When You Fall Off Your Bike…

Posted: October 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

… You get back on again.

Once released from hospital in KTM I did nothing for a couple of days. I was with Jeremy so we explored the city, visited the Monkey Temple (Swayambhunath) at the top of the hill offering amazing views of the city. It is a Tibetan temple located at the top of 365 steps (I did not count these I looked it up on google) inhabited by “holy monkeys” (bunch of NOT holy thieving little monkeys). Really lovely all together and excellent way to start your day in KTM. Nice little distraction from the expedition.
After the monkey temple I get my beard shaved. Followed by my head. Jeremie I believe has the before and after pictures. To follow…
The whole time we were in communication with Elia who in fact climbed back up into the storm he helped evacuate me from! He was not at his best but he insisted on giving the summit a shot. Determination. I spoke to him twice a day to get updates and became his HQ from KTM. Team Work.
In between communiqués I had time to explore cafes, restaurants and sights in KTM. Honestly not a huge amount to write home about. Its very loud, busy and dirty. Monsoon time, loads of sun until about 1pm, then the clouds pour in and BOOM, its a rain-festival for the rest of the day. Leaving the night sticky and damp.
Babu, our logistics guy in KTM suggests I take a trip to Pokhara, a lazy lake-town in the centre of Nepal, and major launch-pad for the Annapurna circuit (Annapurna is the 10th highest mountain in the world). He says it’s totally different, you will relax there. So I take the plane and I go!

The Flight:
There are 2 ways to get to Pokhara, drive or fly. The drive is a sticky, overheated, bumpy 7 hour ride from Kathmandu. The flight is 25mins. I choose the plane. The plane is tiny, 18 people max load. Very rickety. I described this in one of my earlier emails about our flight to Lukla… Creepy. Love the way the pilot takes a hard right as if driving a car and slams it into the airport tarmac. Everyone looks at eachother to make sure we’re not in some twisted nightmare.
The Lake:
Pokhara means “lake” in Nepalese. The town is situated at the bottom of a valley engulfed by a turquoise green lake. Breathtaking – Photo attached. I don’t think the Himalayas can be compared with any other mountainous region on earth. I shall have to take a look at the others, and revert to you some day.
Wanted to see what the fuss was all about. I get in a car with a group of 3 Chinese backpackers that do not speak a word of English. We are accompanied by the pilots that will take us for our tandem flights. They pick our names randomly out of a hat, I get paired with Shankar, who has long wavy black hair, slightly hooked nose, goatee and a pair of oakleys. Looks like a surfer. He’s got that classic look about him. That scuba diving/wind-surfing/beach/perma-tan/happy go lucky instructor look. Its a global look. I knew I was in good hands. We drive to the top of a hill, he clips on to me, we clip on to the chute, I walk when he tells me to walk, and run when he tells me to run and we’re up! I readjust, sit back, and we’re weightless. The feeling of calm up there I can’t describe. The wind blows over my ears. Incredible view of the lake below, the mountain ranges in the background, Annapurna smiling down at us in all her glory.  We catch some thermals and fly higher, all in circles. I start to feel nauseous 30mins into it… I tell Shankar its time to head down. We reach a max altitude of 3100m- pretty decent i’m told. He flies us over the lake and asks me: “you want to do some tricks?” … “sure… will it be nauseating?”… He says “definitely”… “Go for it!”. As soon as give him the okay, he spirals us downwards full g-force, we drop 2000m in about 8 rotations at incredible speed. The rush was insane. Loved it. I land on my ass, stand up, not sure where the sky is in comparison to the land anymore. It takes me 15mins before I make sense of it all. Need sugar. Had a coke. Better now.
All in all… Fun… Recommended. If you have issues with dizziness beware. But definitely worth a shot. Do it somewhere uber-scenic.
Italian Hippy Activist:
Definitely the highlight of Pokhara.
Picture this. 60 year old Italian guy, olive dark skin, thick wavy black hair, piercing blue eyes, sipping an espresso at a little coffee house right on the main road. Wearing white linen shorts, with a faded green top, one foot on the edge of his chair. Relaxing.
60? You don’t look a day over 40
Thank you…
So this guy’s minding his own business and I’m dying for conversation!
You live Pokhara?
Where are you from?
Beirut originally.
His blue eyes twinkled. You know I was offered to go to Beirut in the 60s during university.
Really? Was it a class trip?
He laughs…. No… Not a class trip. The PLO offered to train me in Lebanon.
I’m thinking … Holy crap… Amazing!
Turns out he was a big part of the communist/Italian autonomist movement in Turin in 60s. Very interesting guy. Ended up having a 4 hour conversation with him. Definitely disillusioned in more ways than one, but very wise on the other hand. When I asked him if he would have done anything differently in his life thus far, he said “probably”. He has 3 kids, two in Bangkok and one in Sweden, all from the same Thai mother who he met while living in Bangkok. He started a clothing company, which did well… But when things failed with his love-life, his partner (and wife) “screwed” him and he had to move on.
He worked for a Lebanese man in 1979 in London, working on an Arabic language restaurant directory aimed at the Middle Eastern market. He once stood outside the Dorchester on Park Lane in ragged clothes waiting for a an envelope of cash (his wages) to be dropped off to him by his employer’s uncle… The door man was giving him odd looks and asked him to clear off a couple of times, until this massive Rolls Royce Phantom showed up to hand him his cash. Said he’d never forget the look on the guy’s face when the car drove off!
This guy was big on conspiracy theories and excited about the Maoist movement (which is what led him to Nepal). He’s big on armed militant groups and the likes and was  shocked to hear i’m not a Donor… and there I was thinking… Of course I’m not a bloody donor are you fu.ckin’ nuts???
Full of stories. He never told me his name. Guess he didn’t want me to know it.
PS: I’m totally and utterly NOT done with mountaineering. Thx Gabe.
PPS: ELIA… Thank you again for your wonderful dedication http://vimeo.com/29997752 . Means the world to me. Still wish I could have been up there with you bud. Big hug.
  1. Love it bro! You should have done this years ago!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s