Each morning when I stir from my sleep the first thing I do is to step out onto my balcony and look at the little corner of the world that I have decided to park myself in, for the present at least. I look out to the pine forests surrounding me and the valley below, to the guest houses and little slate roofed farm steads, and then up towards the mountains, with their peaks covered in snow. I watch the Hawks & the occasional Eagle circling high above, the monks padding along footpaths in the early morning to temple prayers, the visitors with their yoga mats going to classes, the people heading to the meditation centres.
Each morning I look up towards the mountains & Triund, here in the Himalayas it only warrants the name of Hill, it is at an altitude of 3000m, 9000 feet, its a three or four hour trek from McCleod Ganj. Nine Kilomteres each way. I want to see it for myself and one day, in conversation with my friend from Yoga classes we both agree we want to walk there. Why don’t we go together I suggest? We agree to go, Sunday 7.30am, Triund bound.
As I wake early sunday morning I think to myself what on earth did you suggest this for, bloody idiot. You struggle walking up a few flights of stairs, you are riddled with arthritis, you smoke, you are unfit. You won’t be able to do this, what a prize prick you are going to look when you screw up. Again you will screw up. I text my friend to cancel, the text comes back undelivered. I’ve put in the wrong number on my mobile. It’s no good I will just have to go.
We set off in bright early morning sunshine, we walk along tracks and boulders, woodland paths, on an on. As we walk I let my friend lead, she is Japanese & tiny, we have already compared notes, we worked out that I am double her weight, she 45kg, me closer to 90kg. As I watch her butt scrambling effortlessly mile after mile over the path like a mountain goat perfectly at home I wonder to myself how it is possible to fit in all the necessary bits that it takes to be a human into this little body. Then as the walk progresses and she continues to cover the path with ease I begin to think I’m the one with the odd body, over sized, excess baggage, less is more.
As we continue hour after hour I struggle, my legs feel like they are lead filled, my breathing is laboured. What on earth was I thinking, you cannot do this. It’s just a hill it doesn’t matter, its not important, my internal dialogue is going far faster than my legs. Of course it really doesn’t matter if I do or don’t climb this hill, in the great scheme of things, but then deep down it becomes the only thing that matters. I think of failure, I think of all the things in which I have failed, the list weighs on me. The times too many that I have not met my own or others expectations, I don’t want to accept another, I cannot. This climb becomes a battle not with the hill but with myself. I have to do this one thing, if I do then its a little victory, but thats what I need, one little victory, now.
As I walk I feel myself getting slower and slower. I am passed by other walkers, young, old, bits of kids. Half an hour from the top it begins to rain, a cold rain, the wind picks up. I am not dressed for this weather, for the first time in two months I feel the cold. Down below in the plains people are expiring with heat, it is 50 degrees, here in the mountains its freezing.
I say to my friend you go on, I’m just going to stop here for a while. She disappears up the track. I light a cigarette and sit on a boulder, I smoke. I want to give in, I want it all to go away, the mountain, myself, everything just to disappear.
I stand up and carry on walking, the only thing in my way is me and my thoughts. It’s not a mountain holding me back, its not my dodgy arthritis or my fitness or being a smoker or anyone else. It’s just my thoughts.
Half an hour later I reach the top. The wind blows, the rain pours and I feel bloody cold. But I stand there on a little meadow, beyond in the valley I can see ice flows and snow, they are below where I now stand. I did it. It’s one little victory, but its one I needed. I have said to myself over and over that the battles I need to wage are with nobody else, with nothing else other than my own thoughts. Today I actually understood what the words meant. & the view? The view was worth every step. Maybe I keep climbing hills for now and in time I can move up to the mountains.