Last Footfall in Nepal
I happened to come across the above article. A beautiful and sad article that touched me very much
To know a dream I have had would always remain that dream.
I had touched on this in an earlier writing I did in
“Modes of flight of Riamfada and comparison to Tinkerbell //Some chess memories, hustler foil, Bali”
and again in
” Harry Potter // Rustaq // 1st overland into Lhasa” http://shanlung.livejournal.com/105488.html
I wrote then I was doing that Annapurna circuit in 1986 (or could be 1987).
There were very few trekkers in those days. When I was at the trekking permit office in Khatmandu, there might have been a que of a handful of people ahead of me and which changed to a que of 200 meters in 1989 when I went with my wife on that Langtang trail.
I hate to imagine how that que would be now.
I thought I better write what happened between those two reports.
I did not go on that complete Annapurna circuit.
Not that I had much of a choice because of what I thought was time constraint. I came by bus from Khatmandu to Pokhara. Although it was fall then, it was still warm on the plains. I was heavy built and walking on the plains would be difficult for me. I then took a flight from Pokhara to Jomosom in the Kali Gandaki Gorge. I preferred to walk higher up where it was more cool. My trekking started from that airport in Jomosom.
I had no guide and no porter either. Things were not that organised in the mid 80s unlike what that article said now.
I only had that ‘Lonely Planet’ yellow book and a backpack of 35 kg or so with sleeping bag, warm clothing, water and food. All none essentials were kept in the storeroom of Sita Home in Thamel Khatmandu.
I was the sole trekker that set off from that Jomosom airport heading northwards into that Kali Gandaki Gorge. Both side of the gorge were gigantic mountains reaching upwards.
It was so starkly bare that I would not see such landscape again until I was into Tibet, in some places in Saudi Arabia ‘To the 'Edge of the World'” http://shanlung.livejournal.com/61287.html and here in Oman.
That entire day that I walked, no other trekkers came down from the other side either. I was alone with my thoughts to do what I had dreamed about for so many years. To do that circuit of Annapurna Masiff.
Later on when I read of trekkers with porters and mules and guides , I had some envy of them. A guide would have been so comforting to me then as I was uncertain of the route that I did for that first time.
I came onto a guest house all solitary by itself. I do not know if you seen that 1967 Chinese Wuxia (kungfu to you) movie ‘LungMengKerJan’ set in 1457 during the Ming Dynasty directed by that incredible genius King Hu. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Hu
It might be called ‘Dragon Gate Inn’ or ‘Dragon Inn’ in English.
Do try to get your hands on this movie, or any other movie by King Hu.
That guest house looked so much like Dragon Inn from the outside, and from the inside. No electricity used at all. Oil lamps as ancient as the inn itself provided light.
I stayed there for the night. I was the only guest there. I was reassured by that that I was on that Annapurna circuit. They even had Coke on sale.
I continued the next day. No other trekkers passed me by. I walked fast in those days. I thought perhaps I was a bit under equipped. Until later that day, coming from the other side, 2 scrawny guys wearing flip flops came by making me felt over equipped with my sturdy boots.
My first brush of death occurred a bit later on. The river looked so deceptively shallow even if fast flowing. The other bank looked easier and I thought I cross that river to the other side. Just a couple of steps, the rush of the water almost knocked me off my feet. And the water was freezing cold.
I was lucky not to be swept down.
Then like an oasis of green in the distance, I saw Kagbeni , a medieval fortress like town in the mouth of Mustang valley. I made my way through its gates to see death holes in floor above me and side of me that would have boiling oil poured down on me or musket balls fired on me if I was an attacker in the past.
This was enchanting enough for me to stay a couple of nights. I moved out of the reach of Coke. Only drinks sold were sweet tea. Food was very basic. Buckwheat pancakes were not very appetising even if they do fill you up.
Some other travellers were taking a break here too. We talked of doing Mustang valley even though it was specifically forbidden to do so in our trekking permits then. Tibetans were using that route into Tibet for smuggling and insurgencies. Lure of the forbidden was strong in those days.
I regretted my lack of time and wished them well the next day when they made their way into that forbidden territory.
My destination was Muktinath and then the Thorong La pass at 5416 metres (17769 ft) above sea level and then down to Manang. Those travellers came down from there. They looked at me, and told me I could make it and that I did not need porter or guide that I could get in Kagbeni.
