A grey dawn greets us; a stark, monochromatic world is waiting for us as we wake, languid and mottled, and emerge from our tents. The night’s mist and rain lies heavy in the air around us, on our tents, heavy on our souls. We are pilgrims setting foot on sacred land, a group of cowering vagrants, little more than ants to some sort of greater power that lurks in the mountains opposite our camp.
We dress and breakfast in silent reverie, paying mental tribute to the to the scene we’ve found ourselves in. Stretching before us are miles and miles of untapped perfection: rolling fields and an imposing range, flanked by a large lake filled with crystal water. Camp breaks and we head off, north, a cavalcade of monks heading to some distant and foreign chapel, our worship is our photography, our prayers are punctuated with the rhythmic slapping of boot on dirt.
We pass the lake, stopping for a meal of hummus and pita bread. Some of our party ventures a swim, though the lake is freezing cold. They lay, on backs and on stomachs and swim through the waters while the skies rotate about us; we all feel closer here, more human than ever before, it’s an addiction and we’re all addicts on the floor with needles in our arms and eyes bursting out of sockets.
Time seems to move slower up here, near the spine of the world. It seems like forever we’ve hiked, if we were born here in these mountains none of us would be the wiser. My pack becomes an appendage, an extension of my being. We move as one through the undergrowth, nearing the mountain range, though the mystic day’s lights are leaving us like some fleeting ghost leaving a widowed lover. At our backs it beats us on, master to mules, plowing an endless range. We beat on, ever forward into the night.
We break the night’s camp with a high, heavy moon watching; some ghastly outsider viewing us like so many creatures in a terrarium. Sheepishly we laugh, our breathes stolen from us by the majesty of the world around us. We share stories and food by the fire, though we can’t warm our souls or take our minds off the day’s journey. One by one, we retire, with the night growing thicker around us, creeping into every crevice and seam within our tents and bodies.