A Mother's Day To Remember
It's a strange thing to try to fulfil someone else's bucket list but that's exactly how Candice Wyatt found herself in Nepal on a trek she had never intended to take. Read on to hear about the Network Ten news presenter's journey to the Annapurna Circuit, to recognise her late mother and tick off an incredible accomplishment from her wish list.
Fulfilling Mum's Bucket List
My Mum was the life of every party and the fittest woman I've ever known. She trekked Kokoda twice across consecutive years and wanted to start training for her first marathon. But above all, she longed to go to Nepal. She wanted to trek Everest Base Camp and asked if I would join her. I was apprehensive, but made a compromise - we would go there on a holiday. It never happened.
In early 2013 my Mum developed vertigo, which lead to a brain cancer diagnosis and a 7-hour operation that paralysed her left limbs. She never walked again, and she never left hospital. Six months and 16 days after being diagnosed with brain cancer, my Mum lost her battle. She was only 56.
Soon after, I became an Ambassador for Cure Brain Cancer and combined with my job as a News Presenter for Network Ten, I used my role to MC events and create awareness of this evil disease. Then one day I received the Foundation's regular newsletter in my inbox and it read 'We are trekking Nepal!' It felt like I'd been struck by lightning. I knew I had to go.
Training & Preparation
So I signed up, started training and fundraising. I was already doing daily HIIT sessions but I became more disciplined and as the time to leave drew closer, I started doing HIIT classes in an altitude chamber. I didn't want to run the risk of developing altitude sickness on the Annapurna Circuit. Regular training in an oxygen-depleted environment allows your body to increase its production of red blood cells, which is what transports oxygen.
I was training with people who loved to hike mountains and loved to trek. Some of them had done my trip before. Training in the chamber and meeting people who loved to hike made me all the more excited for my trip but I still had so many fears and reservations. I'd never hiked before. I'd never done a group trip before with a bunch of strangers. And I'd never been to altitude before. I had no idea what to expect. But as it turns out, I had nothing to worry about.
I arrived in Kathmandu a day before our group tour of the city. We spent the night swapping stories about why we had each signed up, what we did in our day-to-day lives, and what we were expecting from our trip. We drank wine and ate local food and it felt like we'd known each other for years. After a day of exploring Kathmandu and a 7-hour bus ride to Pokhara for the beginning of our trek, we were ready.
Our first day was a solid day of uphill stairs, and the reward was sleeping in our tea huts among the clouds. With the Himalayas so close it felt like you could reach out and touch them. The following day we trekked through a rainforest filled with rhododendrons in bloom, and arrived at our accomodation with the highest altitude of our trip. Ghorepani. And just like a fairy tale, it started snowing.
The incredible magic of Nepal - we had climbed to 2,800m on day 2...and it started snowing.
Our group spent the evening playing cards and drinking a thermos of milo (that was priced higher than wine) in preparation for our early start. We were to head off long before dawn to hike to Poon Hill. An incredible sunrise from the top of the world awaited. The trip wasn't easy. A few of us became mildly affected by the change in altitude and had to slow down but we made it to 3,200m with plenty of time to watch the sun rise high above the Himalayas. And it was there that I felt my Mum with me. It wasn't Everest Base camp, it was even better. And it's the closest I've stood to heaven since I lost her.
We started trekking in the dark at 4.45am so we could climb to 3,210m above sea level and witness this sunrise across the Himalayas; I can't even find the words to describe the emotions I felt up there, knowing how much Mum would have loved it.
We descended Poon Hill, packed up our camp and set out on a massive day of trekking, mostly through snow. It was tough but it was also like walking through Narnia. The forest felt enchanted with its fresh powder and trickling waterfalls and creeks. This was our longest and hardest day but it will forever be etched in my mind as the day I felt like I had fulfilled my Mum's dream. We still had a few more days left to trek, and while they were amazing, nothing will compare to the day I touched the sky.
Nothing will compare to the day I touched the sky.
Raising Awareness & Raising Funds
I set what I thought was an ambitious goal to raise $20,000 for Cure Brain Cancer by trekking Nepal. Instead, I raised $40K. It wasn't easy, in fact it was a hustle, but I also met some incredible people along the way and experienced the kind of generosity I never knew existed. This included Mountain Designs, who supplied me with all the gear I needed to make sure I was safe and warm.
Every cent I raised has gone to the Foundation. It's being used to find a cure for brain cancer, which kills more children in Australia than any other disease, and more adults under 40 than any other cancer. It goes to scientists who are working hard in laboratories to make sure that daughters like me don't have to fulfil their mother's bucket lists. Because I wouldn't change one second of the trek I never knew I had to take, and I'm forever grateful for the lifelong friends I made, but I would have given anything to have had my Mum in Nepal with me.
A trip like no other: hopefully my contribution, along with that of many others, will one day see a cure for brain cancer.
All images supplied by Candice Wyatt
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