I wished they had not said that. I was going to get a guide and porter, but with my head swollen from that undeserved praises, but I did not.
In addition, most trekkers would do that pass from East to West. I was doing it the other way, not the smartest thing to do.
I got into difficulty later that day. With all my warm clothings on, I was chilled to the bone. Strong wind was blowing down on me. I had to lean into the wind to make my way. The wind was gusty caused by the swirling of winds around edges of valleys and slopes and when the wind dropped, I lurched forward almost stumbling.
Calls of migrating cranes above kept me company and helped lift my spirits. And the sight of the lammergeyers soaring so slowly and gracefully above me made me so alive.
Then I saw this incredible sight. A scrawny Indian totally naked with only ashes smeared on his body was walking so fast he was racing past me. Maybe on his pilgrimage to holy Mukitinath.
I slowly went on. Cursing myself for not taking a porter and a guide.
The light was going. And I did not know where I was. I then saw in the distance a couple of huts. I got there in the light from the quarter moon.
What those huts were I had no idea at all. It was bare and no one around at all. But at least I could get out of the wind. I unpack my sleeping bag, lighted my candle in its protective holder and had a bar of chocolate. I was so tired that I fell asleep almost immediately.
I woke up the morning to a most beautiful day. So many snowy peaks about me.
Just then, a local came along. Almost as my saviour. I engaged him as my porter and guide to get me to Muktinath. For about 2US$. I would have paid him ten times that. I would have hated to get back to Kagbeni, if I could find my way there. I was very lucky he came along. Which reinforced my belief that only the good die young, and I had a long way to go.
He took up my backpack and led the way. Despite carrying that, he was obviously slowing down to the pace I could managed. The earlier walks I did in what I thought was steep tracks around Khatmandu were nothing compared to that brutal climb to Muktinath.
The earlier admiration for the views faded into a determined step by step to follow my porter. A couple hours later, he took my day pack with my drinks and food. My Nikon SLR became heavier by the hour, and he took that as well.
If I thought that morning was bad, it was agony to move by lunch.
He kept telling me just that bit more. The agony subsided. I was numb all over.
Each step was done in extreme slow motion with utmost well power. His ‘just a bit more’ became a mantra I kept repeating to myself. Until that village was in sight. And grew with each step. I moved 10 steps , and rested and another 10 steps and rested.
And he smiled and said we reached. That was a restaurant owned by his brother. I went in, and could not have enough of sweet tea to drink and drink. I bonused him double what I agree to.
In time I recovered to savour the beauty of the scenery. And to agree for the princely sum of US 10 cents (Yes! Ten cents) I could unroll my sleeping bag on the floor of the restaurant and sleep there after the restaurant closed for the night. I also had to take all meals and drinks from there. I then had my meal. Forgot what it was that I ate. There might actually be proper guest house in that village. I was too exhausted and not prepared to find out then.
The view worth a thousand dollars were free. I sat on a bench outside and soaked in that place, very mellow and at peace with the world. Muktinath as at 3700 meters (12,000 feet)
It was a couple of hours before I recovered. I was no longer moving in molasses. I even enjoyed the company of other travellers staying there and who came down from the pass.
At first I noticed only the poverty of the place there. Later in the afternoon as the locals came in from the fields, laughing and singing and with faces aglow with happiness and greeting one and all, I was struck with who was I and what kind of yardstick could I use to measure others by. If happiness and contentment was used as yardstick, they did not seemed to lose out to people from anywhere. That was a turning point in my life. I changed from an Ugly Singaporean into a better person. And found other more worthwhile yardstick to judge others by.
Travellers in those days were few. Unlike what I seen later on when hordes of travellers did nothing but glued to movie shows from videos and stayed in traveller's ghettos, we lived with the locals then. There were too few of us and travellers liked all other travellers in those time.
The next morning, I felt totally recovered.
The afternoon before, I shuddered at the thought of doing that 1700 meters climb to get over Thorong La pass at 5400 meters. I had no illusion that would be tough. But with a porter and guide, I knew I could do that. Especially if I stayed on another night to regain my strength and to help further that acclimatization.
