There was nothing odd about the way Kruben Moodliar celebrated his 71st birthday.
He woke up at 03:00 to the sound of sherpas singing happy birthday in Nepalese, accepted a “blessed scarf” and then walked 14 and a half hours though freezing rain and sleet.
OK, perhaps it was slightly odd.
Kruben and his 68-year-old wife, Sham, recently became one of the oldest couples ever to climb up to Mount Everest’s Base Camp.
At 5 364 metres above sea level it is roughly five times higher than Table Mountain.
“Averaging 12 to 14 hours of climbing daily, it was 200% more difficult than we ever imagined it would be,” says Sham.
The trip lasted 16 exhausting days.
“But we had set our minds set on it and there was no way either of us was going to give up,” continues the ever-determined Sham.
“When times got really tough we egged each other on. On the mountain there is just you, your partner and your creator. Nothing else matters. It makes one very contemplative and it crystallises the essence of life. It was very emotional, a hugely spiritual experience.”
Sham and Kruben, residents of Oasis Retirement Resort in Century City, underwent an intense 29 week training programme before their adventure, which was designed by Oasis’ bio-kinetic trainer.
“It changed every four weeks. We started in the gym at 06:00, working on the treadmill, and later walked 50 laps in the pool dragging buckets behind us. We also walked up 10 flights of stairs ten times a day wearing weighted vests,” remembers Sham “fondly”.
“Later we walked round and round the Central Park field with tractor tyres filled with stones tied around our waists! We’re very grateful to Chris Blackshaw of the Century City Property Owners’ Association for affording us this opportunity. We hope we didn’t ruin the grass!”
Weeks of training finally paid off when they completed their journey.
“We were first captivated by the majesty of Everest when we saw it at sunset from an eight-seater Cessna some years ago. It’s the most impressive thing to see. It has an incredible magnetism to it – it literally gave us goosebumps. And somewhere it lodged at the back of the mind that we needed to spend more time in the Himalayas,” she continues.
One of the two experienced sherpas told the couple that he had never taken anyone their age to Base Camp before.
There are so many memories that will stay with Sham and Kruben forever.
“Due to the numerous landslides and so forth there is no path as such. You have to step over huge boulders testing each one with your sticks to ensure it is safe to step on. Walking on the mountain in daylight is scary enough, but by night was another experience.
“These sherpas are unreal, how they know their way over boulders, through rivers and ice is unbelievable!”
The sound of creaking glaciers and the roaring of distant avalanches were also apparently something to experience.
On Kruben’s birthday, and the day of the final trek to Base Camp, they got up at 03:00 to start the climb from Gorakshep.
The sherpas sang to Kruben and presented him with a blessed scarf they got from a monastery, as well as a bouquet of mountain anemone flowers picked the night before.
For the first few hours the silver glow of the moon was their companion and then they were battered by rain and sleet.
What was supposed to be an eight hour journey to Base Camp and back became a treacherous 14 hour trek.
As for their next adventure, Sham jokes by saying that the family hopes and prays they won’t be scaling a volcano.