|Home | Issues | The Daily Star Home | Volume 6, Issue 26, Tuesday, June 28, 2011|
The rush of landing in a new country can always be enthralling. You expect to see new places, people or perhaps find a new perspective in life.
That I had to bump upon that new perspective in a country hundreds of miles away when it was sitting just a few meters away from me is laughable, but let's just say, it was a pleasant surprise.
Nepal wasn't any different and as I ventured into a rainy Kathmandu last month, the distant mountains reminded me of a few places I've been to previously, but what awaited me was nothing like I've ever seen.
After arriving at the Tribhuvan International Airport and the subsequent short trip to the hotel, a trip to Thamel beckoned. There, hundreds of tourist shops are lined up selling cashmere shawls as well as artefacts, particularly the Gurkha knife. The “kukri” comes in many sizes but the shape and curve remains similar. It would be smart to buy one of those from the government-sanctioned shops.
A visit to the world famous Rum Doodle Café is also a must when you go to Thamel.
Inspired by WE Bowman's novel “The Ascent of Rum Doodle”, the bar and restaurant is decorated with pictures from the book and is a popular staging point for expeditions to Mount Everest.
The steaks, soups and fries are tasty but what would really interest visitors is the décor of the place, a quaint Nepali tea house setting with dancing stages and hundreds of 'feet' hanging from atop.
At the top of the alley that leads into the Rum Doodle is a shop specialising in trekking route t-shirts. If you're a strong bargainer (and you need to be in Nepal for virtually everything), a good price awaits you for these souvenir tees.
The next morning, the tourists' bus took us out of the Kathmandu Valley and westwards on to Pokhara. There it struck me; Nepal is not just a usual holiday destination, people actually come here to trek, to climb mountains and find themselves in several ways. Sure you can stay in Kathmandu and enjoy the subcontinent at its best, but what Nepal really meant for outsiders was a place to explore.
After arriving in the afternoon in Pokhara, the continued disappointment in cities was unabated but we planned for a very early start the next day, a 40-minute ride up to Sarankot, a small village famous for its stunning Himalayan views.
The village is located on a mountainside ridge at an altitude of 1600m and from atop, in the northern direction, the Annapurna range was visible while the Dhawalagiri was also visible in the far west, given clear conditions.
On the day we went, it was somewhat clear at nearly 4:30 in the morning. The village was still sleeping as we took our places to view the magnificent Annapurna range, ice-capped mountains with the Fishtail Peak -- the most stunning of all.
As one of the guides pointed out the Annapurna IV, my mind went back to my colleague, someone I hardly know and someone I first talked to only a few days before Musa Ibrahim. As I gazed at the distant mountains, I realised that Musa has actually got on top of that mountain and better still, he reached the bigger summit, Mount Everest.
It was an amazing realisation. As the large group of tourists praised the view and took numerous pictures, it was just as equally amazing that someone like me (well someone who's from my country), has peaked that snowy existence.
Of course he has done it all before even taking on the Kumbhu Icefall or the Lhotse Face or the Hillary Step on Everest. After doing the Keokradong in 2000, Musa did the Annapurna Trail by ascending Muktinath in 2002 as well as the EBC trail and Mera Peak two years later. After finishing off on the Frey Peak, Chullu West and Lagnsisa Ri, he climbed the Annapurna IV, a gradual advancement on the Everest.
Imagining the mountain without a base, I wouldn't blame myself thinking that the range in front of me was part of the clouds. To climb that far up looked impressive despite the fact that it is an everyday occurrence during the pre-monsoon season in the Himalayan range.
Later that day, a trip around Pokhara was scheduled, the highlight of which was the Phewa Lake region. It would remind you of Kaptai but a lot larger and with even more dramatic scenery.
There is also a fantastic hotel in Phewa Lake called the Fish Tail Lodge. While the hotel where we stayed, The Fulbari Resort is massive and has tremendous views and food, the lack of some amenities made us feel a lot closer to home!
But the resort is beautiful, boasting seven restaurants and a small golf course. The rooms on the mountain-side are also serene though the ride to the hotel itself, on one corner of Pokhara, may be a deterrent for a return stay.
As we discussed Musa's achievement, it became clear that he has tremendous confidence and dedication. Story has it that he wore leg weights for almost seven years before he climbed the Everest. It made sense; he had to pack that much weight on his legs during those trails that take the life out of climbers. Even the greatest of climbers have said that Everest remains a unique challenge because of its diverse climbing routes and for a man to be that single-minded, it takes courage to even think in those lines.
Musa however epitomises what this country stands for and how it won freedom. Musa's dream was to climb the highest mountain in the world and he achieved it, something that we have always heard in stories from the not-so-distant past.
But it makes me wonder, what were those people thinking when they questioned his achievement?
