I miss the mountains...
For someone who takes delight in living life's high moments in the hills and valleys, the recent lockdown was the most excruciating period when her mind traversed the peaks across continents while her body remained strapped to the new reality of 'life on earth with the coronavirus'. Habiba al Balushi, a mounaineer by heart, mind and soul, however, acknowledges that the lockdown made her appreciate the small things in life.
Habiba, who conquered Mt Kilimanjaro the highest peak in Tanzania, Africa, in 2017, and Mt Toubkal, the highest peak of the High Atlas, in Morocco, in 2019, has also been harbouring a long-cherished dream of conquering Mt Everest, the highest peak in the Himalayas, in the near future. Having quit a two decade job as a professional in the Eye Clinic of Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, a few years ago, Habiba chose to concentrate on her passion for mountaineering, despite the fact that she is mother of five kids.
Though she is part of a group of hikers and mountaineers who regularly go out on weekends pursuing their dreams and personal challenges, Habiba said, the lockdown brought a grinding halt to her passion. Initially, she could not imagine being tied down indoors due to the coronavirus pandemic but slowly began to relish her additional time spent at home with the family.
“Personally, this lockdown hasn’t had that big of an impact on me as it did to most people. I’m generally not a very social person, nor do I meet up with a lot of people. But, I definitely miss a couple of things that I’m currently unable to do. Nevertheless, I try to focus on the positives and keep myself as busy as possible while at home,” she said.
One of the things that Habiba misses being unable to do is go on hikes because she is an avid hiker. However, she replaced her outdoor physical activity with physical activity at home. “I exercise at least one hour per day whether that be jogging, walking, or anything else I feel like doing. Making sure I’m physically healthy, makes it easier to be mentally healthy, which is something that's very important during this lockdown, especially at a time where we’re uncertain when it’s gonna be over,” she said.
During lock down, Habiba set up a clear plan for herself right from the beginning. These included learning and cooking new recipes every weekend with her kids, reading at least 30 pages a day from some of her favourite books and establishing a better and happier relationship with her children. She tried to make her time spent at home as much as fun as possible by organising barbecue dinners and other fun activity at home itself.
“The biggest challenge was going off my routine and being afraid to do things I would usually do without thinking twice. For instance, shaking someone’s hand. It’s crazy how an invisible virus could alter our life in such a way. However, during this crazy time, I tried my best to be my best,” she said, adding, “This lockdown taught me to appreciate the small thing in life, like being able to hug my children more often and staying I touch with my relatives. But, I really do miss my mom, my friends and the mountains.”
Habiba is part of a social media group with 200 members from different countries – Omanis, expatriates as well as tourists. Different members occasionally take the initiative to lead smaller groups, and on weekends, they go out for overnight camps to destinations like Jebel Akhdar, Jebel Shams, etc.