Posts tagged ‘adventure’

Mt. Everest in all her glory

Tangboche to Dangboche

A bleary eyed Eri with Mt. Everest in the background

Kanccha had dragged us from our beds at 6 in the morning with a gleam in his eye that we hadn’t seen before. With little or no explanation he hurried us to get changed, dress warm and bring our cameras. Up until this stage he always seemed rather disappointed in the mornings because he knew just how much we wanted to see the beauty of the Himalaya and almost took it personally when the low hanging clouds robbed us of the view he knew was there. Today however he walked with the languid gait of someone who knew he was about to deliver and his banter had an unusually excited air about it.

Struggling over rock and building material piled high behind the guest house we made our way to a raised area flattened with crushed rock about 5 metres across. “ helicopter landing pad” Kanccha said with a smile. Thank god we had walked here because landing on this little patch of rock would have been scarier than Lukla by a mile and not a proposition I would ever want to contemplate.

Straight out of bed it can be a little difficult to catch your breath at these altitudes and it wasn’t till we got to the landing that we were able to look up and start to take in the view. With all the skill of a circus showman he first pointed us down the valley and named and numbered the peaks that we had been walking between with a pride only an ageing local can carry off. After a minute or two and with other excited trekkers coming into view he casually said “ Look over your shoulder.” We both turned around expecting more of the same or more likely incoming clouds. What we saw instead was truly breathtaking. Before us was a narrow valley, walled by impossibly high mountains. Framing the view at the end was a sheer wall of snowed clad mountains, tiny in the distance and yet gigantic. Perched above it all was the unmistakable peak of Everest, unencumbered by clouds or fog. The dull white of snow slowly turning a deep gold as the sun rose slowly to the east. Even more so than yesterday, this was an incredible moment when you tried to comprehend that we were mere kilometres away from the base yet due to its immense height the peak seemed so far away.

Everest towering over the valley

It was a humbling to think that people at that very moment were trying to scale her and yet the mountain seemed strangely indifferent to them, the whole world, and us. As infantile as it is to suggest that this monolith of snow and rock could appear to be affecting such human emotions, for the first time in my life I truly began to understand why peoples all over the world have always seen god like qualities in natures form. I don’t think I will ever forget that feeling.

We stayed up there, oohhing and ahhring for another few minutes until surrounded by other trekkers and the moment was lost. Strangely the scene reverted to just a glorious landscape, ripe for the photographic picking of western tourists in a place where we were strangers and in many ways didn’t belong.

With breakfast finished, more photos taken and bags packed we set off up the valley for our final day below the tree line. It was a fairly uneventful day, strolling up the valley across roaring rivers, through picturesque villages and our now ever present friends the Tibetan Yak.

Above the tree line.

As we gradually climbed higher our surroundings began to change. Not long after lunch we at last broke through the tree line and stood on the border between the world below and a new and foreign place. A place so sparse, so rugged and so quiet we felt like intruders in a fantasy land that was to big for the mere likes of human beings.

Isolated house above the treeline

Dingpache

It was cold when we awoke the next morning and the lack of oxygen, meant that our movements were slow and conversation limited until after breakfast.
Despite the frigid air the sky was clear and our walking quite easy through the stone walled fields being tended by the local Sherpas. This was the last point of what we might call agriculture. From here on in we would only see wild grasses, shrubs and yaks. The sheer emptiness of the place an ever-present reminder of the harshness of life up here for man and beast.

By mid afternoon we had reached our next lodge at Dingpache nestled at the junction of the paths for Everest base camp and the Imja Glacier. We were now so close to Everest yet oddly we couldn’t see her. Between us the massive wall of Lohtse, the 4th highest mountain in the world and one of the most challenging climbs known to man. It was sobering to walk along the path and see so many stone memorials to those who had left their dreams and lives on its sheers cliffs.

Another good nights sleep followed only interrupted by dreams filled with anticipation for tomorrow’s final push to Chukhung and our chance to stand on the great Himalayan glaciers that we were here to see.

The final walk and our first glacier.

It was cold when we awoke the next morning and the lack of oxygen, meant that our movements were slow and conversation limited until after breakfast.

Words escape me when i try to describe how beautiful these mountains are

Despite the frigid air, the sky was clear and our walking quite easy through the stone walled fields being tended by the local Sherpas. This was the last point of what we might call agriculture. From here on in we would only see wild grasses, waist high shrubs and yaks, the sheer emptiness of the place an ever-present reminder of the harshness of life up here for man and beast.

Our pace was slow, due mainly to the fact that we were continually stopping for photos, brief rests and a chance just to ogle at the beauty of the mountains around us.

We reached Chunkhung in the late morning just as the clouds started to role up the valley. We thought that might be the end of our day but by 2 o’clock the sky had cleared and Kanccha suggested we go on up to our first glacier. We couldn’t wait and we were about to see firsthand the real effects of a warming climate on this beautiful land.

