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Prelude (this article was written in 2001)
My Nepalese adventure happened about 15 years ago. If at that time, Internet was available in my country, I would have probably put up this homepage. Some may ask why bother to write now if it had happened so long ago. Yes, it is too long for me to recall the detailed segments of the trip. Nevertheless, it is always a good storyline to have Nepal as a background. For me, this trip was an eye-opener for me. I would like to document the story of my trip before I finally expire. So let me turn the clock and tell you my story. I had wonderful memories, as I slowly recount, of the country, the scenery, the people, the mountains….
Like most young and unattached, I was full of zest and energy. I went canoeing. I did trekking. I ventured midnight walks. I traveled too. How lucky to be young and healthy! In order to sustain my energy and interest, I joined the Singapore Adventurers’ Club. A club where the young and old share the same interest and activity. Volunteers help to organise snorkeling trips, trekking trips, etc,etc.. I have since left the club after I got married.
When the trip to Nepal was organised, I was actually facing a dilemma to go or not to go. My late mother who was alive at that time was just being discharged from hospital after a heart attack. My heart wanted to go. My mind was worried for my late mum. Finally, I let my heart ruled my head. Opportunity never strikes twice. I live long enough not to regret the decision. Not only was I able to see my mum after my trip, she was also able to live for a few more years. Is this luck or fate ?
If I have another opportunity to visit Nepal, my answer will be ‘YES’. While there, I saw and met many lone travelers trekking like we did. Nepal – a country of mystery is captivating. Her beauty is stunning. Her mountains are astounding. By the way, as I write this, the 2nd expedition of Singapore climbers are trying to reach the summit of Everest via the North Col. Good luck, comrades
To me, it was a major trip. I bought a pair of New Balance hiking shoes. I still have it but hardly use it. Perhaps a pair of Nike jogging shoes should do the job.
I also bought a Karimor backpack. I still have it but again it is seldom used. Personally, I should be using a lighter bag than my Karimor. The golden rule is to travel light.
In retrospect, I should have trained harder for the trek. Thinking it was just a trek was a mistake. Some days we had to walk for about seven hours daily. It is good to be fit especially if you are going in a team.
Most of the photographs were taken by my good old reliable Minolta X-700 SLR camera which still works. Come to think about it, I am kind of dinosaur. Very seldom will I throw away workable stuffs.
Thanks to our organiser of the trip, we were able to wear the team t-shirt with our club logo on it. I could not remember where was my t-shirts now. Wearing a club t-shirt as a team adds to the importance of the event. It was also helpful in a way when going to the immigration checkpoint. Not that we were given separate treatment but indirectly, we were quickly passed through.
I was glad that I brought thick and thin clothings for my trip. You never know when the weather will change. I also brought along gloves and a pair of sunglass. It is also wise to bring sun protection cream if your skin is sensitive to prolonged sunlight exposure.
This group of 22 was a combination from walks of life. Most of us were young and unattached. There were two nurses; one retired 65 years old draughtsman; a swimming coach; an army officer; technician; computer operators; a undergraduate; an insurance agent; etc…
With such a big group, we had had our personal crashes and conflicts, tempers flared up at times; small clique of different groups were formed. With due respect, we had somehow managed to stay and live together for the next 23 days. Now I wonder how we did it. Our ultimate goal was to have fun, to enjoy our holidays. Any personal difference was not important. This is not Survivor series. We were not here to outwit, outplay or outlive each other. At the end of the day, there is no prize to collect. Only beautiful memories to cherish and bring home.
I am not too sure where are they now. With the trip over and the post-trip hoo-ha, each had gone his own way. I reckon some are married, some are still travelling, some are making money….I wish you all well and happy.
As I look at the photographs of the trip now, how young we were! Each of us had our own goals to achieve, our dreams to fulfill. Some make it. Some are still struggling. Whatever it is, 22 people dared to dream to trek in Nepal 15 years ago. This dream came true to them…… to the himalayas where eight of the world’s fourteen highest mountains are
Come the fateful departure day, all of us were very excited and happy. For me, this was one trip I was waiting and wanting to go. We gathered at Changi Airport and greeted each other happily. We were in high spirits. After the traditional group photograph, we boarded the Nepal Airline plane- off to the country at the roof top of the world.
It was a small plane. It was not a very comfortable ride. To our delight, some of us were allowed to take a peek at the cockpit, thanks to the amciable Nepalese pilot captain.
After a couple of hours(couldn’t remember how long), finally we had arrived at Kathmandu. The airport, by comparison to an international airport, was small indeed. Arriving from a modern city, I could notice the sharp contrast in Kathmandu. An ancient city with few motor vehicles, poverty, many old and ancient buildings and of course the mountainous range. I wonder how does Kathmandu look now ?
