As I covered the everlasting distance from the bus to the mountain, I could hear the dried leaves crunching under my foot with each step I took. All because of a school trip, here I was - heading to hike a mountain in Altai, Siberia with the grade 8 and teachers accompanying us. Getting there by an overnight flight, everyone was drained after the traveling and hustling onto the plane at 2am. The school trip was called discovery week - a week full of activities to potentially help everyone grow closer together. Since I was part of this class collective, I had no choice but to attend. The drive from the camp where we were all staying was long and boring, and everyone was far too hyper. As soon as I set my foot off the bus, the fresh air filled my nostrils with the scent of freshness and purity. I soon came to the realization -there was nothing else surrounding me but nature; no form of life was vivid enough for anyone to see along the everlasting, trampled path. Starting to walk along and passing all of the scenery, I start to come to a realization that this is going to be one very long journey since the path looks infinite, impossible to spot an end.
As far back as I can remember, out of the few hikes that I did, the ones that stuck out to me the most were the hardest ones. That last stretch of pulling yourself up to the mountaintop is the sensation that I remembered. The further the hike, the prouder you feel: looking down and seeing how far you’ve come… I could already feel the exhaustion bubbling inside of me - the fear that this might be a bit too challenging was frightening me, however all of my internal courage helped me understand that I could do it. Just like any other hike, I couldn’t compare this walk to anything else since all of them widely range in difficulty, views and, for me, enjoyment. Since this hike looked technical and very arduous, I already couldn’t wait to get to the top of the mountain to get some well-deserved rest.
Before I managed to rethink everything in my head multiple times, I came to the realization that I had no choice but to push through this rough hike and make the most out of it. The view wasn’t mind blowing, just an eroded pathway with clustered plants growing from both sides, and one which has frequent steep drops on one of the sides. Looking straight ahead at the trail, there was an ongoing amount of branches and trees in the way, and right below you, there might also be an occasional branch that your foot will get caught on. Especially when making our way through the first part of the journey, everyone started realizing that the slope was getting steeper the further along we got. Despite this, I made sure to stay on my toes and think ahead of any stones or rocks that my foot might suddenly slip on and I won’t accidentally collapse to the ground. Periodically, I looked up to see nothing but more parts of the trail above us that we had to eventually conquer. Through my shoes, I could feel the sharp pebbles poking through while the dirt kept on coating my shoes in layers of dust. My vision shook and my head was slightly spinning from the air, which was suddenly getting thicker, as our hike progressed. Despite everything, I stayed on track and kept moving forward - each step closer to the top.
Just as someone started to call out: “I think this is the top!”, everyone got their hopes up high far too soon… only to understand that we were just half way there. By this point, all the power that I possessed had been drained out of me like water getting squeezed out of a fully-saturated cloth. Questioning the existence of the muscles that used to be in my legs, I could feel every breath of fresh, thick air circulate through my lungs until I push it out on a strong exhale that indicates that I’m already out of breath. A teacher’s voice called out:
“Nearly there guys, keep going!” however, that’s easier said than done. I doubted this was true.
After about ten more minutes of intense uphill hiking, I thought I saw an end - a stopping point right at the very summit. Just as my eyes started to observe what’s above the ground and ahead of the present, a minor inconvenience happens. Before I can think of any way of preventing it, the unstable rock slips from under my right shoe which causes me to stumble on the slippery mud from beneath of where the rock laid. Just in time before the possibility of a fall, my hand sprung towards a tree branch that I, without a thought, gripped and pulled my whole body up to a higher level of the path. Now that I realized that I could have been the cause of the accident, I force myself to stay in my bubble of thoughts and only consider the present.
As I pass one section after the other, I can feel the air getting thicker and the greenery getting more and more sparse in places, as more rocks appear in front of me. When the person in front suddenly stopped walking, it forced me to pause and bring my eyes above where I was always staring. As my vision slowly elevates, my jaw automatically drops in disbelief of what I’ve came to see. When the mountains appear in my sight, all the observations that were going on in my mind made me stand as still as a statue and stare at the visibility of nature all around me. It was as if I was inside of a painting: everything seemed so unreal making the beauty of this landscape unbelievably exquisite. Until now I was still in the middle of observing, someone from behind me called out,
“Hey, move along!”, almost sounding like they were in a hurry to see whatever put me into such bewilderment. As I force myself to open up the pathway to the others, I still cannot get enough of the unprocessed surroundings floating around me. My eyes not stopping to perceive the enchanted mountains nature has built, my thoughts start to wander a different way.
I continue to hold myself up and resisting the weakness in my knees, while still being astonished by the view. Soon, I come to an emotionally conscious state as my eyes slowly get used to this breathtaking scene. I presently become aware of the fact that simply, just the power of nature’s beauty put me into the state of serenity. As all the positive reflections and speculations find a place to settle inside my mind, I come to the proper conclusion that there’s beauty not only in the mountains - but in the path to get to the top. Bit by bit, I come to the realization that real beauty is never hard to find. Real beauty is one of the few things that can make a person stop and stare in disbelief. It immediately catches your eye. You almost feel as if it found you, and not the other way round. Shaking me from my thoughts is Mr. Alzamora’s voice beckoning us to
"Head back now." That was the moment that made me realize how much I will truly be conscious of the absence of it…