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December 3, 2009 at 6:08 pm 1 comment

Into the mystical lands around Mt.Everest

When a life long dream is about to be filled, sleep the night before can be more than a little problematic. Add to that the hideously early departure and by the time we got to the airport we were dazed and confused but desperatley excited about going to the Khumbu region to see Everest and the Imja Glacier.

Getting on the plane -Harder than you might think.

The cause of Eri's fears

The cause of Eri's fears

Our first challenge though was not altitude or cold or isolation. It was getting Eri onto the tiny aircraft that was going to take us to Lukla. As we rode in the bus across the tarmac, we went past progressively smaller Yeti Airline( I lovethat name) planes and with each passing machine Eri’s excitement turned more and more to fear. When the bus finallypulled up next to the little 16 seater it took more than a little convincing that getting out of the safe bus and into the not so safe plane was actually a great idea.

Bless her she overcame her fears and finally got in, fear painted all over her face. we were lucky enough to secure a left hand seat which afforded us the most magnificant views of the snow capped Himalaya once we got airborne. With Eri sat behind me ( with the most sweat soaked palms i have ever seen) we weavedour way through the ever increasing peaks, skimming over small settlements and almost glancing sheer cliff faces.

Landing in Lukla and loads of photos

September 22, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

A view of nature from the back of an elephant

After a long lazy lunch and a few furtive looks at a dark monsoon sky, we jumped in the truck again and made our way to the elephant ride.

Life from the elephants back.

Again my conscience was itching, riding these graceful beasts just so we can have look around the jungle in many ways grates. That said, like we were told at the elephant sanctuary, if we don’t somehow monetize the elephants this way, poachers and criminals will do it in far more damaging ways. Mankind’s abilityto bring the beauty of nature down to solely a financial value really is a scourge on our species.

Anyway when we arrived we were immediately directed to the largest beast in the field. The girls were quick to note, that the fact that I was the fattest man in the room  allowed us to get this graceful giant to carry us around the jungle. The cheeky buggers should really have been grateful, because the lofty heights of the back of this animal gave us an unforgetable afternoon.

Setting off, the loping gait of the elephant took a little bit ot get used to. That said, we were soon taking no notice of the rocking and rolling and were peering keenly into the jungle trying to make up for the mornings disappointment. Jumping at every movement real or percieved, saddled  with the hope that we would see a great rhino, we were instead soon lolled into a comfortable daze that seemed almost impossible to break until we brushed through  a particularly tight break in the trees and were rewarded with the most magnificent veiw. Wallowing by a water hole were two beatiful but sadly endangered Asian Rhino. Calm, graceful, and unfazed by our presence, these ancient looking animals reminded me of a time when humans were part of nature and not dominating it. I couldn’t help but wonder if  we have dangerously overstepped the mark and should really revert back to a more sustainable  place in nature for the benefit of ourselves and everything else that eeks out a living on this planet. The fact that we could endanger the very existence of such fantastic beasts just for short term financial gain really seems all the more ridiculous when you see these magnificant animals up close.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of more sightings, river crossings, beautiful jungle vistas and a wonderful feeling of being at least for a short time we were a part of nature rather than dominating and being disconnected from it.

Back to Kathmandu

The next day it was with a certain sense of disappointment that we raced back to Kathmandu to fulfull a few mediaobligations for WWF and more importantly wish Amand a fond farewell.

September 21, 2009 at 1:44 pm Leave a comment

A morning with Everest

Just wanted to let people know that we wil be away in the Khumba region for the next few days and off line. Can’t wait toget further up the valley after waking up early this morning and being treated to the sight of the peak of MT. Everest.

Will post photos when we get back to Kathmandu next week. I cant tell you how beautiful this area is.

September 10, 2009 at 11:23 am Leave a comment

The Great Climb. Tagalang La- 5330m, the world’s second ( some say) highest road.

Ode to a big hill – “Ahh Taglang La, you painful, frightening beast of a pass, Even now i can feel the pain you put through my legs and my head, but we beat you and it will always be one of the best things I ever do”.

On the climb up Taglang La

On the climb up Taglang La

Today was to turn out to be  not only one of the biggest challenges of the trip but of our lives. You could almost taste the trepidation as we broke camp and wandered over to the local 0.0005 star restaurant for the obligatory omlette and chipatti. Away by 7.30, we started at a slow pace but none of us could stop thinking about the enormity of the day ahead. Although the climb looked deceptively mundane on the map, when you think about it,  we had a 29 km climb, ascending through serious altitude nearly 1.2 km from 4200m up to 5330m. Even just thinking about those numbers still makes me shudder, but sitting here now supping a clod beer reminiscing, I can’t begin to tell you how proud i am to be able to say that we all did this beast of a climb unassisted, fully loaded and better than any of us thought possible.

The easy bit-

The first 5 km was relatively easy over a 200m climb,  but things started to get tough when we came across a sign saying ” You are only 24 km from the Tagalan La”. What a truly cruel sign. To not also tell us that it was to be another 8 hours of steep, steep, switchbacks with the last 15km on truly appalling gravel roads and landslides, was almost criminal. Add to that scorching heat, Tata trucks and army convoys. You know what- it really did turn out to be one of the greatest challenges and most satisfying days of my life.

