Rumbos Home

Faraway Destinations: Peruvian Journey in the Himalayas

Between September and October of 1998, Peru 8mil–Expedición Himalaya (a team made up of five Peruvians, lovers of freedom and adventure) visited the Annapurna massif in Nepal. This circuit is a very complete traverse, an in–depth experience of the varieties of culture, environments and mountains in this part of the Himalaya, and an experience of the Namasté (a greeting to the god that lives in you).

© Ernesto Málaga

Bodhnath Stupa Buddhist monastery. © Renzo Uccelli

Nepal is a culturally fascinating country but also one of the poorest nations in the world. © Renzo Uccelli

Purification ceremony at a Hindu temple in Pashupatinath on the Bagmati River. © Renzo Uccelli

Sheer southern face of Annapurna; one of the most dangerous ascents in the Himalayas.  © Ernesto Málaga

The adventurers pose at the highest point of their journey, the Thorang La Pass (17,782 feet.) © Renzo Uccelli

© Ernesto Málaga

The first language problems after leaving Katmandu. © Renzo Uccelli

Dawn in the Himilayas, the highest mountains in the world. © Ernesto Málaga

Sherpa girl  © Renzo Uccelli

Stone slabs at the base of the mountain hold special religious significance for Buddhists  © Ernesto Malaga

Flags in the wind: an ever-present symbol of Buddhist prayer. © Renzo Uccelli

Prayer paraphernalia are located at the entrance and exit of each village © Renzo Uccelli

The author crossing one of the many hanging bridges the team encountered. © Renzo Uccelli

The Himalayas seen in all their majesty from an inhospitable summit 26,250 feet up. © Roberto Montovanni

Base camp at Annapurna (26,545 feet) under the full moon.© Ernesto Málaga

Moscow, Red Square, green jackets and autumn rain. This was the strange way our trip ended, with our return from Nepal, from Annapurna and the contemplative eyes of the Buddha. With a sensation of finality, of rupture, that in the end did not conciliate with the fact of having been so far away, and so close to adventure, at the end of a millennium.

Our connecting flight to Lima kept us three costly days in this imposing city, which we took advantage of by visiting, walking around with our distinctive air, an air of the mountains and of hurried nostalgia. Time had been dispassionately short.

On the paved walks of the Kremlin and in the extensive yellow forest of Gorky Park, I returned to the pain in my knee and, by this, to the real Days of October. To another kingdom.

The Roof of the World

In relating this traverse through Nepal and the Himalayas I will leave out words, in an act that will be both voluntary and obligatory at the same time. I will try not to surpass the borders in my narrative of what was in reality an unforgettable team voyage. I will therefore begin this diffuse story with what remains most clear: thank you Renzo*, Pichón, Hugo and Aldo.... let’s end this farce!

Even now, I still don’t remember on which day exactly our traverse through the Himalaya, through the Roof of the World, began. But I am aware that this nascent experience has made us understand that there is a roof in every world, and this is difficult to accept, especially now when we have begun seriously thinking about our return.

In any case, the door to our destiny opened at Thribuvan airport in Khatmandu, capital of the kingdom of Nepal (a single word more and it will all seem a legend). We arrived with the idea of making our first–ever approach through territories of the Himalayan mountains, and also with the emotion of having rid ourselves of the stigma of reaching the ‘unreachable’ Asian continent.

Katmandu seemed like a perfect living work of Shiva, the Hindu god of creation and destruction. In this city there is birth and death every day, a spiritual vitality that contains, in the same mosaic, as much magical richness of culture and nature as the most acute conditions of poverty on the planet.

It has been geographically inevitable for Nepal to become an important center for trade between China, Tibet, and India. This kingdom was only recently opened to the world, in 1951 to be exact, by King Tribhuvan of the Rana dynasty, whose grandson King Birendra rules today.

We found ourselves at its center, Khatmandu. For our explorations, however, we had chosen something even more in its interior, the Annapurna massif (8,091m, or 26,547 ft) at its heart.

