Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Upward Plunge Part 2

Day 2: Pairo- Lantang Village

Faithfully following behind the retreating back of Mann our guide, he led us ever onwards to the snowy caped mountains.

After staring at Mann's bag for hours, I slowly came to memorise every single detail of the bag, every meticulously patched up tear, every faded stain. The image of the bag was so firmly etched into my mind that I see it every time I close my eyes, even dream about it when I sleep. Mann should have been carrying my medical books, that way I could have memorise the whole book instead...

So with Mann leading the way, me slightly behind him and Aiman covering up the rear, we walked across the Langtang trek of the Himalayas. 

Just as I was thinking how our journey is somewhat similar to the journey of Frodo in The Lord of The Rings ( Mann being Sméagle, Aiman being Sam and me being Frodo), I dislodged some stones sending them rolling down a hill alarming a flock of birds which took flight immediately. It was a magical moment as we stood on top of a hill surrounded by the serene mountain view and engulfed in a cloud of birds, at least it was magical until the shit started dropping..

As the sun started sinking behind the mountains, we arrived at Lantang Village hungry, weary and cold. The village made up of many small houses with chimneys smoking was a very welcomed sight. The smoke means fire and fire means warmth and food. 

The whole village was already in shadows as we walked towards our chosen tea-house to spend the night, except for a field nearby where the last rays of the sun still shone. 

In that last ray of sun, I saw a small young boy dancing, spinning and tumbling around. He looked so happy, so care-free, laughing as he danced, screaming as he spun and fell. 

I wanted to capture that tender moment but as I approach the boy, he quickly disappeared back into his house.

Dinner that night was a cold affair. 

Even with a heater burning red hot trying in vain to heat up the dining area, everyone was shivering as we huddled round the heater gulping down hot tea and wolfing down our Dhal Bhats (a local rice dish).

Remember the dancing young boy? Well, apparently he and his family were staying next door to us. It was so cold that they came over to share the fire and have dinner together. 

After dinner I took out my iPad and let the dancing boy and his brother have a go at some of the games I have in my iPad. They were mesmerized.. 

I could see their exciment as they figured how to beat the games. The brother concentrated especially hard while playing a game that even a blob of mucus slowly dripping out from his nose went unnoticed. 

These mountain folks seem to have nothing, no televisions, no computers, no overpriced apple products, no nothing. But in reality, these people actually have everything. 

They have the purest form of joy by enjoying simple things in life like dancing in the sun, they get the highest satisfaction achieved by pitting themselves against mother nature and excelling, they enjoy the blues skies, the high mountains....

What wouldn't I give to have what they have..

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Upward Plunge Part 1

Paul Salopek once wrote:

               "Walking is falling forward. 

                       Each step we take is an arrested plunge, a collapse averted, a disaster braked.
                 Walking becomes an act of faith."

For the past one week, Aiman and I plummeted across part of the Himalayan mountain range in Nepal. We walked the Langtang trek and conquered a 4985m peak called Tsergo Ri.

Day 1: Kathmandu- Landslide

That is the view outside my window as we embarked on a 7 hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Syabrubesi. The road leading to Syabrubesi is extremely narrow, barely being able to fit one small car but used as a two-way highway for trucks, lorries and buses.

The road barely qualifies as a road, with rocks and boulders becoming the layering for the road instead of tar. That makes the journey a 7 hour bumpity-bumpity ride.

Some parts of the road are destroyed by landslides, making the narrow and bumpy road even narrower and bumpier. At parts like these, the bus trying to manoeuvre across the debris tilts precariously over the edge of the mountain. In reaction, some passengers lean desperately to the opposite side, trying to rebalance the bus and prevent a tumble straight down the cliff; while other passengers get down on their knees and start praying to all the gods known to human mankind.

The driver oblivious to the dangers of the road and the distress of the passengers, drives with one hand and his other holding a cigarette, as he sings along the nepalese songs blasting out from the speakers.

Either by the skill of the bus driver or the prayers of the passengers or the desperate leaning of the other passengers, we actually arrive at Syabrubesi in one piece, unhurt and unharmed.

Aiman, a fellow medical cadet whom I jokingly call the "fart-man" (in return, he calls me the bloody China-man) suggest we start hiking immediately instead of spending the night at Syabrubesi.

We turn to our hired local Nepalese guide, Mann, asking his opinion. 

Mann has an easy manner and an easier smile which seems to be permanently stuck on his face. He is always smiling! Be it in the cold or even during extreme hunger and tiredness.  

Mann has various sayings that he claims are Nepalese sayings. For example:

      "Chicken curry, no hurry."

      "Slowly slowly, catch the monkey"
      "Apple pie, don't shy"
      "Nepal= Never Ending Peace And Love

And not all are innocent and pure:

       "Japan= Jumping And Pumping All Night"
      "Fanta= F*** And Never Talk Again

Along the way he came up with more and more sayings, making me doubt they are Nepalese sayings but rather self-made up rhymes. 

So, asking his opinion if we can start hiking, he replies with a smile on his face: "No problem!" And thus, our upward plunge along Langtang trek towards Tsergo Ri begins!

Our aim for the day is to reach a village called Pairo. Carrying our backpacks and a big smile on our faces, we walked along Langtang River, saturating ourselves with the beauty of God's creation.

After 2 hours of walking, we arrive at our destination where we were quickly allocated rooms to spend the night.

In Nepal, a particular tribe of people staying high in the Himalayas are renowned for their mountaineering expertise. Seemingly immune to the cold and the effects of high altitude, they are regarded as elite mountaineers, the best of the best. Serving as guides at extremely high altitudes, these people form the backbone of expeditions conquering Mount Everest. This tribe of people are known as the Sherpa people.

As the sun started sinking, the rising crescent moon found us crowded round the kitchen fire trying to warm ourselves. Just as we were about to get warm, the kitchen door was thrown open letting in the cold frigid air. Two figures quickly huddled in and came to share our fire...

They introduced themselves and ordered dinner. I kind of forgot their names hehe (my apologies, I suck at names). But one of them is a Sherpa and the other is a man from China training to be a professional guide. So they were there to practise ice climbing at one of the many snowy capped peaks along Langtang trek.

After we all had dinner, the Sherpa started telling stories about his various expeditions up Mount Everest. The Sherpa had a hypnotic way of telling his stories, he had everybody in the kitchen sitting at the edges of the chair trying to catch his every word as he recounted his experiences. 

His stories painted a picture in my head where I am standing proudly at the top of Mount Everest with the Malaysian flag in my right hand....... 

With the fire dying and dreams of conquering Everest, I wished everybody goodnight and head to bed to rest and prepare for our hike tomorrow.

A starry sky seen under Nepalese prayer flags