An Impossible Dream
A good friend recently gave me a book about life in a Tibetan town over the last century, and in her inscription described me as a “thoughtful, principled adventurer”; lovely, meaningful words. On reflection I’ve long been a traveller, and I guess, an adventurer. The first trip of which I have any recollection was a 3,000 klm rail and road trip from Adelaide to Darwin way back in the 50s, when I was just 4 years old. And since then there have been dozens of others; many have been fairly opportunistic, others more planned, to many parts of the world.
Almost 13 years ago a wonderful opportunity came along completely out of the blue, a fortuitous accident; a chance to travel to the Himalayas with the late Lincoln Hall OAM and a group of like-minded adventurers. I was lucky – I really had no idea what was ahead of me, but all the same I grabbed the prospect with both hands. Lincoln was a wonderful host and story-teller, and is the man responsible for introducing me to Tibetan Buddhism (not that I would be so audacious as to describe myself as a Buddhist, but certainly my eyes were opened to that philosophy as a result of that trip, and many elements remain today). On top of that he was a lovely person. We kept in contact after that trip, and his untimely death at the age of just 56 almost exactly two years after I first met him remains in my mind as one of life’s great injustices.
The beauty and power of the mountains have to be seen to be believed. The photographic opportunities are like nothing else I have seen on Earth. And not just the iconic ones like Sagarmāthā (Mount Everest). Ama Dablam, the focus of that first trip in
2010 has to be one of the most beautiful mountains in the world, even if, at a “mere”6812 metres, it’s one of the babies of the region (compared to the dozens of 7,000metre-plus mountains in the broader Himalaya). Add to this the exquisitely colourful Buddhist monasteries, temples and stupas which dot the region, nearly always festooned with masses of prayer flags, the five colours representing the five elements the Five Pure Lights. Blue symbolise the sky and space, white symbolises the air and wind, red symbolised fire, green symbolises water, and yellow symbolises earth.
For much of that trip I was seriously out of my comfort zone. I was uncomfortable walking along what seemed like goat tracks with drops to one side hundreds of metres deep; I really didn’t like the swing bridges high above raging river torrents especially when I had to share them with lumbering yaks; and perhaps most of all being thrust into a group of total strangers really challenged my natural shyness. But as hackneyed as the phrase is, it really was a life changing experience. I learned a lot about my own limits and limitations, and to a significant degree, I attribute the person I am today to elements of that trip. If you’re interested I write about this journey here.
In terms of personal impact, the trip alerted me to a part of the world I had not seen before, it formed some relationships which despite geographic barriers still exist today, it triggered me to start another journey as a writer. But perhaps more meaningfully, that trip opened my eyes to opportunities I had to make a difference to the lives of people in the Himalayas.
The universe has once again presented me with a wonderful, exciting opportunity. I have been lucky enough to secure a place on a special trek back to the Himalaya. And not just any trek. Not only is it a close repeat of that very first life-changing trek I did way back in 2010, it coincides with the 70th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s and Tenzing Norgay’s May 1953 historic first ascent of Sagarmāthā. The trip is being hosted by Michael Dillon AM, one of Australia’s foremost cinematographers and makers of adventure and expedition documentaries, and good friend to Edmund Hillary.
This trip is being synchronised with a worldwide #Everest70 campaign. Only a handful of Aussies will formally be in the Khumbu region on the 29th May 2023 (the actual 70th anniversary), and to the best of my knowledge, I’ll be the only West Australian. On that day we will join the Hillary and Tenzing families at various cultural events and celebrations hosted by the community at Khumjung Monastery. The Sir Edmund Hillary Visitors’ Centre in Khumjung will be officially opened that morning.
My own fundraising page - https://footsteps-of-hillary.raisely.com/peter-campbell - is my attempt to make a small but meaningful contribution to the people of the Himalaya on this historic anniversary.