We had the luxury of touring the city for about two to three days before we began our trek. We were brought to a place called Bodnath, the largest Buddhist temple in Kathmandu valley. Magnificient building. Included in the itinerary was Durbar Square, the towering Naytapole temple. This was a vibrant street. It was a very touristy area. With tourists, there will be souvenir shops. Abundant.
Another vibrant place that I remember was the Thamel Street. A place full of cafes and small restaurants, book shops and hiking/camping shops. I can recall a small restaurant that sold very good steak. What was unique with the steak was they added two sunshine eggs to your steak. Food and cholestrol level was not important to us. Why ? After the trek, all of us had lost much weight. So it was all go to feast.
I do not know why but it was the tourists who were selling their stuffs to the local people at a night bazar. We were there to shop around. Instead, we were asked, ”how much your radio”?; “how much your watch” ? It was interesting for once to be turn the table around. Some of us even managed to make some profits out of it. I sold away a few pairs of my old t-shirts. In retrospect, it wasn’t a honourable task to earn profits from these poor people. However, looking at a different perspective, it was purely an entrepeneurial trading transaction. You paid, I sold.
After a few days of relaxing and touring Kathmandu, it was time for the trek. We needed to reach Lukla, our starting point of the trek. Landing at the air-strip in Lukla was most frightening experience of the expedition. If not for the outstanding skill of the pilot, I am not here to relate this story. The air-strip was a short perhaps 200 metres long runway. The Otter twin-engined aircraft needed to stop in time or else it would hit the mountain at the other side of the runway.
After this adrenalin high landing, we were rewarded with awesome scenery. Breathtaking. I was stunned by the magnificent sight. Photographs may able to capture the colours and image of it. However, you need to be there phyiscally to truly enjoy the personification of beauty by Mother Nature.
Physically, I was not trained for this expedition. I had underestimated the physical endurance of the trek. On average, we needed to walk about six hours daily. The food was not good. A kind of dough to go with jam. It was cold. We were also faced with high altitude sickness. Hence we needed to acclimatise to the weather condition as we proceeded from one level to another level. At times, we camped at wooden lodge. Some times, we pitched camps at sub zero temperature conditions. It was tough but manageable.
At such great height and cold environment, bathing was not considered a very important necessity for our porters and expeditiion helpers. So to bath with boiling hot water, we needed to pay for it because wood was scare up there. It was a luxury to have a boiling hot bath. It took a little time for me to get used to not bathing for a few days. Somehow, I managed.
Thanks to our porters who carried most of our bags and the advanced party who would make sure we got our food and drinks before we arrived at our next destination. I think they were the fittest team. Some were boys of about ten years old. There were some female helpers too. They led a simple and tough life. Yet I did not hear them complaining. Probably I did not understand their language and they did not understand mine either. Sometimes we communicated by the universal hand signal language.
Trekking amid the beautiful scenery was a bonus. Along the way, we met other trekkers. There was one Indian man about 70 years old trekking alone with one porter. Another Brazilian young lady also came alone. A couple of Japanese nationality whom I had mistaken as man and wife. A cosmoplitan of trekkers from various countries.
Our goal was to ascend to the summit of Kala Pattar,5545m(the starting point of each Everest expedition). We were rookies. We were city folks. It was a challenge to us. Not all us reached the summit. I was one of them that could not make it. Every step I took, I had to stop to grasp for more oxygen. My heart was beating rapidly.
Our next town to visit after Kala Pattar was Pokhara. I was sick with diarrhoea. It was bad. Everyone was enjoying. I was lying on my bed. Fortuantely, I brought along Lomotil. I was able to recover after two days. It was such a great relief to be well and running.
Pokhara is a town of lakes and mountains. This is where you will find the famed Annapurna mountain range, another popular trekking area. On one occasion, I was taken aback when someone trying to sell drug to me along the street. It is sad to know that such fragility and complexity of this society in this beautiful town does prevail
I am glad that I have finally put up a homepage of my Nepal trip. To recall events that happened 15 years ago requires a little more effort from my limited “RAM”. With aid of photographs and newspapers reporting, I had managed it through. I do not know how much Nepal has changed by now. I am sure there will be change. My only hope is there will be less trees felled or mountains flattened. Life survives in this country that has no railway. I, for one hope, that it never changes.
It was a wonderful trip for me. I had enjoyed myself and am still looking forward to visit Nepal again. Up to now, I have not attempted another such expedition. It is a exhilarating experience for me. Added to the pomposity of this expedition, the continuity of this event followed after we had returned. We held a few slide shows to promote mountain climbing and trekking. A few articles appeared in the local Chinese and English papers.
I am proud to say that a Singaporean expedition to reach summit of Mount Everest was successfully completed in 1998. A second expedition is in progress to reach by North Col