We started our 10-day trek in the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal and every day we steadily moved higher, every day edging closer to the mountains we had come to find, each day better than the last. We followed a valley wedged between a cliff and a drop into the river. We went through villages with groups of shy children acting as toll merchants demanding sweets, chocolates, school pens or balloons. We crossed suspension bridges every day, always swaying and bouncing. We kept going, pushing on and upwards getting glimpses of looming snow-covered mountains in the far-off distance.
Halfway to the pass we climbed through small forests with the red colors of rhododendron bushes bursting through the green. The air felt cooler than before and soon the forest thinned out, the terrain became barren and we ventured higher into the mountains. The changes were an encouraging sign of progress. The conversations also turned from excitement to philosophy. Traveling through such calm solitudes, so far removed from the tensions of civilization, clarity and hopefulness pervaded our thinking. We all seemed to be overwhelmed with grandiose ideas for the future. Our thoughts seemed to reflect the magnificent mountains we were passing through.
We walked together and we walked alone, talking a little but simply content to be moving and making our way. We ambled up and up. The only thing we needed to do was to keep moving, not necessarily at a fast pace but just keep moving. Then we neared the pass and a completely new challenge.
After three hours of solo toil, we came upon other hikers who were feeling sick and nauseous and moving very slowly, even slower than me. We rested for a while, dicussing the view and our inability to appreciate it in our fatigued states. We set off again, the climb was not as steep as before but we walked at a crawling pace for the next few hours up and over small hills.