Nepal, Mount Everest and one hell of a long, long, hard trek!
So i did it! I went to THE Mt Everest and successfully earned the T Shirt! And heres how....
After offically checking out of China and Hongkong a short flight lands me in Kathmandu, Nepal! After a good nights sleep it was time to meet my trekking group with Intrepid. The group is an interesting mix of people, all from very different backgrounds and countries and all with many different reasons for heading to the base camp at this time. (the usual sort)
Having heard the lowdown and background on the trek it was time to get the last minute essentials for the trip, eg, more iodine tablets (no drinking water), mars bars (energy), hiking socks (a legend in their own right) and a biodegradeable soap...which didnt get used....!!!!
We visited the KEEP Project in Kathmandu (kathmandu environmental education project) and were educated on the right and wrong things to do and avoid in the mountains. Eg. no lighting fires, take all rubbish with you and respect the locals etc.
The evening was rounded off nicely with a few beers with my new fellow trekkers in an awesome bar with live music. nice!
A 5am start to the airport today for our flight to Lukla which is the only airport up there in the Himylayas and the most popular start for all trekkers to the Everest region. The plane is tiny having only 15 seats and is of everyones concern as it rattles away down the runway. After some awesome views of the Himylayas whilst airborne we arrive in Lukla on the shortest uphill runway in the world! As soon as we are off the aircraft with our bags we are ushered through "security" which was a gate, and start our walk! We are met at the airport by 4 local boys who are to be our porters for our bags. I think i am most popular amongst them due to the size of my bag. I have to boast here as its unusual for me to pack light! I have the smallest bag by far amongst the group, it is 20L (everyone else has about 50L!) Anyway, first stop is breakfast then just to aid digestion we start our 3 hour walk to Phakding 2610m. (all the heights are above sea level)
The walk starts well and everyone is getting along nicely all asking about each others lives and travels etc.
Already we are pretty high up and are having the most spectacular views of the mountains. The air is so pure and fresh and the views are beautiful. Along the way we are passing Sherpas who are men transporting goods up and down the mountains. So if you think your job is hard, spare a thought for these guys! Their packs are stacked high above their heads and they are walking slow carrying the essentials to the villages. However, someone has to do it!
One thing i should mention, this is the rainy season. Maybe not the best time to go to Everest but it is much quieter on the trails and not as busy in the guest houses.
We arrive at our first night stop and sit down to a nice hot lemon drink. Our accomodation here and throughout the trip is "basic". The rooms have a bed, pillow and blanket. That is all! No double glazing or curtains and the houses are generally made of wood. We are all sharing a squat toilet and if lucky a sink. Usually brushing teeth is done in the garden!
The food is somewhat more civilised for me compared to China and generally consists of, fried noodles, fried rice, mo mo's (type of dumpling), pizza and Yak steaks (sometimes), Dhal Bhat (local curry with lentils) and soup. There is no meat in most of the places as these teahouses are dotted amongst the mountains and offer the basics of life. Food, water (that you drink with iodine) and shelter.
The houses are run by families and are so welcoming to everyone. They all speak English and are just so hospitable and kind which is wonderful.
After a good nights sleep its time to head to the next destination of Namche at 3440m. Namche is the last stop of normality before we hit the real basics! So all into the shower (which was to be the only shower of the trip!) This is the last place to stock up on the latest fake north face gear and mars bars.
We have 2 nights here in Namche to acclimatise at this altitude and so the next day we take a walk for about 3 hours up hill. The best way to acclimatise is to do a strenuous walk up high and then come back down. There isnt a great deal of research on altitude and it can strike anyone at any time. It doesnt matter how fit or strong you are everyone is affected differently. Views from the top are rather disappointing to be honest but we have to accept the season and be glad its quiet.
From Namche we head up to Phortse at 3810m along this route we trek through little villages and get a great insight into the sherpas life and culture along the way. Thier lives are basic and they have little money. They live in these mountains and its difficult to find any medium with them given the difference in cultures and lives.
