Sometimes things just don’t work your way. Maybe you got up on the wrong side of the bed, or the sun decided to hide behind a pocket of clouds, or someone was really mean to you. And that’s how life is. The lows might often outweigh the highs. And, this year has been pretty rough. There were moments when it was hard to see the silver linings. Or hard to learn to let go and breathe. That’s the time, I look back at some of the most difficult moments on our trips, and in a way, it helps me relax. And I realise that if I could do that — I could definitely beat those lows.
I’ve never been good with heights. And I’ve never been the intrepid traveller. But, here’s the thing with trips. You never know what’s in store for you and you never know how you’ll react to a situation. Fear is, probably, the first to cripple you. And when your mind finally decides to take over; you’ll be okay. In 2009, I experienced AMS for the first time in the mountains of Lachung. I refused to take our shared trip, to our hotel, in the main city. With no reservation, in a peak tourist season, a helpful local rented his attic for a night’s stay. The next day, we took local transport to get back. And in many ways, this trip, shaped our later trips. We realised that it’s always best to plan your own trip.
In 2011, we decided to go back to the mountains. The Manali-Leh journey takes you through some pretty high passes and stunning views of the mountains. After three restless nights, and flashbacks of 2009; I reluctantly agreed to this trip. It was not just the breathing or the palpitations, or the dull buzz in my head, or occasional nausea that got to me. Back then, this circuit hadn’t really picked up. The seclusion and silence can be terrifying. And for most of the journey, I was the only girl. Professionally or even in college, it never mattered to me, because I’ve always been one of the boys. But, on such trips, it isn’t the best experience, and trying to look strong isn’t easy. This picture was shot at a pit stop, on a mountain pass, with about 15 men (besides Basil and our driver), and a really sick me. My only thoughts at that moment were to flee. When I look back now, I know how much stronger I am because I faced my fear — of the mountains and fickle human nature.
Sometimes, you just want to get out of a moment. Just let it pass. And while it may look fantastic in pictures, whenever I relive the moment, I wonder if I would ever do it again. The hike along the ‘Great Wall’ was not what I expected it to be. I remember giving up and I remember having a very painful knee (something that motivated me to hike all the more after that), and wanting to be airlifted if possible. I remember, seeing almost everyone else, in our group, making it to the last point. The only thing, on my mind, was to reach back to the base — without injuring my knee any further. And I did make it back and that’s what mattered the most to me.
In Jeju, last month, we took waking very seriously. After a short hike, we stumbled on one of the marked walking trails. And as the sun shone brightly, and it approached lunch time, I remember wondering if we’d ever reach our hotel. Sometimes those feet want to give up and you dream of that soft bed to crash into. And your mind tries hard to convince your foolish feet that it will be over soon. That’s when you have to carry on and chances are you will make it.
We hiked Mt. Hallasan on the last day of our trip to Jeju. And although, we didn’t take the trails to the summit, we opted for two different routes. And the route, on our descent, was supposedly very easy. Brochures encouraged couples and honeymooners to take it. And it was a relatively easy trail, except for a stretch of rocky stones. And I think, I gave up somewhere in between. The feeling of being crushed was inescapable. Because I really thought I could do this without any discomfort. I did struggle and when we reached the main gate — it was worth it.