From the darkness… lead me to Light. From death… lead me to Immortality. From deception… lead me to Truth. From delusion, lead me to the Straight Path… and from the blindness, lead me to True Sight… the kind of sight that can make me look at every corner of this planet from the deepest ravine to the highest mountain through my eyes… and see through my heart pass the 70 thousand hijab (veils) that are blinding me from the Ultimate Truth, from the Source of all reason, from You oh Al-Akhbar (The Greatest), from You the Master of all souls, from You who are not bound by space and time ………………………………………………………….. and when the five senses and the mind are at still… and all reasons, causes and effects freeze and at rest, then the Supreme Path begins… My soul came back attached to my physical body early in the morning after a long night’s dream, before the sun started to give its light and warmth to the Himalayas, feeling so determined to walk higher into the thin air, to finally see with my own eyes, coming face to face with the Everest, the highest place men can ever walk or stand on this planet.
Leaving Dingboche walking towards the Everest Basecamp, I could still see the grand Mt. Ama Dablam on my right standing high and proud, crowned by the sun that was shining behind its peak, giving a marvelous view for the whole morning. The weather was really good, a combination of the beautiful morning sun and the blue sky giving a perfect mountainscape, forcing me to walk slower to enjoy the beauty during my walk and I couldnt stop snapping photos to capture the memory inside the memory stick of my camera. Once in a while, I walked pass Buddhist stupas and prayerflags, which reminds me that Im now walking at the roof of the world, the Himalayas. After Ama Dablam left my sight, other high snowy peak mountains came into my sight, mostly standing over 6000m… making it feels like I’m walking in a huge and grand gallery of snowy peak high mountains.
I could look at the stars at night trying to understand the meaning of huge but its difficult since the stars are too far away and its impossible to know the distance of the stars. But here looking at the mountains in the Himalayas, I could easily understand the meaning of huge. The mountains are so huge and I think I finally understand and grasp the meaning of it when comparing it with the village that sits below them. The village down below which is man-made look so tiny and weak compared to the surrounding mountains which are extremely huge and grand… reminds me on how weak we human are compared to our creator, the source of everything. Looking at the big mountains in far distance and compare it with us human who look like ants trying to walk or climb over it, making me to realize that the only characteristic we human should have is to be humble and always down to earth since we look too weak, miniscule and unimportant compared to the mountains. Yet some of us are filled with so much pride and arrogance which doesnt suit our appearance at all. Its just not natural. Proud is for the mountains, since theyre huge and grand. Then my mind began to think on a bigger scale, the mountains too should be humble comparing themselves to a huge asteroid that can destroy these mountains if it ever flies through our atmostphere and hit them… My mind then flew at a much larger scale, that the stars too should be humble because they just look like a dot compared to milky ways. In the end, every creation… from a tiny butterfly to a grand asteroid should be humble because we are all weak. My mind kept flying much faster than the speed of light in some mysterious realm while my physical body was walking in the Great Himalaya and my eyes were admiring those 6000m peaks.
I came across Thokla pass which sits at 4830m, filled with monuments of mostly climbers who died trying to scale the big mountains here including the Everest. Theyre being remembered as heroes here and books were written about their stories but the most important thing to me, it acts as a reminder on how small and weak we are. We might be strong, well prepared and fully equipped but the mountain is like a pretty young witch. They can be beautiful and seducing but can be deadly, they can kill men if they dont like them. All it’s elements can be against us human. The air.. the cold mountain air can weaken us slowly, the altitude makes us sick, lost control, lost appetite and constant headache, the rocks and ice and snow could make us slip and fall and break our legs and even kill us if we take one wrong step especially while descending, a drop of a small stone could start a deadly avalanche that could bury us alive and finally, the weather could just wipe us off, separating our soul from our body in a matter of minutes.
