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Are We There Yet?

By on October 15, 2013 in Asia Travel with 2 Comments

Gina Pacelli in JapanRosy cheeks, a bubble of energy, a twinkle in my eyes. Young, innocent and twenty-two, embarking on an overseas journey to the orient… Japan. Exploration of a foreign country has always left my skin tingling with goose bumps as the anticipation of the unknown dances throughout my body. Expectation of adventure lies around the corner, tantalizing, waiting for me to immerse myself into its power. When I stepped off the plane one hot, sticky August day, I was greeted by a familiar face–that of a friend who had joined me in several escapades. I knew my experience would be incredible.

Dirty, yet beautiful. People packed together like sardines. Bright lights, yet serenity. Sushi so buttery soft it melted in your mouth, and sake so delicious it went down like candy. The clicking of crickets chirping in the background. Colors, big Buddha bellies, temples, gigantic gold fish and rivers danced before our eyes, inviting us to submerge ourselves into the Japanese culture.

Temples. Buddhas. Cemeteries. Temples. Buddhas. Temples. Cemeteries. Temples. Buddhas. Temples. More temples. Cemeteries. Gina Pacelli riding a train in JapanAnd more temples. My soul ached for more. I wanted to do something that would make my trip memorable… something unique. I started flipping through the pages of “Let’s Go,” when I found what I was searching for… Mt Fuji.

The idea of embarking on a journey traveled by very few left me light-headed, as butterflies fluttered in my stomach. Would I finish the climb and see the world below me? Or, would I turn around in defeat? I looked at my friend with hesitation, questioning eyes, and an unleashed fire burning deep within me. The words came out with a cockiness I could not explain, “Lee, would you be interested in an experience of a lifetime?” She laughed enthusiastically and readily agreed.

Buddha in JapanI was a “girly-girl”, preferring skirts to pants and sexy heels that I could barely walk in after an evening of dancing, as opposed to something a little more practical. Thus, we had a lot of preparation to do prior to our adventure. I mean those heels that I packed were certainly not going to be of much value to me on my climb. I purchased a pair of sneakers.

After endless hours of shopping, we went home to fill our tummies and rest our heads before our long trek ahead. However, one call to the train station and we were in for a rude awakening. Napping was out of the question as we shoveled a quick dinner down our throats, threw a few things into our backpacks, and dashed off to the station.

And, of course, we were late. Typical. We had about five minutes to find our bus, and we were greeted by blank stares when we asked for help. The clock was ticking; this was our one shot. Would we, or would we not conquer that mountain?

And then Leann vanished. I could not breathe; my stomach was in knots. In desperation, I jumped up on a ledge and startedCemetary in Japan screaming her name at the top of my lungs. Luckily, she heard the sound of my voice and came to me. The time was 7:29 p.m. When I was standing on the top of the ledge looking down at everyone and my friend saw me, we knew we would soon be standing on the top of the mountain looking down at the world below us. A smile danced upon our lips. The ledge was our metaphorical mountain, our destination of what was to come. As the door to our bus was closing and we stole the last available seats, our adrenaline kicked in like lightening.

At 10:30 p.m. we reached our destination… Mt. Fuji. We began to follow the path leading to the mountain, dressed in several layers of clothing, with our flashlights as our guides.

Gina Pacelli at the Golden Temple in Kyoto, JapanWe could see our breath as we spoke, and our bodies became numb. We were forced to put on additional layers of clothing. We stopped frequently to rest. We watched as others gave up and turned around. We chatted with fellow travelers on our way up inquiring how many hours we had left. We were constantly told one hour. However, one hour turned into two, two turned into four, and four turned into eight. We looked above us at the never-ending mass of rock, hoping we would get there soon. We kept on going. We were determined to make it to the summit.

Upward we went. Our bodies trembled like Jell-O. The air we inhaled burned the insides of our nostrils. Our stomachs growled, and our mouths were as dry as the desert longing for a splash of water. We could not drink anything because the outhouses were disgusting. I used one once and almost fainted from the unpleasant stench of bodily wastes. These conditions did not deter us. Instead, we kept on going.

As we got closer to our destination, darkness was replaced by light. We added more layers of clothing to our bodies and continued Innocent Children in Japantrudging forward. The water droplets that began to slide down our cheeks blinded us. We were in the clouds. We would converse with other travelers on the way up and were told “ganbatte,” which means “good luck” in Japanese. We continued to rest at each stop, but we were determined to finish what we had started.

A wave of excitement washed over us as we stepped foot upon the summit. WE DID IT! We danced around, gleeful, over-exhausted, but we had achieved our goal. Eight hours of hallucinating, wondering if should turn around, speculating if we would reach the summit. We were drenched from the rain and freezing, but we sat at the top of the mountain like little kids on Christmas morning writing postcards to send to our family with Mt. Fuji postage. We stood at the top of the mountain, in the midst of the clouds, on top of the world. We were invincible. We really did it!

 

Once we were finished enjoying our feeling of accomplishment we started heading down the mountain. This time the temperature Gina Pacelli, Japangot warmer, and we started shedding our clothes. Our bodies were wet with sweat and our tank tops clung to our chests. We could smell the fresh air around us as we gazed at the greenery that engulfed us. We were no longer walking on a path of gray, dull rock, but rather maneuvering our way through branches leading us downward. By the time we made it to the bottom of the mountain, a total of 12 hours had elapsed. And yet, even though we were a bit delirious from dehydration and sleep deprivation, we felt alive.

When we have gray hair and wrinkled skin, our eyes will shine with the youth of a teenager; and we will smile at our grandchildren as the memory of our experience tickles our faces; and we will relay our story. We will tell them how our quest to climb Mt. Fuji uplifted us as we achieved a goal when we were tempted to quit. The feeling of accomplishment was amazing. Even now when I look at pictures, I cannot believe I was actually standing on the top of Mt. Fuji looking down at the world. These pictures bring back memories, the rush of the experience, and a feeling of triumph. Looking back, the experience seems surreal.

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  1. Lue Depolis says:

    Good article , thanks and we would like more! Added to FeedBurner as well.

  2. Garfield Vanord says:

    Thanks for your intriguing article.

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