That morning was when I heard from other travellers the border into Tibet was opened to independent travellers for the first time. Tibet was so mythical and fascinating a place to me for a long time. I knew also if China changed her mind, China might changed her mind again and shut that border.
I had the choice of going on and climb that Thorong La pass and continue with the Annapurna circuit. Or going back to Khatmandu and getting the visa and on into Tibet.
I made up my mind later into the day. I felt I could not miss this chance. And I could always do that Annapurna circuit another time.
I went back down to Kagbeni and to the Jomsom airport . That return trip was a lot easier than the upward trip. I then flew back to Khatmandu.
That trip into Tibet was reported into ” Harry Potter // Rustaq // 1st overland into Lhasa” http://shanlung.livejournal.com/105488.html
It was a quirk of fate I chose Tibet. Now with that above article in New York Times that roads are being built where only footpaths used to be, the hardship and the romance of doing that trail will forever be a thing of the past.
I knew I could dream of that even if I knew too I would not do that. But it is still sad such wilderness exist now only in my memories.
Sharon & kitty advice
Sharon wrote to me last week with her letter below. She agreed to my posting of her letter and my reply in blog that perhaps it might be of interest to others too.
--- On Mon, 3/15/10, Sharon Yildiz wrote:
From: Sharon Yildiz
Subject: RE: Reflections on Riamfada at edge of the Empty Quarter and some rants
To: "'shan lung'"
Date: Monday, March 15, 2010, 4:35 AM
I enjoy your posts about Riamfada, as well as all your trips with her.
I have three well-trained animals, all clicker trained: a Border Collie (age 7), an African Grey (age 2) and my first-ever kitten (6 months). We live in the city center of Istanbul, population 16 million.
I am so impressed at Dommie and Katie being able to go for neighborhood walks with no leash at all… and stay near your car when you stop for flights with Riamfada. I have a question about your walks with your cats.
We found our kitten, Casper, in the street at 4 weeks of age. From 7 weeks old to his current age of 6 months, I’ve taken him around the block on leash every day. Casper walked perfectly as a young kitten (see this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wpnu1dXzApY). He now seems to be afraid to go outdoors—despite daily walks--and now needs to be “dragged” in VERY slow motion for the entire outgoing walk. As we turn the halfway point, he breaks into a run and pulls me all the way back home.
I want Casper to willingly follow me (on leash) as your cats do off-leash. Did you train them to walk with you around the neighborhood? At what age did you begin walking them? At what age did you adopt them, and did they grow up indoors or outdoors? Are they now indoor-only (except walks), or indoor/outdoor cats?
I forget: did Dommie ever wander away for more than an hour or so when you park away from home? (It seems Katie would never do that!) We tent camp with our dog and harnessed parrot. We plan to bring the kitten this year, but don’t know enough about cats to know if he would stay near our tent. We’d be at a forested mountain campground, and there are only 2-3 tent campers there at any given time. Do you think a cat would normally stay close to home/tent/family? Or in the forest, would most cats take off and never come back? We don’t want to take any risks…
Thanks for any kitty advice,
The key of my relationship with the kitties and birdies was written in
Riamfada and kitties
That will always remain true.
I cannot say that I deliberately planned and trained my kitties such that they came with us. So how much of what I have done can be applicable to you is very much an unknown. Much of it is down to relationships, and we might have been lucky in that Dommie and Katie seemed to listen to us.
I was living alone in a penthouse apartment on top of a 6 floor apartment block on 3 months lease and waiting for my wife to join me and for her to chose herself a more permanent accommodation.
Those 2 came to me as little kitties just past weaning in July 2008. I needed something warm to greet me when I got back from work. I saw an advert looking for home for kitties in a supermarket notice board.
My wife joined me in Aug 2008. My wife taken over their feeding by then and the role of cleaning their litter box fell to me.
Photos of those kitties then in early portion of folder here
They were kept strictly in the apartment at the beginning. Later on, I relented and let them go to the patio.
Being a ‘penthouse apartment’ and with 6 other ‘penthouse apartments’ on top of an apartment block, the kitties soon found the walls separating our patio to be laughably low to jump up onto.
Originally uploaded by shimmertje.
Dommie on my shoulder before he traitorously transferred his allegiance to my wife
They then wandered into other apartments sharing the roof. I knocked on the doors of those other apartments , introduced myself, warned them of my kitties and got their good hearted agreements not to throw those creatures to the ground below even if they deserved it.
