ADVENTURE TALES – Beating the COVID-19 Blues
Yes, another one of those self-help posts, I know. Age has its advantages; we do know more stuff than the young. May not all be useful, but this trick to beat the blues, especially the COVID-19 Blues, works wonders! I promise!
My friend Mandy and I are standing with our fingers in our mouths, rubbing toothpaste on our teeth, giggling at each other in the mirror. We aren’t going to change before going to bed, and we are staying in the same clothes tomorrow. And no, we aren’t still in college nor on sleepovers. We are middle-aged wives, in the tiny Himalayan village of Lukla, and our luggage is still in Kathmandu! We can’t do a thing about it and have decided to thoroughly enjoy the situation. The snapshot is there in front of me. Both of us leaning over the sink in the stark white bathroom light of a cold bathroom in a tiny hostel. It’s on my computer. And it has transported me straight to a happy time. It’s a shot to beat the blues like no other.
If you’ve been a traveller, then you have a bag full of this stuff. If you’ve been a trekker, (which I must confess is way better than being a traveller) you have days of magical experiences. My pictures, with the click of a mouse or a button, beam me into another world. The picture is of three shapeless bags walking in a forest. There are white dots all over the photo. I’m on the right, stand all of us with ponchos over our backpacks making us seem like some weird aliens on two legs. I have my tongue out, to taste the snowflakes as they melt in seconds, and it’s heavenly!
Somewhere on the Annapurna circuit, as we walk along the dusty road there is a sound of a horse’s hooves and the jangling of harness, and lo and behold! An apparition from some Mongolian plain rides past, bearded, fur hat, fur overcoat and boots, straight from the era of Genghis Khan!
And here is another picture of a pink plastic poncho and a cow putting her head over the fence and chomping a chunk out of it! Then another of an old fashioned archery contest up in a village that’s stood still in time, with burnt blackened shells of houses on the hillside, wild cheers of the winning team with a little dance done at the end of every volley of arrows! What an enchanting ten minutes of memory!
I look at a picture of an exhausted me with a smiling Sam sitting on top of Thorangla, and there is so much more to that picture. There is a dark torch-lit path between two sides of shoulder height snow and a red backpack bobbing along in front of me, a boiled egg in my pocket and frozen hands. There is a memory of frozen water in a broken plastic can in a hole of a toilet and outside, a million zillion stars as clear and close as diamonds on black velvet, slowly wheeling across the Milky Way! Unforgettable!
The times I have trekked up merciless heights, lungs bursting and feet as heavy as lead have always . . . always ended with views to die for, and a feeling of having accomplished something. There’s never been the pride of doing something physically challenging, though there has been happy with that, it’s always been the achievement of mind over matter. To be able to beat the mind at its endless grouching and grumbling about putting it through a tiring, never-ending climb, making it put up with cold and uncomfortable conditions, is the achievement of the mind talking itself out of defeat.
It’s something that now in my armchair when I look at the pictures, I remember vividly. And it’s such a good feeling. I beat that mind at its game of wanting to give up, take the easy way out, feel defeated and depressed, and take it out on someone close by. And that training of using the habit against the mind itself, of not giving in and taking one more step, of making the best of a bad situation has stood me in good stead.
Trekking is a strict teacher but rewards you for your grit and determination at the end of every day. And of course, the carrot dangling in front of your nose is a day of beautiful views, blue skies and sparkling leaves, cold clear streams and leaping waterfalls and views of snowy mountains and friendly villagers.
Each of these is captured in my pictures, and an hour or so just flies when I put on the slideshow of photos of a trek. Added to that is the joy of posting them on your social media to share with friends, and have a “do you remember?…..” conversation! It’s the best medicine you could take for the blues!
My albums of treks are much more engrossing and entertaining than any Netflix film or crime series! I’ve been lucky to pack in quite a few treks under my belt and built up a formidable armoury of photographs and memories. I have days of shots of happiness in those pictures and I’m sure they will outlast weeks of lockdown and quarantines. Friends are a phone call away to talk about those times.
I wait when we can go again to build up more banks of good times in the mountains, but till then my trekking phots will stand me in good stead against the dark days of COVID-19. So a word to the young and not so young. Whenever you have the chance, go visit the mountains and quiet places. Bring back memories along with strengthened minds and happy times!
Author: Elaine Kochar
Photo Credits: Ameya Kolhe