Consider this piece an overview. A look back at the past fortnight in all its glories and horrors. At various points in this trip, the aforementioned Monsieur Baynes has asked us for three words to describe the trip at various points, both Kathmandu and at points of the trek. Let’s return to these later.
This morning, I’ve returned to sixth form during the middle of mock exams and have been asked about my international exploits with Intrepid and Drake. At first I puffed my cheeks. Because the last two weeks can be very difficult to briefly summarise. But here are some of the words that came out: Manic, cacophonous, vibrant, unhygienic, shocking, surreal, challenging, amazing, epic, unique. Now let’s zoom in.
As I previously alluded to, Kathmandu is a bustling city kept alive by its people and spirit when nature is intent on destroying it and its history. It generates much sound and noise, yes because it’s cramped and built on top of itself, but also because it is dynamic, and full of character, faith and good-will. I think amongst us, opinion is divided on the city. As someone who doesn’t enjoy loud or large places, I wasn’t the city’s biggest supporters. Others embraced the differences it had to the UK, the respect and friendliness of the locals, and the excitement of being somewhere completely out of their comfort zone. There will never be a unanimous verdict from the group on Kathmandu but a diverse group opinion accurately reflects the city itself so I think this appropriate.
The Himalayas to me were fascinating. To put simply, they put the Brecon Beacons to shame. They have some of the most diverse landscapes and climates anywhere in the world and many settlement’s remoteness puts the Scottish Highlands seem connected and integrated. On our trip, we saw Hailstorms, thunder and lightning, avalanche remnants, heavy rain and over 30 degrees sunburn inducing heat. In this time, we have reached heights similar to Mont Blanc, 4 times the height of Ben Nevis and only a couple of hundred metres shy of Everest Base Camp. I’m putting these examples in to offer some perspective and to demonstrate the strength of our group to mostly avoid altitude sickness. For everyone in our team, this has been a challenge, either physical, mental or both. Put given all of our struggles, we pulled together and all summited the Gosainkunda pass as one, a mighty achievement for young people and middle aged men respectively! (For the record our female leader Lucy, is counted in the former)
When reaching such heights and staying in desolate tea houses, it can be comprehended why these great mountains and lakes carry such a spiritual role in society. They are the backdrop to every aspect of life there. They are the host of nature’s extremes and serve as a challenging landscape for daily survival, let alone transporting through them. It is no wonder the lakes have garnered such divinity in mythology and religion given their setting. Where I once looked upon such spirituality of nature with indifference, I can now better understand and explain such beliefs. This removal of ignorance, is something I will personally be very grateful for.
I was accused, early in these series of articles of neglecting the other members of the team. To counteract this, I feel it is appropriate to reel of each one’s names – first only due to GDPR – and state either what I felt they contributed to this trip and/or a worthy anecdote.
Jim – a seemingly boundless energy and pragmatism towards the entire trek combined with a willingness to feed me fig rolls.
TomL – energetic and strong-minded who gained notoriety for filming the unblocking of squatting toilets.
Ben T (Swifty) – Calm and composed throughout and a competent unblocker of said squatters – consequentially gave his name to the item used to complete said task (Swifty stick)
Jake – Composed and funny even during challenging moments but will be etched into my brain for repeated Gavin and Stacey quotations throughout the trip.
Ben H – My co-chair who battled through the day of snowy undulations despite stating that is was one of his worst days ever. His perseverance that day is one example of many on that trip.
Sam – Amusing and laidback. Known to me as someone who only carried a 70L duffel bag and survived each day of trekking on mostly rhubarb and custard sweets. In his favour, I can testify they were delicious.
Rhys – Determined and perseverant, often at the front of the group, Rhys’ legacy will be his continuing unironic use of the phrase ‘yeet’. I hope for his sake that he can move on.
Dan – Committed and pragmatic during times of adversity, Dan must receive my apology for trying to encourage him to read the Economist magazine and for carrying my walking boots on the plane back in his bag.
Hayley – no paragraph will ever sum her up, nor will an entire article, but for many challenges faced, Hayley overcame them all and made everyone laugh at some point. Someone you can talk deeply to, I can genuinely say this trip would’ve been far duller and less exciting without Hayley’s character and good-nature.
Ben C – last and far from least, easy to get along with and with very good observational humour. A pleasure to share a room with and tolerable of me at my worst and friendly at my best. His social skills would make him a very good future Unit Chair (hint hint).
I’ve left myself out of this, partially because I hate self-evaluations and partially because I hope that all of the other people on this trip have formulated an opinion on me – ideally positive overall – and that you dear readers have begun to formulate opinions of me through this article and those prior. I’ll let you decide.
With thanks already given to our guides and porters previously, though that it is not to understate their vital role, final thanks must therefore go to the 5-strong leadership team. John Williams for his crucial first aid knowledge and deadpan wit in times of low morale. John Male for his pragmatic motivation and his tolerance of my actions and opinions more than others as the leader personally responsible to myself and Ben C.Lucy Weston, the epitome of perseverance, having battled influenza throughout much of this trip and despite having reduced lung capacity and injuring her back, being able to accomplish the same as the rest of us. Rather inspirational.
And finally, to the aforementioned Monsieur Andy Baynes and John Kidner – the respective leaders of Intrepid and Drake ESU. After this escapade I believe they both deserve the title of ‘the respectable’ to become a prefix to the names. It is their organisation of such a challenging trip which deserves the most kudos. With DofE expeditions this weekend, this is proof that being an Explorer leader requires consistent efforts. But to go above and beyond and organise such trips, it truly fulfills Intrepid’s motto of Vivimus unam Vitam. One life. Live it.
For every time they shout, yell or moan, we know it comes from a good place. They want us to enjoy and savour these moments as much as possible and for creating these moments, I hope they realise that our gratitude is eternal.
Eternal too are our memories of such a trip. We are all teenagers from the midlands who have seen a snapshot into the wider world from an angle few others like us would ever experience. Memories will live long, through our future conversations, in these online articles (which I hope have conveyed the mood of the trip if nothing else) and in our many photos and videos.
This trip may already be in the past but rest-assured, it will stay with us long into the future.