Alex Mumzui, intrepid Russian Brompton enthusiast takes his Brompton to Tibet to see how far up Mt Everest he can get. Follow his travels with the letters below.
OK, I have seen Everest and Potala, and I am in Tibet, now I can die in
peace, but not from altitude sickness, I almost do not feel any symptoms.
Sept. 28, 2000
OK, OK, I will write about everything. Some of my subscribers, especially
G---e family,became very impatient. Some people told me that I will be upset with Lhasa
because It is not that it was before, and that these Chinese spoiled everything. They
probably are right, but I did not see Lhasa before. The shadows from the clouds on the
surrounding mountains are painted properly, with Nicolas Roerich colors, Potala is the
same as it was before. I think Potala is one of 5 world best architectural sites. I cannot
describe it in proper English, in proper Russian too... I probably would have to use an
expressions like "ny blia, zashibis'"(non-translatable). So I am not upset with
the Lhasa. Tibetian Lhase compose only 1/4 of nowdays Lhasa. These who are familiar with
geography of Washington DC. can think of Lhasa in the same terms. North West is populated
by Tibetians instead of non-Hispanic whites, and 3 other quarters populated by Chenese
instead of African Americans. Potala (inside the temple) share the same fate as other
major religious sites. It overridden by organized tourists groups. You can see there these
omnipresent elderly America ladies with their walkers and walking sticks, accompanied by
few man who manage to survive till the same old age, Japanese, who tell you mishi-mushi
and asked you to make their photographs, and so on. On displays there are old Tibetan
religion relics, like 3-d Mandala, which are probably very interesting things for these
who know something about them, or have great imagination. For others it looks like dusty
and fake stuff from the antique shop. I am somewhere in between. Another, less famous site
in Lhasa is Jokhang. It is really interesting place. It is not as impressive from outside
as Potala, but it is filled with prostrating worshipers, monks chanting (singing) with on
purposely unpleasant voices. It is also filled with smog from burning candles made from
yak's butter. It is a great play which surround and involve you. Ed B you should go here
first, then to Luang Prabang.
OK, that's it for now.
Your foreign correspondent
Story about brave captain Ivanov
(jil otvajnii kapitan)
The Russian travelers prefer to travel with organized groups. First, they
frequently don't have conversational English. Second, they are afraid of logistics
problems such as finding hotels, transportations and so on. They don't believe in travel
books, because these which published in Russia are really not helpful. Lonely Planet is
not available there (at least in St Petersburg) It was the introduction.
Captain Ivanov- One tough bird!
I met captain Ivanov at that travel agency which arranged my trip to Lhasa. He is ship captain not military capitan. He is remarkably brave man. Almost without English he travel to Tibet. Nobody seen Russians here. Captain in advance arranged his trip with the above mentioned travel agency, which also have division in Moskow. Everything went smoothly until we arrived in Lhasa. Day before our arrival Chinese authority changed the rules. Previously westerners complained that Chinese allows only groups organized through travel agency travel to Tibet. So Chinese corrected their policy and at the day we arrived at Lhasa they prohibit travel agency to organize groups. So individual tourists have to organize themself.* Capitan Ivanov was devastated. He expected that travel agency will provid guide, TTB (official permission which is required in Tibet) and the car. Suddenly he learned that he, with his poor English, has to do everything by himself. Captain Inanov belonged to that category of very pushi people which exists only in Russia (in small proportion) and do not known in West. One of my friend in Russia is the same and even look like captain, guess who? Captain believes that in order to acheve his goal he has to put people on their tips (napriagat' people). He put on their tips (napriag) all travel agencies in Lhasa and a lot of innosent individual tourists too. When he appears at the distance, travel agencies close the doors, and travel agents hide under the tables. When I stand in line at the bank to change money somebody who saw me with him, asked me are you Ivanov? Next moment line dissapeared. As of yesterday he found 3 partner to share price of lending land cruise with driver and Chinese sequrity officer for trip back to Katmandu with visit to Everest base camp. At last moment deal felt apart because these 3 came to Lhasa from continental China, not from Katmandu (another Chinese limitation). Afraid to be late at his flight from Delhi to Moscow, captain paid for whole trip just for himself $1000. Two hours later he found right partners (who came from Katmandu). He rushed back to travel agency. Too late they said, deal is done. But they do not know whom they are dealing with (ne na togo napali). Captain raised the hell, called manager and eventually had deal rearranged so he has to pay only !/4 of whole amount, $250. Znai nashix (untanslatable).
