NewsJailed #Limerick driver suing over fatal accident he denies causingBy Staff Reporter – April 21, 2016 1156 RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR Email WhatsApp Limerick’s National Camogie League double header to be streamed live Predictions on the future of learning discussed at Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival Advertisement Linkedin The previously jailed driver is suing the MIBI at the High Court in #LimerickA #LIMERICK man who was jailed for dangerous driving causing the death of a teenager almost ten years, is suing the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) for damages at the High Court as he argues the accident would not have happened if he wasn’t “violently rammed” from behind by the uninsured driver of a high powered BMW who fled the scene.Gearóid Cleary, of Ballinacurra Gardens, Limerick, was 25 when he was found guilty by a jury of dangerous driving causing the death of 19-year-old Emma Woodland on Mulgrave Street on September 9, 2006.During the criminal trial, it was the State’s case that although Latvian national Roman Andreas pleaded guilty to dangerously driving the BMW and causing the death of Ms Woodland, this did not exonerate Gearoid Cleary, who, they claimed, was also driving too fast on the night of the fatal accident.Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter Sign Up Shortly before midnight on September 9, 2006, Mr Cleary’s Honda Integra was propelled into a Toyota Starlet carrying Ms Woodland and driving it into a wall some 40ft after impact.The Starlet was crossing the main road ahead of Mr Cleary who claimed that it would have crossed safely had he not been rear-ended by Roman Andreas.Ms Woodland who was a back-seat passenger in the Starlet died from head injuries she received in the collision.Roman Andreas fled the scene but was later identified and pleaded guilty to causing the death of Ms Woodland.Criminal lawyers for Mr Cleary argued that he was not responsible for the teenager’s death and that Ms Woodland died as a result of Roman Andreas rear-ending Mr Cleary at speed.The trial also heard that Roman Andreas was twice the legal alcohol limit and he was jailed for three years and later absconded to Eastern Europe.Mr Cleary, who contested the criminal case before a jury found him guilty, was sentenced to four years in prison. Both men were banned from driving for ten years.This Wednesday before Mr Justice Brian Cregan at the High Court in Limerick, Mr Cleary opened civil proceedings against the MIBI for what his counsel, Gerry Tynan SC, said were significant damages the Limerick man was entitled to.Mr Cleary is claiming that he was not the cause of the accident and should be compensated for the back injuries he suffered in the accident and for the ongoing “depression, shock and upset he has suffered to this day because of the loss of the life he has been blamed for”.Michael Gleeson SC, counsel for the MIBI, said the defence will argue that “racing” was a factor in the fatal collision but essentially the MIBI, has been left to “pick up the pieces” as Roman Andrew absconded.The case is expected to last three days and will hear evidence from expert witnesses including Garda PSV forensic collision investigator, Mike Reddy, who attended the scene in 2006. Limerick Ladies National Football League opener to be streamed live Twitter TAGSfeaturedGearoid Clearyhigh courtlimerickMIBIsuing for compensation Facebook Previous articleDemocracy celebrated at Limerick Spring FestivalNext articleGrandparents to be immortalised Staff Reporterhttp://www.limerickpost.ie Print Limerick Artist ‘Willzee’ releases new Music Video – “A Dream of Peace” WATCH: “Everyone is fighting so hard to get on” – Pat Ryan on competitive camogie squads Billy Lee names strong Limerick side to take on Wicklow in crucial Division 3 clash
The Lakers normally do not pop champagne bottles until after winning an NBA championship, something that has happened 16 times in the franchise’s rich 67-year-old history. But the celebration seemed understandable after the Lakers suffered their worst seasons in franchise history in consecutive years. It also spoke to the importance on how much a draft pick could ensure a foundation sturdy enough to play through June.Which college prospect best fits that bill? All signs point to two big men, either Kentucky’s Karl Anthony-Towns or Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. It seems fitting since the Lakers once leaned on George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal.