Himalayan trek an odyssey of discovery

Gruelling: Nicole Membrey, right, and friend Linda Bekkers during their icy trek.


SIX months ago, Dandenong’s Nicole Membrey would have described herself as unfit and unprepared for a Himalayan hike.

She also never imagined that what was promised to be a “moderate” trek up and down 3700-metre peak Mt Tharepati – 90 kilometres in six days – would be so hard.

She signed up to the Nepalese hike as part of Windermere Adventure Challenge, in which she and 15 other walkers raised $7500 to take part.

Most of the proceeds go to Windermere Family Services, which helps about 9000 families a year in the south-east with issues such as abuse, disabilities and homelessness.

Some funds also went to Nepalese causes such as the Maiti Foundation, which is crusading against child trafficking and exploitation.

Ms Membrey, a mother of two, admits the walk for up to nine hours a day on steep, loose rock faces, rickety bridges, narrow icy passes and endless snows was gruelling.

So was facing filthy squat toilets, uncomfortable sleeps on a timber ‘mattress’ in -7 degrees Celsius and repetitious meals of potato, rice and soggy pasta with yak cheese.

“We had trained at the 1000 Steps in the Dandenongs but nothing could compare to the trails we faced in Nepal,” Ms Membrey said. “There were times when you’re thinking ‘I’m not enjoying this’.”

Yet Ms Membrey says she awoke each morning along the trek surprisingly invigorated.

The group visited a Nepalese refuge for girls and women rescued from forced prostitution in India. Some were mothers and still at school age.

Ms Membrey said many of the girls had been tricked into the trade by so-called family friends.

They were regularly ostracised from their home villages for having lost their virginity or because they were believed to have sexually transmitted diseases.

The tour party also helped to paint a school. There was also time for sightseeing, including an exhilarating plane ride into the realm of Everest in clear skies.

At the peak of the journey, she held a simple message for her workmates at her family’s business Membrey’s Transport and Crane Hire who sponsored her trek: “Thank you for your support.”

“I’d love to go back and do the same trek again,” she said.