We also noticed the kitties responded to my calls even if they did not respond to my wife calls. At my calls of ‘Dommie, Dommie, Dommie’ Dommie would pop his head up and ran on top of the apartment parapet walls to me. It was the same for Katie. Only when I called ‘ Dommie, Katie, Dommie Katie’ that both would come at the same time. Why they responded to me and not to my wife who fed them I really do not know. And you all know I cursed them too from time to time. It might be those curses that endeared myself to them.
We moved in Oct 2008 to our villa. I created a sand pit for them in the garden and freed myself of ever having to clean their litter after that. And Riamfada came into our lives and those neighbour walks started with Riamfada. That was to ‘fly the flag’ in the neighbourhood with Riamfada in case she flew away, the neighbourhood would know Riam is mine and for Riamfada to recognise landmarks to fly back by.
Dommie just joined us in those neighbourhood walks. That was not deliberately planned by us. I was surprised Dommie came along. When I found in general that he responded to my calls during those walks, I let it be. Katie, was the more timid one. Katie later also joined us for the neighbourhood walks.
Taking Dommie & Katie out for walks
I was very worried at the beginning. But when they seemed to listen to me generally we continued that way.
I found out very early I need to know when to call them. If they found a new tree and wanted to race up that tree, or a wall to jump onto, or to dig a hole in the sand to poo into, it would be useless and futile to call them then. I called them only when I felt they needed a bit of ‘tugging’ to come our way during those early neighbourhood walks.
I think they looked on us as their comfort zone, and in new areas, needed to be near us to feel comfortable.
So when they responded and move towards us, I normally would not wait there. If we did, they might come and stop 10 meters away from us. We had to continue to move, and in doing so, they moved and followed us. Until they found another distraction.
Walks with the kitties involved in a lot of stopping and callings. Taking kitties out for walks should never be done if you are short of time.
I varied the routes in those neighbourhood walks. There were enough videos of their coming to my calls. Even so, those neighbourhood walks had fall back options in that we all were near enough to home to get them back even if they had not followed us.
I then thought of going further places. I made a variation of Tinkerbell harness for both Dommie and Katie and got them used to wearing that (without leash) with the intention of using leash in far away places.
Wadi Al Maih// Modify Riamfada Mash//kitty harness and preparing to take them out too
Details of harness in
Ivan the cat
I was worried about spooking by Dommie and used the harness and leash on him that first time to Wadi Fanja. The harness was too loose and he removed that. That was unplanned. But he stayed near us, and came to me when called. That gave me the confidence not to attempt to harness him as he followed us.
Wadi Fanja with Dommie
I was delightfully surprised that Dommie came into the waters of Wadi Fanja when I called him
Taking Katie out without harness was tried with her, who also responded to my voice.
An important part was that our SUV and base camp was accepted by the kitties. I believed that was their zone of comfort. Even if Katie refused to join us all, she remained in basecamp until we got back.
I then stopped all usage of harness and leash on the cats. Dragging and forcing them was no fun for them and for us and I felt would never work in the long run.
The photos of Dommie in the sea was the end result of at least a dozen trips to the beach.
The first few times, he stayed near the car. We stayed near him, just outside his zone of comfort to entice him to try just that little bit more, and did not move further. Then he came from the car to the sand dunes. Again, we did the same , moved just outside his comfort zone to entice him just that little bit further. Near him to give him comfort but far enough to urge him to us. Then slowly we were into the grass zone on top of the dunes. For a few times after that, he refused to leave the grass growing on top of the dune. I and my wife and Riamfada sat on the beach just 4 feet from him then and urged him to join us, he did so only after a few times.
Then I persuaded him to join us in the tide pools. And you saw those photos.
above photos details in
Katie refused even to get to the grass verge and remained near the SUV. I could do only one at a time. I have to live with that. They have different personalities altogether even if they were brother and sister.
So far, Dommie who love to explore never roamed further than 30 minutes before he reappeared.
They would come when it was time to go. Sometimes they were playful and we had to scoop them up into our arms to get them into the car.
I find that my kitties do not trust other people. I cannot blame them as kids (and some adults too) tried to stone them. So I had to chose places with few or no people at all to take my kitties to.