“Signing Okafor or Towns to play with Kobe [Bryant], [Julius] Randle, [Jordan] Clarkson and some good free agents will help the Lakers compete in the West!” Lakers luminary Magic Johnson tweeted late Tuesday night. “With the #2 pick we can get a great big man, add some good free agents this summer & we will be right back as a contender next season!”• Related: Behind the scenes look Lakers’ NBA Draft LotteryLakers coach Byron Scott declined to say he narrowed in on just Anthony-Towns or Okafor. Scott planned to talk with Kupchak on Wednesday. The Lakers will also host plenty of workouts leading up to the June 25 draft, with likely candidates including point guards (China’s Emmanuel Mudiay, Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell), wingmen (Duke’s Justise Winslow, Arizona’s Stanley Johnson) and other big men (Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein, Latvian’s Kristaps Porzingis). But most NBA analysts and mock drafts favor Anthony-Towns and Okafor. Bovada, a sports gambling Web site, listed Anthony-Towns as a 1-2 favorite to become the No. 1 pick. Meanwhile, Okafor has 7-4 odds to go No. 1, while other prospects have a combined 5-1 odds to take the top spot.“They’re young and can really be a cornerstone for the future of that franchise. They’re as good as post players as we’ve seen come through the draft in quite some time,” NBA TV analyst Grant Hill said. “The general consensus is if you have the No. 1 pick, you pick one of those two guys.”• Related: See how Lakers organization and fans reacted to lotteryThe Minnesota Timberwolves have the No. 1 pick after ending last season with the league’s worst record (16-66). Incidentally, that might make the draft process easy for the Lakers presuming both teams opt for either big man.Anthony-Towns has largely been credited as the most versatile center, with talent evaluators gushing about his athleticism and defense. Anthony-Towns averaged a modest 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds, but he played on a team that will feature six other players in this year’s NBA draft.“He’s a natural scorer,” Cauley-Stein said of Anthony-Towns. “He can put the ball in the hoop. There’s a lot of things defensively. He uses his body really well. He’s going to make an impact early. He’s NBA ready.” And Okafor?Most consider him the most offensively polished player in the game after Okafor led the Blue Devils to the NCAA championship game. NBA talent evaluators rave about his big hands, footwork and post moves. “He’s unstoppable and a lot of teams have to double him,” Winslow said of Okafor. “He can also step out and hit a 17-, 18-foot jump shot. He has great ball-handling skills for a big man. The potential for him is unlimited.”Such sentiments stop, however, when the subject is Okafor’s free-throw shooting or defense. “All players struggle with something. I struggled with defense sometimes this year. But there’s definitely segments and moments in games where Jahlil’s defense is unbelievable.” Winslow said. “I never doubted his defensive abilities. I knew he’d have my back on pick-and-roll coverages like that. He’s a great player and defender and I know he’ll do great in the NBA.” The Lakers might be content with either center, knowing their storied championship history once thrived thanks to big men. That could prompt Kupchak and the rest of the Lakers to pop champagne bottles again in June. The smile formed on Mitch Kupchak’s face, the Lakers general manager finally finding something to cheer about after overseeing a roster in recent seasons that brought little joy.The Lakers landed the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft lottery, hanging on to a needed asset they could have lost as part of the Steve Nash trade. So, Kupchak opened a champagne bottle for himself and other members of the Lakers’ front office.“All right, guys. Good job,” Kupchak said in a video released on the Lakers’ Twitter account. “We didn’t get number one. But number two is OK, in this case.”• Related: Lakers land No. 2 pick in NBA Draft Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
BiH Junior handball team defeated team of Tuzla Canton in a test match defeated team of Tuzla Canton with 31:28. The match was played in Mejdan hall, with 200 spectators, and Alija Hasić and Vladimir Jović said goodbye to their referee career.Junior team of BiH had three trainings in Mejdan as a part of preparations for the World Cup.The most efficient players were Elmir Građan, Enes Skopljak and Muhamed Zulfić; they all scored four goals each.Manager of BiH senior team Dragan Marković, director of BIH team Mirza Muzurović, former captains of BiH team Enid Tahirović and Senjanin Maglajlija watched the match from the audience.
