the view makes the climb absolutely worth it.
Anyone who’s done a lot of trekking will tell you; it’s not going up that’s the hardest, it’s coming down and I’ve made a tactical error by not bringing any walking sticks. And on day 3, there’s a lot of coming down. It’s a humbling experience; instead of taking my usual place at the front of the group, I find myself at the back. At one point I ask Sumit, our trainee Yoga teacher, if I’m the slowest person he’s trekked with and am happy when he says no, there was one other person slower. “What was she, 65 years old?” I quip. “No, 82,” he answers with an earnest smile.
With walking sticks now in hand, we continue to move towards our goal of Annapurna Base Camp (elevation over 4,100m). We trek along river banks, through valleys and over rocky passes. The trekking itself becomes a walking meditation; an exercise in the art of presence. And while on this occasion there is a goal, I’m only going to get there one step at a time.
On day 6, Base Camp is in sight. We trek the final hours with snow crunching under our feet, but the sun warming our backs. Struggling up the last few steps, we are rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views of snow capped mountains and a perfectly clear blue sky. The majesty of the surroundings is accompanied by the sound of avalanches rumbling in the distance, giving the whole experience an other-worldly feel.
It’s a challenging journey, but I get so much out of it, testing the body, mind and spirit. Being out in nature brings me back to myself and it’s impossible not to learn some life lessons along the way.
The above has been excerpted from a story that was originally published in Australian Yoga Journal and later reposted on the author’s blog. Click here to read the full story.