He is sitting in the grass. The campfire reflects on his eyes. Fascinated, he observes how the lentils are simmering in the pot. There is a pleasant aroma of foreign spices. There’s something magical about looking into the fire and our little 16-month-old boy seems to feel the same way.
We are located at an altitude of 3000 meters above the sea, somewhere in the Himalayas in Nepal. Ten days ago, as a family, we decided to go for an adventure in the unknown: Thomas, our little boy Ben and I. On our backs we are carrying everything we needed for our adventure. Thomas manages to get everything into the 70-litre backpack on his back by meticulous packing. While I carried Ben on my back and attached to the baby carrier is a small backpack with bits and bobs that did not fit in the big backpack. We had everything we needed: Tent, sleeping bags, mats, nappies, pots – in fact, you do not need much to be comfortable.
Since we left, we didn't crossed paths with one single tourist and it stayed that way until the end of our adventure. Which was nice, because we deliberately chose a path that is off the well-known trekking routes. Along the route, we made sure that we were always close to villages so that we could buy rice and lentils to prepare dal bhat - Nepal's national dish. Something we ate daily during our adventure.
In order to accommodate Ben's needs, we always had a plan B or C. But I have to admit, I was pretty nervous about our trip. While Thomas and I was planning the adventure together, troubling thoughts began to grew: "is our plan really as great as we hope? Are we overestimating ourselves? Are we overstretching Ben, who is not even one and a half years old yet? What if we are suddenly not in a safe area anymore? Will Ben have to spend hours in the baby carrier every day? Will he tolerate the heat, the cold, the altitude? Is it naive of us to think that we can manage on our own, without carriers and without a guide, just go off by ourselves?" Questions upon questions. And I knew: we could only find the answers to these questions if we tried. For weeks we researched, planned, weighed up, made packing lists, crafted plans and sometimes discarded them. One thing was clear for us, Ben is the highest priorty: if he is in any way not well before or during the adventure - we would have canceled the project.
In the end, Ben was the one who managed our adventure the easiest. He was happy. Happy about the intensive time with just the three of us, happy about all the animals we met on the way, happy about just being outside. The days rarely went according to plan, though: he did not care that we often had to adjust our route because the map was inaccurate. Or if the wet wood would not burn as it kept raining. But when we took off our backpacks after a busy day and went off with Ben to explore the area, all our worries were soon forgotten.
After a long day on foot, follows the daily recurring ritual: finding a place for our night's camp. Search for a source of water. Set up our tent. After that, we gather wood, make a campfire and then cook the dinner. That moment when we can enjoy the first bite: unbeatable.
The majestic mountains on the horizon are hiding behind the clouds; the dusk is slowly coming in. We stretch out our tired legs, each with a hot tea in hand and Ben holding his little bottle. Only the crackle of the fire breaks through the silence. I watch our boy as he sits quietly between us. He is tired from another day on the road in the beautiful country of Nepal. That was the moment I felt that everything was just wonderful. The fact that we dared to do this adventure, that we left, that we are here now. At that moment I felt a wave of happiness rising in me.
Ganesh Himalaya in Nepal, April 2018.