A Seshego homecoming befitting a national hero announced the return of Sarel Nong from a three-week Everest expedition on Sunday afternoon. Scores of family, friends and acquaintances gathered in his old neighbourhood to welcome home an ordinary man who managed the extraordinary.
A motorcade headed by Lesiba Chuene, the President of ever popular Sapa Yopa Motorcycle Club (MCC) which Nong co-founded some ten years ago, delivered the star to the entrance of his mother’s residence mid-afternoon.
Before the start of the official programme Nong first met with his relatives and a handful of Sapa Yopa MCC members to revisit a second similar expedition within less than a year after last July’s Trek4Mandela campaign. In their vernacular and laced with humorous quips his recollections took them along on a three-week journey to the mountain top and back to Limpopo.
Evidently still exhausted from the expedition and return flight, he afterwards summarised the journey by saying it was an experience of a lifetime that shouldn’t end with him. He wanted to inspire the people of Limpopo to realise it was possible, and also to follow in his footsteps to start trekking and mountaineering, he said.
Asked about the highlights along the trip, Nong conceded to having experienced so many. He mentioned having had an eye-opener about ways in which people lived across the world, particularly in the villages high up on the mountain peaks they passed along the route.
Nong recalled having suffered severe headaches due to altitude sickness that affected four of the seven team members, but team support motivated him to proceed even though he wanted to give up at a height of an estimated
4 000 metres above sea level. According to him Mrs South Africa, Nicole Capper who was part of the team, had to be airlifted to Kathmandu after suffering altitude sickness towards the end of the climb. He said she had been discharged from hospital and returned to South Africa on Saturday on a different flight as the rest of the team.
Nong flew into OR Tambo on Sunday morning on a connecting flight from Dubai, minus his luggage that stayed behind in the Middle-East. On Monday afternoon he was still waiting for it to arrive.
He initially departed for Kathmandu on the evening of 2 April, as he joined the team led by mountaineer Sibusiso Vilane. After Nong and five of the team members descended Everest last Saturday, Vilane was destined to head for the summit of Everest at around 8 800 metres above sea level to gauge his ability to reach the highest peak in the world without oxygen. Nong concluded saying Vilane had reportedly reached Lobuche peak on Saturday morning as part of rotations in preparation for 19 May, the day he is supposed to summit.
Story and photos: YOLANDE NEL