What would you do if you were given 100 days in your life for anything you wanted to do? Among those hours, how much time would you spend walking?
Sudin KC was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 19. Despite a happy childhood and normal teenage life, he was clueless about his mental condition and didn’t know what to do next. With three years of medication and regular consultation with his psychiatrist, he decided it was time to get off medication. He started functioning normally again, but he felt that something was always missing. He was committed to living but the lack of excitement from life didn’t make sense either.
“If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going,” shares Sudin. Born and raised in Kathmandu, he decided to embrace the journey to find or at least connect to his roots. It was September 3rd 2019, when he started his solo backpacking adventure from Bhadrapur – the easternmost part of the trail. He had to reach Darchula – the furthermost part of the trail travelling roughly 1,700 kilometres by foot.
The days were almost always foggy, and he constantly got lost. The mixture of a very dense forest, foggy days, and no people to ask for a direction meant he’d get out of the route sooner or later. And to avoid getting lost, he had to match the pace of the locals who lived and breathed the air therein- who walked three times faster than the city boy Sudin. The first day he was confident of getting through the pass solo seemed degrading. The heavy backpack, the constant uphill and downhill trek was a harsh reality. The promise made at home to return safe and sound was on the side, but the stories of locals telling him the encounters of wild leopards and more made him anxious.
Despite the circumstances, he kept on walking. Refilling his bottle with the fresh running streams from glaciers and keeping himself sane with “that’s what she said,” jokes with the camera, he moved on.
He almost gave up two weeks in the travel- but what kept him going was the realization – the realization of how beautiful and serene this country is inside out. What kept him going was the love for people and how hospitable the people here are.
He has many anecdotes of very kind people letting a “strange, smelly stranger” warm meal and a roof for the nights. The acceptance and humbleness of people, the welcoming nature, and the eagerness of people to share their stories further intrigued him. He recalls getting lost in the dense wood with no signs of settlement and how, with the luck of meeting a kind stranger chopping off woods, let him stay in his house, which was the only one around for the night. He recalls the stories of the kind stranger’s daughters, who had to travel 4 hours on foot daily for school. He remembers the anecdote of Mingma, who was staying in the shed high up in the hills whom he shared a roof for the night – Mingma with his 17 cattle lived up in the bare minimum shed for eight months, and four months in the village during the cold.
He moved further in his journey. He recalls Junbeshi – where he learned much about the Sherpa community and culture and experienced it to the fullest. Meeting a 70-years-old trekker Mehme from Namche on his way taught him that trekking wasn’t simply walking. He learned from Mehme on how to take breaks, how to breathe and how to walk. He travelled with Mehme while going west for three more days, who shared his food with Sudin and welcomingly waited for the fellow young traveller when he was behind.
The last section of his trek was the Far-West. The untouched land, trapped in time. He says, “Sometimes when I think something is wonderful, the place has an effect on me, I don’t take pictures of it. Some of the places in Far-West were like that, where the camera becomes a distraction, and I just like to sit and be in the moment.”
He believes that sometimes we are our own enemy. When he started his journey, he wasn’t sure whether or not he could backpack alone through the mighty GHT. He had fears, fears of wild animals, of getting robbed, of getting injured, of getting sick, of not being able to complete the trail, of freezing to death, of getting lost, and more.
It might not come as a surprise, but he did face most of those situations. He was nearly robbed, got lost on multiple occasions, encountered wild animals, got sick a couple of times, and injured himself too, which proved his fears were legitimate but not as bad as he imagined.
This has led him to believe in himself more and know his true potentials. He says, when he has to make a life decision next time, it would not be fear-driven. He remembers all his friends he’d made along the way and lists a perk of trekking alone as making new friends.
Nature he says is complete, and it is the same reason he believes that being in nature makes us feel complete. Nature has various entities that support itself and its existence. The cycle we all have seen and experienced – the water form mighty glaciers quenching the thirst of ours and animals, who fertilize the soil and grow plants that supports lives in many forms and so on, and as generic as it may sound, like nature, we have to build our support system- strong relationships with people around us.
People are inspiring. People who are strong enough to follow their passion despite the circumstances and numerous challenges; people who sacrifice their ambitions for the sake of their family. People who try to do the right things despite their humane imperfections. People who are happy from the pit of their heart despite living with bare-minimum. People who are busy but always come to the aid of others.
These people kept Sudin going – because he had to tell their stories. The stories he’d faced and seen. The stories he’d heard and lived with – the story of all those people. He says, “When people talk of life, I feel inspired to share their stories.
All those stories helped Sudin see a bigger picture and ignited courage within him to cope with his own challenges. The Great Himalayan Trail was a great start to his bigger dream – to continue his journey throughout Nepal.
Watch the full film.
Photos by Sudin KC, Text by Yugantar Paudel