September 14th, 2017. Current location: Altai, Siberia. I turned to the right and saw endless colors of clear, bright blue skies overhead. I looked back to see my fellow 8th grade classmates behind me. Currently, it was the second to last day during our one-week school trip away from our school in Moscow, Russia. Unlike our past 3-4 days here, the skies were as clear as the river beside our campsite. The sun burnt bright — bursting vibrant red and yellow shades through the cotton - like clouds, as the day was coming to an end. Birds were chirping through endless paths of trees. As I kept walking through the grass on the path, one foot in front of the other, I could sense the path starting to rise up before me in an upward direction. Continuing to walk through the steep, yet tight lane leading me, I noticed small pebbles rolling down as the other kids were climbing further up, kicking down stones to help stabilize them. Step by step, minute by minute, I was getting tired faster and faster. Panting across the tree - filled forest we reached a flat area of the mountain and paused for a break. Some were complaining, and others were contemplating their decision of even coming to this trip.
The walkway was getting narrower and steeper, but we kept climbing higher and higher. I felt as if this hike was lasting forever. The heated rays of sunlight kept slowing me down making things worse. The reeds and branches sticking out from the side of the narrow pathway repetitively jabbed my shoulders causing me to slow down while the rocks “built in” the soil beneath acted like an obstacle blocking my way. As we climbed higher onto the mountain, it felt as if the temperature was rising up too, although usually you would experience the opposite… Then, suddenly, our tour guide stopped us and pointed towards a small peak above us.
“That’s our destination”, he bellowed so that every child and teacher could hear. “Finally!”, some kids hollered out. Time was running and each one of us was getting hungrier and hungrier. As soon as we heard one of our teachers say there’s food at the top of the mountain, all of a sudden, every single 8th grade student and teacher gained enough energy to sprint to the top!
Every time we’d stop for a break, it felt like the destination was getting further and further.
“Are we there yet?!”, some would holler out from behind me. I turned back to see the tired faces of my classmates. One boy in particular was constantly worrying, hence why he repetitively paced up and down every time someone stopped to take a picture. Peculiar isn’t it… Turns out, the boy was scared of heights! That must be really unfortunate when you’re at the top of a steep hill, but I kind of sorried him though… We were so close to the peak — I could feel it. Turning back I met my friends crystal blue eyes — they had a look of despair in them. Now all we could do, I guess, was keep climbing...
Finally, there were only fifteen steps before we could see the remarkable view waiting for us. 14 steps, 13, 12… I turn to my left and gaze upon the beauty so far. Trees within trees, within trees. A river so crystal blue, that it still shines from this high up. 11, 10, 9… The cotton-like clouds were now cleared out, and all we could see was a vivid complexion of azure blue. The final 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2… And finally — one. I beamed down at the exceptional scenery — speechless.
“We’re here! We’re at the top!”, some kids would shout. Others afraid of heights prefered we leave as soon as possible. One thing we could all agree on, was how hungry we all were, so we had one of our guides pass out Snickers, Mars, and Twix bars which everyone devoured as students and teachers obsessively took photos of the picturesque view. We sat at the top of the peak for a while — acknowledging the allurement of nature.
Sitting on a rock beside a few other friends of mine, I found myself reflecting on the past few hours, remembering the bugs, the weather, the sun, and the branches sticking out on the path. These irritating yet beautiful aspect of nature, so cherished by mankind… well parts of mankind... I could just imagine all of the peculiar thoughts I had had, during the trip with the bus, on our way to here. All I could remember was my lazy self, thinking; I don’t want to go! What would it be like if I didn’t go at all ... I wouldn’t be missing out on a lot… right? Not that I was scared, I wasn’t really, I almost let my old habits get in the way of my Altai experience! If I had, I would have never felt the sense of accomplishment I was presently feeling. Suddenly I felt my thoughts drift away like a thousand flakes of snow, as one of my friends happened to tap me on the shoulder.
“Hey we’re taking a group picture, you should join!”, she called out. I quickly hustled my things back into my bag and got up from the rock I was sitting on. Before I knew it, I was standing in the back, smiling towards one of the many cameras pointing toward at my face, I thought to myself — It was definitely worth it…