Was it God or a swig of their favorite drink that made them beat all odds?
All great explorers of the world must have had moments of great adversity, extreme hardship, excruciating pain during their explorations. Haven’t we have often wondered what/who did they turn to in those situations? Did they seek solace in God, in memories of loved ones, camaraderie of their fellow explorers or was it something as simple as a swig of their favorite tipple?
On one of our weekly brainstorms at GoMissing, we got around to debating this question. While it may have been a combination of all, but all of us agreed that these tough men found their mojo in a bit of liquid refreshment. We followed the accounts of some explorers to discover stuff they turned to to alleviate them of some of their pain and exhaustion… and we were not wrong….
Read on and do send us anecdotes and stories on Tough Men and their Tipples, that you may know of.
Tenzing and Hillary’s Drink of Lemonade
We begin with the most admired and loved explorer duo of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. After decades of failure, a team of 11 climbers made the first successful attempt with help of an army of Nepali porters.
Commanded by Colonel James Hunt, on 26 May, 1953, the first team comprising Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans set off for the South Summit, a subsidiary peak of Mount Everest and considered the second-highest peak on Earth. While the men created the world record of summiting this peak for the first time, the final objective of the mission was Everest. They could not go further due to lack of time and had to return to the Camp XIII.
On 28 May, the second assault party comprising Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made their bid. They were headed to establishing Camp IX at 27,900 feet (8503 m). This was the penultimate stop before their ascent to conquer Everest Peak.
At 2:00 PM on 28 May-21 hours before they summited Everest, tired from carving treacherous path that many climbers would follow in years to come, do you know what did the duo do?
They brewed a Lemonade and sipped on it for some joyful moments. They would later spend a bitterly cold and desolate night trying to sleep only to get up at 4:00 AM and prepare for the climb ahead. Around 9:00 AM they will scale the South summit, while persevering onwards and upwards till 11:30 AM when they will realize that they have made it to the top.
The account proves one thing for sure….don’t underestimate the power of a common lemonade! 😉
Ekai Kawaguchi’s shot of Hotan and smear of Clove Oil
Ekai Kawaguchi (26 Feb, 1866 –24 Feb, 1945) was a Japanese Buddhist monk, famed for his four journeys to Nepal and two to Tibet. He is the first recorded Japanese citizen to travel in either country and one of the very few explorers to reach the forbidden city of Lhasa. He is credited to being the first non-Tibetan Buddhist to visit Mt. Kailash and give a detailed account of his experiences. On one such expedition, accompanied by two sheep, he had to cross a frozen mountainous stream. Though he is able to lead his trusted companions to the other side, the monk loses his footing mid stream, when he makes the journey back to get his luggage. Icy waters drag him along with his precious cargo 250 meters downstream. While that may have been distressing, anyone will tell you, having all your clothing and luggage soaked in sub zero temperatures can be positively lethal. Stiff, numb and immovable with cold, the monk tried to revive himself by rubbing regions of heart and lungs with closed fists. Doing so for an hour, he gained enough strength to undo his luggage and reach for a dose of ‘hotan’- a life saving concoction that sends him into a fit of convulsions for nearly three to four hours. We wonder what the magic concoction were made of? It saved the monk’s life and the after effects say a lot about its potency, doesn’t it?
On another occasion in the same travel, the monk had to sleep the night in a snowfall without any shelter to protect him or his sheep. In that condition, the monk mentions anointing his body with clove oil which seemed to prevent radiation of heat from the body.
This devout and determined monk was able to fulfill his life long desire to circumambulate Mount Kailash. In his travels he earned a reputation of being a good doctor and a pious monk.
‘Hotan’ and ‘Clove Oil’ stand out in the explorer’s account as being his mojo.
Francis Edward Younghusband’s Regret of Breaking the Last Bottle of Brandy
In 1886-1887, on leave from his regiment in British India, Younghusband made an expedition across Asia. He explored Manchuria, visiting the frontier areas of Chinese settlement in the region and the Changbai Mountains. He then crossed the Gobi Desert to the Chinese Turkestan, and pioneered a route from Kashgar to India through the uncharted Mustagh Pass in the Karakorum. It is said to be the most difficult and dangerous achievements in these mountains. Ironically, Younghusband’s narration of his travels end, not with jubilation of his achievement but with the tragic loss of a brandy bottle.
Mustagh Pass lies in the Baltoro Muztagh range in the Karakorams which includes K2, the world’s second highest mountain. It is one of the world’s most inhospitable and inaccessible regions in the world. When he started out on his travel at Peking (Beijing), Younghusband was given two bottles of brandy. He consumed the first bottle while crossing the Gobi Desert and kept the second to celebrate his crossing of Mustagh Pass. Alas, it was not to be! He narrates, “During a temporary halt, I detected a strong smell of brandy. A distracting thought occurred to me. I tore open the bundle of bedding, and there was my last bottle of brandy-broken…just when both the men and myself were really needing something to pull us together.”
The tragedy happened while crossing the treacherous pass. The bundle of bedding was thrown over the pass to save it from being carried down, and despite being wrapped in sheepskin sleeping bag, it smashed into pieces!
Sigh! Such a monumental loss! We totally understand the feeling!
We halt in this article here and go back to researching some more tough men and their tipples. In the mean time, do share with us, what is your Mojo…
References: Some excerpts in this article are based on first hand accounts of explorers published in The Mammoth Book of Travel in Dangerous Places.