An Experience is Worth a Thousand Pictures

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Our trip to the Himalayas near Dharamsala was phenomenal! Like previous years, 8th grade had eight students and we went with two staff, Gurprakash Singh and GuruRam Kaur, along with a team of two guides and five other experienced mountain dwellers to take care of our food, our camp and some of our baggage. They took great care of us all and we were certainly never hungry. 
 
Over the five days of hiking we experienced a few different environments, many mountain tops, shaking legs, cozy moments and incomprehensible beauty. 
 
The first and last day, we went through mountain forest and villages. Those hikes were shorter and we had time in the afternoon to play some cricket with our guide and explore the village or the river side. The second day, we saw it changing to a beautiful green jungle; we crossed the river a few times and we’re lucky to be in the shade of sturdy trees, climbing up higher and higher and taking breaks to take a look at the impressive views, realizing every time how far and high we had come. The same day we started seeing pine trees and more large boulders; still going along the river, still climbing up, we met shepherds and their herds on the way; passing us, smiling, with ease and agility of years of experience, while all of us tried to smile back casually and look alive! We had started feeling the effects of the altitude and were nice and sore already. But with enough breaks, water and snacks and the breathtaking views that were only getting better, we got our heads around the simple principle of ‘one foot in front of the other’.
 
And of course every step was worth it! The valley with the lake where we stayed for two days could’ve been a screen saver someone commented, but honestly a picture could never compare to the profound and overwhelming beauty we were in. At night we would hear the calm babble of the various streams running to the lake, we got lost watching the stars, or staring into our campfire; until someone would think of another good scary story. We had a solid collection by the end of the week, luckily we were hiking so much we were tired enough to sleep! 
 
The third day we conquered what we didn’t know we could. We passed the pine trees, we went far above the clouds and none of us really knew what we had agreed to. That mountain was far above our expectations and kept surprising us for a good four hours. You start to realize that you can’t really scope the size, distance and steepness of a mountain landscape. But the only way was up, one foot in front -or rather above- the other, and at some point there was no other option but to reach the top, and so we did. 
 
The feeling of being on top of the world – and having achieved that, overtook every other discomfort. The thing with 13 year olds is that they’re really strong, they just don’t realize that or they pretend like they’re not. This was definitely proof that they are. And going down was proof that they can certainly focus their mind to a task with some determination and just a slight fear of an immense mountain below them. They were champions all along the way, and they carried themselves safely up and down, without too much complaining, even when it would start raining down on us, which it did! 
 
The last two days we took almost the same road down and we got a chance to dip in the freezing cold river. After four days of quick towel baths and basically constant leg exercise, it was a delight for our bodies and minds! We warmed up by the camp fire and had dinner soon after; how fortunate we felt all together so close to nature, the stars and the clouds. Many moments of gratitude and awe were shared, many great stories and much laughter. It was an adventure none of us had ever imagined or expected.
 
Elisa and Sasha, Mexico
Elisa: It was hard but it was also so cool. The mountains were so beautiful. It was the first time that I saw something like that. I saw so many cows and goats. I wasn’t really excited about the trip before we went, but I got so much pleasure out of spending time with my classmates. 
Sasha: I liked the trip. My favourite part was seeing the sky at night. The stars were really beautiful. 
Elisa: You could see the galaxies. . .  All the time we would look around and it was worth a picture. 
 
Manit, Canada and Amanraj, Malaysia
Manit: My favourite part was the rest at the end of the hike and the bonfires. 
Amanraj: My favourite part was the food. It was really good. 
Manit: They said they made it better than last year. They made Mac and Cheese. 
Amanraj: It was a fun experience but really tiring. That was my first time hiking that long. I’m very happy I did it. The views were really great. It felt like a victory. The last day, when we reached the cars and we knew we didn’t have to hike anymore, we felt so happy. 
 

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