Archive for GHEebase category
August 12th, 2013

Sand Stops Work at E-base

Day two of the expedition and it is time to get in gear, after arriving in the new accommodations we all headed to the E-base together for the first time. Once there we got about our separate missions, cleaning the floors and windows. Moving the book cases into the base and putting up the signs and banners. You can see in my image below the sand storm that was slowly on its way towards us. Yesterday when Rob and I saw the base for the first time there was some evening winds ( A daily occurrence in Leh) and with that some sand. However today was a full on sand storm. As it got nearer and nearer more dust and sand was picked up and we could feel it hitting our faces. Eventually it was too strong and painful to be outside in so we all sought shelter in the base. Because of this our operation for the day was ended and we will have to make up for it tomorrow morning before the inauguration happens later in the day! It was a very dramatic scene as we ran around the sand grabbing cameras, bags and whatever else had been left outside and then scurrying in as fast as possible.

After leaving the e-base we all got into a Bus and headed to the Leh presentation hall, where we would receive a cultural presentation from the local children. This involved a display of many of their intricate traditional dances originating from Leh’s first settlers. It was fantastic to see such history alive and all the traditional dress.

This was all a part of the official welcoming from the Guru Bihikku Sanghasena, he is a local Lama, a disciple of the Dalai Lama, and the region of Leh is under his protection. He is the man that granted Paras permission to build the e-base for the local schools, and this was  their chance of welcoming our team to this fantastic place.

In the final dance we were encouraged to join in,  and boy were we bad!

We also had a Birthday celebration today! Joost from the Netherlands, one half of the incredible Cycle for Water team, he and Michiel cycled alone from The most northerly point in Alaska to Ushuaia where they met with Robert Swan and the 2041 team for IAE 2012, and they continued their cycle in the Antarctica peninsula!

 Oli Wheeldon

August 12th, 2013

Welcome to Leh

I was glad I had a window seat from Delhi to Leh, flying over the Great Himalayan Range was like passing the barrier into another world. With incredible multi-coloured mountains and their luscious green pastures hidden in between them.

It felt like a mirage to see such thriving foliage in the middle of the Himalayan cold deserts. These natural beauties are easily explained. Between mountains the melt water meets, create streams and eventually rivers. Where there is water, there is life. As plant life appears, the roots reduce soil erosion and eventually more and bigger life can exist, creating these mini forests and groves. Because of this people can live here. The plant life retains the water in the soil and there is enough for farming, therefore human settlements. Whilst this sounds idyllic and pristine, and believe me sitting in the front garden of the Leh meditation center listening to the apple groves sway in the wind, it feels just like that. However there is trouble in paradise. The ‘3rd pole’ is melting at an alarming rate.

Upon arriving in Leh I was greeted by Paras, organizer and creator of the expedition, JP from India as well as Laura and Andrew from the UK were on the same flight. Once we were all together and introduced we headed up to the first night’s accommodation. We were sharing huts on the mountains with views down the valley to the mountains opposite. In perfect earshot of the cows and dogs which apparently kept people up at night. The first day as mostly unscheduled to allow us to acclimatize to the weather, time zone and altitude. Arriving at over 12,000 feet can have some strange effects! I did manage to go to see the E-base in its current state. Robert Swan and I went to see Paras at the e-base to see how it was progressing.

The dinner there was served in many sessions featuring a mixture of traditional Indian and Chinese food.  The next morning I got up at 6:30am to make it to the yoga session, my first ever!  I was grateful for the opportunity to show off my incredible lack of flexibility, but of course a strong focus of Yoga is focus and breathing, I was amazed that after just 50 minutes of it my breathing capacity had practically doubled. I felt so much more grounded by so relaxed at the same time, I can’t wait for the next session!

Paras Loomba, a member of IAE 2012 left the expedition inspired and with a promise. He would create another e-base. Yesterday Robert Swan and some of the team got to see the base for the first time. Paras told us about its renewable construction, using a building technique called ‘Rammed Earth’ the e-base is built in the same method as the nearby fortress and most ancient monasteries. It is great for two reasons, it lasts, and is made sustainably using local materials. The solar panels arrived just 5 days ago and are already set-up, wired and powering the base.

