Wednesday, December 12, 2012


At Namche (3,450m) I bumped into a friend who ran an Irish pub and Elvis spent most of his time admiring the bottles. But I can vouch for the fact he didn't drink a drop!

You have to sleep at least two nights in Namche to acclimatise to the altitude, so Elvis sometimes left the pub to climb up the ridge for exercise.

It's a steep climb above Namche but not too much trouble for Elvis.


A helicopter takes off the feared Lukla runway as Elvis arrives the the airport village (2,850m), a week into the trek. 

Sunday, December 02, 2012


Elvis and a friend in Bandhar. Bits of the trek reminded me of the English countryside.

A few days into the trek and we got our first view of Mt. Everest (the black peak half hidden on the far left of the snow peaks).

We trekked across hill ranges, which meant we had to cross a few passes along the way. Of these the Lamjura Pass (3,500 metres) is the highest, we had to ascend more than 1,000 metres to cross the pass and descend as much to reach the next village after the pass. According to a guidebook, by the time you walk from Jiri to Namche Bazaar, you will have ascended almost exactly the height of Mount Everest (8,850 metres)!

Elvis strikes a pose at yet another pass, this time literally the gateway to the Solo Khumbu area.

Elvis has now crossed most of the passes of the lower half of the trek and will walk along either side of the Dhudh Koshi River (seen in this image) until he reaches Namche.


We started the trek from Jiri (1900 metres) and walked along and across lush green hills and picturesque villages. The weather was hot during the day and cool in the night, generally t-shirt weather on the trail.

Rural Nepal, with family-owned lodges served us dhal-bhat tarkari, the main fuel for the challenging and endless uphills and downhills.

Elvis took great care to ensure the colours of his trekking wardrobe blended with nature.

Usually lunch-break happened against the most breathtaking backdrops, and each day brought us closer to the snow-peaks.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Kopan, Kathmandu

In late October Elvis arrived in Kopan, Kathmandu, where I live, to trek to Everest. In particular, we planned to ascend very gradually so that he would be able to summit Kala Pattar, a 5,600-metre hill above Mount Everest Base Camp, which has a stunning, panoramic view the the world's highest mountain and its immediate neighbours.

Here, we see him strolling up and over the ridge to Kopan monastery. Kopan has been my home for more than an year and it's a nice, peaceful, and friendly area just north of Boudhanath, with surprisingly, clean air.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Everest 2012: eve of departure

Kopan, 1341 metres

It's the eve of my longest ever trek in the Himalaya and I couldn't have hoped for better weather. Elvis and I went to Boudhanath this afternoon to get some last minute stuff for the trek, and Elvis clicked this image of the stupa as we stopped for a coffee.

Very early tomorrow morning we're off by bus to Jiri where we overnight before the trek on foot begins the following day.

Both Elvis and I are feeling fit and healthy and ready for the trek.

Elvis is intending to keep update his blog so please check it out for updates and images.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Everest 2012: Acclimatising in Kopan

The holiday season in Nepal is preventing us from getting visa extensions and trekking permits required for the trek, so Elvis and I are putting the ample time at hand to good use by going up and down the ridge around Kopan and trying to stay fit.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Everest 2012: pre-trek primer

A blanket of cloud hides the upper pyramid of Mount Everest, in this image from our 2009 film Maldivians on Mountains. After seeing a preview of our film, my friend Elvis, in the spring of 2010, trekked to Mount Everest base camp with eight other Maldivians and crossed the 5,300-metre mountain pass of Cho La. But persistent symptoms of what was probably altitude sickness prevented him from summiting Kala Pattar, which at 5,600 metres is the highest point of the Everest trek. It is considered by many to have the best view of Mount Everest. Across the mountains and in the Gokyo valley, Elvis was unable to summit the Gokyo Ri, which has a panoramic view of four of the world's 8,000-metre mountain and stunning high-altitude lakes.

Now, Elvis is back in Nepal again for a re-try and I'm joining him for what's going to be a month-long trek because we decided to walk all the way from Jiri rather than fly to Lukla, thereby adding about 10 more days to the trek.

The emphasis this time around will be to ascend gradually from about 2,000 metres to 5,600 metres to allow Elvis to acclimatise at his own pace to successfully summit Kala Pattar and Gokyo Ri, perhaps even hike to valleys neither of us have been to, and enjoy the trek without the pressure of having to maintain an itinerary.

