Home is where

EDIT: This post was started and finished at two very different times and was supposed to be finished long, long ago. Please understand that time is a kind of loose concept for now. Enjoy.

This post was begun at an altitude 30.000 feet (No worries, European allies. I only stop using the metric system when regarding airfare), one would like to challenge his newly acquired altitude skills, after climbing in both Leh and Stok Kangri.

Since the last post, an eternity has passed. I’ll excuse myself with saying that I’ve been without access to both computer and internet, something quite extraordinary in our 21st century lifestyles. Exams were a (bore) stress, graduation came and went and arriving in Leh, Ladakh seems like an eternity ago. It’s hard to realise that one is now going home – wherever that is – for the first time since winter.

Graduation was a heartfelt goodbye to 110 (or something, I don’t know) of friends, family and foes familiarity – ? Set up as an all night extravaganza from 19:00 in the evening, to 10:00 in the morning – At what time, I left for Ladakh. If anyone of my 2nd years are reading (unlikely), I’d like you to know you meant tons to us and the lack of your presence next year, will leave MUWCI changed forever. I was entitled enough to say goodbye to many of you, but there were also a few I missed in the haze of happiness, tears and alcohol culinary pleasures. Leaving for Ladakh was tougher than expected and was accompanied by tears in the parking lot – Great start.

Change of (physical) venue. I just landed in Frankfurt airport and I’m waiting for my connecting flight to arrive. 7 ruthless hours from Delhi to Frankfurt were made slightly more enjoyable by an emergency exit seat and friendly staff. Small pleasures.

The difference between India and Germany is stark, obvious and immediate. Humidity and temperature aside, Germany is an ode to effectiveness with no waste of human capital – an effect of culture and (by Asian standards) high salaries. Information desks are electronic, security is a full body X Ray and your boarding pass at the gate is checked electronically and not by an overworked & understaffed Indian guy. This, the German lady mockingly notified me of when I approached her with my passport and boarding pass. What a waste of her time!

“Please scan your passport and boarding pass in the machine, sir.”

Her grimace turned even starker when I humorously noted „No waste of human capital, welcome to Germany.“

At least her co-worker found it funny.

The road to Leh is both long and slightly complicated – at least we made it so. Firstly, the bus ride to Mumbai is long and dreadful. The following train journey on India’s infamous railway system, 6 people with the luggage equivalent of 11, was *cough difficult. From Delhi, now a full group of 11, on to an airplane to Leh, Ladakh – One of the most dangerous landing strips in the world. The descent is sharply done over a mountain, then almost crashing into the tarmac, the wheels are on the ground. During the fly in you have the most magnificent views of the mountains and if you’ve been blessed with a window seat I was in the aisle, you’re in for a beautiful view.

Leh is a cultural melting pot set in the middle of a valley in the Ladakhi range of mountains. Wherever you go, you will have staggering views of the mountains 360 degrees around, like a snake circled around Leh. The tallest of them all, Stok Kangri, was the mountain we were setting out to climb and its’ alarming presence was hard to miss, as it towered over any other sorry excuse for a peak – Standing in at 6200 meters, Stok was king.

Our first few days were to be spent in absolute limbo, there was nothing. Slowly acclimatising we tried to busy ourselves unsuccessfully by eating, sleeping and doing push ups in the most random places (we didn’t want to waste our shape doing nothing.. Ha!). The days crept past and Stok kept looming over us.

When we left we set out for a 10 day round trip around the bottom of the mountain. This slow path was the safest way for acclimatisation. We went through 3 passes, countless valleys and arrived (finally) in basecamp. 36 hours later, at 22:00, we began our final ascent of the mountain. This marathon climb, 12 hours long and 1200 meters tall, loomed before us and climbing the first many hours in complete darkness made me question our chances. I’ve never felt this broken before, but somehow kept climbing. When the sun broke through we found us on the side of the most beautiful mountain I’ve ever seen.

And then we turned around.

This is usually the moment of horror when I tell the story. The faces people pull on me when they realise that I spent 20 days in the mountains only to turn around two hundred meters from the peak ranges from mocking to devastated. But yeah, that was how it went. We had bad weather, three climbers showing signs of mountain sickness and a long, long  way day. 3 in 4 expeditions never make it to the top and pushing on under bad conditions can go wrong – really wrong.  Also I have an issue with goal oriented rather than process oriented people, but that’s the subject of the next post I’m writing.

We wen’t down, had a sleep and returned to Leh; Broken, yet somehow stronger.

I’m no longer in Frankfurt Airport, neither am I newly returned home. This post has been on my computer screen the past summer, yet I haven’t had the gut to finish it. I just can’t. I return 7 days from now, am I ready? Ha. Who knows.

The worst part about travelling is not simply going home, which has lately been popularised by a blog post, it’s understanding that life goes on without you. You leave home, grow, and then expect everything to be the same when you return. It’s debatable if you’ve grown more or less than your peers (probably more, although I don’t want to glorify this idea of „Wanderlust“), but they’ve certainly grown as well.

You’re most likely not a vital part of their lives anymore – Shame.

This summer has been amazing – festivals, friends, family – and even though I’m excited to go back, I’d love just one more week more back home.

Or maybe two.


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