Published: September 24th 2011September 17th 2011
Everest Base Camp – A distinct lack of oxygen and possibly the scariest drive I’ve ever had the misfortune of taking. And all finished off with an Earthquake, I’m just a hard-core thrill seeker.
After a few days sightseeing and acclimatisation to the altitude in Lhasa, it was time to begin the final drive to Everest Base Camp. Needless to say this didn’t get off to a great start. Our guides decided to go to a club the night before and therefore didn’t make it to the permit office until 10:30am the following morning, the original plan was to leave at 10am so it was clear to see that wouldn’t be happening. Nothing moves quickly in Tibet and at 2:30pm they arrived at our bus with the permits and the reception they got from our group was hostile to say the least. At this point those going to Nepal after the trek left the rest of the group to make our way in a micro-van (basically a stretched Bedford Rascal.) Initially this was a quicker form of transport than our bus but it would turn out to be a very unsuitable vehicle for the journey. The drive to base camp
was 360km’s and should take about 10 hours, the last 100km’s would take 5 hours because the track is basically designed for 4x4’s not micro-van’s but we had a driver that would stop at nothing to get us there as quickly as possible, more on this later.
The scenery along the way was spectacular and the views across the Himalayas were exactly what I had hoped for. The final 3 hours of the drive were in the dark, the track is basically full of craters, there is no edge protection and the drops are vertical. Coupled to this you have to cross rivers, avoid falling boulders and dodge all manner of wild animals and mountain folk along the way. It’s fair to say it was a nerve racking journey and this is why people only do it during the hours of day light but we had no choice, if we didn’t get there that night our permits for Tibet would run out the following day and we would not be able to make it to Base Camp at all. After several hours and many stops to check the van following grounding out in large holes we finally made it
to base camp, it was cloudy and very dark but the locals assured us we would have good weather in the morning. I think everyone went to bed with everything crossed, not only for good luck but because it was so bloody cold in the tent that it also helped as a survival technique.
It was my responsibility to set the alarm to get up for sunrise, Steve your lovely gift my trusty watch, seemed to have failed me. In summary that means we slept in rather latter than we should have. Thankfully I was saved the embarrassment of letting everyone down because one of the group woke up from a shortage of breath, this happened to all of us during the evening it was a horrible sensation and made you very panicky, something that should come so naturally turned into something that you had to concentrate very hard on to ensure you got enough oxygen in each breath and because of this you were concerned about sleeping because you didn’t know if you would continue to take the extra deep breath’s required, I guess that’s why we all kept waking up.
After the quickest departure from my
bed I’ve had throughout my travels we began the final trek to the base camp, it was only 3km’s but the sun was rising very quickly and sadly we didn’t make it to the base camp for the sunrise but we saw it from about 1km away. It’s was like something from a David Copperfield trick, it was as if he had hidden the world’s tallest mountain and just flicked a switch and there it was.
It was a truly awesome sight and we were blessed with perfect weather, after many photos and sending a few postcards from the world’s highest post office we made our way back to our tents because I driver was keen to get going. It’s really sad because the driver ‘s seems to run the tour, the guides have no power or influence over them, basically if we weren’t there he would quite simply drive off, not something any of us wanted. Our driver was rude and had no concern for anyone’s wishes or safety. Gav-lar I’m sure you can remember our driver in Bolivia well this was a very similar situation, oh joy.
On the drive back he decided to take a
short cut, he spoke very little English but when he said to our guide “I’m taking a cut short, it’s meant for 4x4’s but I think we can make it” the whole group said to the guide NO, why do we need to rush we have plenty of time! But as much as he tried our driver was taking the ”cut short.” I have never been on roads like it, it was clearly meant for 4x4’s and our car was grounding out and sliding everywhere. Some of the mountain passes we were on would be dangerous in the right vehicle, but in our micro-van it was terrifying. We complained at our guide nonstop who then got so annoyed with everything he just threw our permits at us and said I’m not doing this anymore you can deal with the driver from now on, you are on your own! After a frosty ten minutes we managed to get our guide back on side but this made no difference we were in for another 3 hours of this craziness and it was time to sit back and pray for a safe return.
Thankfully we made it back to the village at
Ground clearance = zero
the Nepal border safely, but the fun was not over. Within one hour of being in the hotel the building started to shake and all I heard was a group of Indian tourist screaming “Earthquake” and running for the exits….. Me and my French roommate looked at each other and didn’t know what to do, we were somewhat confused. After a short pause we realised it was for real and joined the mass evacuation. Once outside the building in the rain with no shoes or coat it was panic and chaos for a while, everyone was in disbelieve as to what had just happened and no one knew what to do. We waited for a couple of hours and no one wanted to be the first to re-enter the building, so we decided that after a couple of hours we would just sit in a single story local bar until we got the all clear. Thankfully no one was hurt and no buildings damaged, which sadly was not the case for other areas around Asia. Scary times!
Well that was thankfully the end of my adrenalin filled day, it was time to sleep ready for the no doubt eventful
land border crossing in to Nepal the following morning.
There are more photos below