Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Zen of the Trek

What goes up must come down
What comes down must go up
At the end of each day there is night
At the end of each night there is day

For every yin there is a yang

And so it was for ten days. Marc and I and our guides Dhana and Sitra, followed this rhythm to attain our goal of completing the ascent to Annapurna Sanctuary without injury or illness, and a safe descent back to Pokhara. With their amazingly professional and spiritual help, we succeeded. Wow, what a feeling of accomplishment! There were certainly moments each and every day that both of us had our doubts. Yet somehow each day turned to night and each night turned to day and our bodies and our minds were up to the task.

The days were remarkable in so many ways. After day two, the long days of walking became (if it is possible to say) second nature. One step at a time either up or down, as we got closer to our goal. No pain, no sore muscles. Just our hearts beating (and most of the time pounding) in our chests.

Just at the right moment Dhana would announce that we could see our destination, or that we had completed the hardest part of the day’s climb. The right words at the right time to give us the push necessary to get through the difficult task at hand. At each rest stop we looked around us to see the most magnificent scenery. “Shangra La” Dahna said at one of these stops. “When you think of Shangra La, it will look like this”. He was so right. For me the hours of walking were a time for contemplation. And also for deep concentration. The experience was very empowering. Somehow we were going to make this happen!

The nights, on the other hand, were full of demons. As the temperature dropped, so did our resolve. By 4:00, with nothing but an unheated basic room to return to and our sleeping bags, there was too much time to think about all the things that could go wrong the next day. Would we be able to cope with the altitude? Would Marc’s cough subside? Would we make it? And then the harder to admit stuff like, what kind of bugs are in this mattress, and is the food I just ate going to make me sick during the night ….

Yet with the sunrise, and Dahna and Sitra at our side, we were back on track.

Ten days of walking for five to eight hours gives you a lot of time to think. I spent a lot of it composing in my mind how I would describe this incredible experience to you. As I sit now to actually describe the life changing aspects of it, all of the millions of words so carefully strung together along the trail have melted away.

So I will try to make it simple. Everyone (I hope) sometime in their lives will experience their own Annapurna. It is the experience that teaches you that anything is possible. After Annapurna, I will look at any challenge I may face in the future in a completely different way. As Dhana put it, you simply need a positive attitude to accomplish anything. Your positive attitude creates confidence and then the rest is easy. Very wise words from a very wise man. He has taught us a lot over the last 10 days. Hopefully it will stay with us forever.

I asked Marc to be in charge of diarizing our day-by-day progress in great detail, as I could not keep straight the names of the towns or the mountains peaks we were passing along the trail. And these types of details were not really as important to me as the way I was feeling or the things I was eating! He happily accepted the challenge and has done a great job of documenting our trek from his point of view.

I on the other hand have been writing tidbits along the way that I hope will entertain or make you laugh. Both Marc’s and my bits and pieces will be coming along shortly, once we have time to fine-tune them.

For now, Namaste from Annapurna Sanctuary!


  1. Oh Naomi, you write it all so beautifully! And your positive attitude has been with you from the very beginning, way back in the US Southwest; maybe being at Annapurna has only served to enhance it. I imagine you walking "five to eight hours" in quiet meditation and know this experience will be with you forever. May your journey become richer and deeper with each step.


  2. Congratulations - sounds like a fantastic journey. Did you run into "Coke Man" on your travels?