Majesty of the Himalayas
The Himalayas are the highest mountain range on Earth, located in Asia, separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. It is home to the world’s highest peaks, even 10 out of a total of 14 over 8,000 meters, but also over 50 other peaks over 7,200 m. The most famous of them is Mount Everest.
If you mention the Himalayas, you will awaken in people the associations of unreachability, coldness, and danger of the highest peak of the world, Mount Everest. The Himalayas are all that, but they are also the embodiment of Mother Nature’s beauty in her most divine form. Mystic peaks wrapped in clouds are a balm for the eyes and the soul.
Our climbing adventure to the Himalayas has already begun in Pula at sea level, and the journey took us to the highest peaks of the world. The ride to the foothills has been a long one, but after 30 hours of various means of transport, we arrive in Nepal, a country where 10 of the 14 highest peaks of the world are located, exceeding 8000 m above sea level. The inner positive restlessness and satisfaction that we have come are becoming more pronounced, and the desire to rise is growing. After a few days of acclimatization in the city, we embark on the journey of the magnificent Himalayas.
After nine hours on a local bus, which is an adventure in itself, due to the number of passengers on the bus and the roof, due to the extreme driving around the abyss edge, with bruises on the back due to the macadam road and uncomfortable seats, we finally arrive in Dunche. The city of Dunche is the starting point of the ascent, a beautiful place surrounded by terraced rice plantations, and lively and always smiling people live in the town, constantly pleasantly surprise you with a charming local greeting – Namaste. The next morning, after we opened our eyes and stepped out onto the terrace of the hostel where we slept, we experienced the first shock. All around us were massive snow peaks, a particular eye balm that simply lures on the rise. On the expedition went us a dozen acquaintances accompanied by one Sherpa, or guide, and four carriers. The aim of the climb was the sacred Lake Gosaikunda, located in the first Himalayan National Park in Lang Tang province at an elevation of 4380 m above sea level. According to Hindu legend, the lake was created by the god Shiva to drink water after drinking poison and thus saved the world from destruction. The expedition started. We stored the photo equipment, sleeping bag, clothes, and other necessary equipment (which is never enough) in large backpacks (which the average Sherpa would fit into) and transferred it to the back. Part of the team gave its backpacks to the carriers, who will, like us, carry them through the biggest ups and downs of the next nine days.
… Nature used to reward us every morning with half an hour of incredible scenes of Himalayan peaks enveloped in clouds that were more important to photographers than winning the lottery (though that wouldn’t be too bad).
The climb started, the first day without too much effort because we did not cross a significant difference in altitude, and most of the rise was moderate. Along the way, we meet many interesting people and children who live in nearby villages who are always ready to pose in front of the camera. It is interesting that the more you climb, the road becomes narrower, and the number of people you meet along the way decreases. While prices of meals in the Lodge (small mountain huts where lives one family that offers food and accommodation to tourists) increases. Casually thinking about these relationships led us to a banal conclusion that food and drink must be more expensive than those in the valley because of the impossibility to deliver it by conventional means of transportation, so back and manpower remains the only means. After the first, less tiring day, the following days became more demanding, much more than expected. But in return, nature was able to reward us every morning with half an hour of incredible scenes of Himalayan peaks wrapped in clouds that were more important to us photographers than winning the lottery (though neither that wouldn’t be a bad thing). The Himalayan mornings are indescribable in words. Each morning we woke up at 5.30 am, followed by dressing or, coating up to our ears, as the morning temperatures were often below zero, then preparing the camera and accessories, and at the end of half an hour of nirvana.
It is interesting to see how people make wooden furniture for their homes, because transporting them is almost impossible, and the kindness and friendliness of the residents of the “clouds” additionally fill you with positive energy. They seemed to have no worries and problems, but that they had plenty of time. And this is most evident when ordering food since it usually takes at least two hours from ordering a meal to consuming it. But they are lovely, and it does not cause you tension (as it would be usual in our region). The biggest problem with trekking is the shower, because of the lack of hot water and decent shower cubicle, since the existing ones in most cases resemble outhouses with a shower. On one occasion, the author of these lines decided to take a shower in that outhouse shower while the outside temperature was about zero, without heating and hot water. The outhouse shower had no door but a piece of the board on which a short rope serves as a fuse that the door would not open during bathing. Beginning with the shower adventure, the feeling of bone-cracking at every touch of water prevailed, but the desire for cleanliness was still strong enough to counter this challenge. An older woman with a French accent decided to take a look with her companion to see how the outhouse toilet looks like without knowing that someone was inside. After strange noises coming from outside the shower, the energetic elderly lady broke the fuse and opened the door. It was another in a series of shocks. It is not comfortable staying naked entirely with a shower in hand in front of a dozen sixty-year-olds who are amazed to see who is crazy enough to bathe in such a cold.