I walked fast towards Lobuche just to find out that most of the accomodation are full so I only stop there for a quick lunch. Then I continue further towards Gorakshep which sits at 5140m altitude. This is a mistake I made, by ascending too fast without proper acclimatization. Walking above 3000m, always sleep a night at every 500m of ascend and a full day rest for every 1000m ascend. But I walked over 500m a day from Dingboche (4410m) and the last time I had a full day rest was at Namche Baazar which sits only at 3440m. So there you go, I started to catch a headache when I was in Gorakshep. I even had problem sleeping the night since the headache I had was unbearable. The next morning I felt weak, but I woke up early at 5 to catch early breakfast and climb the peak of Kalapatthar (5560m). This is the best place on the Nepali side to see the Everest… and I just get to know that even on the Everest Basecamp we cant see that famous highest mountain since its covered by the other huge mountains in front of them which stands at almost 8000m. The climb to Kalapatthar was quite easy, took me slightly over an hour to reach the peak but it feels hell since I had constant headache which doesnt go away. When I came down back to Gorakshep, I took about 2 hours of rest in the guesthouse I was staying, battling against the headache that was getting stronger. Knowing that the headache wont just go away so easily, I then continued towards the Everest Basecamp which sits slightly over 5300m altitude. It would be an easy walk if it wasnt the headache, but with this kind of headache, it would be very difficult even to walk in a supermarket or a shopping mall.
I was happy to summit the Kalapatthar and reached the Everest Basecamp but there were too many people there just like in shopping malls. The difference is only that theyre not carrying goodies in shopping bags but instead a backpack, a walking stick and theyre wearing hiking boots. So I didnt stay long and quickly continued with the descent as its difficult to really enjoy the view when too many people were shouting at their friends guiding them how to operate the camera to snap their pictures showing peace sign at the top of the mountain. It only made my headache worst, so I basically enjoyed the journey much more than the destination. In this case, I could find a peaceful moment much easier in the bathroom in my hotel back in Kathmandu compared to the peak of the mountain. So I snapped a few pictures before going down so that one day I could show the pictures to my son and then my grandson telling them how I was battling with heavy breathing and ignoring the constant headache I had during the climb…
I stayed a day in Namche Baazar which is slightly higher than 3400m to acclimatized and took a good rest before going higher into the thinner air. The small town in the mountain is still covered with thick clouds, visibility is probably less than 200 meters the whole day when I was there. But when I woke up the next morning and looked at morning sky from horizon to horizon… I couldnt find any clouds. It was a clear blue sky and I finally managed to see the beautiful surrounding peaks which probably more than 5000m standing proud, clearly visible from the hotel I was staying in Namche Baazar. They look so grand and huge and fierce making the man made buildings in Namche Baazar look very small, weak, humble and unimportant.
Looking at the same view for an hour waiting for the sunrise, a thought came to my mind thinking deep about the comparison between us humans and the mysterious world we are living in. Since generations, we are trying to figure out our existence yet the more we discover the more we dont know. We are trying to understand the universe but sadly, the universe is too big to fit inside our brain, only our brain fits inside the universe. Enjoying the view of Namche Baazar and the surrounding peaks for an hour while filming the timelapse, I also got to see the comparison between human made architecture and real nature architectural plan of the master of the universe. The four elements of earth, water, fire and air… how they are connected in different ways in the dimension of space… and how all these are connected with the other dimension of time. My mind couldnt stop moving from one topic to another, while my body is sitting in one spot while filming the timelapse. This is one reason why I enjoy watching both the sunrise and sunset, my mind would usually fly to some mysterious realm just by looking at the magic in the sky.
Since I left Namche Baazar, the trail is filled with trekkers who usually started trekking from Lukla. Its never quiet hiking here compared to the mountains of Central Asia. Its fun when other trekkers thought that Im a Sherpa. My look isn’t so much different than them and even the Sherpas thought that Im one of them. Hiking on the trail with Pema, my guide while speaking in fluent Malay, making it confusing for other foreigners to guess which one is the tourist and which one is the Sherpa… and they thought that Im speaking Nepali with Pema. Whenever we are in the hostel, it makes it easy for me to blend with other Sherpas.
