View of Everest from Kala Patthar

Travel Stories: Helped by random people

Contents: Travel Stories

Central Mongolia: Someone fixed my broken bike in the middle of the Mongolian steppes

[2015] During my motorbike trip around Mongolia, I had to tackle all kinds of terrains. Only about 30% of it was proper asphalt road. The rest was adventure. I had to cross a number of rivers and drive over sand dunes, snow, ice and rocks! Often the “road” looked more like a hard steep foot-path.

At some point, I arrived at a very steep downward-slope that was just rumble and small stones. There was no way around it. I took a deep breath and drove down. I knew that if I pressed on the breaks, I would fall, but half way through, I instinctively had to press them! As one would expect, the bike slid sideways and I ended up with one leg trapped under the bike, my head downwards and legs upwards, while gasoline was leaking from the tank. Running out of gasoline was my biggest constant worry during this trip. I used all my strength to lift the bike enough to release my leg. Then I held the bike straight so that the leak stops, but realised that the side of the bike was smashed and the chain had got off. I thought I was in trouble because with my mechanics skills, it would have taken me ages to remove the back wheal and place back the chain.

Gobi desert, Mongolia
Gobi desert, Mongolia
Then I saw very far away what looked like a man sitting next to a motorbike! I approached, asked for help and like half the Mongolian men outside Ulan Bator, the guy was as skilled as a professional motorbike mechanic. Within 45 minutes he had fixed the bike using tools I had with me. I gave him some money, wholeheartedly thanked him and I was relieved to be on my way again.

Page Top

Mongolian North: Given shelter by Mongolian nomads when my bike broke down during a snowstorm

[2015] During my 3-week motorbike Mongolian adventure, I had to cross a number of rivers, some completely dry whereas others with a lot of water. This story is about one of these river crossings.

River-crossing, central Mongolia
River-crossing, central Mongolia
While I was heading towards the Mongolian North, the terrain became more mountainous and the weather colder. On the day of this story, the sun had just set (there was still some light) and a snowstorm had just started, when I reached a river. As I was crossing it, water hit the engine and the electrical parts, so when I reached the opposite muddy bank, the engine simply died. This had happened 3-4 times before and I knew I had to wait for it to get dry to turn it on again. But within the snowstorm, it was clear this would take a long time and I would have to quickly find somewhere to spend the night.

Frozen lake Khovsgol, northern Mongolia
Frozen lake Khovsgol, northern Mongolia

As I looked around to find a place that would be appropriate for camping, I noticed in the far distance two typical nomad yurts. I pushed the bike through the mud and snow towards that direction and by the time I reached there it was already dark. A huge hairy guardian dog approached and barked at me. When the residents of the yurt came out, they were surprised to see a westerner and welcomed me in. As I looked semi-frozen, they gave me some of their traditional tea-milk and then some meat, also in warm milk. Communication was very basic as they did not speak English and I did not speak any of their language.

When the time to sleep came, I sat on the floor and they, from the small children to their grandparents, all stood around me. They watched me inflate my mattress and set my sleeping bag on it. As they were still staring, I had to get inside the sleeping bag in order to take off my trousers and put on my long johns. It was only after I had finished zipping myself inside the sleeping bag and was about to close my eyes that the spectacle was over and they also went to sleep.

The next day in the morning, I had a quick tea-milk breakfast, gave the grandfather some money and went out to happily see that the bike could switch on. We said goodbye and I left. It was cold and about 1 hour later I fell from a bridge!

Page Top

Nepal (near Everest SHORT VERSION): Saved by a Sherpa night porter in the Himalayas

[2012] The Everest Base Camp Trek has been one of my favourite mountaineering trips, at a time when I was less experienced, but it might have been my last one!

The flight I was supposed to take from Kathmandu to Lukla had crashed 4 days before, killing the 19 people aboard, so the flight schedule to Lukla was disturbed. This meant we were not able to take a Kathmandu-based English-speaking guide-Sherpa with us, but rather get one upon arrival at Lukla. This guy did not speak much English and he had another porter-Sherpa with him, who also did not speak English. Together with a Canadian trekker, the four of us trekked without incidents till Lobuche (4930m). Knowing that without acclimatisation I would have had a poor night’s sleep, I suggested we wake up at 2am to go to the next level at Gorak Shep (5160m), then climb the near by Kalah Patthar (5643m) in order to watch the sunrise view of Everest, then visit the Base Camp (5380m), and then come back down to Lobuche to sleep. It would be a long day, but I knew from experience that I could do it. The guide-Sherpa suggested I do this with the porter-Sherpa.

By 2:30am we had tea and oats and we took off.

By 5:30pm, 15 hours later, I had had a very long day and was exhausted. The porter-Sherpa had lost our way in the night, I had climbed Kalah Patthar, the porter had got altitude sickness, I had visited the Base Camp, and I was having an argument with the guide-Sherpa, at Gorak Shep, who accused me of “breaking” the porter-Sherpa.

View of Everest from Kala Patthar, Nepal
View of Everest from Kala Patthar, Nepal

I asked the guide-Sherpa to guide me down to Lobuche where all my things were, but he suggested I should do it by myself. It would be easy he said! I complained, but I was also angry with him so I decided stubbornly to take off. One and a half hour later a cloud sat on the valley of my path, everything was foggy and dark and I was completely lost! My iPhone was frozen and would not turn on and I had run out of sugars.

