My head throbbed as if my brain was making an attempt to squeeze through my forehead, I felt dizzy and sick. Fully clothed, with two pairs of trousers, numerous layers on top, my hat and gloves, I lay in my sleeping bag with a blanket on top. I slowly sipped on my metallic water bottle to prevent dehydration and also to stop my lips feeling like two pieces of sandpaper.
I’d self diagnosed; it was certainly altitude sickness. I was 4130 metres up, based at Annapurna Base Camp and I’d been trekking to get here over the last four days. In the stone based room the temperature had dropped into the early minuses, it was only 8pm but you had to get into bed to maintain heat. It was winter time in the Himalayas.
I couldn’t sleep and each time I tried I became slightly delirious and woke up feeling confused. It’s amazing that at times like this when you’re physically drained your mind takes over, mentally ignited. Attitude is everything.
Altitude sickness was simply a by-product of climbing 4130 metres. The more significant factor was that I was now in the heavens. Snow capped and ascending up to 8,000 metres the Annapurna Mountain Range surrounded the Base Camp demonstrating the power that resides within this earth.
We think we’re important, we think we’ve got it all worked out, we listen to wankers in suits who tell us how it should be, we conform like sheep when we taste fear, we’re controlled by shit TV and mind warping newspapers, we drink coffee to keep going and booze to slow back down, materialism drowns our identity, the system they built for us is slavery camouflaged as freedom. However, within the mountains, the bullshit is non-existent, you’re connected directly back to where you’re meant to be. The silence of nature promotes inward thinking as opposed to reactive thinking created by the external world.
Lok, my Nepalese guide has been trekking within these mountains for over twenty years. Starting his career as a porter he had to carry between 35 and 45 kg on his back, he chose this rather than become a Ghurkha soldier. His knowledge and understanding of the environment is impressive; he points out avalanche and landslide risk areas. At Base Camp I even got to see an avalanche in the mountains above us. It was wild and exciting, as I remembered watching programs on them as a kid.
The journey to Base Camp is through a mammoth valley, the route is up and down like a spiralling snake and you have to transform into a charged up yo-yo to succeed. The view of a mountain pinnacle, that is referred to as ‘The Fish Tail’ can always be seen in the distance and provides inspiration when your legs and lungs are burning.
At lower levels we pass through mountain villages where self sufficient families use primitive methods to farm off the land. These type of villages fascinate me whenever I visit them, they are totally self reliant and could exist forever without any modern day influences. There’s a freedom in that way of life, especially when you consider how reliant our society has become.
At Base Camp there are memorials dedicated to those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice while trying to conquer these mountains. You cannot help but admire their courage. As I sit and watch ‘The Fish Tail’ turn a golden orange colour with the sunset, it is evident to me that these lost souls knew a hidden secret to life. It’s the depth of a life, not the length that matters.