I Left my Heart Up in the Mountains

Photo of I Left my Heart Up in the Mountains by @LoveAboveSeaLevel

I’ve been feeling this unshakable calling for a while now… A strange force field pulling me to the unknown; a yearning of a sort to travel to unknown places- to stand on top of a secluded mountain and scream my lungs out, to finally learn how to swim so I can validate my love for the ocean, or at least lie semi-naked on a beach and count stars.

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Being sheltered and protected most of my life, at 24 I embarked on my 1st solo trip to Darjeeling, India. A week by myself and the inability to run away from my thoughts seemed both the most exhilarating and the most torturous feeling. From nearly jumping at eerie shadows and sudden noises, to leaving all the lights on and forcing myself to sleep that first night- it was a truly unique experience.

I vowed to make the most of my trip if it killed me!

The first day there early morning, 4am to be precise I walked out of my hotel, all layered up in my winter clothes aiming to be the best looking solo traveler – these pictures were after all going on my social media when I got back… If I got back that was. That crisp, 8degrees cold velvet sky never seemed so close, Oh and the stars… The very thought and sheer number of them, gave me butterflies like no boy before.

The agenda for the first day was to see the sunrise on Tiger Hill – Standing tall at 8500ft; winding, bumpy, nauseating roads... especially to a city girl.

We had to wait a while for the sunrise, so I stayed in the car; The NRI girl in me – mostly used to 30+ degree weather- hating it nonetheless, but cribbing anyways, was Shivering, Shaking, and teeth chattering... Yes the works! I felt numb; I couldn’t feel my fingers, toes, my head felt so heavy; In my plan to have the best clothes and pictures I had missed to dress for the now 3degree weather! My breath was foggy; frozen, sleepy, my over enthused mind told me “Maybe this is what dying feels like”.

It was finally time for the sunrise, Crowds of people flocked to the site, and when that seemingly small ball of fire rose above those perfectly white cotton candy clouds – its rays warming my heart, fingers and toes, cheers went out.

The fact that something so basic yet majestic just occurred, made me feel like a kid – In my opinion, there shouldn’t be any other way of watching the sunrise than with absolute innocence and wonder.

My trip continued beautifully after that. It was the best and only solo trip experience I’ve had to date, but it was there that I promised myself that I would do it again… soon.

I almost feel bad admitting this, but the purpose of this article isn’t Darjeeling – it like all predictable things, is a Boy.

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For my next trip, after a lot of thinking, processing, and research I planned to go on a Trek in the Himalayas: The Kedarkantha Trek.

A lot of people hated the year that had gone by and understandably so, but by far 2016 was my best travel year – It forced me to learn, grow & see so much, but still that didn't seem to fill my insatiable need to explore.

Himalayas, Camping, Uncomfortable? Well.... Precisely!

Way before my travel date I specifically remember a night when my erratic mind woke me up to a thought “Are you sure you want to leave your bed and blanket for a sleeping bag? And a well-functioning washroom for a hole in the dirt? Dude this isn’t Darjeeling”.

Well thankfully it was too late to cancel and moreover my ego didn’t let me.

So I was travelling with a friend of mine, Knew him for around 2years – Lets call him “Mountain Man”.

So Mountain Man was this tall, annoyingly pretty looking, sportsman – Did I mention built? Well my first narcissistic thought was… Good God in Heaven this isn’t fair!

To top it all he actually seemed like a decent enough person. Exactly… EYEROLL.

Needless to say I did Not like Mountain Man when I initially met him 2years back. No, Seriously.

Unlike me and true to his name, Mountain Man was extremely fit and had been trekking for a while now and to be honest I was just a little glad he came.

Leaving out the long road to our destination with people ooh and aah- ing at the views, Our Trek finally began the next day. My trek mates could not be more different – each with their own stories and reasons for being there.

The first day- for someone who may possibly… probably not be in the best of shape – would be like a toe-dip in Hells’ pond. OK apologies for the exaggeration, it wasn’t that hard but it wasn’t a walk in a well paved park either.

What made up for it was the view, It was undeniably beautiful.

The higher we climbed the more I thanked God that I was there. I don’t know what it is about nature, but it brings out the creative beast and spiritual monk in most people - so I’ve seen. Myself included.

We started trekking.. on and off me and Mountain Man hand in hand, which I promptly shook off since I couldn’t keep up with him and said he should carry on ahead of me.

So Mountain Man raced ahead of us while the rest of us newbie trekkers or ‘Turtles’ as he called us dragged our feet on by.

Our camp was set up at a site known as ‘Juda Ka Talab’; The sight of those blue tents ahead to me was like a fat kid seeing a big juicy McSpicy Chicken Burger; At that moment nothing compared to the joy and relief we experienced on finally reaching the site.

