Faculty Trip Tease- Trekking in The Himalayan Mountains-Nepal’s ABC Trek
“The Mountains Are Calling, and I Must Go…”– John Muir
Have you ever dreamt of exploring the Himalayas and trekking the long, mystical trails above tree line? Do you desire to enjoy the simple life: walking between teahouses where saying “Namaste” sounds as natural as saying “hello”?
Let me take you along as we try to unravel a page from Prof. Ramya Ranganathan’ s recent trip to Nepal blog and see what it was to spend a day trekking in the Himalayan Mountains, more precisely in Nepal’s ABC trek (Annapurna Base Camp).
Prof. Ramya Ranganathan, Visiting Faculty, Organizational Behavior & Human Resources Management Area, IIMB, happened to share some of her experiences and insights for trekkers in Nepal’s ABC. She did her first Himalayan trek when she was thirteen years old. She was smitten by the mountains, the streams, the clear starry nights, the coniferous forests, the snow clad peaks, the mountain dogs, and the sheer bliss of doing nothing except walk from dawn to dusk. She always had an inclination to do the Himalayan trek. However, some excuse or the other would crop up at the last moment, thereby, refraining her from trekking to the Himalayas. But after she heard about tea-house-trekking in Nepal she took up the opportunity and thought of giving it a try.
(l-r: Teahouse at MBC – from where you do the final climb to ABC; Descending from ABC – All Fears Gone!)
“Tea House trekking in Nepal opened up a possibility to trek without having to stay in tents and risk the tent giving way and wetting me in the middle of the night. I could have closed toilets and basic shelters to stay along the way and also eat hot meals without needing to carry my own supplies and do my own cooking. I could also hire a porter to carry some extra clothing and emergency supplies so that I could walk more easily with a light daypack. Sure, some may call this a ‘smaller’ adventure than doing it all on your own but if like me what you are looking for is more of communing with nature and less of the thrills of adventure then tea house trekking is an amazing opportunity for us.”
(l-r: “I found it useful to do some short meditations during the breaks – helped with my physical stamina too! This is the River we follow from Deurali upward and then when it turns into Ice, we walk on the Ice to reach ABC”. And Romancing the Snow Clad Peaks)
So as for me, I couldn’t hold on to my excitement and met her for a face-face conversation to know more about her journey to The Himalayas and also the reason for choosing Nepal’s Annapurna Base Camp for a trek.
Q: With some of the highest summits in the world and many beautiful landscapes, what/who encouraged you to trek to Nepal?
Prof: The idea of trekking in Nepal appealed to me because I wanted to trek in The Himalayas but for most Himalayan treks you have to join a trekking group and these treks involve staying in tents and roughing it out. While I wanted to do this, I was afraid of the extremity of the cold, afraid I might have to sleep in wet clothes and brush my teeth in icy cold streams. Further, in terms of physical stamina, I was afraid that I might get too tired to walk and doubtful whether I would be able to take the strain. Then I heard about tea-house-trekking in Nepal where there is no big risk involved. The good thing about this particular trek is that it is feasible to turn back at any point and still enjoy the trek because it is extremely scenic and beautiful from day 1 until the last day. In India, you don’t really have tea house trekking, and if you are going with a large group on a trek and want to come back midway you can’t because the entire group is going on a pre-planned itinerary. In tea house trekking you can go at your pace because the routes are well marked out and you can also just retrace your path if you ever want to turn back midway.
Q: Trekking is one of the many ways to get connected with Mother Nature, so in that context what are your life lessons or realizations about your experience while trekking to The Himalayas?
Prof: It is absolutely one of the best ways to get connected with Mother Nature and that’s pretty much the reason for my trek to Nepal. About my realizations or life lessons… (Thinks)…The first realization was just about my own mind – that it was so blank during the trek! I was there for 11 days and my mind was almost completely blank! I had taken a pen and a paper to jot down things if I felt like, but during the trek, I didn’t feel the need to read or the urge to write anything. Even in terms of my thoughts, my mind was quite blank. Perhaps the reason behind it is something related to getting connected with our basic primitive essence which is less crowded with thoughts and all of. I meditate quite a bit in Bangalore, but I didn’t feel the need to meditate in the Himalayas. I did sit and meditate once in a while because I like doing it, but there was no need to – the normal state of mind itself was a meditative state. Another insight was how Nature doesn’t have any judgment, there is nothing as good/bad, right/wrong. The heaviest or the harshest rainfall or glacier that looks so dangerous and treacherous cannot be labeled as evil or bad. Although the landscape can hurt you or the heavy rainfall may harm you – you don’t really think of it as evil or bad. It’s not doing it to hurt you or harm you. So I realized that there was a completely different attitude possible to the whole idea of confronting danger or the possibility of getting hurt. Nature was not exactly pampering us but at the same point of time, we were not feeling angry at the rain. My other strong realization was about how Nature doesn’t discriminate between people, animals, and other creatures and that it actually presents the same amount of opportunities and danger for everybody – whatever their race, belonging or stature.
Q: What motivated you to do the trekking? Is it because of your love for Nature or you like to explore that what is unraveled?
Prof: My motivation for trekking came at that point when I realized that it was high time I should overcome my fears and limitations, and stop making any further excuses regarding money, time or even about my physical stamina. Otherwise, trekking was always attractive to me because of my love for Nature and the fact that I like traveling to different places where I can spend time communing with varied landscapes.
Q: You’ve to leave your comfort zone in order to get better things, and this is what we experience in reality. So how true is this, when it comes to trekking?
Prof: Absolutely, this is very true when it comes to trekking. At one point during the 11 days of my trek, I was nearly ready to quit. It was cold, raining heavily and nobody else was there at the tea house we were in – since it was slightly offseason. I was also very very tired. At that moment, I realized that there is a part of me inside which was afraid and scared, and I could really see that person, that little girl in me who was really scared. She suddenly seemed to be exposed and I could ignore her no longer. But because I could see her then I could actually begin to deal with her fears. I talked to that little girl, (rather to myself), to soothe those fears and asked her “what is it that you’re scared off”, or “what can you do to stop that”. So it turned out to be a very healing experience in one way. The first step was to expose my fears and insecurities and then I could start to heal them. This happened at multiple points during the trek.
During this journey, I also got to experience an amazing communion between my mind and my body. At many points the most pressing need of the hour was cooperation by my body to keep on walking -nothing else mattered as much. I was extremely aware and conscious of my bodies needs throughout the trek and even after coming back I still continue to feel connected with my body in a much stronger way than I did prior to the trek. I also learned through this journey that many of my preconceived notions about the limits of my own body was not true. The more I pushed my body, the more it amazed me with capacities I had not known it had.
The journey of 11 days made her realize about her physical stamina and also helped her to acknowledge internally and externally that situations may come at times where your body would indicate to give up, but it’s your mind who would win over to go that extra step, that extra mile to reach the top. As we have Dumbledore telling Harry in JK Rowling’s book creation, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”.
Therefore, as a conclusion, with the aforesaid conversation with the Prof. the quote “The Mountains are calling, and I must go…” by John Muir thereby gets justified.
To know more about her journey in details, in terms of preparing the itinerary, packing, psychological prepping, and fitness training for trekking to The Himalayas, kindly follow Prof. Ramya Ranganathan’ s blog.