The Pleasures Of Discomfort

The Himalaya; proving ground for the adventurous and daring. A symbol of the raw and untamed potential beauty of nature. I grew up to stories of hardened athletes battling through bitter, snow blasted landscapes, a place not meant for man. To me the Himalaya was no more than a distant legend, the thing of daydreams.  So, I was very surprised to find myself deep within the Pir Panjal Range, Inner Himalaya...

  Mik admiring the early morning view from a lookout in Masuri, one of our stops on the way to Manali.

Mik admiring the early morning view from a lookout in Masuri, one of our stops on the way to Manali.

A few friends from college had decided to spend their Christmas trekking around Everest base camp in Nepal. The stories and pictures which they brought back intrigued me, all of a sudden these mountains of legend didn't seem so very distant. Just like that the seed was planted, the idea of making my own pilgrimage to the mountains growing in the back of my mind . As the semester neared its end the prospect of trekking in the Himalaya became painstaking real. I had always loved the outdoors, regularly spending weekends camping or mountain biking. So, one late night in April I somehow convinced myself this prior experience had somewhat prepared me for attempting a trek in the Himalaya. I introduced the bold idea to one of my friends, a guy called Mik from Indonesia who quickly fell in love with it.  Fuelled on by each others childish excitement we set about making our dream a reality, assembling a rather crude plan of how we would travel the 2500kms from our college to the Himalaya. On May 19th we began our journey, carrying a few kgs of food, a stupid amount of camera gear and the ever so important ukulele. 

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After about a week of travel on sketchy busses and trains we reached Manali, a little city buried deep in the Himalaya. Tired and dirty we walked the streets for several hours trying to find a cheap hotel, the powdered mountaintops teasing us from the outskirts of the city. After nice dinner and good nights sleep we packed our bags and headed in direction of snow covered peaks. Hitchhiking from village to village we slowly left civilisation behind. When we eventually ran out of road we walked on through the forests, we had never felt so free.

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It wasn't hard not to be enchanted by the sweeping forests, I didnt think there could be so much green in the world. With no one else in sight it felt like these landscapes had been made just for us, the forests our kingdom, tent our castle. 

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Slowly but surely we left the trees & ocean of green behind us, moving into the strange limbo world between forrest and mountain. If we weren't hiking the sound of Mik's waterlogged and very out of tune ukulele filled the air

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After a week of almost perfect weather the conditions took a drastic turn for the worse. Relentlessly pounded by storms we remained trapped in our tent, lying awake to the constant sound of the wind raging outside. For the first time we realised just how alone and helpless we truely were. Unable to press on we stayed in our little cocoon warmth, reflecting on the bizarre events leading is there.

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AMK

Almost all Schools tend to have some form of extra-circular activity, chess club, debate team and poetry slam all spring to mind. However how many schools have have their very own Fire Service…. Thats where this adventure began, with the Mahindra United World College Fire and Rescue Service team. A handful of scrawny teenagers from all corners of the globe appointed with the job of quickly responding to wildfires which often engulf grasslands around campus.  

Each year one week out of the school calendar is designated for ‘Project Week’. The opportunity to travel off campus and spend the week pursuing an appropriate idea. For fire service this was tackling one of the hardest treks in Maharastra called Alang Madan Kulang or AMK. The dangerously narrow trail twists along, and up the mountain face until it reacher an 1000 year old cave at the summit. At times becoming so steep that walking became impossible and we resorted to climbing.

In the scoring summer heat we loaded our packs and set off through the dusty landscape. Slowly pushing out way higher into the cliffs, we had never felt so far away. 

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Taking a moment to catch our breath on a ledge, Arvin (the teacher crazy enough to take us this adventure) concerned with how close I am standing to the edge

One of the many narrow and steep staircases cut into the cliff face

Dirty, Tired, Sunburnt and Smelly but very happy

Reaching the summit and our camp for the night. An 1000 year old cave carved into the mountainside. We took a moment to relax and reflect

Anna taking a moment to be pretentious at Sunset (As Usual)  

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Waking up on the edge of a cliff just as the first rays of sunlight began to lick the mountainside

Joao trying to keep with cool whille descending back down the cliff face

An amazing trip and unforgettable trip. Surprised no one , especially myself feel to their death along the way.