Journal Entry #1
December 12, 2010 – First Day of My Six Month Journey
The final wave goodbye before I leave my family. I’m calm, confident and tired. My journey begins from Toronto to Bangkok, with a stopover in Chicago and Tokyo.
“Good morning, sir,” says an airport staff member. Morning? It still feels like night to me. The early flight, or late, depends on whether you’ve slept or not.
This airport is a familiar place to me. Memories of past adventures and more in the making. Airports are one of the best places to people watch. Guessing where people are going, why they’re going there, and whether they’ve traveled more than I have? Business men with rolling briefcases, princesses with over-sized sunglasses and Prada bags, and families hauling more weight in their luggage than on their feet. I realize now why my colleagues, friends, and family were dumbfounded to hear that I was going to drop my life to live out of a carry-on bag for six months. Out of the 300 people around me, I am the only one with all my possessions resting on my shoulders. Backpackers are a rare breed indeed! Kristen has been traveling for three months already; we’re meeting in Bangkok then exploring South-East Asia, Africa, and Europe together over the next six months.
Journal Entry #20
March 29, 2011 – Hiking though the Himalaya Mountains
Almost four months into my globe-trotting adventures, and I can already fill a book with stories: Sleeping in jungle huts in Malaysia, riding elephants in Thailand, snorkeling with turtles and sharks in Indonesia, walking through the ancient stone city of Angkor in Cambodia, being robbed in India, enjoying a Singapore-sling in Singapore, just to name a few. Kristen and I have traveled to nearly every continent together; however, I had never experienced the life of a solo traveler. I wanted to go to Nepal and hike the Himalayas while Kristen was volunteering on an organic farm in South India. A farewell kiss at the airport and we were off in two directions.
I landed in Kathmandu with absolutely no plans except to see Mt. Everest. The flight into Nepal was worth the journey all on its own. The Himalayas pierce through the clouds as if gravity has no effect on them. As you descend, the clouds unveil a mountain range that stretches beyond the horizon in nearly every direction. It felt as if I was flying onto a different planet. The next day, I made plans to take another plane to Lukla. Lukla is a city in the mountains where I began my grueling climb to an Everest look-out point located 40km away at over 4000 meters in elevation (nearly half the height of Everest). The airplane from Kathmandu to Lukla was large enough for ten passengers plus luggage. Luckily I don’t have a fear of heights because there was no room for error while flying around mountains with high winds. I could see that we were about 1000 ft from the valley below when the pilot lowered his landing gear. “Odd” I thought to myself. “Where the heck is he landing?” Then out of nowhere, we hit a runway and the passengers all jolted forward to an aggressive stop. The 200ft runway was built on the side of a mountain on a thirty degree angle uphill. To take off, the plane goes downhill and must be airborne within the 200 ft or it will fall off a cliff. Lukla Airport is known for being the most dangerous in the world with crashes every year. I found this out after my flight.
I began hiking after lunch. I feasted on Nepalese dumplings called momos which are both delicious and cheap. My goal was to get to a small village called Namche Bazaar (at 3440 meters) before sunset. Many locals along the way told me that it was a too far for a foreigner to make the trek in one day. However, I was determined to make it. The low oxygen at high altitudes severely restricts you from normally easy physical activity. The hike took me over mountain sides, down steep slopes, up narrow muddy steps, crossing long bridges over valley rivers, up, down, up, down, then up, up, up! The hike lasted about eight hours, including small breaks for food and enjoying the views. Along the path, I was passed by locals and working yaks carrying everything from food supplies to plywood for building. I was struggling with my fifteen pound backpack while the locals must have been carrying up to 150 pounds! The last hour into my hike, I was literally crawling up the steep path from exhaustion, but I made it to Namche Bazaar before sunset. I rewarded myself with a hot meal and warm shower before heading to bed. At night the temperature dropped well below freezing, the kind of cold that chills your bones and leaves you unable to warm up. I was wearing five layers of clothes, covered in three blankets, and I was still shivering.
The next day, I started my short two hour hike to the Mt. Everest lookout point (at 3880 meters). The view was spectacular! Mountain after mountain until there IT was! The peak above every other, the highest place on earth, Mt. Everest. Thinking back, the death-defying airplane landing, the gruelling hike, and the shivering night was worth it. Mission Accomplished.