Jayneal Menon, 15, shares with us how an epic trip to Ti­bet turned into a jour­ney of a life­time.

Herworld (Malaysia) - - KIDS TAKEOVER -

“In July 2017, my brother and I were lucky enough to have an ad­ven­ture many only dream of – we trav­elled to Ti­bet to scale all 18,500ft of Mount Kailash. When I was first told we were go­ing, I must ad­mit that the big­gest draw for me was the chance of see­ing snow for the first time! Lit­tle did I know that there was so much more wait­ing.

The jour­ney started with us trav­el­ling to Kath­mandu, Nepal, and then to Lhasa, Ti­bet. On the flight, we saw the summit of the ma­jes­tic Mount Ever­est. It was sur­real to see it in real life af­ter see­ing it in pic­tures all this time. Lhasa, the cap­i­tal of Ti­bet, stands at 11,000ft. Some peo­ple needed to use bot­tles of oxy­gen oc­ca­sion­ally, and there was a 24-hour cen­tre in the ho­tel just for those who were hav­ing dif­fi­culty breath­ing. We spent a day in Lhasa rest­ing in the ho­tel and ac­cli­ma­tis­ing. The next day, we went to Po­tala Palace and Jokhang Tem­ple.

The Po­tala Palace stands at over 135m high, and has over 1,000 rooms. It is a beau­ti­fully-crafted build­ing with a lot of stairs, and where all the Dalai La­mas lived, un­til the cur­rent one went to In­dia. It was re­ally nice and en­light­en­ing to see all the his­tor­i­cal ob­jects in the palace, such as the thrones of the dif­fer­ent Dalai La­mas, the room where they stud­ied, all the old hand­writ­ten books, and the holy stat­ues. There were also the tombs of the 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th Dalai La­mas, each sheeted with more than one met­ric tonne of gold. The Jokhang Tem­ple is a tem­ple that was built over a lake by the prince of one prov­ince for the princess of an­other prov­ince. From there, we could see the whole of Po­tala Palace.

A Re­ward­ing Chal­lenge

The next day, we flew to Ngari, Ti­bet, and then drove to Darchen, which is at the foothills of Mount Kailash. We spent two days in Darchen, ac­cli­ma­tis­ing on the first day and go­ing to Lake Mansarovar on the sec­ond day. We had to dip our whole bod­ies in the lake, as it is some­thing most peo­ple do be­fore climb­ing the moun­tain. The wa­ter

was 2 to 3oC, which meant that we couldn’t feel our bod­ies af­ter com­ing out of the wa­ter. A prayer was then done, to en­sure our safety and to bless the holy wa­ter. The rest of the day was spent ac­cli­ma­tis­ing, which was very nec­es­sary as it was start­ing to get very cold and al­ti­tude sick­ness is a very real thing!

The next day, we drove to a small tem­ple to seek per­mis­sion to as­cend Mount Kailash. We then drove to Tar­boche and started the walk, which is called a kora. We trekked 14km to Di­ra­phuk – the first lodge, at 17,000ft – where it drops to sub-zero tem­per­a­tures at night. The trek was much more dif­fi­cult than I had an­tic­i­pated and, at this point, I was won­der­ing how I would make it over two more days. How­ever, by mid-day of the sec­ond day, we had suc­cess­fully crossed Dromo La Pass, which is at 18,500ft. This is the high­est point trekkers are al­lowed to go on Mount Kailash (climbers gen­er­ally do not summit the moun­tain to re­spect lo­cal re­li­gious be­liefs), and it was a great sense of ac­com­plish­ment to know that I had made it. Now, we had to get back down! By the time we reached our lodge at Zu­tul­phuk, we had walked 28km since 7am that morn­ing. We stayed the night and walked to the last check­point of the kora the next morn­ing, which was a 10km trek. We left while it was still dark, so we had to use our head­lights to move around.

When we started this trip, I was hop­ing to have my first snow ex­pe­ri­ence and I’m happy to re­port that I can now check that box, but that’s not all. I saw scenery too beau­ti­ful to de­scribe, I rode a lit­tle horse, who helped me when my legs were too tired to take an­other step, and it even started to hail, which was an­other first for me. I spoke to a Sherpa (a per­son from a lo­cal eth­nic group that’s renowned for be­ing ex­pert guides) and gained in­sight into his life, and saw peo­ple who had spent their en­tire lives sav­ing money to come on this kora. Their be­lief, ded­i­ca­tion and will were in­cred­i­ble.

A Test of Nerves

We drove back to Ngari on the same day and stayed there for one night. The next morn­ing, we left for the air­port to fly back to Lhasa. And, that’s when tragedy struck. The bus we were in got into an ac­ci­dent, with 26 of us in­side. It was go­ing faster than it was sup­posed to be, slid on the wet road, turned 180 de­grees, and fell onto its side on the sand. Sadly, one lady passed away, and a lot of peo­ple had se­vere in­juries. Very luck­ily, I only got some scratches on my shoul­der and el­bow, and my brother was un­hurt, so we did our best to help the oth­ers who were. We spent an ex­tra night in Ngari to re­cu­per­ate and then flew back to Lhasa, where we met with the for­eign min­is­ter of Ti­bet. He came to check on our group, which was a lovely ges­ture by the Ti­betian govern­ment. We flew back to Kath­mandu the next day and to KL that very night.

What an ex­pe­ri­ence it all was! I think my brother will agree when I say that I am so thank­ful we were taken on this trip, and have come back with minds that think dif­fer­ently and bod­ies ca­pa­ble of so much more. I be­lieve that this trip re­quired us to draw on the courage, in­de­pen­dence and self-be­lief that had been in­stilled in us by our par­ents and our school, and for this we will al­ways be grate­ful.”

I spoke to a Sherpa and gained in­sight into his life, and saw peo­ple who had spent their en­tire lives sav­ing money to come on this kora.

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