The answer came to me just a day or two later when on the bus a fellow traveler began discussing the intricacies of Musa's flight. “I think he took the easier route,” was all it took for me to take up Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard and avoid that conversation.
After the Pokhara leg of the tour came the trip up to Nagarkot, some 2000-metre above the Kathmandu Valley.
The sole reason for staying at hotels in Nagarkot is to catch the mountains coming into light early next morning but we were in for a disappointment. A fleck of the Langtang range was visible due to overnight rain and massive cloud cover.
But the stay at the Country Villa was quite a unique one. Perched on a mountain, the hotel is classified as a 3-star but due to power shortages it will be a frustrating stay. Altitude sickness is another disincentive but overall, the food and service isn't too bad. In fact, an early morning breakfast is a must at this hotel due to the picturesque setting.
Kathmandu was our last destination and as the shopping spree went on, it was clear that Nepal isn't the greatest place to find proper souvenir shops. One wholesaler in the Darbar Market is a good spot but otherwise, it will be a long time before you find a good enough gift for your near and dear ones.
We made a final trip down to Thamel as well as the Rum Doodle where we saw Musa's autograph, reminding us that only a year ago, he achieved that amazing feat.
Prevent the fungal invasion
With welcome rain and cool weather, monsoon brings with it not so welcome skin problems, the biggest of them being fungal and bacterial infection in areas such as the armpits and areas between the toes and fingers. This can be avoided easily by using anti-fungal soap and applying anti-fungal powder after bath.
Avoid keeping your skin wet for too long. Wash your face properly at least thrice a day and follow a strict exfoliation and toning regimen as monsoon attracts a lot of airborne and water borne microbes. Opt for an anti- bacterial toner if possible.
Applying too much hair styling products in the rainy season is not the best of ideas as it will cause dirt and pollution to cling on to your hair due to the dampness. Even without hair styling products hair is prone to dirt during this season and the best measure is to wash it more than you usually do.
Comb your hair only after drying to prevent breakage. Hair colouring is also not a good idea since the colour will fade away quickly.
Natural is the way to go this season.
Revitalise your skin during the monsoon
Monsoon is a refreshing season giving you a break from the summer heat. However, as the showers pour down, you many notice some uneasiness with the skin. The skin behaves a little strange and is often unstable; it suddenly gets oily and then turns dry and dehydrated.
It is necessary that you take proper care of your skin during this season in order to look and feel healthy during the rain. The change in the weather has a direct impact on the skin, which makes a good maintenance regimen very important.
During monsoon, we tend to ignore our skin as we believe that the sun's heat is not scorching enough and so we don't use sunscreen. Due to increased humidity we do not feel it necessary to moisturise our skin. However, skin care is critical in monsoon too. Summer is the season when our skin cells grow. So by the time monsoon begins, there are piles of dead layers of skin that need to be taken care of.
Kaya Skin Clinic recommends exfoliation, one of the most effective ways of caring for your skin. Exfoliate the skin with the use of herbal extract peels, hydrate using Aloe Vera massages and hydrating masks.
Daily skin and hair care in monsoon
Cleansing should be followed by toning using an alcohol free toner, since increased humidity could open up your pores.
Use a sunscreen even on a cloudy day since the harmful UV radiations are capable of penetrating the clouds.
Use a light lotion-based moisturiser or serum with a lightening agent as well as lactic acid this will gently rehydrate your skin and also brighten it up.
Avoid heavy makeup and use waterproof make up when necessary.
Remember to nourish your skin from the inside, too. Eat salads blanched in boiling water to disinfect them, vegetable soup which will keep you warm and healthy and drink the usual 8-10 glasses of water. Your skin is always thirstier than you are!
Care of feet
Do not forget to completely dry your feet so as to prevent fungal infections.
Avoid wearing boots as these will hold water for a longer duration, creating a soggy environment for your feet.
Effective cleansing of the insides of your nails using an orange stick dipped in hydrogen-peroxide would help prevent nail infections.
A home pedicure can be done once a week. This would consist of soaking feet in warm water to which you can add 3-4 drops of antiseptic liquid, for 15-20 minutes, followed by cleansing the inside of the nails with orange stick dipped in hydrogen peroxide and scrubbing the feet with foot scraper. Complete the pedicure by applying a light glycerin-based moisturiser.
When you go for pedicure to a beautician, ensure that the instruments used are sterilised/cleansed with disinfectants, or if possible use your personal instruments. Also instruct your aesthetician to avoid pushing the cuticles as toe nail fungal infections are very common in monsoons.
Post-shampoo, use a volumising conditioner, once a week or as required.
If you need to blow-dry your hair, apply a leave-on conditioner prior to it.
Avoid excess application of styling products, as this could make your hair very greasy due to increased humidity.
Do not tie-up wet hair.
Oiling once a week would help.
Food for hair milk and milk products, nuts and soya products.
By Dr Matiur Rahman
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