Beautiful, majestic and peaceful.
After eight days of trekking we had reached Everest Base Camp and I was absolutely amazed by the scenery.
The clouds had lifted and the blue sky was a backdrop to the towering, snow-capped peaks. From this vantage point next to Nepal’s Khumbu Glacier, one could see the tents of climbers who wanted to climb Everest.
I was relieved to have made it and grateful to have had such a memorable trip with my 45 year old daughter.
How lucky to have experienced so much adventure and joy, I thought.
Trekking to base camp is not the kind of activity you would normally do when you are 77 years old. Last year I did all the sensible things you should do to prepare for turning 80 – downsizing my house and attic and preparing my will.
I have to admit that sometimes I thought: what the hell am I doing? But I told myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other
Then my daughter, who was taking a sabbatical from work, booked a trip there. She is an anesthetist and the pandemic has been a big challenge for her. After the lockdown, she decided to take a year off to recharge her batteries.
One day we were gardening and she asked, “Why don’t you come with me?” I told her not to be silly, this was her journey and I didn’t want to put her in a position where she would have to take care of me when I had to go back. But she insisted, and we agreed that if one had to go back, the other would continue.
I thought about it and decided – why not?
When I was 20 and 30 my holidays usually consisted of camping with my family in Wales and France. I didn’t discover the joy of group travel until I was in my late forties when my youngest had left home.
Since then I have hiked to Machu Picchu and climbed Kilimanjaro. Some of my favorite places I have traveled include the beaches of Zanzibar, Petra in Jordan, sailing the Mekong and camping in the Sahara.
Now that I’m retired I like to keep fit and be part of a local running group called Any 1 Can Run. We are out and about several times a week, running 5 or 6 km per session.
I decided to go to base camp about six weeks before the trip, so I had to do some extra training to prepare. I trained for a 10K, did resistance band exercises and took a trekking pole class.
My daughter and I ended up in a group of nine travelers, our leader Phurba Sherpa and two assistant guides. While many of the others were in their twenties or thirties, they didn’t look at me and were very welcoming. On difficult days, they offered to take some weight off my daypack, but they never left me feeling old or exhausted.
As we started the hike, my guide was watching me closely to assess my stamina and balance, but he was so helpful throughout. He didn’t make a fuss about my age or make me feel different from the others.
During the day we hiked through incredible scenery and stayed in Sherpa tea houses. In the tea houses we had a delicious meal, talked about life, how we felt and our ups and downs of the day.
When we got to about 10,000 feet above sea level, we started to feel the altitude. I have to admit that sometimes I thought: what the hell am I doing? But I told myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Any challenging situation will make you wonder why you’re doing it, but the feeling of being outside your comfort zone is worth it.
And then we reached the base camp. It was an incredible feeling to know that I have achieved something many only dream of – and at my age.
We arrived in Lukla town after our last day of hiking and the guides joined us for an evening dance to celebrate. They had great moves and should be strict!
I think all of us oldies should get out and explore the area. Many of us have hibernated since the pandemic and have had friends or relatives who contracted Covid and sadly passed away, but this journey has reminded me that the world is an amazing place.
My friends take great pride in organizing their own trips to hotels in France and Spain and tell me they don’t like traveling in a group. If only they knew what they were missing: new people, new stories and new adventures.
I am about to take a 10 day trip to Uzbekistan. I have no idea what it will be like, but I’m sure it will broaden my world view!
I thought I would feel too old to travel like this, but that’s nonsense.
age is just a number
Welcome to Age is Just a Number, a series from Metro.co.uk designed to show that the date on your birth certificate means nothing when it comes to living your life, chasing your dreams and being who you want to be
Each week, prepare to meet amazing people doing things that defy stereotypes at all stages of life.
If you have a story to share, please email [email protected]
I, Ronald Payne, am a journalist and author who dedicated his life to telling the stories that need to be said. I have over 7 years of experience as a reporter and editor, covering everything from politics to business to crime.