Samoan woman conquers Mt. Everest

By Sarafina Sanerivi ,

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ON TOP OF THE WORLD: Rosita Afele on top of the 5,364 meters Mt. Everest Base Camp.

ON TOP OF THE WORLD: Rosita Afele on top of the 5,364 meters Mt. Everest Base Camp. (Photo: Rosita Afele)

A 44-year-old Samoan woman, Rosita Afele, has conquered the world’s tallest mountain after 14 days of living on the edge.

The Melbourne-based daughter of Fuimaono Savili Afele and Tima Afele from Lefagaoali’i Savai’i, Falealili and Lotofaga Safata, is absolutely elated about conquering Mount Everest, in Nepal, a peak often referred to as a “death zone.”

She completed the challenge on 25 October 2016.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Ms. Afele, said it’s a moment in her life she would always remember. The realisation of a dream started 12 months ago with an idea.

“I’d like to think I am a free spirited person; I love adventures and travelling has always been a dream,” she said.

But trekking up Mt. Everest never crossed her mind. 

 “It never entered my mind in a million years, until a year ago. This was a massive undertaking and it was mainly driven by the soul. And after talking to a work colleague last year who had just returned from Everest doing the same trek, it sparked something in me and I knew then that this is it. This is what I needed to do.

 “I used to have this motto in my school days which is “the view is always better from the top” though at the time, I didn’t mean it literally.”

 To prepare her for the trip, it took a year of training.

 “This little trip to the ‘death zone’ has kept me away from those leisurely weekend catch-ups,” she said. 

“As I continued to say ‘no’ it’s nothing to do with your much entertaining companies, or the food, the caffeine, most definitely not the vino…but more the long walks and hikes that has been talking up most of my weekends. 

“A once in a lifetime experience especially for a fob like me as another one was alluding to that “she’s never known or heard of a Samoan whose done this kind of thing so either I’m the first ‘fool’ or perhaps am just a different breed.”

Ms. Afele said the journey from an idea to the realization of it has changed her life.

 “The impact of this kind of experience is tremendous,” she said. “Its mind blowing and it feeds the soul. It takes everything and gives it back tenfold. 

“To be honest, I’m still reflecting upon it. And I am sure I will continue to do so. It is an experience of a lifetime. I’m just grateful God has seen it fit to have blessed me with such an undertaking. 

“I know we Samoans don’t do this kind of thing. We don’t dream of trekking or climbing mountains. We are not encouraged to have individual dreams and goals. We are more about goals for the good of the extended family and community. 

“I don’t think we are as adventurous as others.”

Ms. Afele admitted that when she sent a message to her friends and families about her plan, they were all surprised. 

 “So at first, my Samoan friends and family were kind of shocked but those who know me understood, as I’ve always been a weird kind of fob.”

Ms. Afele left Melbourne and travelled via Kuala Lumpur on the 16 of October. 

During the time she was trekking, she had been updating her journey through a blog she created. She faced a lot of challenges during the 14 days she was trekking but altitude and the coldness were the most challenging parts of her trek. 

“Altitude is the main one,” she said. “As you ascend over 3,000 meters your body struggles as the oxygen drops from then on. And you feel it. So day 2 was the toughest as that’s when I hit over the 3km mark height and it was a steep climb for seven hours continuously. 

REPRESENTING SAMOA- Rosita at the Everest Base Camp.
REPRESENTING SAMOA- Rosita at the Everest Base Camp.
Rosita Afele on her way to the top of the world.
Rosita Afele on her way to the top of the world.

“As it got steeper my body was also adjusting to the altitude. And hours into Namche, I had some altitude sickness. Altitude sickness at its worse has killed people. 

“You feel your body is heavy, your legs lead and your whole inside is tightening up and you struggle to breathe. I literally collapsed and I was so sleepy. I had no ounce of energy left when I got into the Lodge. 

“And as you get closer to the Gorkshep and Base Camp over 4K the temperature drops to freezing points. It’s always a minus temperature. 

“Too bloody freezing for a fob. Your water bottle gets frozen overnight. I slept in woolen socks, a beanie, gloves and two pairs of thermal pants and three layers of fleece tops plus thick down jacket. 

“So getting into a sleeping bag was a nightmare. And on top of that, I had two blankets on top of sleeping bags. 

“And then you start out at 7am and it’s usually freezing cold. There were few times where I hiked in my light down jacket all day…I couldn’t warm up. Some people get airlifted off the mountain due to altitude sickness. 

“I saw a few people turning back as they couldn’t make the last crossing to the Base Camp. That was difficult.”

However, she said that the whole experience was the most challenging and rewarding experience she has ever had. 

“I’ve encountered many challenges in my life, and been fortunate with some achievements … but perhaps in the process have learnt very little,” she said.

“But this has been the most profound and humbling experience of my life. 

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to see and be part of an ancient city, be amongst some of the poorest people weathered by nature but incredibly every day simply trotting up and down in altitude of over 5k meters, in freezing temperature carrying their livelihoods on their backs, endowed with such endurance and perseverance in the execution of their daily lives.

“My every agonizing turn and painstaking step was met with breathtaking views stretching as far as the eye can see, and being in constant awe of the magnitude of creation … seeing the highest peaks in the world always in the shadows above the clouds was nothing short of enlightening.

“It took Nature to bring me back down to Earth… it took EVERYTHING I had … my inflated ego, pride, self confidence in my physical, mental abilities, and in my conviction …. Leaving me cold, vulnerable and guilty of the intrusion, but reminding me of what matters is ‘each breath in the moment’.

“In my quest for healing I’ve learnt that this process is an unfolding journey and harboring such loss in its depth can be strengthening for the soul.”

Unfortunately, Ms. Afele wasn’t able to take a Samoan flag with her during her trek. 

However, she had a Samoan cap with the Samoan flag on it which she had left behind as remembrance of her trip to Everest Base Camp. 

“I’ve left my Samoan cap (I was really sad I couldn’t get a flag) at the last teahouse on the trail. There were heaps of flags from all over the world except ours. So my Samoan cap is behind the counter area.” 

Finally, Ms. Afele wanted to thank all her families and friends for their support and prayers during her trip. 

Ms. Afele said that she felt the presence of both of her parents during her whole trip. 

“I’d like to say that having lost both of my parents I felt them during this whole journey. They were a driving force behind all my achievements.

“And to my families and friends, Fa’afetaitatalo ma tapua’i!” 

If you want to know more about her journey, here’s the link to her blog- https://rositatravels.wordpress.com

© Samoa Observer 2016

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