Some landscapes are so awe inspiring they cannot help but take your breath away. Magnificent peaks, towering waterfalls and a scale grander than any other mountain range in the world make the Himalayas a prime candidate for such an experience. The altitude helps as well.
We made it folks. By the grace of God we made it. Our first trek encapsulated a wide range of emotions, almost as wide as the Annapurna range we were actually in. Awe, reverence, futility, confusion, triumph, encouragement and everything in between were felt at one time or another.
We began our trek with a 6 hour car ride out of Kathmandu to the city of Besisahar. Now Kathmandu is settled in a valley surrounded by “foothills” which you must climb out of and descend to leave the city. We couldn’t believe how unbelievably huge the landscape was. I mean everything is on a different kind of scale, and as you weave in and out of jungle ravines and mountains you cannot help but marvel at the many terraced fields, farms, houses and villages perched precariously amidst the mountain landscape. It’s honestly ridiculous. I’m not even sure why people think Machu Pichu in South America is so cool, because all of Nepal outside of Kathmandu looks a lot like it.
The roads were narrow, the driving was crazy but alas we reached Besisahar in one piece. There we stayed at a guest house and prepared for our jeep ride into the mountains. The route we took used to be only traveled via trekking as recently as 3 years ago, but a new road (the term road is used very generously here) now lets us cut days of trekking off our trip.
Scary doesn’t quite do the ride justice. You shake, rattle, bump and swerve your way around huge canyons and cliffs all while your driver is trying to change the song and talk on the phone at the same time. I have some videos that might do the ride some justice but I doubt it. It was terrifying. Sometimes you’d have to pass 200 goats or a pack of donkeys, other times you’d have to pass another jeep with approximately 20 people inside and 10 hanging on the roof (I’m not kidding). All this while having about a foot and half separating you from quite a tumble down a large cliff.
Once we reached Tal we set out on foot to Danaqu which took about 3 ish hours. No problem, and the scenery distracted us the whole way. You are literally surround by jungle on all sides and we even saw the occasionally monkey run across our path.
From Danaqu we stopped at a guest house in Koto which was a short 4 hours as well. We stopped because from Koto to Meta there is no guest house in between and it’s a minimum of 6-7 hours to get there if you are hustling. I found out the hard way hustling up is easier said than done.
God puts on a creation exhibition in the Annapurnas. It’s nuts. As we began the 1500m + ascent that day I couldn’t believe where God had brought us and what we were getting to do. I thought we felt humbled as the day started, but God wasn’t close to done humbling me yet.
Amidst crossing Indiana Jones bridges and walk paths that cut clear through cliffs or under waterfalls, I started to notice my breathing get harder. A lot harder. It was to the point where I couldn’t catch my breath if we were going up, which happened to be a problem because most of that day featured up. We stopped for lunch and I layed down near an old abandoned building made of stone to ease my back and try to open up my lungs.
You know that deep breath that doctor tells you to take when listening to your bodily functions? Yeah I got real good at that, because it was the only way I could remotely feel functional. Altitude sickness had set in and it had no intentions of leaving for the remainder of the trip. Here I was with days of climbing ahead of me and I already had a hard time breathing, abdominal pain and circulation issues as a result of the breathing thing. My arms and neck got the tingly feeling you have in your foot when it falls asleep, it was surreal. I also couldn’t eat to make matters worse.
My strength gone, and my ability to gain it back questionable, I was reminded of the story of Gideon. God told Gideon to make his army smaller, so Israel had no other option than to acknowledge they achieved victory via the Lords hands. I cannot sit here before you and say I got up and down these mountains without God helping me every step of the way. Like Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 1, God made me rely soley on him and not myself, because if I relied on myself I was going to pass out and fall into a river somewhere.
Think of what we would all be capable of if we relentlessly trusted the Lord with every aspect of our lives. An unconditional giving of all our resources both mental, spiritual, physical and monetary, to his purposes for his glory would result in nothing short of miraculous signs and wonders. Think the end of Acts 2 if you have a hard time visualizing it.
God came through time and time again, whether it be well timed breaks from our guides or little water bottles shoved in the rock face that were spitting out water for us to refill with. And staying hydrated just did not happen, too much sweat and the altitude must had affected that too. All I know is I began to breath through my mouth so much, my mouth and tongue would dry out every few minutes and I didn’t have enough water to deal with it. I also wanted to bathe or dive into every stream or waterfall we passed which were many, but I never could do it safely.
After one final climb we made it to Meta and it contended with my girlfriend for the most beautiful thing I could think of at the moment (she still won). I needed a bed, water, rest and some food. God made sure all of that happened.
I’ve been struggling with how to write this post and include it all, so I’ve decided to do a series of smaller posts throughout the next week or so. But I want you all to know the gist of what happened so ill go you a quick breakdown.
Once we reached Meta we took a day to rest and acclimate. Then we set out for phoo which took us around 8 hours. Once we reached phoo we found that everyone had left and we got to sleep in a fun shed, inhaling smoke and eating some sketchy dahl-bot. There will be more on that in a further post.
The next morning I felt horrible but God gave me strength as we changed our plans. Staying in phoo another day of two seemed pointless so we decided to head to gnar. However gnar is even higher up than phoo so I was going to stay at a monastery below gnar called gnar-fetti. After hiking 6 hours and crossing the sketchiest canyon-crossing trail ever, we found we couldn’t stay at gnar-fetti. So we adjusted again. Instead of all staying the night like we had planned, James and Simon would go to gnar that day while Batash and I would head back to Meta. The idea of going back there that day made me want to cry but God provided more than enough strength.
The next day Simon and James returned safe and sound to tell us that gnar was empty like Phoo and they had to stay in a teachers room for the night. We have gospel stories and all that but you’ll just have to stay tuned haha.
The next day we went from meta to Danaqu, which if you are keeping track at home took us about 3 ish days to do the other way around, so we basically flew down that day. From Danaqu we hiked several hours to Tal where we were picked up and taken to Besisahar. From there we caught a jeep back to Kathmandu the next day.
Now we are relaxing in Kathmandu catching up with old friends, meeting new ones and doing other things around the city. It’s funny how much it feels like home here, and we have been eating like kings since we returned.
It’s been a challenge to press into God and remember why we are here in the midst of both discomfort and comfort, but we have been fighting for our time here to be used well.
To be perfectly honest there is so much that has happened, and continues to happen, that I’m having a hard time writing… But hopefully with this out of the way I can begin to clear the log jam that is my brain at the moment and really let you all into what God is doing over here.
It’s all pretty darn incredible. Thank you for the prayers! Keep them coming, they are appreciated and needed. God bless and Go Cougs.