I had three options: a) continue going lower, where I might end up in the wrong valley lost forever ☺, b) try going back up, but I was too tired for it and also was not sure which was the right way, c) stay where I am and hope someone will come by before I freeze in the night. I chose option 3, and started shouting help very loud at regular intervals. I remember feeling a bit of panic (“I will die here”) for 2-3 seconds just by myself in the darkness of the valley, and then my mind found comfort in an overoptimistic plan on how I would make it through the night.

Some agonising time later I thought I saw a dim tiny light far away up the mountain. I started shouting more vigorously and then saw the light heading my direction and waited. I only said the word Lobuche to the guy, a night porter, and started following him! I know for sure that I have never been so happy in my life to see another human being before or after that moment!

In the aftermath, I went back to Lukla with the now revived porter-Sherpa and when I reached Kathmandu I got a percentage refund from the company as compensation for the guide Sherpa who almost killed me. Obviously a lot of the blame was on my inexperience and stubbornness.

Page Top

Nepal (near Everest FULL VERSION): Saved by a Sherpa night porter in the Himalayas

[2012] The Everest Base Camp Trek has been one of my favourite mountaineering trips, at a time when I was less experienced, but it might have been my last one!

The flight I was supposed to take from Kathmandu to Lukla had crashed 4 days before, killing the 19 people aboard, so the flight schedule to Lukla was disturbed. This meant we were not able to take a Kathmandu-based English-speaking guide-Sherpa with us, but rather get one upon arrival at Lukla. This guy did not speak much English and he had another porter-Sherpa with him, who also did not speak English. Together with a Canadian trekker, the four of us trekked without incidents till Lobuche (4930m). Knowing that without acclimatisation I would have had a poor night’s sleep, I suggested we wake up at 2am to go to the next level at Gorak Shep (5160m), then climb the near by Kalah Patthar (5643m) in order to watch the sunrise view of Everest, then visit the Base Camp (5380m), and then come back down to Lobuche. It would be a long day, but I knew from experience that I could do it. The guide-Sherpa suggested I do this with the porter-Sherpa.

By 2:30am we had tea and oats and we took off.

The trek was supposed to take 3 hours, maybe 4 during the night, but 2 hours later we were lost! The porter Sherpa realised it after we had scrambled our way up an almost vertical wall of big rocks consuming a lot of energy (this applies to me of course, as for the Sherpa it was a lot easier ☺). Then the Sherpa left me straddling the ridge of that wall and climbed down to find the right way. 30 minutes later he was back and we were on our way again. This time he was worried I would lose more energy if he lost the way, so he left me behind and I often had to track his footprints on the snow in order to find the way he was leading. It took us about 6 hours to do the 3-hour trek to Gorak Shep, so we missed the Everest sunrise view, which upset me, but at the time I did not know that a missed sunrise would be the least of my problems.

View of Everest from Kala Patthar, Nepal
View of Everest from Kala Patthar, Nepal
Without any rest, I decided to stick to the plan and go for Kalah Patthar (5643m), even though I was already very tired. The porter Sherpa reluctantly agreed and we took off. From the first meters I was struggling with my breathing, whereas the Sherpa looked as effort-free as if he was having a stroll at the park. Half way up however, the strangest thing happened: the Sherpa got altitude sickness. He started having a serious headache and could not go any further. I told him I would continue to the top and that he could wait for me a few meters lower. Slowly, with the breathlessness that every mountaineer is familiar with, I reached the peek, had a nice view of Everest and then walked down to get the porter-Sherpa and together we arrived at the lower altitude of Gorak Shep (5160m). I was tired but my breathing was now a lot better! The porter Sherpa however was a mess, having headaches and throwing up, so they had to take him to the lower altitude of Lobuche for him to recover. I had a quick bite and stack to the plan. In a few hours I had finally reached Everest Base Camp and then back to Gorak Shep. By that time the guide-Sherpa and the Canadian trekker were there. The guide-Sherpa in broken English accused me of “breaking down” the porter! Very ironic considering it was I the one who had actually suffered because of their inability to find the right way.

I asked the guide-Sherpa to guide me down to Lobuche where all my things were, but he suggested I should do it by myself. It would be easy he said! I complained, but I was also angry with him so I decided stubbornly to take off. One and a half hour later a cloud sat on the valley of my path, everything was foggy and dark and I was completely lost! My iPhone was frozen and would not turn on and I had run out of sugars.

I had three options: a) continue going lower, where I might end up in the wrong valley lost forever ☺, b) try going back up, but I was too tired for it and also was not sure which was the right way, c) stay where I am and hope someone will come by before I freeze in the night. I chose option 3, and started shouting help very loud at regular intervals. I remember feeling a bit of panic (“I will die here”) for 2-3 seconds just by myself in the darkness of the valley, and then my mind found comfort in an overoptimistic plan on how I would make it through the night.

Some agonising time later I thought I saw a dim tiny light far away up the mountain. I started shouting more vigorously and then saw the light heading my direction and waited. I only said the word Lobuche to the guy, a night porter, and started following him! I know for sure that I have never been so happy in my life to see another human being before or after that moment!

In the aftermath, I went back to Lukla with the now revived porter-Sherpa and when I reached Kathmandu I got a percentage refund from the company as compensation for the guide Sherpa who almost killed me. Obviously a lot of the blame was on my inexperience and stubbornness.

Page Top

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