The college admissions scandal is heading to the small screen.In a press release Tuesday, Lifetime announced plans to release a two-hour film about the real-life college admissions scandal, for which both famous actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman have been charged.The new movie will follow two wealthy mothers who stop at nothing to get their children into the best colleges.Although the network does not name the most famous women implicated, their involvement is reportedly implied.The movies official title is ‘Admissions Scandal.’Loughlin, along with her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, is accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters, Olivia,19, and Bella,20, into the University of Southern California as recruits for the crew team.Neither girls participated in the sport.Loughlin and her husband have pled, not guilty.Huffman, however, cut a deal with prosecutors and pled guilty to charges of mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in May.She admitted to paying $15,000 to get her eldest daughter, Sofia, into an elite college by cheating on the SAT and is currently awaiting sentencing.The movie premieres this fall.
The triumphant Springbok team, with former president Thabo Mbeki at centre left, lifts the William Webb Ellis for the second time. (Image: Saru) The coveted trophy. (Image: Saru) Should South Africa succeed in its bid, the breathtaking Soccer City will be the scene of the opening and closing games. (Image: Soccer City) The jubilant staff of the Nelson Mandela Foundation celebrate the Springboks’ 2007 victory with their esteemed patron. (Image: Nelson Mandela Foundation) An iconic image from 1995 – former president Mandela, wearing the captain’s no. 6 jersey, presents the cup to then captain Francois Pienaar. (Image: Rugby World Cup) A disappointing sight for rival teams – IRB Player of the Year 2007 Bryan Habana soars over the tryline. (Image: Saru)Janine ErasmusThe South African Rugby Union (Saru) is strongly optimistic about its bid to host the 2015 or 2019 Rugby World Cup. The national rugby body made its 30-minute presentation to the International Rugby Board (IRB) in Dublin on 13 May 2009 after formally submitting its proposal the previous week.South Africa hosted the world’s most prestigious rugby tournament in 1995, a year after the demise of apartheid. In that year the national team, the Springboks, lifted the trophy for the first time.The Springboks, currently ranked number two in the world, repeated the feat at the 2007 event held in France. In doing so South Africa became one of only two countries, after Australia, to win the championship twice. The country is also one of just two to host and win an event.The next tournament takes place in New Zealand, land of the top-ranked All Blacks, in 2011.Speaking from Dublin, Saru deputy president Mark Alexander described South Africa’s bid as “compelling”, adding that he was excited about the country’s chances of snatching either tournament from under the noses of close contenders Italy, England, and up-and-coming rugby nation Japan.According to Alexander, the response from the IRB was positive and spirits were high among the Saru presentation party. “I believe we did an excellent job and we gave good responses to questions asked,” he remarked. “The feedback we received so far has been very positive, so we hope we can get one of the events.”Springbok team manager Morné du Plessis, a rugby veteran with a distinguished career as captain behind him, was equally optimistic. “Our new stadiums will allow us to provide 2.8-million match tickets at prices that will make the tournament affordable for all South Africans as well as international visitors.”The local time zone, added Alexander, is also attractive for broadcasters and sponsors as it is in line with Europe, the sport’s wealthiest television market.ImpressedThe IRB, too, was also impressed with the quality of the four presentations. IRB chair Bernard Lapasset enthused, “We are delighted to have four countries of the calibre of England, Italy, Japan and South Africa bidding for the right to host a Rugby World Cup. The presentations mark the latest milestone in the detailed analysis of the tenders, including independent financial and commercial evaluation.”The South African bid party also included the video presence of Springbok captain John Smit and 2007 IRB Player of the Year Bryan Habana, who were unable to be there in person because of Super 14 commitments.The next step in the careful selection procedure is for the IRB’s technical team to inspect facilities in all bidding nations. Then the four contenders will face a nail-biting two months of IRB deliberations before the future hosts for both events are announced on 28 July.For the next couple of months the sporting focus will be on rugby, not only because of the World Cup bids in progress, but also because of the British and Irish Lions tour, which begins in