“We started out as a group of 10 strangers volunteering for optometric healthcare work in the Annapurna mountains, embarking on a 14-day trek from Nayapul to Annapurna Base Camp. 4 days were spent eye testing, and 10 days were spent trekking.
Every day along the trek, we were treated to beautiful scenery. I spent endless hours gazing up at the rolling, green foothills, taking in the expansive, misty valleys and craning my neck back to view the towering mountain peaks. In addition, on arrival at each lodge, as if it wasn't already reward enough to have finished walking up and down stairs for the day, we found that many of them had fantastic views right outside.
I was humbled to see the strength of community spirit everywhere we trekked. "Namaste" was always offered sincerely and received with a smile. Vendors were pragmatic and never nasty. Food in the mountains is fairly simple and largely vegetarian, living facilities are very basic, and commute to the closest city Pokhara is arduous and expensive. But this didn't seem to ever stop strangers greeting and treating each other as kindly as they would family.
We had 3 wonderful Sherpa guides, Kami tenzing (head guide), Santosh and Mingma, and 5 amazing porters each of whom carried 2 travelers' luggage. In a foreign country where none of us understood the language (not even the numbers), we were all so well taken care of from start to finish.
These guys are the most genuine, kind and warm people. They chatted with us all along the way, and at break times we played cards and chess together. They are also reassuringly pragmatic and super strong. Without hesitation, they would lift rocks to help us bypass a landslide area, hold our hands down slippery slopes, and carry our backpacks when we could no longer do it ourselves from sickness or injury.
Then there were the animals. So many calm, friendly, curly-tailed dogs all along the trek, greeting and accompanying each band of travelers for some length before stopping to rest at the next settlement. We also crossed paths with ox, mules, horses, goats and chickens, all of whom were not the least perturbed by travelers' curious stares. Leeches tended to appear when it started raining in the afternoons, so that's when I would start checking my shoes, hands and walking sticks neurotically.
We return from this trip with our hearts full and with plenty of stories to tell about the beauty of the mountains, the warmth of the people and the desire instilled in us to visit again!”
Claire L’Armstrong - Sydney Optometrist
Ryan Armstrong - Sydney Engineer