The first 10 switchbacks-

As the switchbacks started, we all dropped into our own pace and it soon became apparent that the way to beat this monster was to go at your own pace, empty your mind of what was coming up and just start spinning the peddles for hour after hour. At times we managed to spread out over about a kilometre and that sometimes translates into two or three switchbacks, but by waiting for each other, drinking loads of water, occasionally looking back and using common sense we began to tick off the kms.

These were the easy ones

These were the easy ones

The hard bit-

No matter how hard we thought the first bit was, nothing could prepare us for what was coming next. Actually we were prepared a little bit by a  constant tide of cyclists coming the other way telling us just how crap the road was and how long we still had to go. Their departing cries of “good luck” and “your doing great” followed by a shake of the head and the “thank god i am not going that way” look really started to wear thin about 12 minutes  after lunch. Things really got hard when the road turned from passable blacktop, to bone jarring, teeth rattling, boulder sized gravel. Throw in more and more traffic, roadworks and roads turning to rivers from glaiciers melting and the afternoon became  quite interesting. Oh yeh and a landslide that held us up for about 45 mins we could ill afford to lose.

45 min Landslide - not today!!!!

45 min Landslide - not today!!!!

This might not seem like a problem but as the day wore on we were down to about 3 km an hour and getting back down to a reasonable altitude after climbing that far can be a life and death consideration. The shadows were sarting to get long and i couldnt  shake a growing sense of urgency as the pass seemed to be getting further away rather than closer. As we got into the last 3 kilometres it started to become real that we would make it over the top, but like xmas, you know it would come but it seemed to take for ever. It was astonishing to discover that after all that climbing the last 500 metres would be the toughest. Axle deep in black sand we had to dismount and push, but at last at 4.40 we finally reached the top to be greeted by a howling wind,  20 Royal Enfields and the realisation that we really couldnt stay long and needed to start the 20 km descent before it got dark.

We made it - Taglang La 5330m, What a feeling!

We made it - Taglang La 5330m, What a feeling!

The descent and the arrival of an Angel

As we started our descent the fatigue kicked in and in many ways the ride down was shaping up to be as challenging as the ride up. Ten minutes in though we had an almost crash worthy surprise when around the corner came Tashi from WWF on a motorbike. I can’t even tell you how happy we were and our joy turned to elation when he said he had food and hot tea in his bag. A boiled egg has never tasted so good.  I cant remember being as revitalised by anything so much as that brief 20 min break by the side of the road, with Tashi’s little stash of gold.

From then on it was all down hill ( in a good way) but with Tashi as a guide and the promise of a warm welcome and hot food ahead of us  with the WWF team, an unscheduled extra 15km’s in the dark seemed  a small price to pay. Little did we know just how great our time would be at Tso Kar.

More photos from the taming of the Taglang la beast

September 5, 2009 at 10:22 pm 4 comments

Cycle for Change back in Kathmandu

Just a quick update to let you know that we are back in Kathmandu after a fantastic trip through northern India and southern Nepal.

Now as we have been told in no uncertain terms by some of you, we have been behind in our posting. In our defence we were away from anything remotely resembling a working computer with an internet connection for most of the time. Since back here we have been spending most of our time in interviews with the Nepali media with one appearance in the Kathmandu post last Thursday and plenty more to come. We also did a radio interview with a freelance journo for NPR in the States, so we have been non stop.

The big news and sad news it is, Amanda my dear little sister, was on the plane back to Sydney yesterday. Alas work calls but I must say we are very appreciative to her boss’ for giving her the time off to come for as long as she did.Thanks kiddo it was absolutely fantastic having you along for the ride and we look forward to the films when you can get them done. It’s weird not having you here.

Upcoming plans

1. Blog as much as possible.

2. Go trekking in the Imja region to look at Glacier lakes in the Everest area.

3. Get ready for the ride out of Nepal and into new adventures in Sikkim, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

4. Continue to lose weight – I have lost about 10kg so far and more to go. Can’t tell you how good riding over the worlds highest roads on a fully loaded bike is for wiehg loss. Stay away from fad diets, get yourself on a bike.

Anyway am off to write a newspaper article for one of the local papers, so keep checking back for updates over the next few weeks.

Stay tuned i promise we will be posting more often when things slow down a bit.

Read Kathmandu Post article here

September 5, 2009 at 7:39 pm Leave a comment

Cycle for Change begins

Well today is the day. We are all packed and ready to go. On the way to the airport now and our next report will be from Kathmandu. This time next week we will actually be on our way to the Everest region and we hope to bring you some truly amazing photos, videos and stories. Follow us  here on the blog and dont forget to sign up to our tweet address for up to date information as we go. Here we go i let the fun and games begin.

July 26, 2009 at 8:50 am 2 comments

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