From Phortse we hed further up the valleys along very narrow paths cut into the hillside, over huge boulders, past grazing Yaks, over rivers and streams and we arrive at our next stop of Dingboche (4410m). Now we are high!!!! Some of the group are feeling the affects of the altitude and are really quite sick. These effects include headaches, vomiting and loss of appetite. Not what you want in these basic tea houses. However, our trek leader has a medic bag with him containing many potions and pills and attempts to revive individuals.
Again here we do another acclimatisation day and take a hike up another huge steep hill! We climb about 400m taking us to about 4800m. Unfortunately the views were rather non existant! But i have some great pictures of clouds! Some male members of the group decide to take it to the extreme and head to the 5K mark.
After some more hot lemons and a good rest we do the big trek of the week. We trek for 8 hours today to finally reach our last stop before basecamp, Lobuche at 4900m. Now this was a HARD day! The oxygen percentage here is around 40%! We are close to climbing now as the terrain has changed the higher we head up. The terrain is huge boulders, some sand and some stones. Very little grass but some pretty flowers! As we arrive the gods shine down on us and the clouds clear for our first view of the beauty. Everest. Its magnificant. And enormous. As we are in Nepal Everest sits right at the back of the range. The best views would be from the Tibetan side. However, the snow capped peaks are just breath taking and almost too hard to take in and believe.
I came to the conclusion about the trip whilst having a quiet moment. Its almost not about the Mt Everest as a goal in itself. Its about the journey, you have to concentrate and put your time and energy into the trekking and almost not think about the end goal. This trek is the hardest trek you can do on this planet (thats a fact btw!) and we all laughed when our guide told us to respect the mountain. If you dont the mountain gods will be mad and punish you. But its true, you have to tread carefully, you have to think all the way and watch every step. Maybe iv been at altitude too long?!
Anyway, so after taking THE Everest picture its time for a hot lemon and some quick revial as we head to the base camp today also. The path to base camp is pretty trecherous as we scale a glacier! The rocks are slippy and its really cold up here. Everyone is tired, some have bad altitude sickness, some have the runs from dodgy food and so the mood is particulary low. However, 3 hours later and we are there. We reached basecamp at height of 5364m!!!! Cha Ching!!!!
Quite honestly, base camp was rather disappointing! It is a large flat area perched in the middle of the mountains and is just millions of rocks! Because it is rain season there are no expeditions preparing to climb just us on our own munching cheese sandwiches and disgestives. We are at the source of the glacial river where we fill our water bottles with the coldest purest water in the world. No iodine this time! Bliss!
We actually stay here for about 15 minutes and then begin our descent. Everyone is exhausted and we have a quiet night with small talk and some cards before heading to bed around 9pm.
The next day there is an optional excursion leaving early just to exceed base camp. Kala Patar at 5545m. A small number of summit hungry people awake and head up this mountain. An extremly tough climb for 3 hours straight up hill to 5545m and there we are. Very very nearly at the top of the world. Funnily enough it doesnt feel like the top of the world. So i am proud to say in a true trekkers words ï summited 5545m" !!!!! Get in!!!!
Unfortunately the weather was not on our side and we saw nothing! However, this is why i came to my conclusion that it is the journey that counts and not the outcome. A valuable thing i personally am pleased to have learnt! (at last, i hear you cry!)
So from here we begin our descent back to Kathmandu the same way we went up. On the way down we see glaciers and even some avalanches from a distance which was awesome! We also witness the change in terrain and vegetation which is interesting and englightening. Thoughts on the descent include how i am tracing Sir Hillarys footprints and other many greats alike. Pretty cool feeling really!
