Kim Ho-nyeon: Korean Tourist
We met Kim on our way up to the Annapurna Sanctuary in a place called Deorali, where he was sharing the lodge and dinner with us. He is a mad (his word) young man from Seoul who speaks English quite fluently (not always the case with Koreans). When we first saw him, he was outside in the drizzle, wildly jumping up and down, like a manic Jack-in-the-box. The explanation came later, in the lodge: on the way up to Deorali, he had seen this impressive waterfall crashing down the mountain side (yes, the one to the left). And having carried his swimming trunk all the way from Seoul, he thought it would be a good idea to have a bath there and then. Now Deorali is about 3100m above sea level and the water in this fall comes straight from the mouth of a glacier a couple of thousand metres higher: the water is freezing cold and the air is not exactly cosy either (not to talk about the drizzle).
In Kim's own words, he thought he was mad and he would die. But he didn't and during the evening we learnt the full extent of his madness. Kim has what he calls a quite good office job in Seoul, with a ship-building company. He works around 70 to 80 hours per week (this is apparently normal practice thereabouts) and gets a full nine days of holidays per year (again, seems to be par for the course). Furthermore, in his company, everyone takes the annual holiday leave in August. That is where his problems started: his heart craved to walk the Annapurna Sanctuary but in August this is swamped by the monsoon rains: not the best of times to visit. So Kim had decided to go beginning of May instead: a round trip of nine days from/to Seoul. Highly unusual idea this and his boss was not in agreement.
Kim nevertheless booked his flights and, in the weeks before leaving, tried to talk his boss around. When the boss proved hardheaded, Kim left the office Friday afternoon as usual, went to the airport and flew to Kathmandu. He landed there on Saturday, immediately took another flight to Pokhara and there learnt to his dismay that, starting the next day, a bandh (a general strike including all public transport) was scheduled. This would force him to walk all the way from Pokhara first to the normal starting point and then up to the Sanctuary… and perhaps back to Pokhara! Given that he had only a week for a walk that under normal circumstances takes about ten days (plus two for the public transport bits), this meant either giving up (no way!) or walking crazy daily marches: after three days (and walking long into the nights) Kim had already done almost six normal walking days. (On his second day of walking, he received a couple of SMS from the office in Seoul: “Where are you?” which he simply ignored: his boss knew very well where Kim was.)
Because he was in such a hurry he had to bypass the famous hot springs of Jinnu (that's why, in order to get his swimming trunk wet, he had taken this bath in the waterfall). And now it was already Tuesday evening; Kim had only three days left in the mountains (a half day up to the Sanctuary to have a quick look, the rest down), then somehow hurry back to Pokhara and the airport on Saturday to catch the plane to Kathmandu, catch another plane to Seoul and finally turn up bright and early on Monday morning in the office to face his probably less-than-happy boss! A crazy idea, a crazy schedule and the weather didn't look too promising either (it was still drizzly). But Kim was quite cheerful and determined (“It must be clear tomorrow. IT MUST! IT WILL!”) to make the best of his mad dash from Seoul to Annapurna Base Camp and back. The following morning, he hurried up long before we left and we didn't see him again.
The somewhat melancholic end of Kim's story is this. When we arrived next day around noon in the Sanctuary, the weather still was foggy and miserable: there had been no mountain views at all for Kim who couldn't wait, not even for a few hours, until late afternoon when the weather sometimes turns. As indeed it did that day: shortly after 5pm the clouds began to lift; before 6pm all the mountains were in the clear. And we stood there in wonder, surrounded by that amazing circle of peaks, and thought of Kim.
$updated from: Interesting People.htxt Mon 03 May 2021 16:08:33 trvl2 (By Vero and Thomas Lauer)$