Haris Harini Lender (Integral Yoga teacher, Camp Yogaville former director, Kidding Around Yoga founder) recently embarked on a trek to Mount Everest Base Camp. She’s sharing a travelogue of sorts and here’s an excerpt from it.
Tomorrow begins my 9-day trek to Mount Everest Base camp. Many of my friends have asked me: How? Why? Who? When? And most importantly: What the @#$%?
So since I am documenting my every move I thought I’d explain how this all came to be and what’s in store. A year and a half ago I was at Stratton Mountain doing a Kidding Around Yoga (KAY) training, and visiting my cousin Laurie. Her daughter Sydney, who was 24ish at the time, had just gotten back from her trip to Everest Base Camp (EBC) and was showing me her photos. To put it mildly, my jaw dropped, and I realized it had been too many years since I had done something amazingly adventurous wilderness style. And, if I didn’t take my new hip out for a Himalayan hike now, it would probably never happen.
Fun fact: Hard to believe but I did Outward Bound and National Outdoor Leadership School, climbed Mt. Kenya, and ran the Outing Club at my university. Another lifetime ago…
My hubby, Evan Cohn, made it very clear right away that there was no way he was joining me. I posted on Facebook for any takers and Cheryl Hapke—my neighbor, friend, concert buddy, and now partner in grime—jumped in. We have spent many months and hours preparing our minds, bodies, wallets and travel fears. We bought tons of equipment that you need to have. We have talked and talked and worked through every possible issue that can arise. This is serious business.
People ask me how I can do this after my hip replacement. The thing is: I couldn’t have done this before my hip replacement—if you’ve had one you know! Honestly, I worried more about the 8 passenger plane ride into the mountains at 6:00 am. I worried about my back, my foot (surgery is scheduled for October), the altitude, my mind, anxiety, slipping in Yak poop, hitting my head on a rock and waking up with 20 Buddhist monks hanging over my body chanting “Om Mane Padme Hum.” Okay, that wouldn’t suck actually.
Cheryl and I have a porter that carries his things and both of ours. G-d bless him. I love him already. We also have a guide all to ourselves. We sleep in “tea houses” at night. Kinda like a small dorm with a restaurant attached. Not luxury, but not tents either like they did years ago.
During the 9-day hike and especially in the first few days we are in civilization. Schools, monasteries, kids playing. Yaks are constantly hiking up the trail to deliver kerosene or some kind of gas to Mount Everest summit climbers, and for tea houses to cook and for basically everything. They say it’s like a pilgrimage. Tons of people. Helicopters are going back and forth all day to deliver people to base camp who are attempting the summit and to pick up folks who don’t make it to wherever they are going.
We stop and eat lunch in a tea house every day. We rest and acclimatize for a few days. Sometimes that means hiking during the day and going up, up, up and back down to your original tea house. Namche Bazaar is the first and last big pit stop. We spend two days there. There is even a North Face shop and tons of knock off shops to buy what you need. It’s actually more civilized than you would think, but as each day goes by you are higher and higher up there and the air starts thinning out.
When we get to Base Camp (just a bunch of rocks, LOL) we are at 17,600 feet above sea level. Then, we spend the night, get up early, take a day hike to Kala Patthar, which I think is 18,500, hike down, get on a freaking helicopter back to Lukla where the hike began, and then back on the scary flight (as if the helicopter wasn’t) and then back to Kathmandu. Many folks hike back down but we chose to save our knees and have some time to be tourists. The best of both worlds.
I think my yogic training and all that pranayama will serve me well.
Q: Why do you want to do it?
A: “Cuz it’s there” —George Mallory (referring to Mt. Everest, when asked about his climb in the early 1920s.)
Lila, my tour guide turns out to be a 24-year-old who is smack in the middle of his Yoga teacher training. Go figure! They hadn’t taught him the best pose yet. So I took it upon myself, in a restaurant, to do so. Look at the look on his face. Just like a kid. “I did it Haris, I did it!” My job here is done. Well not totally—he wants me to come back and do a KAY training!
This tour guide is a yogi and he loves to chant. He tried to wow me—white Jewish girl from the USA—what could I possibly know? He chanted a few and I knew them all and followed along easily. Then it was my turn. Those who know me, know, I’m not shy. He was videotaping me in the backseat chanting while he followed along and I was videotaping him from the back. Epic drive! We were both enjoying our newfound commonality. Until I broke out into “Amba Parameshwari” and then it kind of went silent. There is no competition in Yoga. But if there was, I won the chant-off. Ha ha! Thanks to all of my great teachers from Yogaville. You raised me well!
Update: When I decided to take this journey quite a few folks said to me: “Why not just do the Annapurna Trail? It’s much easier and prettier.” I of course said: “No, no, no, I’m doing Everest! Everest or bust!”
However, for three days we tried to get on a plane to Lukla—the most dangerous airport in the world and where most folks begin their hike. It is very hard to get in and out of there. They say to add a few days of extra time on to your trip in case of bad weather. If there are any clouds or rain they ain’t flying. But we knew that wouldn’t happen to us because it’s supposed to be past monsoon season. Thank you climate change, you are real! There were hundreds of trekkers waiting, sleeping, waiting—for days. Same faces, different days. Each morning we headed out hopeful and each day they said we couldn’t fly. As of now, nobody has flown in or out of Lukla for a week.
So, we had to make the decision to change our hike to the Anna Purna Base camp trail. Time, money, and patience are running low. It’s supposedly easier to fly into that airport at Pokhara. Except it wasn’t. We got as close as boarding a plane. Happiness! We’re gonna hike. And then they asked us to get off because of weather. Then they tried again and we made it on to a bus towards the new potential plane, happiness again! And then they took us off again and then we decided to take an 8-hour taxi ride to Pokhara instead of flying—the town where folks begin the Annapurna trail. Very lovely lakeside town. It was a beautiful drive through the country and tiny villages and we saw way more of Nepal than we had planned. Are we sad we aren’t on the EBC trail? You bet your bippy. Very sad. But then again, yogis love to find opportunities to practice vairagya, non-attachment.
P. S. Our trek leader forced us to get up at 3:45 this morning to climb to the top of Poon Hill. Many thousand steps. Oy vey. I really did not want to do this but in the end of course he was right, and we saw the most magnificent sunrise over the Himalayas!
About the Author:
Haris “Harini” Lender is a certified Integral Yoga teacher at the 500 level. She has also been certified in Prenatal, Raja, Children’s and Stress Management. Haris lives in St. Pete with her husband. All four of their kids are either in college or becoming Yoga teachers! Haris spends much of her hard-earned vacation time in either one of her lovely “tiny houses”. One is a yurt at the Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville in Buckingham, Virginia. The other is located close to Montezuma, Costa Rica at the Cabuya Yoga resort. During her 11 years of running Camp Yogaville and for the last 7 years at her own summer sleepover Yoga camp in Florida there are many opportunities to show off the skills learned along the way. Haris writes songs and skits, manages her counselors, teachers and kitchen staff, and has developed many more skills that have helped to create Kidding Around Yoga. Haris is extremely grateful to her teacher Swami Satchidananda, and to all of the Swamis, friends, and teachers at Yogaville that have helped guide her over the years.