BY GEORGINA KEKEA
TWENTY-TWO year-old Talita Mazini Henderson is said to be the first Solomon Islander to fly the country’s flag high at the Mount Everest Base Camp.
A British citizen, and a Solomon Islander by blood, Talita’s mother comes from Nusa Simbo in the Western Province. All her life Talita had been living abroad, but comes home occasionally to connect with her mother’s side of the family.
It was only recently, Talita made the trek to Mount Everest Base Camp as part of a group from the University that she went to in the United Kingdom. This was for a charity fundraising project.
While the focus of her expedition was for the fundraising project, the pride in carrying the flag that bore her roots also made a significant impact in the hearts of many that saw her picture via social media at the Everest Base Camp. More gratified was her mother, Nagarita Mazini.
“I am very proud because this one will put Solomon Islands on the map as she had been to a place where no Solomon Islander have been to yet,” said Talita’s mum, Nagarita.
Mount Everest is in the Himalayan mountain range in a small country in Asia called Nepal. Talita said her trek was for 15 days. It started with an early morning flight to a mountain town called Lukla. Lukla is approximately 2500 metres above sea level. A little higher than the highest mountain in Solomon Islands.
The flight to Lukla is said to be one of the most dangerous in the world because it depends so much on the weather. Sometimes the flight can be delayed or cancelled for days.
“Aside from the mountain and danger element, it reminded me of the Solomon Airlines flight to Gizo – small plane and small runway,” Talita said.
Everest Base Camp is the starting point for those preparing to climb to the top of Mount Everest.
Thousands of trekkers visit the place every year, some with the intention to conquer the highest mountain on earth. For Talita, the breathtaking view of the sunrise on Mount Everest was worth the trip.
“We woke up at 3am to do the sunrise climb to Kala Patthar, the famous viewpoint of Mount Everest at 5500 metres above sea level.
“At this altitude, it would only take a few steps before my heart felt like it would burst out of my chest.
“It slowly started to get light and the silhouette of Mount Everest began to show. That was all the motivation I needed to push myself to the top. We made it there before sunrise.
“The panoramic view of the snowcapped mountains that surround it is breathtaking. It was worth the numb cold fingers, something a bit difficult to imagine in the Solomon Islands.”
In the Solomon Islands, the highest that Talita had reached in her trekking was to the highest hill in Nusa Simbo. The highest elevation in Nusa Simbo is 111 metres.
So for Talita, the two-week trek in the Himalayas was one of the most difficult, yet enjoyable experience.
“I noticed similarities between Nepal and Solomon Islands. I saw women washing clothes from a shared water supply, there was no electricity in some of the remote villages and there was a strong religious foundation (in their case Buddhism),” Talita muses.
She said they even played cards every night, just like she does with her family in Simbo.
However she was amazed by the dramatic landscapes of the mountains in Nepal just like she was amazed by the dramatic landscapes of the sea, islands and forests of Solomon Islands.
“Both countries are hidden gems where mankind is only just scratching the surface. From the mountains to the sea, one boasts beauty at a height, the other at sea level. Nepal has the highest mountain in the world and Solomon Islands has one of the largest lagoons in the world,” Talita said.
She said she was proud to have represented Solomon Islands at Everest Base Camp.
“We all supported her. My sons, her brothers. We all supported her in her fundraising efforts to trek the Himalayas. So we are all proud of her achievements,” her mother said.
At the same time, Talita’s dad, Christopher Henderson said he is happy for her daughter wanting to see the world.
He said the travel bug in Talita might have come from them (Talita’s parents) from the way they travel the world especially in their work life.
Talita’s father works in the Agriculture sector and met her mother in Solomon Islands when he worked here many years ago. As a child, Talita grew up in the Philippines, Nambia as well as Jamaica.
Since Solomon Islands is yet to pass the dual citizenship law, Talita currently holds a British citizenship passport.
However she holds Solomon Islands dear to her heart as this is also her place of origin.
“When my mum asked me to carry the Solomon Islands flag with me, I thought, why not? Solomon Islands is unique and it is a part of me and I think it is important. Two contrasting places Solomon Islands and Everest and I think it will be nice to represent Solomon Islands by carrying its flag to the highest place on earth,” she said.
Talita loves travelling and charity work. The charity fundraising project that she participated in was for Meningitis Research Foundation.
She raised a total of £3243.22 ($32,000) in that project. The charity does work from medical research to raising awareness with the ultimate goal of eradicating meningitis altogether.
“The groups most affected are babies and students so I felt it was important to help spread awareness as a student myself.”
Talita just completed her university studies and is currently in the country with her parents. She will be going back to the UK soon but promised to be a true ambassador of Solomon Islands wherever she goes and wherever she works.
She says she will also be happy to work or help out in the country’s newest office in London should she be given a chance.
Talita also speaks Spanish and French as well as Solomon Islands pijin, despite not growing up in Solomon Islands.
“My mum used to say a few words in her language in Simbo. I don’t speak her native language but can follow through with a few words,” Talita laughingly say.
Mount Everest is known as Sagarmatha which translates ‘Goddess of the sky’. Locals have long respected the Himalayas Mountains as home to the gods. Until the 1900s, local people did not climb these sacred peaks.
The temperature at the top of Everest can reach -60 degrees Celsius at the most. The warmest it can get is -7 degrees Celsius.
Climbers can lose 4 to 10 kg during an expedition to Mount Everest.
“I am proud to have represented Solomon Islands at Everest Base Camp. Hopefully someone is inspired by this and decides to take it all the way to the top,” Talita challenges.