For that reason, I would not take kitties with us to stay overnight in places with other people.
I like to camp. At home, the kitties liked to sleep with us.
But my wife is adamant against camping. So I never tried that with kitties to be able to report back for sure. I am not too sure even if I trusted the kitties that I would allow them to sleep in tent with us and Riamfada.
If my wife liked camping, I would have tested the kitties out with tents before taking them out overnight.
I would also pitch tent on day outings first to see if kitties would accept the tent as basecamp in addition to the SUV as base camp. I rather have problems in day time and handle that first than have that happening in the night time.
You must also be aware of other potential dangers. What if other people bring their dogs with them?
I extract this interesting episode from http://shanlung.livejournal.com/93415.html
There was this long break, from Monday 29 Dec 08 to Friday 2 Jan 09.
Since Dommie tended to be very well behaved during neighbourhood walks (other than causing us embarrassment) my wife thought of taking him to the beach the next morning on 29 Dec.
I told her the chances that Dommie might spook and run never to be seen again. She thought long about that. And with the abrupt roundabout turn that we all known from wives, said perhaps the harness and leash be used on Dommie.
I happily obliged especially as Dommie did not like that harness. It felt good to irritate him especially as he turned traitor on me transferring his affection all to my wife. It would make you sick to see the saccharine look on his face everytime he gazed on my wife. Instead of sleeping with me as before, he would sleep on top of my wife.
With him harnessed up, the three of us got into the car and took him on his first car ride. Soon he got over his fear and was on my wife's lap looking out of the window as we drove along.
We thought of the beach near that Wave development. When we reached there, an army jeep drove up to us and told us to move on. There was this GCC summit of all the Sheiks, Emirs and Kings of the Gulf countries going on in Muscat. I guess after the attack on Bombay, the security took no chances on armed insurgents attacking from the sea, perhaps helped by a man, his wife and a cat on a leash.
We were not going to argue with machine guns and moved on to another part of the beach.
Dommie was a bit awed by the occasion. He tried to hide under the car, but was persuaded to slowly join us on the beach. Every time a wave crashed, he spooked and tried to climb up my leg to hide in my baggy shorts.
I found out as a pioneer of taking a cat on a leash to the beach that it was a very bad idea to wear baggy shorts.
Soon he accepted the waves and stopped trying to climb up my bare legs.
Then some others joined us on that patch of beach, with their dog.
That prompted Dommie to climb up my leg to hide in my shorts. It was not very comfortable to me even if Dommie felt reassured and my wife felt it to be funny.
I suggested to my wife next time we took Dommie to the beach, she should wear a skirt while I wore jeans.
My wife with her familiar
I grumbled to karenfernvale in reply to her in my following blog
If my much abbreviated report gave you the idea that the kitties were obediant to me, then I blame myself. None of them would move out of my favourite chair when I want to sit down. I had to toss them off or kick them away. And when I told Katie, even begged Katie , to give me a massage, she never did so when asked. She would only do it when she felt like it.
Almost as bad as a wife.
When those waves crashed, Dommie went up hiding his head in my shorts with his claws digging in my thigh. He ignored my command to get down and tried to get higher. I had to disregard the pain to prise his claws to get him down in fear that he might actually get higher . That was in time to the next wave crashing when he went up the other leg. Blood and marrow oozed down my thighs. I thought that was bad until that dog came on the scene with the other lot of humans. Such a huge beach and they had to pick the same spot as us.
A couple weeks ago, I and my wife was having dinner with Mr William (Bill) White, an Alaskan with his Malaysian wife. We all met each other about 4 months or so ago as his wife was one of those that go to the coffee mornings organised by my wife. We all happened to choose that same restaurant that evening. I was talking about taking Dommie to the sea. Bill gave me a surprise when he said he knew that as he saw me with Dommie on the beach.
That startled me. As I have said, I had to avoid people when I brought the kitties out and I did not recall having met Bill. I was thinking very hard and he said that was about a year ago. Then he said he came with his dog. I smiled and laughed and laughed. It was such a coincidence and I finally met the guy who brought his dog that day. I told him I had not time then to look at his face as I had to focus on Dommie and too busy extracting his claws from my thigh as he tried to hide my my baggy shorts. We all had a very good laugh that evening.
