(left)An iceberg seen in Antartica in this recent photo. ( right) Former Joint Secretary of Nepal Dr Badri Pokharel with the national flag in Antartica. Photos: Dr Badri Pokharel
KATHMANDU, Jan 12: Antarctica grabbed his attention one fine day when he was surfing the Internet a year ago. How many Nepalis might have visited this mesmerizing continent, wondered Dr Badri Pokharel. Google search revealed that only three Nepali nationals had been to the coldest continent on earth by then.
The idea that only three Nepalis, and that too while they were serving in the Indian Army had visited Antarctica, made Pokharel more curious. He wanted to pack his bags right away to see the ice caps he had seen in the web pages first hand. But ‘good things take time’, he said.
Within a year, Pokharel realized his dream to get there. This December, he spent 11 days in the continent.
“There is no comparison. It gives you that level of surreal experience. That takes you to a different zone and gives you a lasting impression,” he said.
It takes 40 hours of flight from Kathmandu to Antarctica and a few kilometers of journey in the sea, according to Pokharel.
“From Kathmandu, it takes 22 hours of flight to reach the USA first. And then, you reach Argentina in the next flight, en route to Ushuaia city from where you board a ship. You sail across the Pacific Ocean and then the Atlantic Ocean before finally arriving at Antarctic,” Pokharel narrates.
Pokharel said he couldn’t take his eyes off the water either. “Water, water and water all over. That was simply incredible.”
The water did not make any noise. It was all quiet, though the ship and the activities inside could sometimes ‘disturb’ you.
“It was the deepest level of tranquility, a lifetime experience. But inside the ship, of course, normal routines follow,” he stated.
In the ship, there were 200 passengers and 125 staff. “Life on the water was interesting.”
What is the most interesting thing about Antartica is that the continent is not governed by any particular government but by a treaty.
“Whales jump before you. And similarly, there are penguins.”
The Antarctic treaty was signed in Washington by twelve countries way back in 1959. On 1 December 1959, the countries had agreed to keep the zone clean and unharmed. By now, a total of 53 countries have already been a party to the treaty.
Nepal’s Himalayas danced in the eyes of Pokharel when the ice caps in Antarctica captivated him.
Pokharel recalled his visit to Man Sarover, another wonder of the world, where he had been to over 15 years ago, saying it had nothing much in common with Antartica, yet, both were greatly rewarding.
“I have been to several countries for either work or personal interest. But Antarctica has remained the most special of all,” he said. “If you ask me about our Man Sarovar trip, that’s no less mesmerizing, but we cannot compare the two,” he added.
It costs around Rs 1 million for a Nepali national to travel all the way up to Antarctica and back home. This covers travel and other charges.
“I think it takes around US $ 10,000 for one person. If you are planning for a family visit, of course, the cost rises,” he informed.