*Many travellers and L onely Planet also think that Chinese on-porposly make our life so difficult. I don't think so. From the time I filed application for visa in Washington DC, I realize that their heads are made differently then ours. I think Chenese generally wants to please the West, but they cannot understand what these strange people- Westerners wants. "You wants to travel as individuals? OK. We prohibit travel agencies to organize you. Are you happy now?" Chenese also value different thing then we are. Even not expensive gesthouses in Lhasa have marble floors and fancy furniture but no towels and tualet paper.
Oct 3 2000
One subscriber asked why didn't I help captain Ivanov. I tried, but was quickly disqualified because he believe I am too mild. For 20 years I lived outside Russia I lost some guts, which every Russian have to develop in order to survive daily fight for basic necessities.
TIBETAN ARCHITECT MR. PU-PU.
While I ride bike on plaza near Potala I was approached by small Tibetan
man. I should say that I see the major advantage of my Brompton bike,that it is so funny
looking. It is so called instant conversation piece. People constantly stop me and talk to
me. CW, it can be even saleing point, I guess. So this man told me that he likes my bike,
also he told me that he is an architect and gave me his name: Mr.Pu-pu. He obviously do
not know that it means in English (kakashka). He invited me to his restaurant that evening
and invited me to visit his village next day. His restaurant was a small dirty place like
most Tibetian restaurant with mouses running free and not afraid of people. Tibetian
cannot kill live creature. Do you remember scene with the worms from the movie "Seven
ears in Tibet" We drank salted tea with yak bitter and milk. Next morning we met at
my Hotel and he asked me immediately to rush far away from the hotel, because Chinese do
not like Tibetians hanging out near hotels for foreigners. It was familiar situation for
the former Soviet Union citizen, but now I was a foreigner. We took local bus to his
village 20 km from Lhasa. He invited me to a monastery, which is renovated by his ancle.
Mr. Pu-pu himself rather was a his helper, then the architect. Young monks
enthusiastically grabbed my bike and ride it all the time of my visit. It was interesting
to be in Tibetian monastery without tourist crowd and stick your nose anywhere you want.
We talk a lot about Chinese occupation, and I found a lot of similarities with former
Soviet regime. In general Chinese are milder, I guess. Mr. Pu-pu, for example, was able to
travel to Sweetzerland to visit his father, who emigrated from Tibet as a member of
Tibetian armed forces. Unthinkable event in former Soviet Union. On the other side Chenese
put red flag on all monasteries, on Potala etc. Soviet communists even in worst time did
not put red flag above Vasilii Blajennii Sobor or Nikolskaia church. We visited his family
and again drank yak tea and eat yak dumplings (momo). I think I start to develop allergy
on yaks. After this we went to the fields, where Tibetians collected wheat harvest,
without any machinery. From the distance it remind me scenes from the old Soviet movie
Kubanskie kozaks. Tibetians like Westerners; the same way as Russians used to like them.
Tibetians see Westerners as their the only hope in their scielent fight against Chinese
domination. We exchange addresses and gave him $25 for his tour even he never mentioned
money. Later I realized that it was his a kind of moonlighting, rather then spontaious one
time event. Anyhow I am glad that I had this experience. I rode bike back to Lhasa.
Next day I went to Drepung monastery, used to be biggest monastery in the world, it is actually a whole small town. At the time of Chinese occupation in 1959 it was 10,000 monks there, and monastery owned 20,000 serfs (krepostnix krestian). Now it is 600 monks there. It was about a closure time and I got lost there. It was a little bit spooky. From the top of that monastery I rode my bike to Nechung monastery below. I rode it not on a main road but rather along the yaks path. I don't think anybody rode Brompton on such mountain bike trace. Mr. Andrew Ritchie (inventor of Brompton) would be proud of his creature if he saw it.
