Illustration: Columnist Helge Timmerberg hiking in Nepal
© Tim Möller-Kaya

The road to enlightenment


The road to enlightenment Sometimes I feel the need to get away: as fast, as far away and high up as I can. Then Nepal comes to mind. They issue visas when you get to Kathmandu, so there’s nothing to stop me from hopping on the next plane. As far as mountains go, Nepal has some notable 8000-meter peaks, although it doesn’t have to be one of them. I jest. It cannot be because I’m not a mountain climber. I like hiking at 2500 or 3000 meters, and the country is also ideal for that. The magic word here is “Annapurna,” a mountain range populated by shepherds, yogis and trekkers. Tourist infrastructure is basic: You sleep by the wayside in rustic wooden or mud huts offering warmth, a bed, porridge, and if necessary, Indian beer.

What’s there for me? A chance to hike rather than to think. It’s what I always do when thinking gets me nowhere. The air is so rare at over 2500 meters that it starts to set my mind free, and at over 3000, meditation takes over. I could put it more scientifically, of course, but perhaps these things only happen to me. In the Himalayas at this altitude, meditation techniques become superfluous: Inner peace comes right along with the air that I breathe. Add to that the happy hormones hikers experience wherever they are, and I have an endorphin high plus thin-air-induced peace – two birds with one stone! And there’s a third: the glorious scenery. Politically, this is Nepal, geographically, it’s part of the Tibetan Plateau, and poetically, it’s the “roof of the world.” The trekking routes below the humps of the Annapurna dragon’s back are just a few tiny steps away from heaven. And sometimes a fluffy white cloud comes along – it’s true! – and takes you for a ride.

Our columnist, Helge Timmerberg, an irrepressible globetrotter since 1969, writes travel books and contributes monthly to our magazine.