Stefanie's Travel Journal
I hiked to Base Camp!! With a little luck and a little planning and perseverence three of us in our group had a great hike 8 km up to Everest Base Camp and had a great couple of days before and after. I took lots of photos and will upload a few of them on Thursday from Kathmandu. I'll write a short journal now and expand on it Thursday also. When I last talked to you I was in Lhatse I think, the night before we went to Everest. We woke up early on Sunday and headed out to Everest. It was a long drive - nearly 8 hours including stopping to buy tickets into the Nature Preserve in which Everest is located, being hassled at a Chinese checkpoint, lunch, and stopping to hang prayer flags at the highest pass on the way (wishes for a good trip as well as individual wishes for our friends, family, and the world). Once we were at Ronhphu Monastery guest house we hurried to get ready and head out as we only had a small window before it got dark. Our guide wanted us all to ride in carts drawn by donkeys. Three of us really wanted to walk but were convinced that we didn't have time so we gave in and got in the cart. But about a minute into the ride, our donkey pulled over and we had to get out and walk! We were so happy! And with the short cuts and the bad roads and condition of the donkeys and carts, we all arrived at Base Camp at the same time!! David and Vickie and I were so happy to have walked. We have great pictures from along the way and at the top! Base Camp (and the Himalayas in general) is much rockier and drier than I expected. So Base Camp is not beautiful but it is fascinating. We had tea in a tent that was surprisingly warm. I took photos of Hotel California and other hotels up there and we saw the world's highest post office. And I ate the best tasting Snickers bar at Base Camp! Because daylight was running out we had to ride the donkey carts back down and that is one uncomfortable and freezing cold experience I would not like to repeat. I have been colder in my life time once (Yes - at Banff, Jess!) but only once I think. We had a very basic dinner but our guide, Gelu, had brought some cookies and things to enjoy at dinner. And we slept in very very basic accomodations but we all helped each other out and we were warm enough (and you learn not to drink too much at night so you don't have to go to the 'bathroom' outside in the middle of the night. We woke on Monday to at least three inches of snow! It was the first time some of the Australians had seen snow and they were soooo excited! Cal woke us up bounding in our room to tell us it was snowing! Having seen plenty of snow I was mostly cold and a little worried about the drive down but it was an amazing, beautiful ride down to Lao Tingri (Old Tingri - as there is now a New Tingri somewhere else =) ). I don't think we drove on a road almsot the entire day - not even a dirt road. We took cross-country short cuts because with the snow even the dirt roads were too bad. We drove through streams and across beautiful snowy landscapes all day. We were incredibly lucky and didn't break down at all. We got to Tingri around 3pm and the sun started to come out. We all took showers (not at all warm!) and played soccer in the mud and walked around town. The sun came out and the clounds cleared and we got great views of Everest and Cho Oyu. We were so lucky! Another tour that we've been seeing in a lot of towns (their guide hangs out with us after they go to bed because our group is a lot more fun!) didn't get to hike to Everest because they waited until Monday morning to attempt and then they didn't even get to see Everest from Lao Tingri because they only stopped there for lunch and then drove on. What a shame to come all this way and not even see Everest from a distance nor get to Base Camp! Monday was Vickie's birthday so after a great afternoon we went into town for dinner. We had a good dinner and then the group really partied it up all night. We polished off 8 bottles of Great Wall red wine (absolutely terrible wine!) and plenty of bottles of Lhasa beer (also not recommended) and danced with our guides, our drivers, and the locals until they kicked us out around midnight. Vickie had a great birthday! Tuesday the weather was very nice and clear for our 5+ hour drive to the Nepal/China border town of Zhangmu where I am now. As we descended the scenery got green and lush and I have never seen so many waterfalls in one place. Its not as lush and flowery as Hawaii but there are more waterfalls and the mountains are higher and valleys deeper. The air smells lush like it does up in the redwood forests in Northern California - that damp, lush, fern forest floor smell. The drive was beautiful. Tomorrow we deal with Chinese and Nepalese customs and will likely have to pay Maoists a fee to pass on the roads (Maoists took over Nepal earlier this year and forced the king to abdicate and the UN is currently setting up democratic elections for next year. Currently there is peace in Nepal and the Maoists have never hurt tourists but they frequently inconvenience them to get media attention for their democracy movement). So we'll be back in Kathmandu tomorrow afternoon and we'll have a free day there on Thursday too. I'll get some photos uploaded THursday and write a bit more on what I learned/observed in my time in Tibet. I really enjoyed it and can't wait to share some photos with you all.