Beloved Grinnell librarian treks through the Himalayas

Librarian Chris Gaunt appears smiling, decked out in trekking gear for her hike through the Himalayas. Contributed photo.

By Caleb Forbes
forbesca@grinnell.edu

For those who thought they had an adventurous Fall Break, library staff Chris Gaunt probably outdid you. Freshly back and still integrating her bold experience, Gaunt recently journeyed on a spiritual trek through the highlands of Nepal.

Gaunt was chosen as one of 19 people from all over the globe to pay to take part on the trip through the organization I AM AVATAR. She had heard about the trip through the organizer, Tiara Kumara, who she had taken courses with previously.

Gaunt applied for the trip based on a bout of “inexplicable” intuition. “I’ve never done anything like that in my life before,” she said. “How could an Iowa pig farmer be spending Fall Break in the Himalayas?”

The group trekked eight days through the Annapurna circuit, making their way through jungle, yak and goat-inhabited meadows and mountain valleys with the assistance of ten sherpas and two guides.

To prepare for the trip, Gaunt hiked all summer long here in Iowa, camping at various parks on weekends. “I got myself in the best shape, all things considered, as when I was a college graduate,” said Gaunt, “and I’m three kids and quite a few years later.”

“I love to hike … and I know the spiritual energy in the Himalayas is really pretty good, so I wanted to go experience it, and I did. It was quite an adventure,” said Gaunt.

“It didn’t fill anyone’s expectations. … It was more adventurous and there were more obstacles than any of us thought there would be,” Gaunt said.

The trail they followed was scattered with dangerous landslides, and, at one point, a car broke down on a mountain road in front of their bus, adding an extra seven hours onto a 10-hour bus ride.

While on the trip, Gaunt was referred to as Ganesha, a Hindu God who “sits at the threshold of space and time and removes all obstacles.” “That name was given to me during a vision quest,” she said.

At Muktinath, a sacred place in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions, as well as the highest point of elevation along their journey, the group performed a “‘oneness transmission” so we put all of our energies together and put some spiritual energy into the grid that covers the earth to try to go for this healing of the chaos that the earth is experiencing,” Gaunt said. “We had the whole temple to ourselves …and that’s where we did our ‘transmission’ from.”

The trip will take some time to process for Gaunt because it was very spiritual in nature. Additionally, Gaunt reported that she witnessed “a lack of respect for the Nepalese culture,” which upset her. For instance, Gaunt explained that at the teahouses they stayed at overnight, their group would be served dahl, “but we westerners jumped at the chance to ask for this and ask for that … and that just bothered me, it didn’t seem right.”

Something else Gaunt will continue to contemplate is how the trip reinforced her belief in the value of, “accepting the present … and not only that, but loving it. That bus ride that was supposed to be 10 hours and turned into being 17, so what? It is what it is. We are living and I would call it a chaotic time. … So that is the place where I’m going to work from. That place of just being here.”


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