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.
Due to the monsoon season in the Himalaya, I decided to take a break from the long journey which the ending is unknown to me. The Himalaya was covered by thick clouds and the rain was pouring endlessly. So I escaped the sadness of the Himalayan weather and flew to a small European country called Slovenia to catch the happy, sunny and blue sky. As usual, I have no plan at all when I crossed into the European continent. All I know is that I should keep moving and keep getting the unexpected experiences, life experience that is valuable to me, let it be good or bad. Things can be good or bad or both, depending on which angle we look at it… its all relative, nothing absolute…
I realized that since the past few years, my writing style has changed a lot since I wrote the first entry of this blog, back in May 2010 when I started the first chapter of my life as a nomad… when I was back in Chengdu, Sichuan Province of China. Now I no longer described what I saw or what I did or where I go. At first I was amazed by each places that I’ve been but after a while, I became more fascinated on where my mind travelled in the world of my imagination while my body is travelling in this world. So lately I described a lot about flashing back stories or where does my mind flies when my physical body is travelling to specific places. So this is exactly what Im going to do with this post, whatever I will write here has nothing to do with the images I shared here, since the images here only represents where my physical body was but what I will write here is where my mind travelled…
Its true that the deeper we think about something, the more we dont understand it. Its just like how the scientists trying to understand existence by coming up with different theories all the time. We are at the stage where we are cutting something that we cannot see. We were cutting atoms, neutrons and now trying with the quarks. And now we are discussing one dimension object called strings which results in string theory but still… we are lost… even further… everything just dont make sense in the nano world. Everything dont make sense when we are trying to understand them deeper. So that is the case with me when Im trying to understand even myself. At some point I have no idea why my life is such a complicated one. Why I cant just be content with a normal life. Then at another point I realized, I wanted it myself, deep inside my heart. I had many chances to live a normal life but I didnt take any of them. I chose the complicated one myself, its a difficult road but somehow I enjoy it.
I remember at one point of my life, I was planning to forge a fake Canadian passport and try to travel the world with it just for fun… for a long time without getting caught. At another point of my life, I wanted to gamble with my life and go into the warzone in the desert of Mali and live with the Tuareg fighters and experience life from their fearless eyes. Instead of having the ambition of becoming a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer, I was having a sweet dream about smuggling diamonds in Africa and try to sell it somewhere and become rich with it. I thought I just love the risk, love taking the necessary risk to gain an extraordinary experience that would satisfy my soul. Every soul is different and for me, I felt that is the only way for me to feel alive… and there is no other way. I once believed that if I live a normal life, Im as good as dead. That was probably my past but there is a problem… I still believe it now, right now at the time of writing this entry. And Im always ready to mess things up… to make things difficult and complicated then I would try to solve it… while enjoying the whole process of jumping into a problem and then solving it. Like I mentioned earlier, the more we think about something, the more we dont understand it. I never stop thinking why all these need to happen, why I have this characteristic and the bigger question, what is the purpose of this characteristic that is stucked inside me and what is the purpose of this all?
These past few months since my last stop in Kathmandu, I was popping up here and there on the world grid, to solve some personal matter. It was difficult but I enjoyed it somehow… tired but still smiling. God doesnt play with dice and I believe wholeheartedly in the notion that nothing is random. And that doesnt stop only on each event in our daily life but also our choices and our ideas. There is no random why we choose something… and there is also no random why an idea suddenly pop up in our mind, whether we execute it or not. It all contributes to the cause and effect, to each event that happens since the beginning of space and time during the big bang all the way to right now while the clock is ticking at this very second… and goes all the way to the unseen future. From there, there is no such thing as good or bad choice, or good or bad idea… everything is in motion. Whether its good or bad depends on how we perceive it. The mastermind of the universe has planned it all. We are here in this world not to make a choice… but to understand why we make that choice…
The rain never stopped pouring down. The effect of monsoon seems stronger here in Sikkim and West Bengal regions of India. The road became muddy everywhere and there were landslides on the mountain road. I left Sikkim by a shared taxi towards the border of India and Nepal in West Bengal near Siliguri. Once I reached the last town for me in India near Siliguri, there was a guy quickly helped me out to take my bicycle from the rooftop of the shared taxi. He then offered me to take his rickshaw to send me to my destination. I politely declined the offer, telling him that I will just cycle to the immigration checkpoint which is very near. Then suddenly another guy came… took one of my bag and put it in his rickshaw. It all happened under the heavy rain and it was muddy everywhere on the road. Somehow that created the anger and it grew inside me but I tried to calm myself down and told him that I dont need a rickshaw, I can just cycle… while pointing my bicycle. I took the bag from his rickshaw and put everything on my bicycle. Suddenly I heard two voices shouting at each other and the next moment, I saw the two rickshaw guys started fighting… throwing punches and kicks to each other and tried to take each others down. It was quite embarrassing moment and I felt guilty at the same time because they were fighting because of me. In just a few seconds, the fighting became more tense and other people started to calm both of them down. People were laughing at them, telling them that they have no reason to fight because I was on bicycle and I dont need to ride their rickshaws. I then went to a nearby shop to wait for the rain to calm down.
