Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Last Days

I've had to wait until getting home to do my last post as once we crossed the Chinese Nepal Border I lost access to my email.
The last days ride from Nyalam was a 35 km to the border descending over 3000 mts before crossing into Nepal then riding a further 15 km to our last resort aptly named as The Last Resort.
The plan was to get away early so we could avoid the likely road works known to be under way that could cause potential road closures. It had rained all night and was still raining so there was also concern about possible landslides on the road. We left at dawn and as daylight broke the most amazing scenery of green vegetation and waterfalls had us in awe, especially after the weeks now of dry barren countryside we had been riding through. As good as the descending on such a nice hot mix pavement was we just had to have a number of stops on the way down to take it all in. It was a very fitting finale to our long journey.
Crossing the border at Kodari is an interesting experience. It is where we got to say goodbye to our Tibetan guide and support crew as they are not permitted to cross. Our vehicles too remained in China so about 40 porters (99% women by the way!) came across on foot from Nepal and lined up behind our truck to carry our luggage, tents, gas bottles etc across the border over the Friendship Bridge to our waiting vehicle in Kodari. This stuff was heavy!!! One lady had a small baby strapped to her front breastfeeding whilst holding her hands behind her stabilising a gas bottle that she was carrying by a strap wrapped around it's base and over her head. We wanted to get a photo of it but the Chinese guards made it clear we were not permitted to take any photos.
Once you clear Chinese Customs at Kodari you cross the Friendship Bridge into Nepal. As you cross to your left and right are Chinese soldiers in full battle dress standing looking straight ahead, expressionless and to attention. At the halfway point there is a tiled line across the bridge whereupon you enter Nepal and are greeted again by soldiers, but this time Nepalese, smiling and shouting out 'namaste' as they welcome you to Nepal. What a contrast!
The ride to The Last Resort had a few kms at 7% as the final sting that a few of us got a final burst of energy and had a bit of a crack at which was a bit of fun. The scenery here remained stunning and was a rainforest. Our accommodation was upmarket tents and we had hot showers (even a European toilet)! The food was amazing and the alcohol flowed.....we all had plenty of stories and laughs. There were also many backpackers and visitors at this resort as it boasts the second highest bungy jump in Asia (or could be the world...not sure about that) at about 165 mts. You actually have to walk to the resort over a suspension bridge that spans 250-300 odd mts across the gorge that is used to for the jump. Daunting enough walking over it let alone jumping off it. Needless to say there was some peer pressure brought to bear on 3 of us, me being one, to do the jump. I'm here to tell you there was no way I was going to ever do it!
Our ride was officially finished at that point so next morning it was on to the bus to travel the last kms into Kathmandu. It is considered too dangerous with a group of 15 to ride all the way in due to traffic. To give you an indication the last 30 kms to our hotel took us over 2.5 hrs. Traffic in Kathmandu can't be described, it has to be experienced to be believed. Funny thing though is it seems to work. We did not see a serious accident the whole time we where there yet to look at it is total chaos.
We had virtually 2 days left in Kathmandu before departure where most of us took in some souvenir shopping or there was an option of a small guided MTB ride out to one of the villages. I chose to shop as I had done very little to date. Everything in these countries you haggle for and you do need to be prepared to walk away (the vendor will rarely let you do this without accepting your offer). Imitations are also rife and we were fortunate to have one of our guides take us to some authentic shops where we could buy genuine articles. I was very happy with my purchases and thankfully all seemed to have travelled well with no breakages.
All the trip I had been very pleased with myself that I had avoided any of the illness that had hit many of the group. That all came down around me at checking into the Kathmandu airport to come home where within minutes of standing in the waiting queue I found myself needing to leave it to find a seat to then on my back with a fever on the verge of passing out. Thankfully it was a group check in and we had a number of doctors on the trip so help was to hand and I was nursed back enough to get me on the plane. I am so thankful to all the group who were extremely kind to me letting me take priority with seating so I could spread out and making sure I was ok. It has taken me a few days since arriving home but I am feeling much better and now probably needing some rest to recuperate properly.
All in all the trip was everything I expected it to be, challenging and rewarding. I was stretched personally on several occasions but the reward of achieving what I set out to do is ever so satisfying. Riding into Everest Base Camp is just an awesome sight.
Even more satisfying is that it appears we have successfully raised over $80k for the Oncology Childrens Foundation which is going to help enormously towards funding much needed research into this insidious disease.
With that in mind I must again thank my own very supportive sponsors who have helped make this possible. There have been many of you, too many to mention individually but I do have to make special mention of 3 very kind corporate sponsors who have backed me since I started this venture:
  • The Vanriet team are an incredible bunch who have contributed enormously to this cause. I am overawed by their continued support and enthusiasm. If you ever have any commercial building that you ever need designed or project managed these guys are the ones to talk to;
  • Fitzpatricks have been a supporter of OCF in the past and have many other worthwhile causes they also support. They have a wonderful philanthropic culture and I feel very fortunate they chose my cause as one to support in such a grand way. Fitzpatricks have been known to me for many years from my financial planning days and offer highly respected advice. They are my financial planners and I recently joined the Board of Fitzpatricks as a Non Executive Director;
  • Mike Beachy Head Jnr and Snr operate their risk insurance and wealth protection brokerage from Springwood in Brisbane, they are my insurance brokers! I am extremely grateful to both Mikes for stepping up in such a big way to help me on this journey.
Thanks again to everyone for following. It has been such an amazing experience, one I will never forget.

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