My comfortable ride in the car and beauty sleep on a soft hotel bed in Darjeeling could not be compared to the feeling at that very minute amongst grass, dirt, towering pine trees and those stars. From being able to count the number of stars on my fingers and toes; I was in a place where I could see the entire Galaxy Strip and it was unmentionably breathtaking.

Me and Mountain Man met 3 extra-special people on the first day of our journey; Friends who have got so close that we’re planning our next trip together. These people are the reason the journey to the summit and back was so memorable.

So first night, all settled and cosy in our tents and sleeping bags; I felt like an Egyptian mummy! Mountain Man had to hug me for a bit since I was freezing, despite the layers of clothes that made me look like an unkempt yarn ball. Still, I was so cold and Mountain Man was warm and toasty – What’s a girl to do? I wasn’t going to say no to the only version of central heating I had!

It was both awkward, intensely hot and confusing the hug and the closeness- when Mountain Man asked me something that made my heart stop.

Can I Kiss you?

Well I did what any other grammar-phobic nerd would have done.

I replied with “Can* Implies that you can’t. You need to say May I?” So he corrected himself…

Ok, Sorry, May I Kiss you?

I had no clue what to say, but in that quiet night and scarcely lit tent- I felt the blood rush to my cheeks. Those 2 minutes undoubtedly felt like the longest 2minutes of my life.

Confession: After all those signals and stolen glances along the way, I had expected and secretly hoped that he would just kiss me already, so I could play the innocent victim. But asking me, put that very controversial ball in my court.

“Go to Sleep Mountain man” was my reply. And with that, things were good at least for the night.

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The next morning we started off to the base camp, through stolen glances and not a word about the events of the night. The walk that day was the best one yet; through dense forests under open skies and every now and then over fallen tree trunks.

It was a short walk, but the view at the Base camp was so beautiful. It was a vast open ground with tall trees behind and at either side of us and a 180degree view in front of us of enormous snow-capped mountains.

It was something out of a portrait; truly.

After the 5 of us had lunch, me and Mountain Man lay in on the grass outside enjoying the best although fleeting heat we got. My inability to be still, matched with his snoring was invitation enough for trouble - that quickly escalated from tickling to playful punching and my feeble attempts to tickle this 6ft giant.

Well, All I have to say is that I have never enjoyed being pinned down quite so much.

That night under that moonless cauldron- black sky, a million, trillion, gazillion stars sparkled like holes in the blanket of heaven; in the dead quiet of night, with only the rustling of trees around us and the quiet whistling of the wind as the soundtrack; Mountain Man pulled me in for a dance.

In that moment I felt like Harry Potter at Hogwarts.

There was Magic in the air, In that moment, and In the kiss that followed.

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I was woken up the next day in the best way possible, in a state of pure utopia. It was finally summit day and just the thought of it filled me with excitement and my empty stomach in knots.

The walk up ‘for a newbie’ was quite challenging, we all huffed and puffed; taking breaks every now and then, but at this point with the experience and daily acclimatization walks- it seemed considerably do-able.

All the sweat, aches, pains, tiredness and loss of breath later, we finally reached.

Sweet Jesus! There are literally no amount of adjectives in the Oxford dictionary that could possibly do justice to or even describe that 360degree view and that feeling- firstly of completing the trek and second I’d say of the silence – that calm is irreplaceable!

There was something about being at that altitude, with that view – All my problems seemed so minute and non-existent.

Throughout the trek me and Mountain Man were inseparable. We discussed us moving and staying on the mountain, with three imaginary kids, and even though it was all just make-believe, the story made me all warm and gooey inside.

Me and Mountain Man were opposite ends of a magnet, but still on some parallel plane – we connected. He encouraged the happily ever after shaped bubble in my head.

It was like we had this insatiable need to grab everything that is offered and leave nothing joyful unused, unsaid and left for tomorrow (If I may be so honest - for me still a work in progress).

Identical to grasping at straws, it was almost like being hungry for happiness in a dark world that we had stumbled upon.

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The bottomless pit – that is my need for movement, freedom and happiness, WILL* always transcend the want or need of any Man or relationship in my life.

Although I've always been that geeky girl in glasses, with my head in the clouds and stars in my eyes; it was my feeble pursuit of Love and of Travel that initially got me there, but that trek experience was the best of my firsts*. It was there that I fell in love with trekking, with the mountains, and most importantly.. with myself!

Like all things in life, things, plans and people that are truly meant to be.. Will.

I guess that's why me and Mountain Man are NOT together anymore, but He, like this story was a part of me & my beautiful journey and life-changing first ever trek - that had to be told.