So a fair few days later and we finally reach Lukla (where we started). The group is tired and everyone is looking forward to their next journey from Kathmandu, some heading to the Uk to work and university, some heading around the world! Maybe i did not mention. This trip is "basic" this means there is a general lack of hot (or even cold) showers. Showers exist in the form of a bucket of water. Usually cold unless you pay a silly amount for boiling water! So basically no one has had a shower for about 2 weeks! And my boots and socks have to live outside the room (apparently!). I was expecting them to walk home to the washing machine.
The next morning we all awake ready for our expected flight to find we are living in a cloud. The weather has taken a turn for the worse and left some of us living in Lukla for 6 days. Now Lukla is as basic as it comes, there is a internet bar and pub. The airport is tiny and the planes that fly there are not controlled at all by a computer. They are flown by THE Top Gun type pilots. So they cannot fly if there is alot of cloud simply because they cannot see out of the window! Which is generally the case during the raining season! The group started out as 12 and on the final day when the plane arrived only 5 of us got on the plane.
Basically, cabin fever and culture shock set in and 3 people decided to walk to Kathmandu (a mere 80Km up and downhill / further than base camp...) and some very impatient people bought a helicopter for a mere $750 each between 5. I however adopted the "patience is a virtue" and stuck it out for the time. After 6 days of reading....and playing the same card games....the clouds parted for 20 minutes and along came a plane!!! Hurrah!!! SOS! As the 5 of us board the plane with tears in our eyes we finally arrive in Kathmandu and get a shower and the socks went in the bin!
After a refresh, rebooking a load of flights and a nutrious meal, It was time to explore Kathmandu. Only having one day to do this i basically took to the streets witnessed the locals daily lives and visited the infamous Durbur Square. That night was spent in the bar enjoying our freedom from Lukla. The next morning its back to the airport and onto the next destination....Bangkok.
Before the flight to Bangkok i had one day to explore kathmandu. After an early breakfast i headed for the famous Durbur Square in Kathmandu. This place is a mecca for worshipping and temples. There are hundreds of them! There seems to be a temple to suit every kind of need you may have. There were a few temples i made a bee line for in particular! One was a "purifying your body of alcohol" type temple. Second wasa purifying of sins type set up and lastly the temple to keep you safe whilst travelling. Very apt i thought! So i got a great big orange coloured slpode of paint on my head for the blessing and im ready to head on with my travels all purified and clean! Kathmandu is so busy there are so many people and its incredibly busy. There are people selling everything you could imagine, all food is generally out of date and the goods are in worse condition than if they had come from a chinese flee market. There was even a guy charging people to weigh themselves on the street! Kathmandu however, is a magical place and has a great feel to it. If you dont mind the stares and you can just get on with it then its a great place to visit. Its so traditional and cultural however poor and dirty it is. My tour guides face in Durbur sqaure was a picture when we discussed which was cleaner, Nepal or China. China wins hands down for cleaniness compared to Nepal! After Durbur square a few friends and i headed to the "cremation" site in Kathmandu. This is a very historical and not particulary enjoyable visit! Firstly we witness bodies (covered up at least) being cremated in the open air next to the river. The smell is unforgetable, however, what is interesting is that this is Nepalese culture and there are differences in the way this is looked at when compared. They seem to think nothing of it and there is usually an audience and about 5 or 6 going on at the same time. Also this is a 24 hour operation and the body has to be cremated within 12 hours of the death. The second not so great thing about this area, is the monkeys. As pesky as pigeons. One decided to take its chances with me and opted to attempt to steal my drink. Which didnt impress me in the slightest. So we left after i screamed a load of abusive language at it and drew some attention!
Anyway! Due to the delays in Lukla i had to sacrifice my time in Bangkok and Singapore. Leaving me 12 hours in Bangkok and 2 days in Singapore....so not much to talk about! So next blog will be Australia!!!! With adding Bangkok and Singapore to my list to re visit!
Thats all for now folks!!!! Hope it was enjoyable and inspired some of you to just walk to the top of the world!!! (like i just did, yeah!!!!) Love to hear from you keep the messages coming! Photos will be along soon enough....?!