During the summer of 2006, the founder of Rift Safety Gear, Jason Anderson, found himself travelling through Varanasi, India. While sitting beside the Ganges River, Jason started a conversation with to an English traveller named Paul. Paul asked him “Have you been to Nepal yet to trek the Himalayas? I’m thinking about heading off there tonight if you’d like to come?” Jason’s response was “No Paul I haven’t, but I’m keen to do so! Let’s do it!”
Within 24 hours, Jason and Paul were sitting on the roof of an old rickety bus that was slowly crawling into the highest part of the world, the Himalayas. They were both drinking Nepalese Everest beer and taking in the amazing scenery.
The next morning, Jason, Paul and Chhabi (their new tour guide), were up early to see some of the amazing sights of exotic Kathmandu. Jason and Paul walked into a store to browse some of the high quality locally made trekking gear for sale – they were both in need of a warm jacket as Jason had just finished twelve months of travelling through the unbearable heat of India. They ended up purchasing $5 thermal vest and a $25 jacket.
After another three days and a total of 48 hours of trekking, Jason asked Chhabi “Will we reach your home town tonight Chhabi?” He replied “No Mr Jason, we will reach there in four days”. Jason gave him a slight little smile, nodded his head tiredly and said “Ok Chhabi”. After another four days and a total of around 70 hours of trekking, they finally reached Chhabi’s home town.
In amazement, Jason and Paul watched Chhabi greet his mother in the traditional Nepalese way after not having seen her for a long five years. Jason and Paul sat on a rock perch while Chhabi just watched his mother in silence from afar for around ten minutes, while she was hanging clothes on the clothes line. Eventually he walked down slowly, right up to her, smiled, and with a tear in her eye and without saying a word, Chhabi got down on his knees and tightly hugged and kissed his mother’s dirty feet. In Nepalese, Chhabi said “I’m home mama and I love you”.
After another very warm sleep for Jason and Paul in their jackets and yak wool doona, this time in a house which was made out of clay, wood and paper and outside temperatures of -20°C, Chhabi woke them up very early with a little whisper “Mr Jason and Mr Paul come, Mt Everest is at my front door”. Jason leaned over and peered out of Chhabi’s mother’s front door and to his amazement, directly in front of him was the great Mount Everest in all her glory. This amazing view and they were not even out of bed yet!
For the next two days, Jason, Paul and Chhabi hiked upwards to reach 6000 meters, to a point on top of a ridge right in front of Mount Everest that will always be buried in their minds. The freedom, atmosphere and indescribable scenery were breathtaking, but more than anything, Jason could not believe how much he was unaffected by the unbelievably cold air, rain and frost due to his choice of clothing, the $5 thermal and a $25 jacket purchased earlier in Kathmandu.
On day eight, after they had started to descend the north side of the Himalayas, Jason kept asking Chhabi “Where are these jackets made?” as Jason was completely amazed that something so cheap and well-made could originate from a country such as Nepal. Chhabi informed Jason that he happened to personally know the factory owner and would take him there once they returned to Kathmandu.
Five days later, Jason was introduced to a very nice man named Jeevan, who owned a little sweatshop in the back blocks of Kathmandu. His factory consisted of two little rooms built from wood, clay, paper and scrap metal, with five men in each room sitting in front of their sewing machines pumping out these incredibly well made trekking jackets for the benefit of travellers such as Jason and Paul.
Jason explained to Jeevan that he had purchased one of his jackets before setting off trekking and that he had been completely amazed by how good the quality was. Jason then asked Jeevan whether he would mind if he picked out ten sample jackets, added a logo, and took them home to see whether anyone would be interested in buying them. Jeevan kindly waved his head and said “Of course Mr Jason, this would be very good for my business if you could find some buyers in Australia”. Jason and Paul then headed to a little café for a few cups of green tea and to decide on a logo and a business name for Jason’s new business venture. Paul reflected on what an amazing trek it had been and commented that one day he would also like to visit the Rift valley in Africa. Jason then paused for a moment and looked at Paul and said “Mmmmmm thanks mate”, and that’s where the Rift journey began!