Read about a lomographer's short account of hiking trip in Nepal, where the source of motivation to walk miles and climb mountains lies in the comfort of the innocent babies' and and school children's faces met on the trail.
I don’t consider myself as a seasoned traveler. I still have along list of cities I want to discover, but as I move along and cross each country on my travel wishlist, I learned to rely on the comforts of strangers — the other backpackers I met on the road, the guides whose service I seek in order to navigate places I can’t manage on my own, the family owners of budget hostels where I choose to call home for the next coming days or simply, a smile or a nod from a stranger I passed by. These are more than enough for me to settle any anxieties sometimes associated with being alone in a foreign land.
During a week long hiking trip at Nepal, traversing the Poon Hill-Ghorepani trail on those early mornings armed with my 10 kg backpack, just when my legs started to crumble and no Dal Bhat can give me more energy to spend another day of going up and down another mountain, I learned to rely not only on the comforts of tea houses or the encouraging words from my hiking guide Sujan, but I looked forward each morning to be greeted by the innocent faces of Nepalese children along the trail.
Nestled with the magnificent backdrop of snow-capped Annapurna Mountain Range are the several small villages which most Nepalese call home. During daytime, these babies are left alone; sitting quietly in one corner, while their mothers are busy attending to their tea house business, or their father, a “sherpa” is out somewhere guiding another group of eager hikers. These kids are mostly used to seeing strangers; they smile and play with anyone who chooses to spend few minutes with them.
Not only did I use these quick stopovers to catch my breath, with permission from their mother, I often used this opportunity to photograph these children. How can I resist their innocent eyes gazing at my strange face and not be affected by the infectious laughter and happiness radiating from them? Particularly in today’s technology age, where the only time I saw some kids smiling from ear to ear is when they open their birthday present and inside is an iPad.
Apart from the babies I met on the road, another source of much needed inspiration to push through and climb another day are the school children I saw each morning making their way to their village school.
Imagine, they need to hike miles and climb many steps every day to reach their school, in order to learn how to read and write.
I was very lucky to have the opportunity to visit one of the village schools and had a brief conversation with the teachers. Apart from exchanging few pleasantries, our conversation turns into a more serious tone particularly on the importance of education and how much improvement, facility-wise, is needed at the few schools hidden somewhere at the mountain ranges.
At those specific instances, looking inside a bare classroom with hardly anything except one blackboard against a group of kids eager to learn to write their names, is where it dawns to me that maybe there is more than just being another traveler bragging about her hiking experience in Nepal.
I never realized that by simply looking beyond the glory of travelling and by taking a moment to greet a school kid “namaste,” or simply letting a baby stare back at my tired face is where I will get the most satisfaction.
I hope one day, I will be given the chance to retrace the same steps of the hiking route, see these kids once more or maybe meet new babies along the trail, but this time around, I want to bring a pencil, a paper pad, or a drawing book.
Who’s coming with me?