The quantity and variety of adventurers who walk this path is impressive. Nevertheless, the characteristics of the route, its distance and the placement of refuges allows for everyone to plan their strategy and find their own rhythm. In the end, one simply leaves it up to destiny, laughing at coincidence, and meeting extraordinary and unforgettable companions of adventure.

The language is that of pirates. One is understood through the complicity of the real traveler; a smile or a breath signal can open and close intense, complete dialogue. Many dialogues being dominated by that rare assurance of never seeing each other again. Nothing is necessary to keep back until the next day.

At the registry of Bhul Bhule, we were left with the curious statistic of being the first group of Peruvians to walk this route. The route itself left us with the happiness of the people we met.

The empathy of the ‘five cholos in the Himalayas’ left a lasting image, thanks to our five obligatory beers in almost every refuge. The good and unfailing energy, as much within the group as towards our surroundings, marked our relations with people, and left us with the sensation of having truly enjoyed ourselves in their midst.

It is difficult for eyes and body to arrive at this region and completely perceive its exile. Gazing at my muddy feet, only the wind penetrates my thoughts and I can feel myself walking in the world. I could have been on any Inca trail, walking for a pack of llamas to pass, standing to one side.

The State and tourism in Nepal

Behind the precarious office infrastructure, the permits and registration of approximately 250 thousand tourists that arrive in Nepal each year are processed, those who come in search of a mystical encounter between cultures, deities, and natural settings.

In the last 25 years Nepal has become the world center of adventure travel. This explosion has put into check the perspectives of a kingdom with respect to its resources, basically comprised of fragile mountain ecosystems populated and worked on by a rural caste that tries to maintain a difficult productive and social balance.

The challenge is to manage, in a rational manner, a travel alternative that has become the most effective way of diversifying the productive offer and income of a country with many limitations.

The per capita income in Nepal is from 150 to 200 dollars a year, on the average. A porter on trekking summits can earn 10 dollars a day, while a high–mountain sherpa can earn up to 1,500 dollars per expedition (or die in the attempt).

Close to ten thousand backpackers in search of adventure walk the Annapurna Sanctuary circuit every year. A ratio of one visitor to every five local inhabitants, a proportion that brings undeniable benefits today, but puts at risk environmental and socio-cultural balance in the long term.

A look into others

— Where are you from, mister? ...Italy,...Spain,...

— No. Peru, do you know Peru?

— Aaahh...Peru...Gonzalo, President Gonzalo, Ssenderuu.

— No. Fujimori, President Fujimori.

— Aaahh...Japan Embassy...

Typical dialogue with the Nepali, from porters to public officials, who have these two images of our country. The first, fruit of the Maoist influence that a local rebel group shares with Sendero Luminoso. The second, fruit of cable television. Both distortions of globalization.

It is an opportunity that invites us to ask ourselves about our mountains, our ecosystems, our people, about our tourist offerings and the image of a Peru so surprisingly well–known on the outside, wherever its adventures have been caught.

It is one look into another person, at another person. This is why we travel, why time turns in circles like bubbles, one inside another, climbing. This is why I play the same song on the record over and over again, for the ubiquitous sensation of being in all moments and places at the same time.

Traveling widens the mirror of life through which we see, know and recognize ourselves in the other. This traverse was loaded with those elements and those encounters. And this bares us each individually, and especially, collectively in terms of country, region, third world.

It is perhaps the stigma of the geographer or the luck of he who approaches the mountain or the sea. I return to the mystery, to the infinite knot that laughs at time. And I stare at the screen, at the words I left in Nepal.

We invite you, through Rumbos, to accompany us and to live your own small Himalaya along the long path we undertook at the Roof of the World.

* "Renzo era un aventurero de corazón, un tipo sencillo de gran sentido del humor, recorrió los rincones más remotos de esta hermosa tierra, cámara al hombro dejándonos un legado de extraordinarias imágenes. Admiraba su trabajo... Renzo, descansa en paz. "  From, En el Recuerdo by Beto Santillan

By Ricardo Blarezo, Photos Renzo Uccelli*
Volume /Issue 15, Page 72
Updated, 2003

[Top of Page]    Rumbos Online