Today we moved from our hilltop huts to the Mahabodhi Meditation Centre, just downhill from the E-base and it’s nearby school we were created with the traditional Khataks. Rather than great with flowers, of which there are few in Leh, we were given Khataks’s around our necks to wear.

We got to visit the Leh school for boys today and were greeted with rapturous joy! The kids were so welcoming and fighting to have their pictures taken it was so incredible!

Oli Wheeldon reporting from Leh, India

August 10th, 2013

Global Himalayan Expedition- Day Zero

Its Day Zero of the Expedition and almost everyone is here! 30 Participants. 6 Nations. A Global Expedition. Some of us have already acclimatized to the altitude (11,000 ft above sea level), while some of us are getting there. The Global Himalayan Expedition is about to begin! An adventure of a lifetime awaits all of us on the ‘Roof of the world’- Ladakh. We are here!!

I think the greatest miracle yet has been making it this far! Some of us have been on the International Antarctic Expedition with 2041, some of us are in the mountains for the very first time, for some of us it’s the first-ever Expedition of our lives. The dictionary meaning of an Expedition goes like this- ‘A journey or voyage undertaken by a group of people with a particular purpose’. We are all here in Ladakh for the next few days with one purpose –Sustainability, which, we are going to make possible with the launch of the third e-Base.

Robert Swan is here with us in Leh, the Capital city and We have together had the chance to see some of the most amazing places possible in the world, with the GHE and 2041 flag flying high at the Khardungla Pass, the highest motorable pass in the world at 18,380 feet! Known as the Last Shangrila, Ladakh is just breathtakingly inspiring!

Sonal Asgotraa, Robert Swan and Divya Nawale

Having seen the E-Base at Bellingshausen in the Antarctic, which is the first of its kind in the world and been a part of the team setting up of the Second one in Pench Tiger Reserve in India during 2011, just being here for the Launch of the third education station is overwhelming. It’s amazing what a full-circle this has come to, the third e-base of its kind, in the Himalayas, also known as the ‘Third Pole of the World.’

Robert Swan, flying the 2041 flag in Leh

What Paras Loomba and the team are trying to achieve here for the Ladakhi children  in the region by connecting them to the ‘Outside World’ is a magnanimous effort. I can’t wait to see it all in ACTION tomorrow morning as we initiate the expedition and the e-base at the same time. The e-base at the ’3rd Pole’ is a modest attempt to bridge the educational gaps for one of the remotest regions in the world. For these school kids, it would open up a new world of possibilities, ideas and future as it will for all of us participants here. We will be a part of the ‘Change’ that will help promote Sustainability in this region and also the rest of world. We hope to make a difference.

Divya Nawale, IAE Alumni

See how solar is being brought to the ‘Roof of the World’ in this recent article in the  Hindustan Times.

 

August 10th, 2013

GHE Team Member in Transit

After the impossibly long effort to take out some form of money, I found myself needing a taxi from on terminal to the other, I booked my prepaid taxi and pay 3/5ths again in tips.  The taxi driver I ended up with  said ‘have you got your tip ready’ half way through the journey. However it is not worth the hassle to refuse, the trick is guessing the right amount so I don’t end up swindled. I am new to the currency and still unsure of its worth. All I know is that the amount I gave he was not happy about.

They also weren’t happy about the address I filed in for my country entering form. Apparently e-base, Leh isn’t an accepted address. After telling him what we were doing he soon understood and did accept me in, and my address set as E-Base, Leh. The taxi journey was interesting, clearer roads than I was expecting, perhaps this is because it is 1 o’clock in the morning. With the window open it was easy to see how much smog drowns the city, I could certainly feel it hit me in the face as we whizzed around in the traditional Delhi taxi cab.

2:46 am

Waiting in the entrance hall for checking in to start. The rain has started outside. Something I noticed in the in-flight magazine that I enjoyed was an advert for holidays, but instead of saying ‘where will you go this summer’ it said ‘where will you go this monsoon?’ I really want to take a long exposure shot outdoors to show how much smog there is. But I don’t want to draw attention to myself with a big fancy camera. I already had questioning looks from the military guards who quizzed me on my solarpanel. Whilst I was showing my ticket and passport to the soldier at the door the other bent down and tapped his knuckle on the panel. I looked up and earnestly said ‘its a solar panel’ to which he nodded in approval, he then asked ‘is it working’ to which I couldn’t help but respond ‘well it is a bit dark right now’ as I motioned to the blackness of the night surrounding the building.