Approaching the summit, we stepped into the realm of eternal snow and ice. The scene was fantastic, the snow and ice lakes at heights where there is no vegetation, no animals are looked like a fairytale, and all around us just the power and beauty of Mother Nature.
During the ascent, there were plenty of adventures. The situation among the expedition members was getting better every day, regardless of the weight of the climb. Not a single night would pass without everyone singing, telling jokes, and life’s adventures at candlelight (since, of course, there was no electricity). The harder the expedition became, the more extreme the external conditions, and the more difficult the climbs, the friendship between us grew stronger. Nothing can unite people like a mountain. At the same time, the higher the landscapes, the more beautiful and striking the scenery was, and one night, in particular, over 4000 m was engraved in our memory. In the middle of the night that didn’t allow us to close our eyes, something inside us told us to go out for a walk. There were tension and excitement for no particular reason. After a 10-minute turmoil in a warm sleeping bag, we decided to go out to take some air. The temperature was unbearably low, certainly a dozen degrees below zero, but the decision was made. After coming out of the cottage, the first thought was returning to a warm sleeping bag. The moon was high, and we made a circle around the log cabin. After about ten meters, we stopped for a second and looked up. In front of us, like in a fairy tale, Langtang Lirum, the highest summit of the Himalayan chain of the Langtang Mountains and one of the most dangerous peaks of the world, emerged from the clouds. Last year, the world-renowned climber Slovenian Tomaz Humar, died there, and there were other injured climbers before him. The summit looked mighty and harmless (maybe because we were miles away), but as any mountaineer knows, it stole many souls. We admired it silently.
The next day was the penultimate day of the ascent. We reached the holy lake of Gosaikunda, and the weather was not at all favorable. Especially for the last two walkings of walking during which we were persistently accompanied by a combination of heavy rain, ice, snow, and bitterly cold wind. With the outside temperature far below zero, we reach a cottage located on the lake. The scene is incredible, although the conditions were extreme, they failed to hide the divine beauty of the lake, which leaves no one indifferent. We went on a lake tour while respecting the ancient traditions in which is required to be in a clockwise direction, as among other Hindu places and temples. The cold and the night interrupted our admiration for the beauty of the holy lake and chased us into a well-deserved warm tea and garlic soup, which has been our mainstay of nutrition these days. It helps boost immunity and prevents the symptoms of dangerous high altitude sickness, which in lighter form appeared with some members of the expedition, but fortunately did not capture anyone in full force. The last day of the ascent came, the highest peak of our tour was the mountain pass Laubirinda, located at almost 4700 m. For comparison, almost as Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe. Approaching the summit, we stepped into the realm of eternal snow and ice. The scenery was fantastic, snow and icy lakes at altitudes where there is no vegetation, no animals looked like a fairytale, but around us just the power and beauty of Mother Nature. Our admiration lasted only half an hour as nature decided that was enough and sent a strong wind and clouds that chased us out of the eternally cold empire.
After descending from the top, the wind subsided, and a four-day descent began. During the downhill, we were accompanied by bad weather, intermittently even apocalyptic. However, the scenes became more beautiful, the waterfalls descending from the top of the mountains looked mighty and magically, and the rain only complemented this unearthly beauty. The greenery gradually overpowered all other colors, and nature became lush. After four days of walking through the forest of rhododendrons and rosewoods, we arrive at the first village, which marked the end of the Himalayan adventure.
The time we spent in the magnificent Himalayas surrounded by the highest peaks of the world evoked a lot of emotions in us. All this environment and the powerful scenes around us have made us aware of how beautiful and big nature is, and that every inhabitant of the Earth needs to show her respect and love. The majesty of the Himalayas has left a deep mark of respect for them, and the only certainty we can state is that a return is inevitable.
TEXT & PHOTO – Andrea Grabunđa