The Journey

'I believe any trip in search of wildlife can be coupled with physical activity and elements of cultural diversity to form a thrilling opportunity '
John H.Eickert

A long journey across the unknown to a place not yet visited creates in my mind a vision. Cities. People. Faces. Lines. Waiting. Sitting. Smells. All of these mental possessions are just images until the journey is begun and those anticipated images become life. Before I ever traveled to Asia I found joy in travel. Our family-two week summer vacation was my happiest time and the planning for each vacation filled my imagination. I would lie awake each night, reading. The blankets would be pulled over my head and I used a flashlight to illuminate my reading material. Once my father announced the destination for the coming summer I would spend hours researching and dreaming of our destination. I spent years researching and dreaming of my first trip to Asia.

The first stop was Delhi. The final destination was Kathmandu in Nepal where I would meet up with a climbing team for an attempt on Makalu. The entire adventure was three years in the planning and three years of exhaustive physical training. I intended to wander the streets of Delhi and then view the Taj Mahal before traveling overland to Kathmandu. I met travelers who informed me the trip to Kathmandu was arduous, long, hard, and uncomfortable with nothing to see. I was informed it was easier to fly. It was an arduous, long, hard, and uncomfortable trip. There was very little to see, the landscape redundant, but I would not have missed it. Well, I could have done without the packed buses with the ear shattering music blasting whenever the bus was moving, but then to fly is to miss Varanasi.

Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world and one of seven cites sacred to Hinduism. It was a city by the 7 th century BC and is mentioned in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. It is here that the great river Ganges makes its immense bend to the east. It is here where millions of pilgrims come each year. And it is here where millions are taken to the Ghat and then mourned. I had never seen such sorrow and sadness. We in the West deal with death from a distance, often without emotion. On that day, waiting overnight for another bus, in Varanasi I came to understand the true meaning of mortality and impermanence. I rode the rest of the way on my journey in sober reflection. I learned one of life's great lessons in Varanasi- nothing lasts forever. And sometimes that is a good thing. I was glad to get off the bus in Kathmandu. Makalu did not cooperate and none of our team made the summit.

Ah, but the journey continues and the scent of pending adventure is always in the air. Spring is not far now. Summer is on the horizon. Adventures, big or small, are there for each of us. This is the year. The time to plan is now. All too soon, the journey will end. Cheers.

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