The walk started to get very interesting since I left Namche Baazar. The surrounding totally changed since I walked out of that village. The landscape easily tells that Im now walking in the higher altitude, the trees are slowly becoming smaller here before it finally change into a high tundra. The weather was extremely nice, the sun was shining almost the whole day making it really warm walking under the sun but cold under the shade. The first day of my walk out of Namche Baazar put me in a small village of Deboche which sits at over 3800m altitude. This was the last village for me to sleep under 4000m before going higher the next day. From here, I could already see rescue helicopter landed right in front of me to rescue a hiker who suffered from the altitude sickness.
The next day I walked 600m higher in altitude which put me at Dingboche which sits over 4400m altitude. This is where I got slower especially when ascending. My body started to realize that there were not enough oxygen at this altitude. So I walked slower while taking more time to enjoy the beautiful scenery while walking nearer and nearer towards the Everest. The walk here is filled with snowcapped mountains which all sits above 6000m. One of the most prominent peak that catches my eyes the most is Ama Dablam, a beautiful mountain with two sharp peaks where the higher peak reaches 6856m. Ama Dablam stands too proud and high and it is clearly visible for the whole two days of walk from Namche Baazar to Dingboche village. Besides those high snowcapped mountains, there are many Buddhist stupas and prayerflags along the way. This isnt much different than Bhutan or Tibet or even Mongolia. Once in a while, the traffic became tense when trekkers have to give ways to the yaks coming from the opposite direction. The clouds usually came to cover everything in sight not long before the sunset. Once the sun left the Himalayas, it becomes really cold here… everything freezes and there is nothing better to do in the dark except spending time inside the thick and warm sleeping bag.
While having two days rest in Kharikhola, I got to meet a couple from Japan, one of them is a doctor specializing in acupuncture. He is a volunteer who comes to Nepal once a year to treat the local people here and in return, he treks the Himalayan region in Nepal every year. I was joking with them over a dinner, that if I ever come to Japan, I won’t be just travelling but I will stay long in Japan to learn the art of ninja or how to make a perfect samurai sword. He laughed but he said its possible, he knows a place in a small village to learn those things but the problem is I have to be able to communicate in Japanese. The couple stayed in the same house as me (Furi’s house) in Kharikhola and they trek together with their cook, guide and a few porters since they’re carrying heavy.
After the rest days in Kharikhola, Furi assigned me another sherpa guide who speak fluent Malay… with KL accent! He used to work in Sunway for a few years and has many Malay friends and communication is super easy for me while hiking with him in the Everest region. After two days having a good rest, my new guide, Pema Sherpa and I started trekking early morning in the cold mist. We hiked about 6-7 hours mostly under the rain to put us in Paknepani at the end of the day. Here as we get higher, the prices for everything increase. A dorm bed for the night is cheap, about 100-200 rupees (USD1-2) but a meal costs about 500 rupees (~USD4), 150 rupees for hot shower, 150 rupees for charging a camera/phone battery and so on. The prices get higher once we trekked further towards the Everest. Once I reached Phakding on the second day, its 250 rupees for a hot shower. On the third day when I reached Namchee Baazar, the price for a hot shower is a whooping 500 rupees. And the same thing for food, drinks, cigarettes, clothes and everything else. This is because it is difficult to get goods to the higher villages. Trucks can only get as far as Salleri or Phaplu. After that, they will get the goods to the villages in the higher Khumbu region by donkeys and yaks… and it takes days…
Almost the whole time during the 3 days walk from Kharikhola to Namchee Baazar was raining and covered with massive clouds. Visibility was poor and I couldnt see far. I was walking right through the clouds almost all the time. Once in a while, I heard the sound of rescue helicopter flying very near. The path is rarely flat, always ups and downs. The ascend is always a challenge, fighting with the gravity and the thin air. The descend is always dangerous, its steep and slippery. Either way, it slowed me down. Whenever I felt really tired, I couldnt rest for too long since I felt very cold whenever I stood still for more than 3 minutes. So I had to keep moving. But above all, I enjoyed the walk, the elements and all the experience. Despites the challenge, I inhaled the fresh air in every breath and surrounded by friendly people who never stop greeting me everytime they pass by me with a smile on their faces. My physical body is tired but feels stronger… and my mind is clear.
Walking in the thick clouds for days feel like exploring into a different world… a mysterious world. A world where you dont need to look too far away both front and back. The clouds are too thick making all the elements become visible only when it appear right in front of you.. making it easier to concentrate only on the now and I dont need to look too far ahead. This reminds me a lot about life itself. Sometimes we keep on thinking about the future and we tend to miss the most important thing, the now. We keep thinking about the future and when that particular future comes, we miss it because we start thinking about the next future… and it keeps going and it never stop. The result, we live most of our lives only by imagination and hope of something that is coming.
Since I passed by Lukla, I realized there are more tourists on the trail. Most tourists who do the walk to Everest Basecamp start from Luka, where they fly there straight from Kathmandu using the mountain flight which costs around USD160. And we had to stop many times to give way to the yaks and donkeys descending from opposite way in the narrow path. There are many small villages here on the trail which have guesthouses and restaurants, prayerwheels and stupas. It feels almost the same like Tibet or even Bhutan but its more populated here. After hours walking in the light rain, I had no idea that we finally reached Namche Baazar since everything is covered by the clouds until my guide told me we are reaching the small town.
Staying in Ghurmi or any part of plain lowland of Nepal isnt really my preference. Even though Im from Malaysia, it seems that I couldnt stand the hot weather. Probably Ive been staying too long in cold places since the past few winters, so I now prefer it cold. Ghurmi was hot, it was difficult for me even to sleep early due to the heat. I could sense that my body would get sick if I stayed longer. So the next day I got on my bicycle seat as early as possible to get to the highland, to Solukhumbu, the Everest region where it is cold there due to the high altitude of the region. But I didnt get too far, after crossing the bridge, the super big climb starts. The road leads me right to the high mountain, always a steady climb from some 1000m altitude all the way to some 2400m altitude in less than 40km. It was way too difficult and I started not to enjoy my ride. This time, I lost fighting the gravity. My strength couldnt match the big climb of the Himalayan mountains. So I turned back to some nearest village and waited for the bus. With the help of some locals, I then took a bus to Okhaldhunga then changed into a jeep to Phaplu. Once in Phaplu, the weather changed totally into a different world. It feels like the summer has turned into winter in just 4 hours of bus and jeep ride.
My Sherpa friend whom I met in Kathmandu, Furi, helped me with the arrangement to send my bicycle back to Kathmandu and sent a guide to Phaplu to meet me. Early the next morning, I started to trek right from there towards the Everest Basecamp… which gonna take weeks. When I started trekking from Phaplu in the morning, the sun was giving too much heat… both me and my guide were sweating a lot. But the sun was shining only for some good two hours. Right before noon, the sun and the blue sky were quickly disappeared by the thick clouds coming out of nowhere and followed by rain only a few minutes later. The path was climbing steadily for a few hours before it went down again. Surprising, I was faster going up compared to the descend, since the path down was steep and very slippery, it was quite dangerous. My guide who is a porter and a guide fell down once when we were going down through a rocky area. I kept on looking at where my feet gonna land everytime when I took my steps, very carefully. It took us two days of trekking to reach Kharikhola passing by some small villages and mostly forested areas.
Upon reaching Kharikhola, I was welcomed by the beautiful view of the village hidden between the clouds and greeted by a friend, Furi, who has been helping me out since I arrived Kathmandu the first time from Sikkim last June. He was the one who helped to keep my bicycle safely in Kathmandu while I was in Slovenia. Only after a few days, the relation between me and the sherpas is quickly becoming like brothers. I stayed 2 days in Kharikhola in his house taking a rest and wandering around the small village between the mountains.
The Sherpa is probably the most known minority in Nepal, since they mostly work as a porter and a guide in the mountains of Everest region. Many people mistook the word sherpa as a porter from Google, but the word sherpa means people from the eastern part. They are originally from Kham, Tibet, migrated through the high Himalayan mountains some 500 years ago passing by upper part of Namche crossing the Nangpala, before finally settled in Solukhumbu (Khumbu region). Theyre Tibetan Buddhist, speaking their own language which is originally from Tibet and has slightly different culture than Tibetans. Just like the Kyrgyz or Kazakh in Central Asia, they’re also descended from the Mongols, seems that Genghis Khan and his fearsome Golden Horde army has done a good job to turn most people in Asia into the Khans. I could see the similarities in their faces, just like the Bhutanese as well, they have the Mongol eyes.
