The farewell in the airport was the biggest I’ve ever received. I was very touched and heart warmed by all those who turned up in the wee hours of the morning when they could have been enjoying a sleep in on a Sunday morning. Thank you to one and all who were present on the 11th.MIR: Robert Goh, Lulin, Suling, Jonathan, Teng Jie Scouts: Gideon, Yong Ho Medicine OG: En Ming, Christine Medicine Friends: Nita, Mogilan, Gowri, Shoba, Murugan, Siva (who had to leave for work after) Special mention: Gayathri, Gaythri’s dad, Sathiyan Family: Mom, Dad, Sis, Bro-in-law, Miruna, Uncles (1st and 2nd)
Packing has been a bane so far. Packing at home started 3 weeks ago and even then, I didn’t catch a single wink on the eve of my departure. Worry worry worrying all the time about excess baggage. Baggage in the airport came up to 60kg and I had to pay excess baggage even with the 45kg that Silkair allowed out of goodwill. Collection of the 30kg of shipped medical equipment from the Nepal was also a nightmare. There was taxation of 20% of the value of the goods, even through I tried explaining to them that it was for charity. The general consulate letter in the end was of no use. People didn’t even want to take a look at the letter. After hustling for 4hours at the cargo terminal, I managed to bring the cargo back to my hotel room. My room looked as though a hurricane had swept through it. There were so many boxes, medical equipment and my own personal climbing gear lying all around in a jumble. I had to buy more medications in KTM and with that, another 2 boxes appeared in my room. I had more than 150kg of equipment to sort out within a single night!! The 3 days I spent in KTM before flying to the Khumbu valley has been almost as packed as during the days just before my flight from SIN to KTM. The worst part of it all was that I had to do all these errands alone in a foreign country without being able to speak the local language. None of these could have been done without the help of my Nepalese friends; Jangbu, Jamling and Tenzing.
Money was another issue. Most places don’t accept cards and the places that do slap a 10% charge on any card transaction. Thus all my transactions had to be done in cold cash and furthermore, the biggest Nepalese bill is only 1000 Rs (equivalent to about 16 SGD). I was carrying more than 300 1k Nepalese Rs bills (equivalent to almost 5k SGD). There were bills in all available compartments from head to toe as they just couldn’t fit in one pocket. I felt like a walking bank ready to get robbed in the dodgy alleys of Thamel (where I stayed). With so many things on my mind, I took a wrong turn in the confusing streets of Thamel and took almost half hour to find my way back, I forgot to pack a sleeping bag along with me for my 2 weeks in the medical clinic and even misplaced my passport in a shop for about 2h (super panicky moment),
Then at the domestic airport for my flight to Lukla (the start of the hike to Everest) I was charged for the ridiculous weight of 95kg of excess baggage (only allowed 15kg). They just didn’t care about my pleas that it was for charity. The local people need help and yet there is so much resistance from the authorities for even volunteers to render their services without hassle. It is hard not to wonder that it is due to the bureaucracy in 3rd world countries that the people on the ground are not getting what they deserve. The rich get richer and the poor get stuck in the vicious cycle. I heard this particular story from Dr Kami (one of the 2 doctors in Kunde Hospital in the Everest region that serves over 8000 people) that there was this ophthalmologist from the states who shipped over a slit lamp (a huge piece of equipment used to see the retina of an eye). He wanted to donate it to the Kunde hospital after having seen the little facilities available there. It was a very expensive device and it got stuck in the customs (where I had the opportunity of experiencing 1st hand of the way they worked). Taxes that were imposed on the device amounted to more than what the device was worth and finally the poor guy who wanted to help the Nepalese people had to forfeit bringing it into the country due to the restrictions imposed by her own people who do little to make a difference in the lives of their own poor citizens.
Due to my baggage being super duper overweight, they had to be flown into Lukla piece by piece. The last piece of my baggage did not arrive in Lukla before noon where the airport closes for the day. So I started my hike without the medications and I’m still hoping that it would arrive in the lodge where I’m staying at now in Namche Bazaar (which is the capital town of the sherpas in the Everest region). I will be acclimatizing here for 2 days before meeting Dr Kami in Kunde Hospital. Then, I’ll be proceeding to Phortse, hopefully by the weekend, to start up the clinic.
The images that are posted on the blog have been possible thanks to a number of people. Cerebos for providing me with a Cannon power shot G12 camera, the TTSH IT dept for providing me with a laptop with a ‘solid state’ hard drive (normal hard drive don’t work at altitude due to pressure differences) and Ang Jangbu for assisting me to get the 3G device with data plan from KTM. Cerebos has also provided a SPOT GPS tracking device that will allow my progress to be followed on my way to Everest. You can visit the following link to check on my location during the next 2 months. http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0vnjyTmrsPzsynTm1nFFcmVOtHgmcF3PZ
I have also added the link on the side bar of this blog site for easy access for tracking me.
On a side note, the 3G device I bought at KTM has a prepaid amt for 20GB of transmission. I won’t be able to top it up at EBC so bought the one with the widest bandwidth. However, being the cautious person I am, where ever I try to access the net, I will search for WIFI connection 1st to safe on my 20GB (just in case).
This WIFI / 3G saga reminded me of something I read on the net. To end off for now, I’ll leave you with the following. How true, you be the judge.
“Men are like WIFI and women are like 3G
Men search around for all available networks and pick the one up with the strongest signal. Even when he moves from one place to another, he continues to screen for the best available network to get connected to. If a certain network is password protected, he’ll just roam around for the next easiest accessible network. In contrast, women are like 3G.. They only connect to the one single network they were pre programmed to connect to regardless of wherever they are. Even if the signal is weak or there is none to begin with, they will still continue searching for that one particular network till its available.”