Nechung monastery was a residence of Tibetian State Oracle, who put himself in trans using different shamanistic (pre Buddhist) tricks. Painting on the walls reflect these shamanistic motives, pretty funny. When I will develop films I will sent it to you. I did not take Tibetan history in elementary school, non in middle or high school. Because it was non. Now I learned that in times when mongols brutally conquer Russia and Eastern Europe, they did not harm Tibetians at all. Initially mongols consider to conquer Tibet but Sonan Gyatso Dalai Lama went to Mongolia and met Altyn Khan in 1578. He bullshit his mind (zapudril emy mozgi) to such degree that mongol not only decided to leave Tibet alone, but also provide financing for building more tibetian monasteries and temples. Unfortunately latest Dalai lama was unable to repeat the same trick with Mao-Dze-Dung
Oct 4 2000
I just learned that one of my subscribers, who receive Email through hotmail did not receive any of my Travel Notes. These who are on Hotmail please check your bulk mail folder. Also Natasha A and Galia A, do you receive them, what about Vitaly R and Lisa D? And what about you Lena F?
Several people asked me general questions which I will answer now. I travel on folding bike. All my belonging fits in small backpack sitting on rear rack of my bike. I follow traveling philosophy described in last issue of Big World magazine, which consider a second pair of underwear, third shirt and especially tualet paper and a towel as an un-excuseble luxury. So my backack weight only 5kg. I flight to Delhi on British Airways for free (see previous notes) From Delhi to Katnadu on Indian Airline for $125. From Katmandy to Lhasa on South China Airline for $278 (plus $125 for Chenese permission, Lhasa airport to Lhasa city transportation and travel agency fee) I stayed in Katmandu in Katmandu Guest House in a single room for $6 in very nice room with sink and good view on little flowery patio. I am staying here in Lhasa in Show Land Guesthouse in double room without facilities for $6. N.O., yak-burgers and yak-stakes are actually pretty good. Tea with salt, yak mulk and yak butter also OK. You just have to think about it as of soup rather than as tea. GW, I did not notice any consequence of Indian flooding in Nepal and Tibet. Rent of land cruiser from Lhasa to Nepalize bordrer costs $1000. You share this price with your co-travellers, whom you have to find by youself. I have something else to say but Internet place is closing Sent me your letters, coments, questions
Oct 5 200
Attached is Potala
Car takes four.
AT HOME AT THE ROOF OF THE WORLD
Sometimes I have feeling of being non-fitter at home. I have difficulty to
support standard conversation about newest models of cars, football, beisball, because I
do not know much about these subjects and not interested in them at all.
Also I do not have any normal respectable hobby, like gardening, skiing or Hi-Fi music. I like to travel, but this doesn't qualified as a hobby.
Story of my trips are perceived with amusement and disbelieve as something very unusual and strange. And people get surprised how can I afford it and how my family can allow it. Americans who frequently think about traveling in terms of luxury traveling would be surprise to learn how cheap my trips are.
Here in Lhasa at the roof of the world, I am not different from surrounding people ( I am talking of backpackers, not local people).I fit pretty well with this company of world travelers. people whose the only hobby is traveling. My habit of staying in a separate room and my longest trip of 2.5 month, makes me look rather like a junior compare with others who travel for years and usually stay in dormatories. My stories sound rather mild compare with other people stories. People exchange stories of sleeping in walled Yemenese town, which gates are closed at night, horse riding through Mongolia solo (horse not count). I will go back to Nepal with young German couple starting their trip on bikes here and planning to go home through Nepal, India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey. Another solo traveling lady told the story of her travel through Russia and China and now she is heading to Australia. My guesthouse neighbor heading to Everest, not only to a base camp but as far as he can go, he is not a novice and he knows what he is doing.
These people, who have a genes of Christopher Columbus and Marko Polo in their blood shy away from the comfortable cities of Western Europe and North America, they want to go to the frontiers.
Nobody talks about cars here,and nobody concern about labels of their non-designer jeans and jackets. And popular in Russia word prestige never used here. I feel very comfortable with them. I am not a non-fitter here.
Oct 9 2000 5 pm
I standed near entrance to my guesthouse yesterday and talk with one guy
who came to Lhasa recently. Suddenly he bend over, felt and hit concrete floor with his
forehead with terrible sound. He gets big wound above his eyebrow. I hired a taxi and
together with Tibetan man from the hotel we took him to a hospital. A Tibetan doctor in
white overcoat above yakskin clothes put 4 stitches (exactly like to you, LG) and charge
$7 for it. I took guy to his hotel.Now he is OK.
