Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write something AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL (10/02/14)
- TITLE: Annapurna
By Dave Walker
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Dan, my companion, had had a heart attack 2 years previously. On practice runs, he'd been fit, but I had not considered the effect of altitude.
3 days earlier, a little plane, skittering between Annapurna's soaring peaks, deposited us 2,800 metres high in the little town of Jomson. From there we hiked up another 1000 metres to a Tibetan village. Once in a tea house, Dan sat on the edge of his bed, neck muscles tense, gulping the air around him, straining for more.
"I don't.... know what's the matter.. with me. I ... can't...breathe."
Dan's heart was failing from lack of oxygen in the thin air.
At dawn we set off downwards, to thicker air, but the lung congestion from his heart failure remained. He panted his way through the expansive beauty of glacial riverbeds and dragged his exhausted body over rock falls.
On the way, a guide crouched beside a blanket which concealed a human form. A British hiker had had a heart attack and died.
I was praying. <i>"Watch over Dan, Lord. Keep him safe."</i> Yet, ahead, like a leering demon an insurmountable obstacle loomed. Just beyond Gorepani was a mountain to be traversed. It was to be a highlight for me, for from the top, at sunrise, the shadow cast onto the Annapurna range from the mountain slowly descends, revealing more and more of the glistening golden-white peaks. Annapurna is re-born each day as her mountains rise from the dark of night into the joy of a new day.
It was, however, an impossibly steep climb for someone in Dan's condition.
Then I learned there was an alternative route around the mountain. I was relieved, but deeply disappointed.
Dan saw my disappointment. "Let's split, Dave. The guide and I'll go around the mountain and you go over it. We'll meet two days later on the other side."
I was delighted. I could stretch my legs and see the sunrise. We parted at the foot and I set off with a song in my heart, enjoying the freedom of pushing myself to the limit, stopping only occasionally to admire the squiggly patchwork the rice fields perched impossibly on the flat summits of the surrounding hills.
Four hours into my climb, I felt uneasy. I'd selfishly left Dan to cope on his own. The image of the blanket shrouding the British tourist's corpse hovered over every beautiful scene I admired. <i>Keep him safe, Lord.</i> My prayer came with no sense of peace. <i>(Was it from a guilty conscience?)</i>
Finally, I capitulated. 200 metres from the top, I turned back, running down the mountainside. In the thin air it was gruelling. My knees shook with the repeated pounding, and I stumbled on the loose rocks, but I dared not slow down. I reached the fork and headed around the mountain, running on the narrow mountain path, slowing to boulder-hop and resting, dog-tired, by the streams as I re-hydrated. As the darkness set in, I'd been pushing myself to the limit for 12 hours and was still far from the village.
<i>I can't go on, Lord. I'm finished.</i> Yet I had to reach Dan.
Finally, I'd reached my end. I sat on some rocks, prepared to admit defeat.
"What you doing here, stranger? You can't stay here. Bad men here."
In the light of my headlight, I saw a group of Nepalese men.
With all my might I pushed myself to my feet and plodded on.
I stumbled into Dan's guest house at 9.30 utterly spent, but back with my friend.
I learned much from that experience.
Firstly, to listen to the still small voice which I had drowned it out with my desire to see the sunrise until it became like a hammer on a rock.
Secondly, we have reserves far beyond what we think, in God. Since then, sometimes, I've come before God in deep anguish at my circumstances saying, " I'm finished. I can't go on." Then I hear His voice saying <i>Remember Annapurna? </i>and I know I can go on, in Him.
Lastly, I prayed for Dan's protection, yet, as a doctor I could have helped him. Running down the mountain, I became the answer to my prayer.
Next time you pray for someone to be blessed, could you be the answer to your prayer?
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