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


  1. I see you're still working on that drawing skills of yours. ;) Good post btw.

    1. I sure am! Please tell me there is some improvement :)

  2. Hi Shimri,

    I found your blog through a friend of mine.
    I've wanted to go to Nepal to do some trekking for sometime, but seeing your pictures (both of Nepal and Kashmir) makes me want to plan a trip asap! :)

    Thanks for sharing :)

    p/s: You take some really good travel photos!

    1. Hey there Christine,

      Thank you for the compliment :) I notice you are quite an adventurer yourself, stunning photos of New Zealand! Are you a studying in New Zealand?

      Nepal is awesome, I guarantee you'd love it there. Friendly people, breathtaking mountain scenery... Can't get any better than that :) Do make a trip soon, the weather is currently perfect for trekking.


    2. Ah... NZ is so beautiful, it isn't hard to take a good picture of it at all!
      I was there on a working holiday last year, so I got to savour it for a good 9 months. But now that I'm back in KL, my feet are just itching to be on the mountains again.

      Haha... I still need to do my research on Nepal la.. I've only read up on the Annapurna circuit, which is apparently quite long... Abit hard to do given the fact that I've started working again.
      How long did you go to Nepal for, and how long was the trek that you did?

    3. A certain amount of skill is needed to capture the beauty of NZ though, so I'm guessing you're a pretty competent photographer :)

      Wow 9 months in NZ! I bet you had an amazing time there. Haha I understand that itch perfectly... The longing of traveling and discovering new places, the joy of conquering mountains... I feel you..

      Oh yea, Annapurna circuit takes roughly 21 days to complete. Not really ideal for people working or studying, perhaps in the future huh? I did the Lantang trek which usually takes 10-11 days. I did it during a sem break, flew there, climbed the mountain then flew back for classes haha.

      What are you working as? If you don't mind me asking la hehe :)

    4. Haha well photography is abit of a hobby of mine, so thank you :)
      Where did you see my pictures anyway? I'm guessing the Instagram link in my profile?

      But what I said about NZ is really true - hard to take a bad photo of it. It looks good on moody overcast days, it is beautiful when the sun is out and the sky is blue. Very aptly named "God's own country".

      It's really interesting that you chose to do Nepal and Kashmir though... They seem like such, for lack of a better word, "exotic" places that not many young people would think of visiting. (At least not the ones I know).
      And wow - 10-11 days... that's long. Did you have to camp or were there guesthouses throughout the trek?
      Just thinking about how heavy your packs must have been haha.

      The company that I'm working at manufactures personal care products (oral care, cosmetics, skin care, bath products...). I'm involved in product development, packaging and documentation.
      You're studying medicine right?

      Anyways... apologies for filling your comments section! This is becoming some kind of conversation haha.