‘I can’t do this,’ I murmured to no one in particular. ‘Is there an easier way?’
‘There…’ Sajan pointed to the waters. ‘We’ll follow Binod.’
The four of us trooped down to the waters and crossed the river on the rocks. Getting our feet wet just felt like a better option than falling off a rickety, wooden old bridge. Besides, we were exhausted from trekking nearly 1,000m up that one day and doing a balancing act just wasn’t something we wanted to face.
On our way back down from the Annapurna Base Camp the next day, we started towards the river again when I felt a strong, deep pull towards that bridge. It meant something to me. I didn’t want to come home knowing that there was something I didn’t do out of fear.
‘Hold on guys, I’m going that way…’ I pointed to the wooden thing. I climbed back up and stood there for a bit. Then screaming silently (although my friend swears I did it out loud), I started walking.
Images of me falling into the cold waters flashed across my mind.
‘I can do this…’ I muttered to myself as the bridge bounced under my weight. Halfway across, I nearly lost my balance and flung my hands out. Steady. Deep breath. My thoughts weren’t sentences anymore. They were fragmented ideas. I guess that’s where my mental scream became audible. Whatever.
‘Only a few more steps…’ I gritted my teeth, doing my best to ignore the rest watching from across the river. And then… ‘I did it!’ I screamed as I stepped on solid ground again.
Turning around, I watched as Binod (my porter) nimbly walked across in under 20 seconds.
‘Damn boy, you sure are a mountain goat.’ I said. He laughed. I’m not sure if he understood.
But there. I did it. The final bridge that I feared.
I was a finisher.
‘That’s my favourite mountain,’ my friend said, pointing at Machapuchre.
We looked at its fish-tail peaks, bathed in the morning sun’s glow.
‘I guess being quirky is a beautiful thing,’ I replied, thinking about more things than mountains.
Cradling heating packs in my pockets (yes, I am a wimp when it comes to the cold, especially my hands), we walked out to the back sides of the Annapurna Base Camp and were greeted with this amazing view.
Standing there as the clouds rolled and swirled all around us, I sighed. It was such an exhilarating feeling, knowing that I’d trekked all the way up there. I made it. My first time.
‘You know what sucks?’ my friend said, after a few minutes of silence.
‘What?’ I looked at her, puzzled. The view was fantastic and I was still high on the adrenaline (and lack of oxygen, possibly).
‘The fact that we have to go down the same distance we came up.’
I sighed again.
Would I do it all again? Definitely.
I’ve decided that every year, I want to conquer a mountain (or base camp, or bridge, for that matter) just before my birthday. It’s a symbolic act, to close each year of growth with an adrenaline rush. Because life just seemed that slight bit different, when I returned.
Or it could be though, that I was the one who came back changed.
[All pictures courtesy of Coralie, a lovely girl we met on our journey]