South Africa at the end of May.The British and Irish Lions tour, the first by that team in 12 years, will bring an estimated R1-billion (US$1-million) into the country. A successful tour will add momentum to South Africa’s chances of hosting the world rugby spectacle.Government supportAt a media briefing held before the bid team left for Ireland, Saru president Oregan Hoskins praised government for its support. “They have provided the financial backing to allow us to complete what we believe is a compelling case to bring the Rugby World Cup back home.” he said.The IRB council has demanded guarantees of US$122-million (R1.04-billion) and $147-million (R1.25-billion) for the privilege of hosting the 2015 and 2019 tournaments respectively. Saru confirmed that the government has underwritten these amounts.With major infrastructure already in place, South Africa has a financial advantage over its rivals, especially in light of the global credit crisis.Hoskins revealed that Saru would use Johannesburg’s magnificent Soccer City stadium as the bid’s centrepiece. The 91 000-capacity calabash-shaped stadium is in the final stages of construction for the 2010 Fifa World Cup and should South Africa successfully win either rugby tournament, the opening and closing games will take place at Soccer City.Strong caseJapan is expected to make a strong showing because the tournament has never been held in Asia and the IRB is on a drive to develop the sport in new territories. According to a report on the IRB website, the rugby body will invest over $219-million (R1.86-billion) in the global game over the next four years.A northern-hemisphere country may also be a more likely choice than one in the southern hemisphere.But South Africa has three exceptional strengths which form the core of its bid.The country, in the opinion of Saru, offers a dramatic stage for the game of rugby, and South African hosting experience can produce a commercially profitable tournament. Finally, with many world class stadiums newly refurbished for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, players, spectators, officials and media alike will benefit from an unmatched rugby experience.Boost to the economySaru said either event would inject up to R10-billion into South Africa’s economy, although an independent report by international accounting and consulting firm, Deloitte, calculated the total economic benefit for the host country at up to $3.2-billion (R27.4-billion).This is in addition to the anticipated R5-billion ($5-million) flowing into South Africa from the numerous cricket, rugby and football events that take place in 2009 alone.Host to the worldSouth Africa has a proud track record in hosting major international sporting events. The country is currently playing host to the thrilling Indian Premier League of cricket, after that event was moved from the Indian subcontinent because of safety concerns. The forthcoming British and Irish Lions tour will provide supporters with a feast of rugby.In June the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup kicks off, and later in the year another grand cricket event, the International Cricket Council’s Champions Trophy, will again see fans flocking to South Africa from all over the world.The cricket, football and rugby bonanza will entrench South Africa’s well-established reputation as a successful host of big international sporting events.The country already lists among its many accomplishments the 1996 African Cup of Nations and World Cup of Golf, the 1998 World Cup of Athletics, the 2003 Cricket World Cup, the 2006 Paralympic Swimming World Championships, and the inaugural World Twenty20 Championship, held in 2007.Do you have queries or comments about this article? Contact Janine Erasmus at [email protected] storiesR1-billion rugby boost for SASaru one of world’s top twoKick start for rugby programme2010 to give SA a $2.5-billion boostUseful linksSouth African Rugby UnionInternational Rugby BoardLions rugby tourRugby World Cup New Zealand 2011
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) global radio telescope project – which includes a first phase site in South Africa – published a book this month on the project’s progress. It features photos and analysis from some of the best science, astronomy and engineering minds in the world. The first phase of the SKA radio telescope project, called MeerKAT, is being installed in the Karoo desert. It will eventually form part of the first phase of the SKA programme. By September 2015, seven of the 64 dish installations have been constructed and tested. The global SKA project is scheduled to be completed by 2024. (Image: SKA MeerKAT)• SKA: answering the big questions about the universe • SKA will boost Africa’s presence in science fields• SKA will drive growth of Africa’s human capital• Africa to co-host Square Kilometre Array A new, updated two-volume book on the history and the science of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) international