What a country, I would recommend everybody to come here for a head injury. In America it would cost you 100 times more. A guy probably had a combine effect of High Altitude Sickness and food poisoning. Lhasa located at 3,600 meters, so everybody get sick in a first time. Every store sell an oxygen in plastic bottles. Air is very dry here so in the middle of night you wake up with completely clogged nose and throat. Hotel provides 2 termoses of hot water and basin. So you can clean your breathing pipes and sleep again. Everybody in my hotel is sneezing, coughing and cleaning nose, me too. I went to pharmacy, only to find a bunch of dried lizards, frogs and seahorses. I like my hotel, Snowland Guesthouse. People are very friendly, mostly young. There is a big balcony inside the yard on which people eat, drink, talk. Soon, you know everybody and everybody knows you.
But I shell continue my story. After I came back from hospital, I went to night market in a company of solo traveling lady from Germany and Israeli doctor. Night market has a lot of restaurant which sell sheep heads, snakes and other yammi stuff. They also sell some suverinires, many made from the human parts. Beautifully curved and painted human skills, drums made from human skills and skin, beautifully decorated clubs made from human leg bones. In a middle of market on the ground a un-consciousness handicapped begger was laying. Crowd of local people smoothly flow around him. A western woman and a doctor cannot pass by such scene. Doctor measured his puls, women tried to find a police to take him to hospital or do something. We collected huge crowd of curious locals. Eventually poor guy gain his concsciousness and walk away on his four. This story remind me a story which happence with our French friend back in Russia. We noticed unusually large amount of hair cutteries. Knowledgeble doctor explained that, them also serve as bordellos. So interesting combination, you get your hair cut and in the same time having a fun. Then we went to Tibetan Disco, which was very interestingly decorated with yalk's skills and horns. We were the only Westerners there and were enthusiastically met by locals. We even went dancing.
I wanted to go by bike to Katmandu, and even made a test ride 40 km out of Lhasa and back. But later I read the description of this route written by the people who made it; about attacking dogs, children throwing stones, and about beautifull hidden campsites. Then, I realized that I am missing most pleasant part of whole endeavour. Without tent and sleeping bag I cannot camp. So I decided to go by land cruizer with side track to Everest Base Camp. I am leaving tomorrow Oct 13 at 7am in a company of two couples, English and American.
There are no Internet Cafes on a way to Katmandu, so you will have a brake from my Travel Notes for 10 days. Lhasa Tibet
Oct 12 2000
I returned to Katmandu. I will describe you my trip from Lhasa later. But now I will start from the end. When I reach the end of the roof of the world I jump from it,... literally. I jumped with rubber bands attached to my feet. I bungy jumped! Before I left to Lhasa from Katmandu Sept 28, I saw advertisement about bungy jump. I went to a company which organize it and they told me about it. It is near border of Nepal and Tibet, price $60. It is a bargain. A White House presidential team flyed to New Zeland for bungy jump (on taxpayer money). I realized that I cannot miss such a bargain. Also, I always wanted to try bungy jump. When I exit Tibet three days ago, I stopped at that place, where the bungy jumps are organized. It was too late, all jumps were done for the day. I stay overnight there. It was only two clients for tomorrow, me and brave young girl, Carole, from small (80,000 people) island called Channel Island, located in English channell between France and England. Island is financial haven. All population of it from toddlers to retirees are in finance business. Hey, my dear finance majors, have you heard about this island? We spent long evening dinner with four company stuff members. Two big white Danish girls, from Roubens pictures and two guys. One New Zelander, jump master, another volonteer from Izrael. Girls were talking about arahnofobia (fear of spiders), JM, you are not alone with your fobia. I was surprised to learn that they afraid of these small creatures and don't afraid to jump. I already looked at the jump site. It was very scary, narrow, 164m, 500ft deep canyon, with tread of river deep down there. Later I learn that one girl did not jump at all, the other jumped just one time. I did not sleep well, I waked up many many times that night. All that remind me another night in which I spent on the bank of Katun river at Altay Mountains many years ago, when I decided to swim across Katun river, in search for mumie. Mumie is very popular folk medicine in Russia. Anyhow, Katun is powerfull, wide, white water river with very cold water, and local people never swim in it, only get drowned. So my fear was very well funded. Nobody was killed at this jump site yet, but it looks more scary than Katun. After sleepless night we went to the jump site. Carole, who jumped