Before reading this story, one of the first things that you should know about me is that I have exercise-induced asthma, or something similar, and I was quite nervous about this part of the trip. I don't define this to be a large part of who I am, but I now define my ability to conquer this fear and push through the journey below as one of most monumental moments of my life, considering the difficulty and the sheer beauty I found awaiting at the end of the climb.
This Thursday we were traveling to the southern province of Krabi, taking many stops along the way-one of which was the Tiger Cave Temple, otherwise known as Wat Tham Sua. We first entered a natural cave below the mountain in which we found monks, statues of tigers, and images of Buddha amidst the natural beauty. The temple complex also includes a 1,237-step climb up a limestone staircase to see the "footprint of Buddha" and what our guide accurately described as a 360-degree view of the countryside. We were warned about the difficulty of this climb, but we had little warning as to when this climb would occur. No time could have helped us prepare for this journey (without extensive exercise). Our tour guide jokingly took a picture of us as a "before" picture.
The first steps up the mountain weren't so bad-they were relatively standard-sized stairs with nice hand rails. Stairs were divided into units of 20-50 on average with a small, triangular platform in-between to take a break and to follow the curve of the mountain (we were slowly winding up the mountain in a zigzag pattern, unlike the typical movie version where the stairs lead straight up to the bearded man sitting on top). The first 100 stairs were no big deal, but the climb became exponentially more difficult as altitude increased. My thighs began to burn, my heart was beating like I was sprinting, and then my lungs began to feel the work that my body was doing. My roommate and friend, Kim, was obviously concerned about my breathing and I asked her to help me slow my breathing to a normal rate so I could keep climbing. To be honest and frank, I remember constantly thinking about the number of sweat glands that I had no idea I possessed. I felt like every toxin in my body was leaving! [Note: these are my personal feelings along the journey, but others may not have had a similar experience. Each of us that climbed the mountain seemed to have a unique personal journey that meant something different to each of us and varied in difficulty] . Despite any physical constrictions, each stop that we made between staircases was well worth the journey-the view was increasingly. more beautiful and vast. The last 100 steps were probably the hardest; I remember telling Kim (who stayed beside me like a trooper through the whole climb) that I was going to need to "climb on my hands and knees like a monkey" to make it up to the top. It made sence at the time we really did see many wild monkeys at the Tiger Cave temple complex!
At last, we made it to the top of the mountain. Kim and I looked out upon the countryside and gasped in unison-the view was unbelievable. After a few minutes to catch our breath, we explored the Buddha images and tried to soak in the view from every angle. Some meditated and others simply stood in stunned silence. Much to our surprise, we found life on the mountain. A dog had somehow made her way to the top, who we appropriately dubbed Summit. My lungs felt amazingly spacious after such a work-out and we were all filled with adrenaline and renewed energy for the way down-which was a breeze (even though our legs were shaking like Jello). Have you ever been on a similar journey that taxed your body in a way that you never knew was possible? How did the journey make you feel?