radio telescope project was published in September 2015. South Africa is very much at the forefront of the SKA project; the MeerKAT telescope system, currently being constructed and tested in the Karoo desert, forms part of the first phase of the global SKA venture.The chapters in this new book reflect both the science undertaken with the SKA, including ground-breaking research in cosmology and the study of dark matter and dark energy, as well as the global efforts by engineers and the science community to co-ordinate and construct such a massive international project.Once completed, hopefully by 2024, SKA will interconnect a series of radio telescope systems in 10 countries in order to search space for a better understanding about the universe and solve some of the secrets of fundamental physics. What is SKA? SKA is one of the largest global science projects ever undertaken, featuring a multinational representation of scientists, engineers and astronomers. The positioning of the African continent and the accommodating climate make South Africa a vital component of the project’s success. (Image: SKA/MeerKAT)The Square Kilometre Array project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, led by SKA Organisation. The SKA will conduct transformational science to improve understanding of the universe and the laws of fundamental physics, monitoring the sky in unprecedented detail and mapping it hundreds of times faster than any current facility.The SKA is not a single telescope; rather, it is a collection of telescopes or instruments, called an array, to be spread over long distances. The SKA is to be constructed in two phases: Phase 1 (called SKA1) in South Africa and Australia; Phase 2 (called SKA2) expanding into other African countries, with the component in Australia also being expanded.With support from Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, The Netherlands and the UK, the SKA project has on board some of the world’s best scientists, engineers and policy makers. And over 100 companies and research institutions across 20 countries are involved in the design and development of the telescope.SKA: the book With 135 chapters, 1 200 contributors and 2 000 pages on the science behind the SKA project, its official companion book is titled Advancing Astrophysics with the Square Kilometre Array. It is available to download free from the SKA website. (Image: SKA/MeerKAT) The book, titled Advancing Astrophysics with the Square Kilometre Array, consists of 2 000 pages in more than a hundred chapters, with contributions from more than 1 000 experts, scientists and members of the SKA organisation on astrophysics, cosmology and the search for answers in the universe, all within the context of radio telescope technology. Accompanied by a variety of photos and infographics covering the science and construction of the SKA system, the book is the authoritative guide on how this global initiative will work. It tracks the progress made on the project since 2004, highlighting the work being done in Australia, South Africa and other African countries including Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia.“The publication of the new SKA science book is the culmination of more than a year’s work by the SKA science team and the scientific community at large,” says Dr Robert Braun, the SKA science director in a release publicising the book. “It’s also a great testimony to the growing interest and scope of the SKA.”According to the publishers, the book deals with SKA’s search for life in the universe through the study of molecules in forming planetary systems and the search for potential radio signals from intelligent civilisations. The search for answers from “the cosmic dawn” – the first billion years of the universe’s existence – will not only inform the past, but also give the world a look at what might happen to the cosmos in the future.SKA and the NDP Construction of the South African SKA radio telescope project infrastructure, called MeerKAT, in the Karoo desert in March 2014. By September 2015, seven of the 64 dish installations have been constructed and tested. The global SKA project is set to be completed by 2024. (Image: SKA MeerKAT) The SKA project in South Africa fulfils the requisites for some vital pillars of the National Development Plan Vision 2030, including skills development through increased job opportunities and training during the construction of the MeerKAT facility, using local labour and top South Africa engineering and science talent.The project also addresses other NDP pillars such as creating efficient, world-class infrastructure networks and developing rural communities. Construction of the South African SKA radio telescope project infrastructure, called MeerKAT, in the Karoo desert during March 2014. By September 2015, seven of the 64 dish installations have been constructed and tested. The global SKA project is set to be completed by 2024. (Image: SKA MeerKAT) A MeerKAT in the Karoo The first phase of the SKA radio telescope project, called MeerKAT, is currently being installed in the Karoo desert and will eventually form part of the first phase of the SKA programme. By September 2015, seven of the 64 dish installations have been constructed and tested. The global SKA project is set to be completed by 2024. Infographic: SKA MeerKAT Further reading: Everything you need to know about the SKA project, including MeerKAT and the new book