before in New Zeland said, it doesn't matter for her to jump first or second. But I definitely want to jump second, to see how she survive it. However, jump master told me to jump first. I had lost my masculinity and beg him to let her jump first because she really, really, very much want to jump first. Master was unmoved and told me that heaviest should jump first. He attached one end of bungy cable to my feet. another end was attached to the bridge. And rest of bungy cable was hanging down from the bridge like letter U. I was concern what if I get in the bottom of this U. But it was no time for question and answer session. They put me on the platform outside the bridge and start count 1,2,3, Jump! I did not jump. I wanted to look around and get aquired with surrounding and all arrangement of it. On both side of me were shear walls of deep canyon. Down on the bottom was thin tread of river. It was so scary, that animal fear (jivotnii strax) start to fill me quickly, and I realized that if I do not jump now I will not jump at all. I did not wait for end of second count and jump at count 2. During the flight I did not remembered my childhood or my entire life as it should be. It was nothing but wind in my ears and intense fear. Walls of canyon were so close, and bottom approach so fast. When few years ago I did a sky diving it was not so scary. Ground was far away, and flight was pretty long, about 1 minute. So I even did some stupid experiments. I open my mouth for example and it was almost blown up by incoming wind. Eventually, I stopped failing and bungy cable made from many single rubber bands start to juggle me up and down like big yo-yo. When these oscillations finished I was calm enough to check if my glasses are still in the pocket. I put them in the only pocket having button on it. They start slowly lowering me down. I did not want to hang up side down like a herring and pull myself to get in a head up position, which was against the rule. Eventually they lower me down and a bottom team took me to the shore of river. Then we ascend 500ft up to the bridge. My lung supercharged during three week life at high altitude 4,000-5,000m at Tibetian platey allow me easyly follow young and well trained guides. In Tibet such ascend would require at least 10 stops. I will write about it later. On my way to Katmandu on a truck, which I hajacked, stopped in the village of Tatopany, where truck driver change a tire. I walk around. It was a lot nicer then in Katmandu. Local man walk in their national clothes consisting of dusty sleeveless jackets weared over hospital underware. Women were dressed in colorful sari. They sell different funny stuff on the street. And most pleasant thing, unlike Katmandu, nobody pay attention to me and nobody bother me. Suddenly I felt weakness in my knees and I have to sit in order not to fell. It was after shock reaction. This Nepalese bungy jump considered deepest in the world, and scariest, Usually it is an open space at the bungy site, like wide bridge. A deep and narrow canyon make this site especially scary.
Oct 22 2000
Photo below: Bunngy is Alex flying through the air!
I will move to Pokhara Oct 25 2000, so I may not be able to sent you
already scanned pictures related to the next story with the story. I am sending pictures
now and story later. On the first picture is the Everest North face raising vertically
from the yaks fields into stratosfere. It's scary, I guess every mountain climber, who
decided to ascend the Everest was internally ready to die. LG, (thanks for the book you
presented me), this is where Mallory ang Irving attempt to clumb. Small box in front, is
the Everest base camp.
On the second picture the Everest with my Brompton bike in front of it.
Gospodin Mumzhui at Potala (Lhasa), The Roof Of The World with his Brompton
Alex witnessing the end of the bull market in Lhasa, Tibet
The monks in the highest in the world monastery, located at foothills of Everest are loved to ride my bike
Oct 23 2000
TRIP LHASA TO KATMANDU
At Lhasa I had the same task as captain Ivanov, to find a partners to
share price of Land Cruiser. For a few days I cannot find anybody who wants to go for 7-8
days trip. Eventually I found 2 coupes, American and English, who want to go for 6 days
trip for $125 per person. I knew that couples, are worst travel partners, but I had no
choice. Couples, especially young couples have tendency to get locked at each other and
After we left Lhasa, for hundreds of kilometers we did not see a single tree or bush, only grass. Well, it is a shame to call it yellow grayish pricky something a grass. Only yak can eat it. It is became understandible why Tibetans make everything from yaks and their own body parts. There is notning else there.
First stop at Guantze, the most Tibetan town in Tibet. When you sit on the roof of Tibetan temple in the evening, surrounded by these naked mountains and hear Tibetan monks pray, you start to feel fluids of Tibetan Buddism going through you. Temples are mistical, misterious, ancient (dremychie). They are not tourists objects, they are for real. They are dark inside, smely, durty, functioning, with monks insde doing their daily duty.
