There comes a time when you look back on a great adventure with a sense of longing and wonder just where you found the energy and willpower to do what you did. That time is upon me now. Yep. Only a day back in the home country, and I reflect on my experiences and feel a tad empty.
And claustrophobic. Ever have that happen to you? It happens to me each and every time I come out of the woods. Whether it's coming back from a long day hike or returning from a weeklong expedition to the backcountry, I always feel closed in by civilization. Imagine if you will, amplifying that feeling by about 500 percent. It felt like someone had strapped me between the jaws of a great vise and was slowly turning the screw that closed the walls in around me. Not fun, but I’ll survive. I always do. Somehow. Some way. Whatever.
I’m going to backtrack a bit because of a computer glitch at good 'ole Alice’s Internet Café. Seems I lost my last dispatch due to some outage in the normally dependable connection at the café. So allow me the luxury of digression just this once.
One thing I’d like to say about Lukla: From the moment I arrived in Lukla, I wanted to leave. Funny. It’s not that it’s that bad of a little village. It’s just that after three weeks in the field, Lukla is the last place in the world I wanted to be trapped. Like I stated before, watching the planes leave the day we arrived made me feel like an extra on the set of Casablanca without the proper letters of transit. We really wanted to be on one of those first planes out—a day early. But, alas, no. The first words out of our host’s mouth when he checked us in were, "Sorry. No early flights out."
Speaking of our host. His name was Ang Karma and he ran the Sherpa Lodge where we stayed that one, long, last night in Lukla. He was an older man. A man already well into some hard middle-aged years—years that settled heavily into creases and folds that marked his face like a well-worn roadmap. And there was more to this man than met the eye.
A group of climbers had settled into the common room and were in the midst of a celebration of their own. Two were returning home after a long trip. One was continuing on. All were well beyond their first bottle of San Miguel beer. Someone picked up a case of CDs and made a selection: it would be the Police. I didn’t complain. It would be nice to hear something that didn’t come from my own Sony Walkman. And by the looks of the Panasonics on the wall, Roxanne would sound pretty sweet pouring over the black metal grills. But it wasn’t the Police that came out of the speakers. It was the Scorpions.
For those of you showing your years, the Scorpions were a 1980s big hair band. Not bad either. But their “Rock You Like A Hurricane” anthem didn’t blare from the speakers. No. It was that other ballad they're known for. You know, "Winds of Change." And it really had an effect on me. There I was, sitting in a little village with a single airstrip in the middle of the Himalayas, not a stone’s throw from China. And here was a man listening to “Winds of Change,” a faraway look in his eye. And there, just beyond the periphery of my vision, in the dim yellow light cast by a single low watt bulb, I thought I saw a single tear well up in his eye. I felt like a voyeur.
Was he remembering someone? Did he have ties to Tibetan friends who no longer shared the same freedom he enjoyed? I couldn’t help but envision the MTV video. You know, the one where the lone Chinese protestor stands in front of an advancing tank, holding nothing but a rose.
The song. The man. The image of the video. The remote, third world location. My own physical and mental exhaustion. Everything came together inside my mind and for a moment, I was moved to tears of my own. I’ve stayed away from politics on this trip, and for good reason. But there comes a time when one can’t turn one’s back on what’s happening around them. To pretend that there are no hard feelings towards the Chinese who have overrun Tibet and threaten to make Lhasa a Chinese attraction by pushing the native Tibetans farther and farther from their Holy city, well, it’s a crime unto itself. But I’ll refrain from using this forum as my own personal soapbox—at least I'll refrain further. Free Tibet. Sorry. I couldn’t keep that last one inside.
A few more thoughts I’d like to express, and then I’ll end this dispatch.
First, to the people of Nepal. Thank you. You are the highlight of my trip. You’re as strong and steady as the mighty Himalayas themselves, and as green and verdant as the tsampas that dance happily in the cool mountain breezes that lap at your fields like ebbing tides. You have my undying gratitude for the kindness that you’ve shown me. You took this Western tourist and turned him into a believer in the human spirit. Thanks for giving me back something that I thought I had lost. Namaste.
To Mike. Thanks for being a great trekking companion. You’re a fine writer and an even better friend. I thank you for your companionship and your help when I was feeling a bit under the altitude.
To Ms. Oyler’s classes at Most Blessed Sacrament school: Thanks! Your best wishes, questions, concerns, and virtual companionship on this trek helped make it all worthwhile. Never stop believing that you can accomplish ANYTHING that you put your mind to. If you can see it, you can do it. With imagination and dedication, you can gain your heart’s desire. Dare to dream big and be ready to work hard for your goals. In the end, it’s you and you alone who are in charge of your destiny.
To TechRepublic: Without each of you, this expedition wouldn't have been possible. You are the best at what you do—never stop believing in yourselves or what we can do as a team. It’s been a great ride, and I want to thank each of you from the bottom of my heart for making this possible. Can’t wait to see where we plant the flag next! Thanks.
And last but not least, thanks to the members. Those of you who wrote to Mike and me, thanks for your tips and tricks, warm thoughts, and letters of encouragement. Without you, none of this would be possible. That’s right. Without you there’d be no TechRepublic. Period. It was nice taking some of you with us. Each night when we’d upload our dispatches, we’d watch that blue bar progress as letter after letter was received by our little "satphone that could." Another letter from home. Another letter from you. It helped bring a small piece of our world a little closer to us each night. So, from Mike and me, as well as from all of the other employees here at TechRepublic, a hearty thanks to each of you. Thanks for the ride. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with next.
And then there’s this. Peace. I’ve found an inner peace that I thought was missing. Mike says that I practice Zen with an Uzi. Maybe. If telling the truth—yes, the truth can be a bit harsh at times—is using an Uzi, then so be it. But there’s something about pushing yourself beyond limits that you thought were defined by solid walls, then emerging on the other side—cleansed, purified in a way that isn’t possible under normal circumstances. Perhaps this trip was my catharsis.
So I say this to you. Find your limits. Whether it’s physical limits, or mental limits, push beyond them. Rekindle the fire inside. Dare to live life to the fullest. Dare to live.
David Bard has been a fixture at TechRepublic for some time now. At one time he was editor in chief of LinuxRepublic and then AdminRepublic. Currently, he occupies space as an editor in chief with TechProGuild. In addition, he’s a freelance writer who has covered extreme sports for years. He also is a writer of horror and—contrary to what his climbing partner may think—is hoping the expedition to Nepal doesn’t provide fodder for his next story. When he’s not at home teaching his year-and-a-half-old daughter why it’s not a good idea to eat rocks, or trying to convince his wife why yet another expedition really is necessary, he’s usually off in some remote section of woods trying to discover himself. He’s still looking.