25 October 2013 While South Africa and Brazil’s political and business relations are solidly grounded, there is huge untapped potential in trade and investment between the two countries, says Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Elizabeth Thabethe. Thabethe was addressing local and South African business people during a seminar in Sao Paulo on Tuesday as part of a five-day mission to Brazil organised by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). “Both Brazil and South Africa have globally competitive expertise and products in a range of value-adding sectors which we are sharing with global trading partners, but not necessarily yet with each other,” Thabethe said. “As such we are keen to further enhance bilateral trade by also looking at developing complementarities and increasing bilateral sales of value-added goods. It is in the area of value added trade where substantial returns can be found.” Thabethe was accompanied by a delegation of South African business people on her mission to the cities of Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Curitiba, which began on Monday and was due to end on Friday. Thabethe told the Brazilian business delegates on Tuesday that South Africa was not only a vibrant and growing economy, but also a unique base for doing business on the African continent. “South Africa has well developed infrastructure and telecommunications as well as a strong banking and financial systems. In addition, South African companies have developed skills and expertise in operating on the continent, while our financial institutions are experienced in funding projects and operations in various African countries.” Africa is one of the fast growing regions in the world, Thabethe said, with a young population of close to one-billion people constituting the new frontier in consumer growth. South Africa’s ambassador to Brazil, Mphakama Mbete, told the forum that “virtually all business activities in South Africa are open to international investors and foreign investments, and they are treated in the same way as domestic investments. “In this regard there are various incentives such as export initiative programmes, tax allowances and trade regulations. This situation provides for a predictable and safe investment environment in South Africa,” Mbete said. SAinfo reporter
Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Leave a Comment You could be sued by Lake Erie, or more precisely, by any resident of Toledo who wants to speak for the lake and finds fault with the way you’re farming or doing business.It sounds incredible, and likely won’t become a reality, but the threat is real enough that Farm Bureau is engaged in the legal maneuvering.Farm Bureau Policy Counsel Leah Curtis explains that a proposed amendment to the Toledo City Charter may be on the ballot during a special election Feb. 26. The measure would give Lake Erie and its watershed legal standing in court and allow any Toledo citizen to represent the lake and file lawsuits on its behalf.The rights this measure would grant the lake include, “an ability to exist, flourish, be free from pollution” and other broadly described entitlements. Any farming practice that allegedly infringes on these rights presumably makes the farmer subject to a lawsuit. Farmers, individuals and businesses in the Lake Erie Watershed could be at risk of being sued.“The way it’s written, it could be a homeowner with a septic system that’s not operating properly. It could be someone who doesn’t clean up their pet’s waste. It could be an industry or business. It really could be anyone or anything,” Curtis said.Second attemptLake activists attempted this last fall, she said, but the board of elections refused to put it on the ballot based on court instructions. Since then, new legal precedent led the board of elections to allow the measure to go to a vote Feb. 26.At press time, the Ohio Supreme Court was reviewing whether the proposal should be on the ballot. Ohio Farm Bureau has filed a friend of the court brief making a legal argument against it going to voters.Farm Bureau cites common law that says once the Supreme Court has ruled (as it did in the fall), the issue can not be reintroduced. Further, Farm Bureau makes the point that the city of Toledo can not simply grant itself new legal powers that don’t exist.