We'll do our best to update the blog with images and dispatches as we hike the well-worn mountain paths.

BACKGROUND: Maldivians 5,000 metres above sea-level in the Nepal Himalaya

A female trekker from Maldives has already hiked in the Everest region  this autumn, however I have yet to get confirmation from her whether she reached the 5,000 metre mark.

Since 1990, at least seventeen Maldivians have trekked on the Everest trek to an altitude of above 5,000 metres, including six women. Of these, 14 trekked to Everest base camp, 12 summited Kala Pattar, 10 summited Gokyo Ri, and 11  crossed the Cho La mountain pass.

At least three (other) Maldivians have completed the Annapurna Circuit trek, which involves crossing the 5,400-metre Thorang La mountain pass.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The colours of cinema

This is a review of Gabbeh (Makhmalbaf, 1996) that I wrote some years ago, which I'm now re-publishing in my personal blog as part of my writings on cinema. More will follow in the days to come.

A gabbeh is a Persian carpet woven in exquisite colours and designs that tell a story. In the film of the same name by Iran’s premiere auteur Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the carpet becomes a central metaphor not only for depicting the harsh but picturesque life lead by hardy Iranian nomads but, indeed, cinema itself. As wisps of their lives are etched lovingly onto the gabbeh, so unfolds a lyrical saga of extraordinary beauty and depth.

A young woman, also called Gabbeh, longs to unite with a mysterious horseman, a stranger who follows her clan in the distance and howls in the full moon. But Gabbeh’s authoritarian father tells her that she cannot marry until her ageing uncle, a teacher and a poet, ties the knot first. This is not a condition to be taken lightly, since he has a very specific mate in mind: one who can sing like a canary. In the event, the lovable bachelor does find an exact match, but daily strife continues to delay Gabbeh’s own marriage. Her mother gives birth, her sister dies, and a baby goat is born to their livestock. In the end, the young woman and her horseman can’t wait any longer; they elope, with Gabbeh’s father following the rebellious couple with a gun.

This tale of forbidden love takes shape through a series of unforgettable images. Against the backdrop of stark landscapes, women and children go about their daily lives in intricately embroidered costumes, as they dye the wool for their carpets from the rich hues of wild exotic flowers and tall grasses. The long focus cinematography captures every detail as these nomads camp out in lush valleys, cross muddy, overflowing rivers, and trek through the barren snowfields of southeastern Iran.

As with other notable Iranian films of the 1990s, especially the works of Abbas Kiorastami, Gabbeh plays with the categories of documentary and fiction. While the elaborate composition of Makhmalbaf’s cinematography evokes painterly traditions, the use of mainly non-actors in the film recalls Italian neo-realism. In fact the director began Gabbeh as a documentary on carpet makers but, along the way, apparently changed his mind. What we are left with is a rich tapestry of realism, fiction and fantasy, and what are surely some of the most endearing images in the history of cinema since the invention of colour filmstock.

Iranian cinema has captured the hearts of film theorists and art film festivals throughout the world. One of the reasons for this might be the rejection by Iranian filmmakers of the Bollywood model to develop, instead, a unique cultural aesthetic, something directors in South Asia, including the Maldives, seem unwilling to try. Indeed, I’ve heard an influential film “expert” in this country openly declaring Iranian cinema as “meaningless”. I also understand another film “consultant” rubbished Iranian films in front of a group of young Maldivian film novices. Prevailing film sensibilities in this country, then, seem to discourage people from enjoying alternative cinemas developed by artists of exceptional vision.

I first saw Gabbeh in a cold, grubby film theatre in 1996. It was the second Iranian film I had seen and I came out of the building, with a small group of film-lovers, in a state of exhilaration. Gabbeh was proof that art cinema was very much alive, and that films could touch us at an aethetic, intellectual and human level.

In one of the scenes from the film, a characters shouts: “Life is colour!” With a seemingly simple but deft stroke of artistic genius, Makhmalbaf appears to have captured that colour in Gabbeh, which to me is the equivalent of a live painting, a passionate love song to cinema itself.

For more information on the works of Makhmalbaf and his family of filmmakers check out: