By Anuj Agarwal, an EO Nepal member and managing director of the Vishal Group, LTD
We were 11,000 feet in the air on a 20-year-old plane, passing through mountains so close I could count the leaves on the trees. I knew that I had finally gone over the edge. I was surrounded by my EO brothers, very nervous but also excited about the journey of a lifetime we were about to experience.
When the hostess pointed out a tiny mountain shelf—it was the size of two tennis courts, with no tarmac or any sign of a proper landing surface—and proclaimed it as our landing site, I thought to myself, “That’s it; we’re the crazy fools who paid for a journey that led to our demise.” But then, just as we were banking to make our approach, we saw what we came for— a brilliant, shimmering blue jewel, tantalizingly hidden in the cradles of the mountains.
Upon landing, we started our trek through the mountains towards the elusive lake. We acted as one mind with 16 bodies, cheering, supporting each other and sharing equipment, water and food. Our hearts were racing and our legs seemed to have renewed energy as we felt ourselves approaching the destination. Before long, we had arrived. We ran down the final slope to stand on the edge of the most beautiful sight we had ever seen— we had reached the shores of Lake Rara.
At 3,200 meters wide, Lake Rara is Nepal’s largest and deepest lake, with a reputation for being one of the remotest places in Nepal. Some years there have been only five tourists visiting the lake, and the highest recorded number of visitors has been below 250. In all estimates, less than 3,000 tourists have visited it in recorded history. We were some of the lucky few!
In anticipation of Asia Bridge Campus 2011, our first-ever international event, the EO Nepal chapter wanted to do a retreat that pushed the edge; a journey that would help us reaffirm our inner strengths, our indomitable spirit, and most importantly, underscore the team spirit and bonding which we believe is the best in all of EO.
There were many detractors. People told us it would be too cold, too tough a journey. There was talk of altitude sickness, the difficulty of landing in potentially heady winds, and the overall craziness of the idea. Still, all of my EO brothers stood firm, and we stepped up to the challenge. We faced the odds and overcame!
The next two days defined what EO Nepal stands for. We explored, we climbed mountains and found hidden temples, we sailed across the lake to sit under the tree where Late King Mahendra penned some of his immortal poems, we dug deep to share emotional secrets, we sat around the bonfires sharing tall tales and strong drinks, and most importantly, we bonded.
It was a magical time. Away from our families and businesses, we were truly one with nature. Every time we turned and looked at the lake we found a new color, a new sight which we swore we hadn’t seen before. We were boys again, climbing and exploring, laughing and dancing, and taking dips in the icy cold waters.
Each member found different ways to describe the trip: journey of a lifetime, the most beautiful place on the planet, a chance to connect with one’s inner self and the universe, a promise to reprioritize one’s life, etc. But the common theme was one of brotherhood. As one of our newest members so aptly answered when asked about his experience, “I have found my brothers.”
For many of us, trekking also produced interesting corollaries to our business lives. We learned the importance of being comfortable with one’s own pace; not to worry too much about how fast the person ahead was moving; to move slowly but to move forward; to not get disheartened by seeing how far the destination was; and the value of teamwork. All of these were invaluable takeaways that we brought back to our businesses and lives.
Before we knew it, our journey was up. It was time to turn in for the last night, turn off our torches and sleep in the bosom of the mountains. We had our taste of heaven, and it was time to return back to the land of the mortals. Upon leaving the lake to go back into the mountains, I turned for a last haunting glimpse, and I knew that I would always be richer for having seen this amazing place. At the same time, I knew the memory of this would forever haunt me, as nothing would ever match this once-in-a-lifetime experience.