“We’re making sure the court understands how unenforceable and problematic this is, (but) the fight can take time. It can takes years and multiple appeals and it takes probably thousands or millions of dollars,” she said.The issue potentially impacts all Ohioans as this case could establish law that applies statewide.Stay updated on court actions and other aspects of this developing story in upcoming editions of the Buckeye Farm e-Newsletter, available to Farm Bureau members.Regulation through litigationThe Lake Erie Bill of Rights is an example of a growing trend toward regulation through litigation. Aggrieved parties who have been unable to create public policy through the legislative process are turning to lawsuits as a means of getting their way. This tactic is also expensive, requiring additional time and legal fees for agricultural groups to counter in the courts.“They’re hoping to get a friendly judge or jury to override lawmakers and rule writers,” said OFBF Senior Director of National and State Policy Jack Irvin.“Bypassing the legislative process isn’t a thoughtful way to govern, but we’re seeing it more and more,” he said.Policy Counsel Leah Curtis also offered sound advice.“A good rule of thumb is when you’re presented with a petition from someone to sign, make sure you understand it, make sure you actually look at the language,” she said. “We hear from people all the time who say they didn’t know that’s what they were signing.”Online ExtraListen to more on the Lake Erie Bill of Rights on Legal with Leah Leave a Comment
“You okay, Ma’am? Hold on tight, please. Road not so good.” Those words, used by local drivers like Pintso Tshering Gyanapa Denzongpa to describe hellish conditions, have been a constant refrain since my arrival in Sikkim, tailing me all the way north.Yet having turned eastwards now, I’m unprepared for the obstacle course we’re on. The reason is increasingly clear. Nature has a way of lulling you into a false sense of security along the northbound route, weaving so sparkling a narrative out of brilliant sunshine, evocative place names and picturesque mountain-girdled vistas, that the appalling state of the ‘highways’ and the signposts on the way to Yumthang Valley, advising drivers to exercise extreme caution, seem irrelevant.No wonder I had ignored the North District’s darker subtext: the landslide-scarred roads, the blankets of white incongruously layering the verdant countryside that should have been celebrating summer by now and, of course, those signposts warning married drivers to “divorce speed”. Now, on the road to Tsomgo Lake and beyond, it’s that sinister subtext which muscles into the main narrative as our Tata Sumo groans up yet another dizzying incline of churned mud and crushed rock and lands dangerously close to the edge where the asphalt plunges over the precipice into a milky ocean of fog. From its swirling depths, the dark silhouettes of mountains soar up, their crests skulking behind a bank of clouds, waterfalls frozen solid like sheets of glass against their flanks. On my left towers a near vertical cliff, its face arching in a menacing overhang like the jaws of a famished monster. Loosened by downpours from their moorings at higher elevations, boulders lie scattered across the road. It’s no consolation that the distance from Gangtok to the sacred lake and the shrine of Baba Harbhajan Singh, where we’re headed, is just 40 km. The driving conditions, the altitude to which the road will ascend–a vertiginous 13,200 ft–and the oxygen-deficient atmosphere at those heights kill all illusions. Here, nature offers no picture-postcard-pretty visuals. Beautiful in a raw, primordial way, it holds in its bare rock and ice-carved fists the menace of violence and devastation. If the inevitable signpost warns that ‘you can’t command nature’, it’s the outcome of a lesson learnt the hard way. Not far away stands a crude stone memorial to the road construction workers who have perished in recent landslides.As sobering a thought as the ever-present perils of high-altitude sickness (HAS). Since my route today will be taking me higher than I’ve ever been in my life, my thoughts keep wandering to David, the smiling ghoul who had driven me up to Gangtok and spooked me proper with his lurid descriptions of what a visitor, unacclimatised to the thin air, could expect, crowning it with a cheerful reference to death from high-altitude cerebral oedema.David is still spooking me as we arrive at the Three Mile Check Post to present the Inner Line Permit that will allow me access to this area near the Indo-China border. And he refuses to leave me even at Kyangnosla, for at both checkpoints, the officials ask my driver: “She’s not travelling alone, is she?” Nature distracts me from further lip-chewing introspection, however, by turning flamboyantly wild and wonderful as we climb further up. The mountains close in from all sides–beautiful and intimidating. The snow line seems tantalisingly within reach and as if on cue, thunder strikes a few discordant notes, heralding our arrival at the