MU GUMBA - the cryptic monastery

The Himalaya fascinated me since I was a little boy. It was so strange and mysterious like a different world. Visiting Nepal was really a childhood dream come true.

Before I started my trip, I already knew that this trip wasn’t just about exploring new territory and culture. There was also a spiritual motivation that brought me here, but that’s a different story.

Deep in the Himalayan mountains, close to the Tibetan border, lies a very old Buddhist monastery called MU GUMBA. This place is so remote you can only get there by foot or with a yak. That’s where I wanted to go!

I asked my friend Jo if he wants to join me on this journey. Jo is an outdoor sports freak. He loves sleeping in tents, climbing mountains, doing triathlon and all that crazy stuff.... I am not like that. I am 10 years older and a bit lazier, but the two of us were an excellent combination I would say ;) anyhow, we did this and it was the most incredible trip we ever did! And luckily I didn’t know how exhausting and dangerous this would be. I may have found excuses to do something else instead.

After a 6hr bus ride and another 4hr hour car ride on a very bumpy road from Kathmandu we finally arrived in Soti Khola from where we started our trek. It was the 9th of November – my birthday. Okay, let’s do this!

After walking for about 6-7 minutes, I realized that my backpack was way too heavy. But I didn’t say anything. I thought, okay, I am just not used to carry so much weight. Besides all the common cloth and trekking gear I had an additional camera backpack and a tripod in my large backpack, which added about 10kg to the remaining 12kg.

10 minutes later we crossed our first swing bridge. BAAAM – hello panic attack! I was 15 meters on the bridge then I had to turn back. My whole body was shaking. It’s funny when I type this now, but back then it wasn’t funny at all. This was the second time within the first 10 minutes I asked myself why the hell am I doing this?! As you might guess, I have total fear of heights.

So what to do? My first bridge and I am already thinking about cancellation. No! Not me... I am not a quitter. I have fears, but I fight them. I shouted MU GUMBAAAA (which became our battle cry) and crossed that bridge. From that moment, I didn’t care about those bridges anymore. I crossed them as I crossed a street. Crazy huh?

But I still had the problem with the weight. After this bridge our path started to surge drastically. Then it was clear I couldn’t carry all that weight to Mu Gumba and back. I am also suffering from Asthma and I knew it might get difficult for me. Especially when we reach higher altitude. So we had to get a porter. Porters are very common in this area. People who grew up here are used to the mountains and you won’t believe when you see how much weight they carry on their heads – insane!

During our trekking we passed hundreds of donkeys that bring all kind of goods into the mountains. Those donkeys are dangerous. They are like bulldozers and if you’re in the way, they push you aside. And at one point I did a big mistake as we waited on the narrow way to let some donkeys pass by. I wasn’t standing on the side of the mountain, but on the side of the descent as a donkey pushed me. I lost grip and almost fell hundreds of meters down in the alley. Our guide Suraj grabbed me in the last second and pulled me back in. That was damn close!

I don’t remember how, but somehow I managed to walk 9 hours on our first day up and down and up and down and up up up those mountains with my heavy bag. What a great birthday, I thought. But then we got rewarded with the most beautiful starlit sky as you can imagine. We put up our tent and lay on the ground for hours – just looking at the stars. It was magical. Then I knew, it’s worth all the trouble!

Chloé and Alex, two sweet girls we've met on our way, even joined us that first night and brought me cake and candles for my birthday. How wonderful is that?

On the next day, our new friend Krishna joined our team and helped me and Jo to carry some things. Krishna is a wonderful guy. Young, motivated and always smiling. He was a huge inspiration for me #happyhappy :)

It was the right decision to hire Krishna for our trek. We were still suffering the upcoming days, but I was able to appreciate the mind-blowing scenery and to focus more on photography along the way.

To be continued...

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