Last time I saw Sega he was in Bucharest, on a stage, next to a beautiful celebrity TV star, in a large garden where mature trees protected us from the sun. He was launching a novel in Romanian called Namaste (which means “hello” in Nepal), based on his travels in India and Nepal. The book did very well, helped by his rock-star looks, a good publisher and over ten years experience in Romania’s dynamic advertising industry.
The years rolled by, I left Romania and Sega became one of many wonderful Romanians that I have lost touch with (I feel bad about this and want to go back there and hug them all).
But then Sega contacted me via Facebook: “you’re in Kathmandu?” he asked. Next thing I know we’re sitting on a rooftop terrace in the hip Thamel district of town, eating momos (Tibetan dumplings) and drinking Nepal Ice beer.
We start to catch up; he tells me that he now guides groups of Romanians along the route he described in his travel book — including the birthplace of Buddha and some ancient sites in India and Nepal. He also takes them paragliding, rafting, trekking in the Himalayas and they visit a jungle.
But we don’t get very far as we’re joined by a group of five charming Romanian ladies: Elizabeta (who they say will soon become rich); Anca (who says she will die if she doesn’t get a beer); Crina (who has worked all over Europe and doesn’t want to go home); Ionella (the most youthful and beautiful of them) and Tanti (the silent one).
I establish my credentials by telling a few stories about Romania in the early 1990s, where I worked as a stringer (the lowest form of journalistic pond life) and in humanitarian aid, Before long I am accepted into the warm embrace of this small group, Sega has his guitar out, they’re singing along and we’re dancing on the rooftops.
Never before have I seen such a close relationship between a guide and his clients. One of a guide’s roles is to establish the rules of the trip and this can be the start of an “us and them” relationship. When I have witnessed a guide in action it usually involves him/her telling the group what’s going on, where they are or what they have to do next. It’s a bit like being a parent on steroids.
I get the impression that most guides want to get away from their group in the evenings, not hang out with them. Sega was the opposite, he seemed to be enjoying every minute of our rooftop soiree (I know I was). They had been travelling together for two weeks and were as close and affectionate as a family — but without the barbed, sarcastic comments.
By 22:30 we’d been kicked out of the rooftop place and Sega and I accompanied the ladies back to their hotel. But it was slow progress; Sega was strumming away on his guitar and he looked like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn; Anca was making friends with a black dog and Ionella was dancing. It was the best evening I’ve had in years and I never wanted it to end.
Before parting I hustled them under a light by a hotel and took a series of pictures with my phone. The receptionist came out and watched (in the UK he would have told us to “move along”). The light wasn’t good and I couldn’t stop them moving about, but I did get one decent shot and you can see it here:
Some weeks later I called Sega and asked where he was. I wanted to meet his new group of Romanian party animals. “We’re on the ABC trek,” he said. Before going trekking in Nepal the term “ABC trek” would have meant nothing to me but having seen the mountain in question — the mighty Annapurna, one of the biggest mountains in the world, which has only been climbed by 130 people, half of whom died trying — I was suitably impressed.
ABC stands for the Annapurna Base Camp — a short, dramatic and tough trek. Some say it is one of the best treks in the world. Now that I know that Sega takes his visitors up there I am even more impressed. I take my hat off to him.
You can see my photo of the Annapurna mountain at the top of this article. It’s actually a series of mountain peaks and you can spend three weeks trekking round it. The high point of the trek is the ABC, the Annapurna Base Camp, and it’s smart of Sega to zoom in on the best bit.