If there is one thing we are lucky for in 2016, it’s travel. The world has never been so accessible and what used to be carefully concealed corners of the globe are now wonders we can witness for ourselves.
I find myself drawn to the road less travelled – to scenes not of skyscrapers or white sandy beaches but to places where the sky is huge and nature humbling. Perhaps my most favourite place of all fits this bill. It is here that I believe they coined ‘the call of the wild’.
You might wonder what makes Nepal so spectacular for me – there are a lot of places remote and beautiful. What makes Nepal so special?
The human condition is to conquer and claim our environment and there are few places left on Earth where this is not the case. The Himalayas however, have a reputation of extraordinary for a reason.
I trekked to the Everest Base Camp (EBC) and I am yet to experience a wilderness that can compete with the heavyweights of the alpine world. What compels me to claim that it is in those mountains that ‘the call of the wild’ was defined? Well, let me begin.
To get to EBC and the Himalayas, you must take the most questionable flight of your life into Lukla from Kathmandu. Aside from the fact that any adventurer will be delighted by the duct tape on the pilot’s joy stick or the tissue used to clean the machine’s windscreen, the actual flight takes you parallel to the mountains. Giants rising above the clouds, dusted in snow and so close you can hardly breathe from awe. If I could have been sitting out on the wing, I would have been. As it was, there was a nose print fogging my window.
If the journey into Lukla isn’t enough for the thrill seekers, then landing and take-off in Lukla will set any adventurous appetites ablaze. Let’s just say if the landing or take-off isn’t done to perfection, there’s a choice of dropping off a cliff or running into a mountain face – the ultimate ‘would you rather’.
One might retort that the Himalayas have been conquered – Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay have been there, done that – and many have followed in their footsteps. I beg to differ.
When you step off that plane in Lukla and look up at the peaks surrounding you, you come to understand that you are just a visitor. The trekking isn’t about bragging rights – or marking a flag in the ground. There is nowhere in the world where I have felt more at the mercy of Mother Nature than in the Himalayas. Oh, the Nepalese and Sherpas live in those dramatic, terrifying and utterly humbling mountains, but others have not conquered this terrain. There are no cars, no trucks, no bikes. No roads or pavement. No shops or fast food. Give up long warm showers, and be prepared for basic lavatory facilities. You cannot climb beyond what the human body is capable of or the altitude will kill you.
The weather will make or break your day and if you don’t have the mental or physical strength to keep going, there is no cheat’s way out – short of a pricey chopper down, you must walk back the way you came.
You don’t need to visit Everest Base Camp to understand why those mountains are so magnificent. Their peaks puncture every horizon and the silence and stillness of it all is indescribable. But it’s not just mountains. It’s the icy blue rivers that catapult down the mountains, the paths carved into the sides of the mountains that watch as the river rages in the ravine below. It’s the beautiful blossoms and fresh pine trees. The tens of donkeys – halters ornately decorated – guiding themselves down the mountains with supplies from the Base Camp. It is the little children who wave as you go by and the owners of the guesthouses – offering everything when they have nothing.
You don’t have to have trekking experience to visit the Himalayas, you just have to be prepared to give up some comforts along the way in return for the most magnificent views you will ever behold. To visit a land that has made legends. All my alliteration will hardly do the experience any kind of justice; you simply have to see if for yourself.
You might wonder about Kathmandu – and the rest of Nepal. Well, another time for the colours, chaos and absolute thrilling bewilderment that belongs to the capital and the rest of the country. For now, if you have a restlessness that you cannot control and a call to the wild you cannot ignore, the Himalayas are waiting. Go get them.
Images courtesy of Clare Jorgensen. Feature image courtesy of Getty.