What began as a quest to further explore an interest in Tibetan Buddhism led retired McGuire College photography teacher Kylie Doddrell on a journey of improved health, fitness and positivity as she tackled a trek to Everest base camp in 2019. Kylie shared her experience with journalist Sharon Wright.
It was an interest in Buddhism that first drew Kylie Doddrell, 57, to Nepal, but it is the memories of the people, the prayer flags and the spectacular scenery that have come home with her.
The 16-day trek gave the mother-of-one glimpses of the world’s highest peak and, in stark contrast, the reality of the poverty in a country still reeling from the catastrophic 2015 earthquake.
“Seeing the poverty in Kathmandu certainly makes you appreciate life here,” Kylie said.
“They are still recovering from the earthquake, and struggling with basic infrastructure; if that was in Australia, it would be rebuilt now.
“We are so lucky with the way we live.”
Despite the obvious hardship, Kylie said the Nepalese people remained friendly, welcoming and willing to share their “beautiful culture” with visitors.
Village children would say hello, put their hands up for a high-five and were keen to practise their English, while their elders would offer handmade items for sale.
“The older women selling their trinkets and jewellery were so endearing. Knowing their lifestyle, you just wanted to support them and their families by buying things,” Kylie said.
Walking, trekking and hiking have been part of Kylie’s life since she retired three years ago and have allowed her to indulge her passion for photography.
Spectacular images from Tasmania’s Bay of Fires, the Larapinta Trail in central Australia, the Great Ocean Walk along Victoria’s south-west coast, and, further afield, the Cinque Terre in Italy and Bali’s volcanic Mt Batur line the walls of her home.
“The attraction of trekking and walking is twofold: there’s the physical challenge but also being out with nature and being able to appreciate it,” Kylie said.
Trips to Rome and Venice, while enjoyable, haven’t given as much pleasure as being out among the trees, listening to the birds and finding animals.
“My original plan was to do a six-day trek in the Annapurna region of Nepal and then travel to Tibet,” Kylie said.
“The trek was cancelled due to a lack of numbers, and I couldn’t go to Tibet following changes to visa regulations by the Chinese government.
“When the World Expeditions Travel Company said I could do base camp instead, I initially said ‘I can’t do that’, but then the determination kicked in.”
With a good base level of fitness, Kylie embarked on a weight-loss and training program, calling on her collective village to support, and keep her accountable.
She became a regular sight hiking up and down Mt Major with a backpack, followed a program designed by Louise Morris from Everfit by Louise targeting leg and back strength and spent time in Danny Selva’s altitude training facility.
Local gym MFS’s Facebook group ‘Cut the Crap’ helped Kylie with motivation and dietary tips, and members of her own gym Fernwood were in her corner.
“My precious daughter, Pip, has encouraged me no end in my weight-loss and healthy lifestyle quest. Even though she lives in Perth, we are constantly texting each other with how I’m progressing with my gym and running and where she is at with her gym sessions and boxing,” Kylie said.
With six months of training behind her, and 10 kg lighter, Kylie flew to Nepal in April 2019, where she spent a day in Kathmandu before meeting up with the group of 12 other Australians ranging in age from teens to early 70s.
The terrain on the 150 km trek ranged from very steep to what are known as the Nepalese flats, which Kylie said was similar to Mt Major, and the rocky ground forced trekkers to focus on putting one foot in front of the other.
“In parts, the track was one-person wide, and very steep off to one side — one slip and you were gone,” Kylie said.
“The guides were so good, they made sure that everyone in the group, regardless of their fitness level, could cope.”
Weather extremes saw trekkers wearing shorts and short-sleeve shirts during the day, while their short stay at base camp — the group was there for only 45 minutes — saw them rugged up against the snow and cold.
“You actually can’t see Everest from base camp — you could view it from one or two spots along the trek,” Kylie said.
“We carried our own day packs, but the porters carried our luggage.
“We had such a lovely rapport with them, and we were encouraged to give them what we didn’t need when we left. It was a lovely way to farewell them.”
Kylie returned home determined to maintain her healthy eating habits and renewed energy for exercise.
She discovered running, joined the Shepparton Runners Club and earlier this year ran her first half marathon.
“Part of the reason I did the trek was to do something harder, to push myself further and challenge myself,” Kylie said.
“Another real benefit that I got out of the trek, that I never imagined, was the improvement in my health, fitness and positive outlook.
“Completing something like this gives you self-confidence and belief.”
“When I started training for base camp, I weighed 70.7 kg, I’ve now lost about 27 kg over the whole journey; it was never the plan, but has been a positive upside.”