Darkness arrived early in the Himalaya and when I reached our base camp in Sandakphu, the mountain peaks were wrapped in thick, billowing clouds. Cold to the bone, I located my bed in the girls hut and had just enough daylight left to find my head lamp and unroll my sleeping bag. Our beds, lined up tightly like sardines in a can, left little room between them for maneuvering around. Porters and jeeps carried our bags and all the provisions needed for the two days there. Looking back, I can appreciate what a large undertaking that must have been and I hesitate to be a whiner. Maybe if I practice camping more often, I will become proficient at it! Buckets of hot water were offered to us for washing but with the outside temperatures near freezing, I decided that sweat was not going to kill me and all I needed was hot soup and dry, warm clothes. The food hut was packed with hungry and cold racers and we were all concerned for the people who were still on the mountain and I was relieved when they all made it safely to camp.
I have never owned a sleeping bag. In fact, I don’t remember ever sleeping in one. Nowadays I’m not just the proud owner of a down bag but I have slept 5 nights in a row inside its cozy comfort. Mine is a lovely wasabi and steel color and far too special to just call green and grey! With mattresses thinner than the air outside on hard bed planks, I was impressed and delighted with my new sleeping pad. It slid in its own pocket inside the bag and from now on I will be tempted to travel with it often. My pillow from Mirik also made the journey successfully and this city-clicker was a very happy camper. Nightlife was absent and everybody crashed long before 8pm.
4am wake-up call . . . by the way, early birds don’t catch any worms because the worms are still sleeping! I reluctantly unwrapped myself from my snug cocoon and braved the biting cold. After all, how often does one get to see day break and the sunrise over Mount Everest? It was clear and cloudless and I felt like I could reach out and touch eternity. God painted a landscape that took my breath away. How inconsequential my troubles were in the face of such greatness. I silently watched the sky illuminated from black to blue and the sun announcing its imminent arrival with just a ribbon of fiery orange on the horizon. The peaks were only dark silhouettes and patiently waiting for their morning kiss by the first sunrays. Watching nature in all its splendor always reinforces my own believes and is my sanctuary, the place where I find solace and peace.
Triumphantly the sun arrived and washed the world in shades of pink, crimson and orange. The snowy peaks came alive with fire and finally the great ones revealed their glory to us – Mount Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kanchenjunga – larger than life and commanding the horizon. I watched in awe and could not help wondering what it must be like to reach their summits. Through photographs we try to capture moments like this, but in the end you have to make the journey to grasp it all. Anointed with the magic around me, I knew that the 20 miles looming ahead today would be small potatoes, or at least undersized!