Back in early April 2015, I went mountain trekking with my wife and two friends in Nepal recently. Ghorepani Poon Hill is a popular trek in the Annapurna Himalayan range. The mountain scenery is breathtaking. Ethnic villages are beautiful. Living is simply stress-free.
It was our first time in Nepal. Kathmandu was an eye-opening experience. It’s a chaotic, loud, dusty and at the same time a very colourful city. The streets are full of cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Occasionally, you see cows lying right in the middle of the road! Yes, cows. Traffic lights are rarely seen. Even if you do spot one, chances are, it is not working. The sounds of car horns are everywhere. The driver told us, they horn to caution the pedestrians because some of them cross the road without looking at the vehicles that are coming to them. Horrifying.
Electricity is scarce. Scheduled electricity cutoff to reserve energy is common in Nepal. Even a big city like Kathmandu is not spared. You always bring along torchlight wherever you go, including the bathroom. For the locals, this is normal. Inadequacy is part of their life.
Learning to embrace the moment is truly a humbling experience. As the Chinese proverb says, be calm and take things as they come (既来之则安之).
After two nights of stay at Kathmandu, we flew to Pokhara, the main access city to Ghorepani Poon Hill trek. The city is about 200 km to the west of Kathmandu. Pokhara is a contrast. The spectacular backdrop of Himalayan mountains, serene lake, and pristine air; casual and relaxing lifestyle.
The hill trekking was an amazing but exhausting experience. We trekked through beautiful ethnic villages, farm terraces, river streams, forests, and suspension bridges. Jaw-dropping views. As we ascended, the forest was sheltered with rows and rows of rhododendron trees, the national flower of Nepal. The air became thinner and everyone was gasping for breath. We quickly learnt to pace our walks. By the time we reached our teahouse lodge every day, everyone was dog-tired. Eight hours of hill trekking on average every day. It was physically exhausting and muscle numbing. When everyone thought of having a nice hot shower to retire for the day, the water was freezing cold at some lodges. The gas water heater at some of the lodges was not powerful enough to produce decent hot water. I had a 9°C freaking cold shower at Ghorepani stop, 2800 m above sea level. Freaking icy cold. Just like a big-time Ice Bucket Challenge!
Amazingly, none of us hated the journey. On the contrary, we laughed a lot about our trekking experience every day. When we reached Poon Hill, 3210 m above sea level, the snowy peak of the Himalayan mountains were so majestic and the views were awesomely mind-blowing! We had forgotten totally about our pains and aches.
Being a city boy, personally, the trip made me learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. The journey made me appreciate nature more, made me realise the importance to stop taking things for granted, stop complaining about imperfections, and being flexible in working things out.
This is equally real in our working life. Many of us are like first-time mountain trekkers. For many years, we work hard to climb the corporate ladder. There are always fewer resources, yet many things to accomplish in the organisation. Those who stay positive, agile, and focus on their goals always succeed to the top. For them, the goal is purposeful. In trekking, we pace our walk to catch our breath. However, if we walk too slow or stop too long in between, we might reach the lodge after dark. At some pit stops, the lodges are fully occupied. Trekkers risk losing a place to stay when they arrive pit stop late. Therefore, a purposeful goal inspires everyone to be agile and stay focused. More importantly, to support one another in reaching the destination on time.
Change is an unpredictable journey. During trekking, we were well prepared and went to vigorous training before the hike. Yet, we still never know what will come to us during the hike. Experiencing the predictable and expect little unpredictable ones always spice up the journey.
32 hours of trekking covering a total distance of 45km and climbed two hills above 3000 m within 4 hours. We trekked through the hot sun and thunderstorms. It was an awesome experience!
And a major earthquake happened two weeks right after we came back home. My heart goes with those new friends we made, and also those beautiful places we have visited now ruined in the disaster.
My favourite life lesson gained from this adventure is, be comfortable with the uncomfortable. It is perfectly okay.