ABC Adventures: Part Three

Notes from the Annapurna Sanctuary

Written by Pete Gardner

The world is a book, and those that never travel read only one page
— Augustine of Hippo
 Satellite and Shooting Stars at Annapurna Base Camp

Satellite and Shooting Stars at Annapurna Base Camp

It is impossible to be a part of a journey like the Eyes4Everest Annapurna Base Camp mission, and not come away changed. Our ability to use our skills to help others who would not otherwise have access to eye health care, and the physical challenges of trekking through the valleys, and mountains of this incredibly beautiful part of our world, leave an indelible mark on your heart and mind.

It was 3am, and the sky was crystal and cloudless. As I stood alone in the starlight at Annapurna base camp, taking photos of the stars over the peaks of Annapurna and Machhapuchhre, I could hear the cracking of the great glacier carving out its irresistible path in the valley below me, punctuated by the distant ominous booming of avalanches echoing through this great cathedral of the Earth.

In a few hours, trekkers from all over the globe, crammed into the lodges at ABC, would be up and jostling for prime positions to watch the sunrise, before packing up their kit and making the descent back to the business of the modern world. 

But for now, standing in the still, cold night air, watching satellites pass silently overhead, I was able to reflect upon our journey and how far we had come.

 United we stand

United we stand

Team ABC had achieved our goal, we had finished our primary mission of the clinics at the primary school in Ulleri, and the health centre in Chitre, met and befriended some wonderful beautiful people, and pushed ourselves physically and mentally to reach this point.

Five Australians and Six Nepalese had bonded as a team
 Wendy Berlecky

“When I received the email asking for volunteers for the Annapurna mission. I recalled a recount from a couple of years earlier where, on the last morning of the clinic in some remote village , they had opened the windows only to see the queue to the clinic trailing off down the hill. Word had spread and villagers had walked for hours to have their eyes tested. Unfortunately they couldn’t get to everyone that last day so many made the long walk home unseen. That broke my heart.

Being 57 years old though, I didn’t think it was something I would be able to be a part of. My family were all very supportive and confident that I was fit enough so I went ahead and volunteered. It has been the most amazing experience!

I was on the refraction team and, after doing a ret, holding up lenses my patient grabbed my hands and wouldn’t let go because they could see for the first time in years! I will always treasure the huge grin when I took her outside to show her how the world should look; and the enormous hug at the end of it all.

I think I have the dubious honour of being the oldest volunteer to date but please don’t let age deter you from such an amazing experience. You won’t regret it”.

Wendy Berlecky - Sydney Optometrist

 Ashley and Sasina at the Management Station

“Working with Eyes4Everest was the most rewarding and broadening experience I’ve had to date. This expedition fulfilled me in so many ways, and exhausted me mentally and physically.

What impacted me the most was the genuine connection I was able to create with a team I’d never worked with before, patients from what felt like an entire world away, and the Nepalese family we formed with our guides and porters.

Despite different cultures, languages and ways of life, I felt connections and genuine understandings with the Nepalese people. Although the objective of our mission was to provide needed eye care health to the remote villages of the Himalayas, I feel like  I’m leaving with a more satisfied soul and heart. Seeing the faces of those we helped is invaluable.

Being a dispenser was always a secondary career for me, something I never really thought I could change the world with. But seeing myself use skills I took for granted, to help people who really needed it has changed my world, something I’ll never take for granted again. I’m leaving Nepal feeling more inspired than ever before, and I really do hope I’ll be back here to continue more work with the Himalayan mountain communities”.

Ashley George - Sydney Optical Dispenser

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“I’d highly recommend the Eyes 4 Everest trek to anyone and everyone!

The physical challenge I was prepared for, but what I found really surprising was the mental challenge as well. But working together as a group with a shared goal is what really helped us get there in the end.

It’s amazing to be on the other side of the world, knowing only a handful of words of the local language, and working with a team of people who were strangers a few days ago, all just working together to help in whatever small way we can.

10/10, would do again”.

Megan Jayne Zabell - Melbourne Optometrist

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“This is my third trip to Nepal with Eyes4Everest. When I first heard that there is need for primary eye care in the Everest region, naturally I felt I should be there. I can put my skills to use where it's needed and it's such an amazing part of the world!

This ABC trip has been a wonderful experience. Apart from the rewarding feeling of completing the trek and helping people solve eye problems, what is invaluable to me is all the wonderful people I get to spend time with on the trip. Sherpas are the sweetest and kindest people you'd ever meet. As well, spending time with your colleagues in an environment where life is so simple and basic, you get to know a different side of them.

Being close to nature somehow bring out people's real selves. Genuine human connection happens - something we are getting less and less of as the world get faster and busier. The ABC trip is surely not sipping cocktails by the pool side. The experience is second to none and will forever hold a special place in the hearts of those that share the same precious memories”.

Jenny Hsieh - Brisbane Optometrist

 Dreams of ABC cloud my mind

Dreams of ABC cloud my mind

As I write, I am sitting in the hotel in Kathmandu, having a momentary break from the noise and chaos of this incredible city. We have handed over the optometry equipment and plenty of advice (listen to your guides and look after your porters!!) to the Everest team, who have now assembled before they fly out to start their mission tomorrow. I am looking forward to following their adventures over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!!

It has been my immense honour and privilege to work with Team ABC 2018, thank you to Wendy, Ashley, Megan, Jenny, and especially Tashy! an awesome team of professionals to work with! A special thanks to our Supermen Mani, Dil and Laxman who carried a couple of consulting rooms to the top of a mountain! And we couldn’t have done this without the care and watchful gaze of our guides Kami and Santosh! Thank you all for the last three weeks this has been an immeasurable experience, and I am now fitter than I have been for a decade!

Finally, I need to say a heartfelt thank you to our families back home. Without your support none of this would be possible. Thank you and love to you all.

Chances like this don’t come along very often, when they do, grasp them with both hands and don’t let go!
— Pete Gardner - Perth Optometrist & Photographer

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