Greg Gunther (at the center) with colleagues and good buddies, Troy Parsons (left) and Cormac Carey (right) near Mt. Everest Base Camp.
I wish there was a way I could put into words how my life has been impacted by cycling to Mt Everest. I remember so vividly how beautiful Mt Everest was as I peddled toward this breathtaking sight. It still amazes me how I felt no pain as I made my way closer to what would be my last few kilometres to Base Camp.
It was 2009.
It’s been years now since I took that journey. I can honestly say this trip was everything I expected it would be, very challenging and a once in a lifetime experience! Something I wasn’t ready for was what I was to learn about Tibet, the Tibetan people, and the Chinese influence since the 1959 Cultural Revolution. It’s hard not to come away after visiting Tibet without some strong feelings about what China is doing to the Tibetan culture. One of the first things I did on returning to Kathmandu in Nepal was to buy a ‘Free Tibet’ t-shirt, they really are prisoners in their own country.
A beautiful, clear day with Mt Everest in full view.
For me, the highlight absolutely was achieving my dream of riding into Everest Base Camp. The morning we rode in was a beautiful clear day with Mt Everest in full view all the way in….words simply cannot describe the sight or the experience. One of the guys on the trip has actually climbed Mt Everest and on arriving at Base Camp he said to us he considered the ride there to be as hard as the climb to the top, so that gave us some perspective that what we had achieved was pretty amazing. The main issue, apart from the very thin air, was the many hours of climbing and riding over the rough corrugated gravel road. It wasn’t just a physical thing but also required the mental will to push on.
Another highlight was visiting the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. This structure dates back to the 7th century and was the traditional home of the Dalai Lama. During the 1959 Cultural Revolution, the Chinese destroyed many of the monasteries in Tibet. The Potala Palace itself received heavy artillery for about 3 days but thankfully the structure was strong enough to withstand the bombing. Today, it still remains an imposing sight high above Lhasa. The tombs of 9 Dalai Lama are housed in separate temples inside and walls are lined metres high with Scriptures hand written by the Monks over the centuries. It’s a really inspiring place to visit and to imagine the amount of work and dedication these people had to build such a structure. The tomb of the 9th Dalai Lama stands 12 mts tall and we estimated in excess of $132 million of gold decorated this monument alone.
Greg’s last day in Lhasa before they head out the next morning towards Mt Everest. This photo is taken in front of the Potala Palace which was built in the 7th century.
The landscape in Tibet is surprisingly dry and barren. The Himalayas create such a rain shadow that very little vegetation exists, so the ground is quite bare with no trees and is very rocky. Even at 4500 – 5000 mts altitude there was no snow. On the last day’s ride we descended very quickly 3000 mts from Nyalam in Tibet down to the Nepalese border at Kodari. It had rained all night and was still sprinkling as we rode which made for a spectacular ride down through the gorge, with waterfalls cascading down all around us from above, and raging rivers deep below us. The vegetation turned to rainforest and it was just an amazing sight.
As I think about the experience, I realise three life lessons I have learned from this epic journey.
Traveling to Tibet made me realise how lucky we are to be living in Australia. Freedom of speech and travel is something I no longer take for granted. I am allowed to speak and move about freely wherever and whenever I want to without fear of punishment. My life in Australia is truly one of abundance and will always be valued with extreme gratitude.
The people of Tibet have taught me the importance of friends and family and have left a lifelong impression on me. I saw how happy they were regardless of the lack of everyday things that we take for granted. I have learned it is not material things that make me happy. I recognise that for many Australians the key measure of their success is in what they have, but to me that is not the true measure of success.
My adventure in Tibet required a great deal of planning. The ride is not one you take without months of preparation and specific training. Many in our group were underprepared for the ride and found the conditions very challenging. They failed to achieve the ultimate objective of cycling into base camp at Mt. Everest. I cannot tell you how triumphant it felt as I reached my goal. All of my hard work and dedication paid off as I cycled my way to my final destination and was rewarded with an awe-inspiring view of Mt. Everest. I truly felt victorious at that moment in time. Whether in business or pleasure, when setting goals and taking the proper action in planning, you will always have a much better chance of success.
Made it for the kids! Greg raised his bike above his head to signify the achievement. Base Camp is 5200 mts and Mt Everest 8800 mts, so up that close it is a really awesome sight.
By finishing my journey I achieved my goal of raising funds for the Oncology Children’s Foundation or OCF (now The Kids’ Cancer Project). The Oncology Children’s Foundation is an impressive organisation doing some great things towards children’s cancer research. I can assure you the money raised to help make this trip a reality has been well spent (and well earned!).
This trip was incredible and I’m so glad I persisted and made it happen. Cycling to Mt Everest has helped me discover many ways to enjoy life and make the world a better place. It also taught me great lessons to carry with me throughout my life. I truly appreciate having the opportunity to experience this life changing adventure.
Note: The Oncology Children's Foundation (OCF) is the only charity in Australia fully dedicated to funding research into fighting childhood cancers. In 2012, Oncology Children’s Foundation changed its name to The Kids’ Cancer Project and still continues to fund many research programs in an effort to improve the outcome for children with cancer. Should you wish to donate or know more, visit their website at www.thekidscancerproject.org.au.