Himalayan Homework

by Ant Stone on October 20, 2007

in Nepal,Tibet

For these four, mind-blowing days it felt as if I were living within a high school English project. My former English teacher, Mr Zaidi would slowly sweep back his black, spiraling locks, knowingly adding to the tense finale of his class. He’d draw breath to fuel a husky, magnetic voice before swiftly declaring through a clearing in his goatee, ‘homework. I dunno, just invent a story about an overland journey between Tibet and Nepal’. I’d look at the lads, smirking painfully. ‘Oh’ he continued demon-like, ‘pop into Mount Everest on the way’. My head would slump to the table and my gaze would dribble over Palmer’s artistic acres of ‘I heart C.o’R‘, my consciousness cruelly restored by the rusty point of a compass, jabbed deep into my leg. The drill of the school bell would carry me to the bus, making sure to avoid the dreaded Gauntlet Runs on the fringes of the yard. So here’s my homework, Billy (that’s what we called him, ‘coz we woz kool’). Sorry it’s so late, my goldfish ate the first one.

We pact our bags and got in a big white minibus and eat Pringles and Monkey Nuts and went in moddy roads and saw a lake and the sky was sonny and wee saw some mountains and ate some nooddles and saw lot of stars, twinkling stars and onetime (wen we were neither up or down the hill) we went to see a Big mountain which was Bigger than all the rest and it was called everest was its name and we walked up to it and walkd away from it and got back in the bus and drove away to nepall on a moddear road it was fun and we had to walk a bit and I wood do it agian. The End. ps. PALMER HEARTs Mr B.Z. (can I ‘ave a A+ pleese, I need me pocket money this week too buy some pogz for Kirsty, innit).

Can you imagine! In reality the literary faux pas staining this post isn’t so far from the truth, though the reality of the tour would take the skill of Bill Shakespeare to secure. The highlight of the tour – in fact my trip thus far – was the mighty Mount Qomolangma (Everest, to you and I). It’s image was forever in my mind, even before I condemned it to memory; refusing to be shaken free by turbulent Tibetan roads, or by the trio of European tour-mates that had joined myself, the ubiquitous Reb and our new Welsh-guard-friend, Mark. Even the powerful, arresting blue pallet of the vast, sacred Yamdrok lake couldn’t sway my mind’s fixation from the impending chunk of treasure. Though, The Creator was relentless in a quest to try. Vistas of snowcapped mountain ranges with monumental allure were strewn menacingly across rocky plateaus. At one memory-tempting point, a mighty sand dune enveloped our feet, as though an hourglass had been dropped, devilishly, at the roadside. The addition of a quartet of playful kids, a cunning, but unsuccessful attempt. The town of Shigatse attempted a swerve ball; kindly presenting us with it’s piece de resistance, the charming complex of the spirit-shifting, Tashilhunpo Monastery. All were admirable attempts, but alas for The Creator, all fell in the shadow of the world’s highest, and best known mountain. Everest beckoned.

Framed with perfection by a shallow valley carving its way outwardly toward it’s Tibetan base camp, Everest threw itself skyward, dragging a dedicated following of rugged brothers with him. I wonder perhaps, whether the spectacle is a result of the Devils final attempt at punching his way up, and out of Hell’s fire into the cool salvation of the thin mountain air. A myth to ponder? In modern day reality, Everest acts as a natural stage for media-hungry ‘Free Tibet’ campaigners, one precaution recently moved the base camp a further 4km back from it’s glacial footing; now just a flat 4km stroll from our blanket-drenched dwelling in Rongphu. An army base now acts in the original place and a US$200 fine, apparently, awaits those who trespass against thee. Needless to say, Mark and I trespassed a good couple of kilometer passed thee, aided by summit-fever and hidden within a steep, rocky stretch of hills that dictated the direction of a forming road.

Though at 10km from ‘home’ – wearing little more than a couple of t-shirts, a hoody, jeans and a pair of Dunlops – it was worrying to see the sun slip shyly behind the valley, allowing the shadow of the world’s highest mountain range to wrap it’s sub-zero self around my head. One kilometer from safety – knees trembling, eyes squinting, fingers swollen – we were rescued by the minivan (Reb had pressed the panic button and our tour guide Jamba and Co had hit the road in search of The Missing). At -7c, with a massive additional wind-chill factor I was mightily relieved, though I could barely say so at the time. My body shivered uncontrollably for hours, as my head seemed to take the full force of a furious, Mother Nature. But we made it, and survived to tell the amazing tale of the most amazing view of the most amazing mountain in the most amazing, amazing mountain range on this amazing continent.

Still full of amazement we set about fulfilling our tour, onwards to the Nepalese border. A six am wake up call confirmed fears that our tiny Toyota minivan couldn’t traverse the terrain of the border regions of Tibet. Instead, Reb, Mark and I were bundled – no squeezed, like sardines – into a bright orange dumper truck, our backpacks kindly strewn into the open-air rear, upon a load of wet sand as we began a memorable journey, during which we knew got to know each other – a bit too – intimately. We were offloaded at Zongmu, a winding hillside town struggling to declare it’s own identity though eagerly requesting ours. In true adventurous style, we shunned the seventy-five pence taxi and began to walk the 8km out of China’s Tibet region and on to Kodari, (Nepal’s border town equivalent to Zongmu) while our sodden backpacks ground into our backs. An eight kilometer walk would of been simple, but a Nepalese gnome simply made it an adventure.

Sat upon the apex of a hairpin turn, high up in the Nepalese Himalaya, a short middle-aged man in a Nepali bobble hat swayed his head (not unlike the nodding dog in the rear of your ‘I’m so wacky!’ friends car). He gently ushered us downward, not along the road but down a steep mountain shortcut that would eventually find us stumbling, full of glee, onto a manic Nepalese welcome mat. Nepal maybe famous for it’s treks, but few can say they arrived doing just so – naturally, I claim we trekked from China, into Nepal. In the final stages, we crossed the threshold known as the Friendship Bridge, though the brutality inflicted on a handful of jostling locals by the army’s batons was far from the celebratory nature I’d expected. Needless to say, it accelerated our negotiations with a Kathmandu-bound taxi.

The journey south, in Toyota’s answer to the Ford Capri, was as staggering as it’s Chinese equivalent. Though the villages and towns that grasped the main road were clearly far from that of the relative calm offered by China. This was chaos personified. Architecture, which while in China I’d assumed to be unrivaled, was a massive step below. Hygiene- or lack of – which I deemed impossible to replicate, was almost non-existent. The redeeming features of the environment slipping through the cars jarred window, were a sublime backdrop lit by the radiant smiles of the local people. I was so excited to be in Nepal, if it weren’t for the charisma of the taxi driver keeping me awake, I’d of missed the Maoist (Communist Party of Nepal, aka rebels) blockades. A couple of hours later they’d start to collect their toll, fueling a civil war that is bubbling just below this verdi vista. I’ve just got a new homework project. Tkae taht, Billy


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

margaret and bhasker October 24, 2007 at 8:24 pm

margaret and i have been following your trail off and on. we have to acquire fast reading habit first. we would like to know when your mum and dad are meeting you in india and when.

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Ant October 25, 2007 at 6:36 am

Hi guys, great to know you’re reading. I’m trying my best to keep them short and sweet, but there’s just so much to write about! I could write a whole new site with the amount of stuff I have to leave out. I’ll probably cross paths with Mum & Dad towards the end of November, it’s looking like it will be in the north of India, at the moment. (I’ll also email you).

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Becki November 1, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Changed my mind, this one is my favourite!

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