So Sharon, do not wear skirts when taking kitty out. Best be prepared and wear jeans and get your SO to wear baggy shorts.
Sharon, I know I have not answered you fully. I do not think I can ever do that as I do not know enough of you or your cat or your other creatures. Even if I do, I still do not think I could ever answer you.
I hope you find something useful in what I had written and I wish you much happiness with your beasties and birdies in Turkey.
Riamfada over weekend 18-19 March
Many more photos in flickr folder 'Buwah 19th March 2010 '
It was getting warmer. I planned to go to Jebel Akhdar on the 18 March.
I had a second sharp reply in ‘Reflections on Riamfada at edge of the Empty Quarter and some rants’
that I first wanted to ignore. That was on issue I wrote on in 2005 in livejournal and I written on for years before that.
I decided I had to reply. That took over an hour and you might want to read that. Not that I written anything new or you had not known of me.
With so little time left to smell roses and to do more pleasurable things, I had to waste my time and energy on those issues again, time and energy I rather spend on other things. That burned into my day and that planned trip up the mountain. It would take a five hour round trip up that mountain. I had to abort that trip.
The next day on Friday, it was cooler. We decided to drive to Buwah for a day there with the kitties. That was likely be the last time we all would go to Buwah. It would not be possible to go to there or to the wadis in the heat of the summer.
We picked up a takeaway lunch on the way there. We then drove on to our usual spot. I noticed the track continued on the last few times we were there. We also walked up the low hills there as you have seen in our first time there and noticed other valleys. I decided to drive on that day curious as to where that track would lead to.
We found lots of bee hives there to take advantage of the wild flowers in those valleys.
We then turned back to our usual spot.
Base camp was set up. Seeing the rubbish left behind by other &%^$%^*&%$ people who would go to such beautiful place and threw their plastic bottles and stuff was depressing. My wife decided to clean up as I did that the last time.
wife escorted by Dommie and Katie picking rubbish.
I preferred to relax. I finished that Diana book finally and onto a new book. That book told me many of the dams in Oman such as that Al Felaj dam were 'Recharge dams'. Those dams were not meant to hold water as the evaporation rate was so high here. The dams hold back the water from a downpour and allow the water to recharge the ground water table where the water can be later withdrawn from wells.
When not out walking with me or my wife, Katie prefered to stay in the car, or under the car, or on top of the car. Or on the tree nearby
Dommie preferred to sleep.
I removed the leash and did a few free flights with Riamfada.
I then harnessed her again. I wanted to relax and read, look and enjoy that place, and just chill out. With Riam safely in her harness and leash, I could enjoy myself even more than if I had to stay focused on her.
She did what she would have done whether her leash was on or not. She was contented to stay on her perch. Now and then , she would fly to me sitting on my chair.
We stayed there until it was time to go.
Many more photos in flickr folder 'Buwah 19th March 2010 '
Riamfada with Jabri again from 23 to 26 March.
On 23 Mar 2010 afternoon, I will be taking Riamfada to let her stay with the Jabri's again. I may or may not be going to Dubai this coming weekend.
Mr Jabri told me he and his extended family eagerly await our sweet little girl.
Important old letters on harness
Harness for flighted parrots – To Nick and folks
‘ cargo cult'
'Ramadan & Kitties on beach// Chess -1st Saturday IM Tournament // Tinkerbell Harness for Piper '
If you like the photos here, they are all taken by my wife and uploaded on my behalf by her.
She has her own sets of photos in her Flickr account here
FREE FLIGHT IS LIFE AND DEATH PLEASE DO NOT TRY THIS YOURSELF UNLESS YOU DO KNOW.
NEVER EVER FREE FLY WITHOUT THE KNOWLEDGE AS THIS CAN LEAD TO LOSS AND DEATH OF YOUR BIRD.
If what I wrote help you and you like to help, give a thought
for the wildlife sharing our planet.
Do write that cheque to Gerald Durrell wildlife trust
I am a life member of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Do join us to do
whatever we can for the wildlife that shared our planet.
or to any wildlife conservation body of your choice
For those that through no fault of their own, or otherwise, and had to part painfully and unwillingly from their beastie or birdies, whether in the past, or the present, or in the future, I dedicate the saga of Riamfada that I had wrote , and continue to write to that final handover , to you all.