3:19 am

Thank god I have chocolate!

3:24am

I don’t think the board will ever change, I am destined to stay here forever…

4:54am

Through security, just managed to snag some all important sofa real estate, time for a snooze attempt

5:30

Other team members on the same flight might be arriving now, I am wondering around looking for tell tale signs.

7:39

Had an hour of trying to get internet to work, no luck. 20 minutes till boarding, I need to remember to get a drink for my altitude tablet.

Oli Wheeldon, IAE 2013 Team Member, GHE Media and Communications.

*Oli has now arrived safely at Leh where he is acclimating to the high altitude.

August 8th, 2013

Less than 24 hours to go!

All packed up now and it is incredible how much can fit in one bag! With knowledge that everyone has set off, some in Delhi some even in Leh already, I definitely feel like I am last to leave, I’d love to see if anyone else has gone as camera crazy as me, however,  as the Media and Communications Manager I feel it is my responsibility to! I have even printed a lunar chart so I know what time and night will be best for stars. As the weather stands at the moment, it will be the 13th of August, which is when we are set to be camping on the shore of Lake Pangong Tso. This body of water is shared with China and will be the farthest east we travel, some 30km from Leh itself.

I have also just found out that the food on the trip will be vegetarian, following mostly Tibetan traditions as Leh is partially influenced by Tibetan/Nepalese culture.  I thought it’d be interesting to take a before and after picture of myself; Before whilst at home, and then after having two weeks in the mountains hiking, cycling and rafting in the summer sun but freezing nights, and the whole time having a very different diet to normal!

Our team is much smaller than Antarctica nearing around 25 including leaders as opposed to the 70 of us in Antarctica, however that Antarctica team as made up of people from 28 different nations, many more than the Himalayan team! This will help give the expedition a very different feeling!

On our 4 day trek to Sumda Chenmo we will be completely out of contact and without power, heading to a village that has never had electricity. Once there we will be able to see how people have existed in such a hostile environment, with so little, they will be able to teach us so much, we also have a surprise for them as well and I cannot wait!

Being the photographer, 4 days with no power is not a comforting thought, and so I bought myself a solar charger, the one I went for is big enough to charge laptops, meaning it can charge anything! I was worried at first that it would not be worth the rather high cost. But as soon as it arrived I felt out sturdy it was and I saw the little red light glowing, indicating it was receiving sunlight! The comforting knowledge that I will always have power whenever I need it really is priceless.

After testing it’s charge time in the sun, and using it’s internal battery to charge my phone and cameras it was time to pack.

 Here I have laid out all the gear I will have on me whilst trekking, the things that will probably stand out most are the disposable cameras. I am taking these purely because of my experience in Antarctica. Fellow team member Millie Telford from Australia primarily used disposable cameras, when I saw the results I was blown away. Because they aren’t incredibly sophisticated pieces of technology, they’re vulnerable to the elements and actually show the conditions of the environment more, making for very humble but interesting photographs. They also act as a backup in case for some reason I have no power!

All packed up! My day gear fits in my camera bag and a bumbag (fannypack)!

 I can’t believe in 24 hours time I’ll be arriving in Leh, finally getting to meet Paras and see Robert Swan again. I feel like after Antarctica, the Himalayas are the logical next place to visit. They hold similar natural features, remote deserts, towering mountains and enormous glaciers, the difference being the amount of Human life within the mountains. I have seen nature at it’s purest, now I will see nature and man living together.

It is fair to say that the Himalayas are not a conquered wilderness. Unlike the deserts of Dubai or swamp lands of Florida, the Himalayas have stayed as is, and it is mankind that has adapted. On this expedition we will learn how they have done so to last for so long, and question why it has not been like that everywhere.

Oli Wheeldon

  • Sand Stops Work at E-base
  • Welcome to Leh
  • Global Himalayan Expedition- Day Zero
  • GHE Team Member in Transit
  • Less than 24 hours to go!