Kharikhola village is part of the bigger Jubing district, which has the population of around 5000 people consists of Sherpa, Rai, Maghar and Bishokharma. Theyre mostly farmers here producing corn, maze, potatoes, soya beans and many other vegetables and fruits… and I could see many guesthouses here offering hot showers and good food for trekkers, since Kharikhola is part of the route into Everest if the trekkers start from Phaplu. The surrounding here is a bit like villages in Bhutan. Life in the countryside always amaze me. Village life always starts early, they spend most of their time with their family and working with the land and animals and always smiling. I came across Bishwokarma people as well here who are the experts working with iron to make things like knives, machete and the legendary Nepali Khukuri. The feel of the countryside here in the lower Khumbu region feels a little like in Sikkim. I feel that theyre like in between the Bhutanese and the Sikkimese… the people, the faces, the environment and all.
After I’m back in Nepal, I stayed almost a week in Kathmandu, waiting patiently for the weather to become stable again. Its been raining sometimes but the clouds seem moving away slowly, listening carefully while the nature is trying to communicate with me telling me to take a few days of rest before embarking the journey into the world highest mountain, Mt Everest. Without wasting time while in Kathmandu, I arranged the trekking permit to enter the Everest Basecamp with the help of the Sherpas. I also got my bicycle repaired and make sure everything is good before I start pedalling towards Solukhumbu, the Everest region.
The first 2 hours riding out of Kathmandu was hell. It was very dusty and I was battling against the super heavy and chaotic traffic. I was hoping that the ride will slowly gets better the further I rode away from the capital of Nepal but the traffic was heavy all the way. Cars, bikes, buses and trucks were honking all the time, my ears were so painful. Im not used to this anymore, the last time when I rode in super busy road like this was probably in Urumqi in China many years ago. Not long after I left the city, the first climb started… then another. It always feels difficult on the first day… after months I didnt cycle with fully loaded bicycle. After only 65km on the first day, I was exhausted like a fish.
On the second day, it was easy for the first 40km. The last 25km, I had to go through 3 big climbs. I did well on the first one, which was the hardest one. I took 2 breaks on the second climb and on the 3rd, I took many breaks… hehe. Nepalis in the countryside are very friendly. Jeep drivers were waving at me, bikers showing thumbs up to me wishing me luck on my journey ahead and school kids at the roadside were cheering at me. It feels good. I met a few Nepalis along my way who speak fluent Malay, which makes it easy for me to communicate with them. I was riding along the river with the views of paddy fields most of the time. After the end of the second day, I reached and took a rest in a small village called Khurkot. Upon reaching Khurkot while sipping a cup of tea, I was joined by another solo cyclist from Costa Rica. He was also heading west and have been on the road since the last 4 years. We had a chat for a few minutes before he continued to cycle a little further.
The third day was the hardest of all. It was only 62km to get me to another small village called Ghurmi but it took me 10 hours of hell riding. The road was never flat, it was hilly all the way. After a tough climb, the road immediately goes steep downhill before the next climb started again and it continues all the way to Ghurmi. Of all the 62km towards Ghurmi from Khurkot, the road was paved in probably less than 20km… the rest were all dirt narrow road with big stones everywhere. There were so many river crossing and the weather was way too hot, forcing me to take many rests in between whenever I found shade.
After some 10 hours of battle on the road, I finally reached Ghurmi, a small village on the hill, with so many pigs on the road. It was already quite dark when I reached Ghurmi, I had no energy left so I was pushing my bicycle slowly while looking for a place to sleep in Ghurmi. I finally found a cheap room to sleep there with the help of a local Nepali who speaks Malay. It was a basic room in an old house without any shower room or a toilet. So the local took me to a place where I could have a bath. There were no bathroom anywhere so I had no choice but to take a bath outside in the open. I needed a bath badly anyway since I smelled much worst than a donkey, so I just took a bath in the open realizing local women were staring me.