glacier-fed lake that lies at an altitude of 12,400 ft. I gaze upon its surface, a rich, unbelievable green, edged with the same mantle of white that shrouds the mountains rising dramatically around it. I am here, I remind myself.My silent communion with nature is disrupted as my gaze wanders to a line-up of dark, hairy, strange-looking beasts, seemingly frozen into immobility. Despite the colourful tassels and tinkling brass bells they sport, the yaks manage to exude a collective mood of disenchantment that is strangely compelling.advertisementOne of the minders, a ruddy-skinned, slant-eyed young man, approaches me hopefully. “Photo, madam?” he asks. “You sit on back of yak and I take photo.” My prospective mount fixes me with a baleful glare. “Oh, yeah?” it seems to say. I retreat. The world is turning white as we move on. Thunder rumbles like a troubled digestive system about to erupt. There’s snow everywhere, spilling over the road and stretching up the slopes to the distant horizon, the only signs of human presence, the structures of military camps.I’m overcome by an insane urge to dive into this surreal landscape and run up and down its white expanse, but Denzongpa restrains me. No undue exertion, he warns. HAS. Besides… He points to the tiny green huts on a high, snow-covered ridge. “Army positions,” he informs me matter-of-factly, then adds, “not Indian.”I’m convinced he’s pulling my leg, until I notice the unequivocal message on signposts along this particular stretch: we’re under surveillance from Chinese observation posts. Photography is strictly prohibited. Further up the road and round the bend, Denzongpa promises. But later. The weather is threatening to turn and Baba Mandir awaits. A consolation prize lies at Thegu–an ATM at 13,200 ft. This is where a popular ad film for Axis Bank was shot, involving two Indian soldiers and a wager on a tethered yak. Even HAS can’t stop me from exploring the place. Deserted, it resonates happily with the hum of machines. “No cops there?” Denzongpa calls out from the car. “No robbers either!” I yell back. We move on. Yakla village. The Indo-China border trading post at Sherathang. Not a soul in sight. A bifurcation in the road offers a choice: Nathu La to the left; Baba Mandir to the right. On a mountain-ringed plateau stands the shrine to Harbhajan Singh, a young sepoy in the Indian Army who reportedly went missing while patrolling the Indo-China border in 1968 and was presumed dead. Legend has it that soon after, a jawan friend dreamt of him and conveyed to his colleagues the deceased’s purported last wish for a memorial to be erected in his name.advertisementRevered by fellow soldiers, Singh’s spirit is believed to be very much alive. Even today, the Indian Army pays him a pension and meticulously maintains the place. Its ambience, however, seems strangely diminished by visiting devotees elbowing each other out of the way for the perfect snapshot of the shrine to the handsome young Sikh with the intense gaze. On the way back, Denzongpa smilingly suffers my promised moment of madness in the snow–HAS and Chinese observation posts be damned. Just a moment, however, for fog is rolling in, smothering the area like giant puffs of bleached candy floss. Back in the car, I sulk as raindrops spatter the windshield. “You okay, ma’am?” my driver enquires. “It’s the rain that I don’t like. Landslides, you understand?”He starts the engine, bending low over the steering wheel to look out for loose boulders along the cliff tops under which we will pass. “Hold on tight, please. Road not so good.”I’ve heard that one before–a zillion time. At a glanceGetting there: Fly to Bagdogra and drive to Gangtok, where an overnight halt is necessary. Your hotel’s travel desk or local tour operators can also book you a car for day trips.When to go: For those prepared to brave the cold for a clear view of the Himalayas, October to end November is ideal.Must do Stay: Elgin Nor-Khill: Stadium Road; tel: (03592) 205 637; www.elginhotels.com Cost: Rs. 7,200 for two Affordable: Hotel Sonam Delek: Tibet Road; tell: (03592) 202 566; www.hotelsonamdelek.com Cost. Rs. 2,800 for two.Eat: Momos and thukpas, prepared Sikkimese-style, and delicious “dry fry” pork. Don’t forget chang, the Himalayan millet beer.Shop: A tailor-made Sikkimese baku, the exquisitely elegant regional dress for women. Also, the state’s famous Temi tea.See: The Kyangnosla Alpine Sanctuary, spread over 400 hectares around the Tsomgo Lake area, is rich in flora and fauna.FYIPeople of the past: Visit the Phodong Monastery near Gangtok to see the collection of old photographs featuring Alexandra David NÅel, the distinguished early-20th-century French Buddhist scholar who spent several years in Sikkim studying the religion and meditating in a cave in Lachen. Hot dealWeek off: 2 nights each in Gangtok Pelling and Darjeeling for Rs. 32,235 from Elgin Hotels. Includes meals, sightseeing, transfers. www.elginhotels.com.advertisement