Every evening after dinner we had a quiet time, somebody read, somebody relax. American couple use this time to write down daily expenses. They were not married yet, so they kept their finances separately. While one of them pay for a lunch or dinner, they remember how much the dishes of each cost and allocate these expences accordingly. Food is very cheap there, so dinner for two cost $2-3. When they came to Katmandu, they reward themself for difficulty of trip and decided to stay in expensive hotel for $90 per night. By contrast mine with toulet and shower cost $5. Oh my Russian readers, if you are trying to understand this misterious western soul, abandon your attemps you never will understand it. I will write later about misterious Slavic soil.
Our Land Cruiser did not go to Everest base camp and stop at the monastery 8 km from EBC. I went there on bike. Altitude of EBC 5200m. In spite I was acclimatise at Lhasa, I felt all simptoms of high altitude. Soon I stop riding and walk. I notece for myself point of next stop, and usually have to stop well before. Hang on my bike and relax until my heard and lung came to norm, more or less. Everest as I already sait is scary. Southern slope, in Nepal is slow. Northern in Tibet extend almost vertically from morenas, on which yak herds to stratosfere. My way back I made on bike. It was real mountain biking. Amasingly, my Brompton survive it. I left Land Cruiser before last pass of Tibetian plateu by mistake. Then I reach last pass, the bus with tourist from Chech Republick reach it too. I was like folk hero them, like you, PhillBike for me. There are you by-the-way. They make pictures on my and my bike background. I was stupid enough to take no food with me, so they gave me their krendlikis and shpekachkis, which was very useful because till evening it was no place to buy a food.
After initial sharp decent a road became flat and sandy, with strong head wind. I got exosted and tried to stop passing cars, nobody stop. Evening approach it was cold and Nualam which I have to reach was far far away. I realised how stupid to travel without tent and sleeping bag. Suddenly car passed me and stop, and even backed back toward me. It was russian group with Russian tour gues Katia, I wrote to you before about her and her Sirdar husband. These guys saved my life if not them I probably will freese before I reach Nualam.
On next day I get to Bungy Jump place, and you know continuation of the story. Tomorrow at 6am I am going by bus to Pokhara for 4 days White water rafting trip and then I will circle Annapurna on bike Attached are pictures of
1. Captain Ivanov
2. More Potala (Lhasa)
3. End of bull market
Oct 25 2000
My dear readers,
I already wrote to you, that you can read my Travel Notes at www.poxod.com. Now another Internet site published my Travel Notes www.Bromptonbike.com, after you get there click on Gallery, you even get funny comments from Brompton dealer, Channell Wasson.
The writer's recognition came to me! Hooray! Brompton is the name of my bike. Readers who saw only these sites and do not have access to my E Mail address, please have it: email@example.com. Please sent me your comments, questions etc.
I should say that I owe half of funn in my trips to my way of transportation.I arrived in Pokhara, where I know nobody, however soon people start to stop me to say Hello. Somebody saw my bike in Lhasa, somebody on a way to Katmandu. This is probably the only Brompton in this part of the world. Most recently I was stopped by young petty French mademoiselle, who wants to ask me something about my bike. Will she stop me if I was just walking - no way. This is my third long trip on Brompton and it turn out to be almost unbreakable. I always give it to airplane luggage handlers, and nothing happened so far. A broke chain tensioned now and in my previous trip in Turkey and eastern Europe, but only because my own stupidity. Both times I gave bike without bag to bus driver to put it in the trunk. My White Water rafting was OK, not more. Everything was so well organize, so safe, that name adventure travelis barely related to it. River Kali Gandaky was more rough then these rivers on which I used to sail on the Slutes and Lyches (name of Russian folding canoe). But on these rivers you do not see other peoples for weeks, here, tens of rafts float along with you. Travel industry! I am waiting for chain tensioneer here and in a meantime will go to Chitwan National Park for 3 days. A transportation, food, excursion, lodging - all $60, unbelievably cheap.
Oct 30 2000
The name of the Annapurna was engraved in my memory from the time I read
the book of Maurice Herzog "Annapurna" soon after I had attended alpinistskii
lager (mountaineering school) for the first time. For these who read the popular book of
Jon Krakauer "Into thin air", the Herzog book would sound quite strange.