After few minutes of waiting, it seems that the rain will never stop, so I just cycled under the heavy rain through the muddy road since I dont like waiting in the very crowded place. It was dirty everywhere on the road and the smell was really bad. Before crossing the bridge that separates India and Nepal, a police officer directed me to the immigration checkpost on the Indian side. It was very fast, took me less than 2 minutes and the officer stamped my passport and I was ready to leave India. I cycled through the bridge, getting a lot of attention from the locals crossing the same bridge mostly on rickshaws… staring at my bicycle. Once I crossed the bridge, there were another officers smiling at me while welcoming me to Nepal. The border crossing was so calm that I actually missed the checkpoint on the Nepali side. I kept riding until I reached a town called Karkavita. When asked around, they told me that I already passed the Nepali immigration checkpoint. It was 300m behind me. I was shocked and cycled back to the checkpoint right after the bridge. On the Nepali side, it took me another less than 5 minutes. This is the easiest border crossing I have experience in my whole life. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes! No hassle… no serious faces from the officers on both sides.
The rain still kept pouring in but once I crossed into Karkavita, I noticed that the road was much cleaner compared to the Indian side. Right after I get my passport stamped, there was a local guy smiling at me asking if I’m a Malaysian. He then speaks a language that is familiar to me. After listening to a few words, I started laughing when I realized he was speaking my mother tongue… the Malay language. He said he worked in Malaysia for 9 years and understand my language very well. He wished me luck on my upcoming journey in Nepal and then disappeared in the crowd. I didnt waste much time so I quickly get a bus ticket from Karkavita to Kathmandu which costs me around 1600 nepali rupees (~usd15) and will take around 10-12 hours to reach Kathmandu. At around 4pm the bus started to depart Karkavita. The road was good and flat… no bumpy ride like in Bhutan or India, the bus stopped a few times for some quick rest and dinner. I slept well through the night. The next morning, I woke up as early as 6am and realized that I was still far from Kathmandu. The bus supposed to reach Kathmandu 2 hours earlier at 4am. The bus passed through a long narrow road by the river and finally stopped for a very long time. There was a long queue on the road, filled with trucks and buses all the way until the far horizon. I didnt wanna ask what happened and I forced myself to sleep instead. It took hours until around 11am before the bus started to move again slowly. I then realized we were stucked for many hours because there was a major road accident. There was a tourist bus fell off a cliff into a river. I’m not sure if there was any casualties.
I reached Kathmandu at around 4pm, put all my stuffs on my bicycle and started riding to the centre of Kathmandu in a place called Thamel. It was tricky to ride through the bustling city of Kathmandu, with really bad traffic consists of cars, bikes, bicycles, rickshaws and pedestrians… but probably much better compared to Siliguri even Darjeeling. As usual, people are honking once every 2-3 seconds here and I found out 90% of it were unnecessary. After about some 30-40 minutes of riding through the city, I found the hostel that I booked in Thamel area in the centre of Kathmandu. The next morning I met a sherpa, Furi who runs a trekking company here in Nepal. His dad has been summiting the Everest for 15 times in his whole life, even taking Malaysian climbers with him. It looks like the dad’s strength runs through his blood. A serious face with a confident and firm handshake, I tried to study this man. He himself guided many Malaysian trekkers before and we have many mutual friends on facebook. I told him some of my rough plan in Nepal and glad that he’s interested to assist me on my adventure here in the Himalayas on the Nepali side and I got good information about travelling in Nepal from him. He also took me to the Malaysian embassy and I was so glad to meet my own people in the embassy, speaking my own mother tongue fluently.
I didnt stay long in Nepal, only 2 full days so I didnt really explore much of the city except the small area of Thamel and Chetrapati. It doesnt look so much different than any medium sized city in India, Hindu temples everywhere and I noticed there is a small muslim community here as well, probably from Jammu Kashmir area in Northern India. The smaller lanes in the city are filled with countless pedestrians and rickshaws and I saw much more tourists here compared to India. At some point, it feels a bit like in Bangkok or Hanoi. I put my bicycle in a safe place in Furi’s office together with my camping equipments, since I’m leaving the Himalayas temporarily to skip the raining season. The monsoon is finally here in the Himalayas and its been raining everyday here. I dont really enjoy cycling in the heavy rain everyday, so I decided to take a 2 months break and fly to Europe… to Slovenia to catch some blue sky and sunlight in the European summer… and stay quietly in a peaceful Slovenian countryside where I can calm my soul down so I can keep writing.