Published: May 23rd 2007May 23rd 2007
After much persuasion I finally convinced Nick that is was a much better decision to hike for 16 days through the Himalayas, experience altitude sickness and trek to the Everest Base Camp rather than going for the easy trekking option of flying to Jomsom, trekking 5 days downhill and having no problems of getting back to Kathmandu!
We joined a group of 5 other trekkers and our Everest Base Camp trek started in a very civilised manner with a traditional Nepalese meal and dancing which included a Nepali version of Emu, a dressed up Peacock, and some mad dancer dressed up as the infamous Yeti.
The next morning was an early start to catch a flight to Lukla where we were to commence our trek. We should not have bothered getting up so early as flights to Lukla are invariably cancelled due to bad weather and had been for the last two days, thus we ended up waiting 6 hours in Kathmandu's domestic airport with nothing to do but listen to very dated Nepalese pop videos (there's me showing my age using the word 'pop'). Come 1pm, we were so excited to board our twin propellor plane that
looked like it would make for a fun ride...and it did. We were given cotton wool balls for our ears by the on-board hostess who had to duck 'cos the plane was so small.
We touched down on Lukla's airstrip that was set amongst a valley, only a few hundred meters long and went uphill! It was good to land as I was going a bit green. After meeting our team of 3 porters (we are lazy gits, I know) and two assistant guides, our first trek was a relatively easy 2.5 hour walk downhill (mostly) to a little village called Phadking where we stayed overnight.
Our 2nd day was to be a killer as we hiked for a good 7 hours ending with an 800m climb to the bustling town of Namche Bazaar. I had to take several rests on the climb up towards the town and of course was at the back of the group, as I had expected to be for the majority of the trip! Unfortunately when a couple of us enquired to our guide, the legendary KP, "Is this the hardest day?", his reply was a definitive "No, Day 6,7.8 is harder than
Looking down to Periche
Around 4500m above sea level
today". Our hotel in Namche was quite plush with an ensuite room and some multiple legged hairy bugs, a good thing as we were due to spend a couple of days there acclimitazing. Namche formed the original trading route between Tibet and Nepal. Every Saturday they have a market where the locals buy anything from beer to foodstuffs that have been carried up the mountain for two days or more by the super strong Sherpas who can carry up to 100 kilos on their backs - they are the Nepalese version of Jeff Capes and very amazing!
After Namche we headed to a village called Khumjung (3810m), along the route we stopped at the 5 star Everest View Hotel built by the Japanese where we enjoyed a hot chocolate and of course the view of Everest. Khumjung is a small town where we took a short afternoon stroll to the local monastery. The attraction there was the skull of a Yeti that had been given to the town as a gift. The yeti head was very exclusive and locked away in a old gray filing cabinet only viewable after the donation of a few rupees. Well we could not
resist seeing the remains of this legendary creature, however it looked more like an odd shaped human skull than that of a Yeti (I had seen a few Yetis on my way up so could distinguish that it was a fake), we were not entirely convinced with the story!
Our next day was spent descending and then climbing up 600m to get 70m higher to the town of Tengboche that rests at 3870m. Its famous for having the highest monastery in the world which was pretty impressive; Nick saw a monk with a playstation - its good to know that they have some time out. Day 6 of our schedule was spent dodging 100s of Yaks (big hairy cow type creatures) that were making their way back from Base Camp, fully loaded with gear from recent expeditions. After a filling lunch of tomato coloured, but not flavoured soup, we made our way to a town called Dingboche (4620m) that was going to be our home for the next two nights to acclimitaze.
Our rest day (Day 7) was thoughtfully spent climbing 400m up quite a big mountain to acclimitaze some more and get past the magic 5000m altitude
Mexican who summited a few days before we met him
mark, it took a good three hours and was completely knackering but worth it for the views at the top (even though the clouds had come in by the time we had got there, typical :)). Earlier we had watched runners of the highest marathon in the world (from Everest Base Camp to Namche Bazaar), its pretty tough stuff as you can imagine but the most impressive runner was an Irish guy who was blind and was running the whole marathon being guided by trekking poles attached to each wrist, pretty unbelievable to watch but we heard that he crossed the finish line at midnight. (He was guided by a friend in front holding two walking poles. The instructions varied little from "Rock, Uneven, Rock, Uneven" - you get the picture. The same guy has also done a few other crazy marathons - lowest, coldest etc.