Krakauer book is written by a tough man about other tough people. Herzog book, by the
contrast, full of romantism, sentimentalism, tears. But Krakauer was just a regular client
of tragically finished commercial ascend on Everest. Maurice Herzog was the best alpinist
of his time, who organized expedition which ascended the 8000 meter mountain for the first
time, and he lost all his fingers and toes on it. I was very impressed by the Herzog book
and I bring it in America with few other books which I value and still have it in my
library. I was ready to go to Annapurna area about 13 years ago with my friend Helen
Razewsky. But I had developed arthritis in my back. and in my ankle, and I realized that
my dream cannot be materialized. However later I found an another solution: no bicycle! I
flied to a mid point of Annapurna circle, a village of Jomsom on airplane, and started my
descent back to Pokhara from there, so I made only half of an Annapurna circle. All
tourist agent in Pokhara told me that it is impossible. On my way I did not meet any other
bicyclist, and my arrival was always meet with amusement. Other people told me about
French bike team (from the tour de France, may be), followed by the army of porters which
completed whole circle on the mountain bikes. The first two days I had moved with the same
speed as a trekkers. It was 50/50 of riding to carrying of my bike. The part of the route
some people made on their butt (na piatoi tochke). The third day from Ghasa to Bhalebas
was a killing. I made only about 5 km at this day, it was only steep steps ups and downs,
and my own resources were exosted by this time. The next day I finished in the village of
Tatopani. From there it was easy one day descend to bus to Pokhara. However from the
Tatopani it was another opportunity to take 3 days horseback tour to Pokhara through most
beautiful view point in Himalayas called Poon Hill. So I hired a horse for me, a porter to
carry my bike and a horse handler, 16 year old local bum (oxlomon) all for $50 per day.
And it was the best part of my entire Nepalese tour. Our small expedition went through the
Poon Hill which provides really fantastic view of Annapurna (8091) and Dhaulagiri (8172).
My mountain horse climbed and descend unbelievable steep stone steps, I never thought that
the horse can do this. I had very warm feeling toward my horse, which she did not share
for the obvious reason. My porter took very good care of me and he called me papa
(papasha) in Nepalise. He had 5 classes of education, horse handlers -3. They were and are
poor and did not afford to go to school. Nepal is very poor country and probably will be
the same way in the future. They definitely need a few pieces of good legislation.
Everything is unbelievably cheap here. Hotels for example cost less then a dollar per
night. A western tourists can afford to pay few dollars per night for the hotel, and if
they raise prices the amount of tourists will not be diminished. An uncontrolled
competition drive the prices so ridiculously low. They need something like minimal wages
law, or something else. It was always a puzzle for me; how the lawyers and doctors in
America manage to keep their fee so high while many of them out of work. Why nobody works
for a half price? In the village of Tatopani I met a group of Russian tourists with whom I
spent next day. It was a college friends, one of them with his wife and 10 year old
daughter. They all were new Russians one of them Volodia, was called by his friends
"a classical" new Russian. On his way to Nepal he purchased perfume for the all
stewardesses in the airplane. At the airport restaurant he purchased the entire cart with
the drinks and distributed them to the strangers for free. He was arrested for small
hooliganism in the most of countries he visited. I cannot throw stone at him because I
also had been arrested for an attempt to hijack an airplane (not serious one) and for an
attempt to interrupt with the movement of oceanic ships on the Black Sea while been in a
canoe. We went to a Poon Hill before the sunrise. It was extremely cold, everybody was
shaking in the layers of sweaters. Volodia removed everything except for his pants and
stand almost naked in this freezing temperature. French, Italians and other European
people live the life they enjoy and don't care about other nation opinions. The Russia
from the Peter the Great time tried to follow the Europe. Then in the Soviet time, the
Russia tried to reach and outpeform America. As a result, the Russians have deep sitting
iferiority complex and tried to outperform these damn foreigners at least in something.
Anyhow I had a good and interesting time with these new Russians.
1. Annapurna curcle.
2. Horseback part of my tour, with the Annapurna on
the back, the man on the left is the porter with the
Brompton bike on his back.
3. The Russian tourists at the Poon Hill, Dhaulagiri
on the back.
Now 12 2000 7pm
Alex with intrepid Russian friends on Anapurna trek
Alex takes to a horse around Anapurna in Nepal while a sherpa carries his Brompton
Alex riding his Brompton around Anapurna in Nepal
Alex Mumzhui hugs his brompton in the Himalayas!
Alex Mumzhui and his beloved faithful horse. The sherpa taking the photo is carrying his Brompton for this leg of his journey.
Alex on his way from Nepal to the Taj Mahal in India by Brompton. Photo taken
while he stopped to ask a camel for directions.