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Saturday, 9 May 2015

My Escape to the Alps

Besides the four basic needs in life - food, water, warmth and shelter - human beings have two essential needs, or core values, that are becoming more and more challenging to fulfill today - community and nature.
Nature at it's best - Poon Hill, Annapurna Base Camp Trek
Community at work - Sadhana Forest, southern India
Nature is all aroud us, and inside us, in the most inner core of our beings. Nature, after all, is what created us. Biologically we are still hardwired to be outdoors, hunting and foraging. Along with the harsh demands of nature we are also hardwired to depend on eachother for survival. Hence, community.
However, modern society is increasingly segregating people from these essentials of life. They are being buried under layers of concrete and asphalt, and masked behind a veneer of billboards and advertising espousing "modern" values of individualism and materialism.
I believe that even the most hardcore "city people" are, in their innermost cores, connected to nature. They only need to escape their beloved cities to nature long enough to find the nature inside themselves. This was how my relationship went with mountains.
Stunned. - Lake O'Hara, Canada
The vast Rockies opened me to the possibilities of the world, and sowed the seeds of nature in my mind. The Himalayas allowed my inspiration to soar, as I beheld the mighty peaks of Everest and Kanchenjunga, the rocky kings of Asia. Sadhana Forest in southern India exposed me to the most beautiful mix of nature and community so far, amazing people living in a jungle paradise of thatched huts.
Lately I have spent most of my time in flatlands and in big cities in both Europe and India. A yearning to escape the claustrophobia slowly built up inside me, as the brick walls closed around me, pollution filled my lungs, and people with their neatly pressed shirts brushed by as if I was a signpost.
Adrien, who I previously hosted in Calgary, took me on a few hikes around Grenoble
Mont Blanc, just above me
Last week I found my escape. My friend, Adrien, who I previously hosted in Calgary, took me hiking in the French Alps. I witnessed Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. I breathed the fresh air of Alpine forests. I picnicked under the sun surrounded by green hills, the tastes of French wine and cheese augmented by the peaceful silence of the landscape.
Panorama of the French Alps - Chamechaude summit, near Grenoble
Mont Blanc peeks from between the clouds
Then I made it into the interior of the Alps, staying with Ilona, who I met at Sadhana Forest, in a village near Zurich. One afternoon we made a hike through forests and hills, pointing out the diversity on our path - garlic leaves, stinging nettles and snails. The journey was nice, but the destination was sweeter - a classic viewpoint overlooking Zurich, a bustling city nestled between lake and mountains. Only the clouds obscured the ice caps of the distant mountains, like a cake without the icing. 
With Ilona, at the Top of Zurich
The view from the top of the hill towards Zurich
On the other side of the hill, Bonstetten, Ilona's hometown
Zurich's lakefront
My escape back to nature provided much needed relief from urban oppression and rounded out the tail end of my Europe journey nicely. Make no mistake, I love being in cities. And visiting friends in those cities allows me steal fleeting moments of community wherever I go.
But the mountains are where my heart and soul belong. And, above all, they are the ultimate showcase for the beauty and untouchability of nature.
Also saw the Atlantic coast most recently - Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

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