Steeped in Sherpa culture, Namche Bazaar in northeast Nepal is a bustling place filled with thousands of trekkers passing through this Himalayan town – a song in their heart, a prayer on their lips, the spirit of surrender to the mighty mountains and the resolve to “find their Everest”.
On the sunny day of May 3, 2019, Saachi Dhillon from Chandigarh found herself among the trekkers. A marketing communications professional, the traveling chica was about to realize her dream of going to Everest Base Camp (EBC). At an altitude of 5,364 meters, the 12-day EBC trek on the south side of Lukla Airport is a sought-after route in the Himalayas. Dhillon then published his first book “Dreaming of Everest” on the third anniversary of this momentous experience.
“The mountains give me a feeling of calm. My ultimate goal is to have a house in the hills,” says Dhillon. The dreamcatcher on the cover of his book captures it perfectly.
The book took shape after Dhillon wrote about his adventure in a creative writing class. Encouraged by the feedback, she decided to write it in a long version in 2020 during confinement. The year 2021 was another mountain to climb as it needed to find a publisher, which Dhillon eventually did with Ukiyoto. An intrepid traveler who has visited 22 countries, it was her time in the UK, where she lived independently for three years, that allowed her to embark on solo travels.
“I fell in love with the beautiful Himalayas while trekking in Nepal seven years ago,” says Dhillon, who had never trekked at high altitudes before.
Sir Edmund Hillary, who along with Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first mountaineer to summit Mount Everest in 1953, is famous for saying: “It is not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves”. . “I had a knot in my stomach, but the Himalayas have a strange hold on me,” Dhillon gets philosophical and we can almost visualize her having tea with Tenzing Norgay’s niece, Tshering Doma, aged 70 years old, hear the gushing sound of Dudh Koshi and Bhote Koshi rivers and cross the Hillary Bridge.
It’s like we too can taste the steaming Sherpa soup and dal bhaat, hear the story of the monk and the Yeti at the 16th century Pangboche Monastery, soak up the scenic views, his amusing skirmishes with the very temperamental donkeys, and share her hope that she would run into Tom Cruise at EBC – yes, there he was! Saachi was also lucky to find herself in a large group of hikers, enthusiastic and supportive people and a superb guide.
“Altitude sickness, extreme weather conditions, fatigue, anxiety…it was hard for a germophobe like me, to go without a bath for days, to share rooms, dirty toilets, a nasty cough. It’s a mental battle. Saachi persevered, especially in the final stage when her oxygen level dropped, but found she was stronger than she thought. It was a humbling experience that made him let go of the metaphorical “weight we carry.”
“Once in a while we have to get out of our comfort zone and do what makes us alive. Just trust your instincts, and yes, pack light, pack layers, enough cash, waterproof covers and hiking poles,” says Dhillon. She is ready to climb the Ama Dablam, the Matterhorn of Everest, then. “Anita Kundo, who has summited Everest twice, told us: this is just the beginning of everything you can achieve; let this be the starting point.