We were getting closer to our destination and after an uneventful but completely sleepless night in Lobuche (4930m) we made our way to Gorak Shep (the town before Base Camp at 5160m). The walk there was not the most pleasant as alot of us were suffering from splitting headaches (a side effect of
the altitude), however we made it there after 2 1/2 hours of walking. That was only the start as after a hearty breakfast and lots of lemon tea we started on a 3 hour walk to Base Camp, at last! The walk was the 'same again' with lots of ups and downs but the views were pretty stunning as we got to walk alongside the Khumbu Glacier that runs down from Everest Base Camp. After a few slippery moments on the glacier we made it to the camp. It was quite cool to see where all these mad people start out the expedition but there were not too many tents left as most of the teams had already summited and left. After lots of obligatory team photos and a well deserved Snickers bar we made our way back to Gorak Shep for another sleepless night which was a killer after a good 8 hours of walking.
The next day we started our ascent of Kala Pattar, a 5545m mountain that gives great views of Everest and the surrounding horseshoe of mountains. I was quite grizzly before the ascent , having had a couple of hours sleep and a splitting
headache so only made it 100m up the mountain before I thought 'sod this for a game of soldiers I am going back to bed'. Nick made it all the way to the top and said it was an amazing view, I got to see the pictures so I was not overly concerned that I was in fact a failure! Once the proper climbers had had their breakfast we headed down, I was so pleased at this point as had had enough of this high altitude malarky.
It took 2 days of walking to get back to Namche Bazaar where we celebrated Nick's 30th Birthday in style complete with drinking games, a chocolate birthday cake, and Tibetan prayer scarves that were given to Nick for good luck from the Sherpas. After a lazy rest day we walked down to Lukla - what took us 9 days to walk up, took us 3 days to walk down! I was so glad to arrive in Lukla and with our flight confirmed for the next day things were looking rosy...
...Of course nothing ever turns out perfectly and the next morning we woke to clouds set into the valley...and they did
not shift all day..and it rained all day- no flight for us then! The next morning was pretty much the same story so we spent the day watching 5 different movies and playing cards, this was the longest flight delay I had experienced and it was not much fun especially when we heard the longest people had spent waiting for the weather to clear was 9 days! I contemplated walking for another 3 days to get back to Kathmandu but thankfully by day 3 of waiting the valley was visible so we made a quick exit to the airport and nervously waited for our flight. As the clouds descended again it was a bit touch and go but we did take off and I sat right behind the cockpit so watched the whole operation of the flight - looks a piece of phish this flying lark! It was good to be back in the hussle, bussle and smelly fumes of Kathmandu! The trekking company treated us to a celebration meal in the Rum Doodle Bar - a great way to end the trip and thanks to Himalayan Glacier - a very good company to go with (www.himalayanglacier.com). HimalayanGlacier
The plan from Katmandu was to head to Pokhara by raft and bus but the Nepali strikes put paid to this! We therefore spent a few days just hilling in KTM with Hector and Nick from the trek. We did manage one days rafting which was fun but the journey there and back a bit of a disaster. Traffice made a 2 hour journey 4 hours on the way and then a puncture cost us another 2 hours on the way back. The rafting was ok but the rapids pretty small and the water not too clean - especially when we saw a dead dog floating past!
We said our goodbyes to Hector, Naba, Sagar etc and headed to the airport with yet another strike affecting traffic! Luckily the flight was on time and 40 mins later we were back in India and Varanassi - this would normally be a 20 hour plus journey by road! Looking forward to the heat, fumes, and friendly Rickshaw Wallahs like a hole in the head.
There are more photos below