Baby steps. The last time I heard this, it was with reference to a baby. But this time, it was with reference to me. “Take baby steps, everyone!” I heard my trek leader say out-loud. We were on the final lap. The last two thousand feet of our twelve thousand feet journey. And for me, it was turning into a gruesome test of will power. I was no longer climbing up using my trek pole. I was fueled on emotions. And that too was running low.
We had started at 3.30 am. When the sky had covered itself with a thick black blanket, and tiny twinkles were generously sprinkled on it. If I could run my hands through that starry sky, I would have a handful of sparkling glitter :) At one point, we all switched off our torches. We just stood there in darkness, in the middle of nowhere, gazing up, starstruck. I soaked in the silence, and the shine. “I could do this for hours,” I thought to myself, as I immersed myself in the quiet silver light. It was a plethora of stars, a massive celebration going on up there.
It had taken us four days to get where we are – almost ten thousand feet from our base camp at Sari, Rudraprayag. We had hiked through dense forests, vast meadows and everything in between. Flawless scenery flowed continuously, changing by the hour. It was like being inside a real-life Windows Screensaver.
The squishing sounds from muddy forest pathways were strangely comforting. Tall trees, thorny bushes and slushy grounds. We were tiny ants making our way through a humongous green world. A few chirps were heard at a distance, while a few other feathered friends were spotted. My excitement peaked at the foot of falling water. It was yet another first for me – Not seeing Spring Water in a plastic bottle. But in its’ native place. Pure clean water flowing from nature’s lap. We never saw their origin, never saw their end, but those sparkling streams fresh water quenched the thirst of body and mind.
Do not trust meadows. Yes, those vast, serene-looking unending stretch of open space. They look nice and welcoming. But I swear they are not easy to hike! Their breath-taking look literally does take your breath away. Huffing and puffing all my way, the more I climbed up, the more they suspiciously grew bigger. To baffle me further, I saw buffaloes double my size leisurely race me to the top. I must admit though, the pleasure of seeing vast grassy area gave me some kind of kick. It also kicked the city-lover in me.
I thanked the Quechua Gods who created my trekking shoes, for keeping my grip and my dignity. Each terrain was a different chapter in ‘How To Trek Without Slipping and Falling’. With a few excerpts from ‘How to Deal with Embarrassment’. Also recommended is ‘Trekking for Dummies’.
There is special joy trekkers experience close to sunset. This feeling arises when after hours and hours of walking, somewhere in the near vicinity, we spot our next base camp! The sight of those multiple bright orange tents is an instant boost to our climbing speed. Being a first-time trekker, my biggest apprehension was about living in the woods. Tents, to be precise. I later realized that I got better sleep in my sleeping bag, than on my own bed. (Sorry, bed). Make-shift bathrooms served their purpose. Torches gave enough light. Changing clothes inside tents improved your acrobatic skills.
But none of this passed my mind while I struggled to reach the final destination – the summit of Mt. Chandrashila. My vulnerability had reached a greater summit. I could feel my calf muscles stretch with every step. My heart was throbbing at a rate I had not felt before. My throat was dry, and my lungs felt heavy. Despite the chilly breeze, I was sweating. I cursed the hyper-excited Diana who signed up for this a few months back. I paused. Tried to calm the chaotic voices in my head. It’s too late to give up now, I thought. I did not trek for four days to quit so close to the finish line.
“Baby steps”, I told myself. Let’s do this. One, small, baby step at a time.
And that’s how I touched twelve thousand feet.
In the darkest hour,
Saw an endless tower
The quiet stars,
Gave us gentle power.
The ascend begins,
With creaking crickets
With clinking trek poles
On stony ground
We climbed up proud,
Stretch of height
Was in a shroud.
An hour has passed,
Rays of dawn,
Subtly brushed the clouds.
We were merely mid-way.
Sky grew lighter,
Body felt heavier
With sight of summit,
Eyes were brighter.
Mountain top moved like a mirage.
Unending ocean of grassy green,
Waded through its’ high and low
Steeper steps gave quite a blow,
Yet we soaked in scenic glow.
To reach the peak are miles to go
Let us for now take it steady and slow.
At the zenith awaited a dream,
A breath-taking soulful gleam
Cotton clouds a touch away,
Snow-capped mountains there it lay
Misty magical hills and valleys,
At the height of nature’s glory.
Oh, the view from the top!
The peace of simple solitude
Was to me a promising prelude
The quiet kiss of calmness
Covered me with gratitude
These emotions and sights of stunning beauty,
Will you stay, forever with me?
Epilogue: I am back home, from a trek I will never forget. And now, when I see a mountain of challenge in front of me, I say to myself, “Take baby steps, Diana. One, small, baby step at a time.”
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