Women Soccer's Allison Norenberg spent 23 days in Nepal, trekking Lo Manthan, the last forbidden kingdom. Here is a report about her experience.
Upon reporting to Miami for my first day of preseason freshman year, I learned about the Life at Altitude study abroad program led by Mark Walsh, a professor in the Kinesiology and Health department. Three seniors on the team--Brooke Livingston, Rachel Byron and Jess Byron--had gone on the trip that summer. They talked about it all the time during preseason. After seeing the pictures, I was sold. Ever since then, I knew this trip was something I wanted to do. This year’s Life at Altitude trip included a 23-day program in Nepal. Sixteen of those days were spent trekking through the Upper Mustang region. More specifically, our main trekking destination was Lo Manthang; the last forbidden kingdom.
We arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 20th and had a day tour. We first attended a cremation ceremony. What a lovely way to kick off the trip! The whole day, I couldn’t get over how dirty the city of Kathmandu was. I was a bit concerned when I saw Nepalese people walking around the streets wearing masks to cover their noses and mouths. At that point, I accepted the fact that I would return to the U.S. with some sort of sickness. I would have my mouth open from talking to someone. When I closed my mouth, I could feel the dirt on my teeth. I have been to third world countries before, but I have never inhaled the amount of dirt that I did in Kathmandu.
Before beginning the actual trekking portion of the trip, we had to take two short flights. I specifically remember sitting next to Mark, a professor from the University of Akron who tagged along for the trip. He didn’t hesitate to inform me of the flight that, just a week ago, had crashed into the side of a mountain. The crash killed all of the passengers in the plane. If we hadn’t just left the ground, I might have run off the plane.
A typical day of the trek included: wake up tea from the Sherpa, pack up the camp, eat breakfast, trek for 3 hours, stop at a nearby village, eat lunch, continue trekking for 2-3 hours, get settled in the new camp, have tea time, sit around talking/journaling until dinner time, eat dinner, and then be in bed. We were in bed by 8:30 at the latest every night. The trekking was both tiring and physically demanding. We were trekking at a high altitude the whole time (average of about 3,500 meters high). The higher you go in altitude, the less oxygen you have in your blood. Therefore, the simple act of walking is typically more difficult at a higher altitude due to the decrease in oxygen. We actually tested and recorded the difference in oxygen levels every day. It was neat to see the correlation between oxygen levels and changes in altitude. It’s one of those things that you learn about in class, but don’t actually understand until you get to experience it.
The highest elevation (4,445 meters) was reached on the way to our main destination, Lo Manthang. On our way down from the pass, our Sherpa decided to go off path and take a short cut down to Lo Manthang. We found ourselves running down hills that seemed to be at a 90 degree angle downwards. This wasn’t the first time the Sherpa decided to take a short cut. Lo Manthang was absolutely amazing. It is one of the few places left in the world where its culture is still intact and hasn’t had any modern influences. It is said to be the “last remaining Tibetan kingdom.” One of the days we were visiting, we got to meet Jhigme Prabal Bista, the very last King of Mustang. Talk about once in a lifetime experiences!
While we were trekking, we were surrounded by the Himalayan mountain range. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking! People told me to take lots of pictures, and I did, but honestly the pictures do not do justice. I would not have wanted to go through this adventure with anyone other than the group of Miami students, professors and Nepali Sherpa that were a part of the trip; one of those students being fellow MU soccer teammate Madison Ryan. The people made this experience for me. The memories from this trip will last a lifetime. I can’t wait to share stories and pictures with my teammates as we return back to Oxford to begin preparing for the 2013 soccer season!
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