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Published: November 20th 2007
Island Peak 6189m
2 guys from Perth I met on the day
"I know your dad. He owns a 200m rope & I did some work on his house in exchange for a pair of trousers"
I was very embarassed about the latter. If there's anyone who can get a good deal it's my dad. After spotting a New Zealand passport I enquired in the hometown of the stranger. When he replied with Nelson I couldn't help but crack up. What a co-incidence! The strange man ended up being Tony Stephens, the husband of Trish, Claire Dallisons tuesday night tennis date! They are in fact from Tapawera & quickly corrected themselves when they realised I was a local. This all took place in Jiri, a small seedy town in the foothills of the himalayas, which made bumping into them even more entertaining! During the 3 weeks trekking I practically became part of their family. Most people avoid the trek from Jiri to Namche these days because it passes through Maoist country, and many of the guide books advise people against it because "it is a hard slog and sparse in the breath-taking views department" By the time you reach Everest Base Camp - if you walk in from Jiri - you have climbed
View of Gokyo below
Feeling as sick as a dog when this picture was taken, this is the fakest smile you'll ever get! But I bet it fooled you!
uphill for just under 10,000m (thanks to every steep ascent being followed by an even longer descent!) But i'm really glad that I decided to do it. There were barely any tourists, it was culturally very interesting and everything was lush and green in comparason to the high lands.
Meeting the Maoists
was an experience I would have rather avoided. The young man who approached us first was very unintimidating, saying "we're maoists, would you like to make a donation. You can help us fight the king".
I don't know what they expect you to reply with - "yes sir, why not, here's $1000 us & treat yourself to a pint of Guiness while you're at it"
. After a few minutes with no apparent co-operation from us their tone changed quite dramatically and they demanded 3000 rupees (about $60 NZ dollars, around 60 times the average daily wage in Nepal) from each of us. We ended up bargaining down our "donation" to a more reasonable 500 rupees. As we started walking away Tony added "you should buy some books for the children with that. Do something useful"
to which the man sternly replied "bullets are more important than books".
that was the end of that.
The pleasure of shitting water for 3 days
You haven't lived until you've experienced it. Did I feel sorry for myself? Every second! But did it stop me from getting over a 5400m pass? I think not. Although it was more of a snails plod than a Sir Edmund Hilary stride. And even though it took literally twice as long as it would take an averagely fit person, I can still say - proudly - that I made it! "Whenever porters passed me carrying houses I would say to myself "god get a grip woman, you have it much easier than them", but a few minutes later I'd go back to feeling sorry for myself"
My 19th birthday
was spent plodding up the 5400m Cho La Pass with frozen hair (I would like to match Janine's auspicious 47th birthday in 47 degrees by saying mine was spent in -19 degrees, but in reality it was probably more like -10) I wined and dined on some dry chapati, a boiled egg & a tasty hot lemon drink. I was even lucky enough to share my bed with a sexy young thing - Tracey, a
The Dancing Queen
My obligitory Everest shot
30 year old divorcee from Westport! Sadly the porters refused Tracey's suggestion of an impromptu strip show to celebrate my big day. I was more disappointed than you could ever imagine.
Bob Marley...was blarring out of the speakers when I stumbled into Everest Base camp and lots of people were milling around organising mountaineering equipment, eating and relaxing. The Thai expedition were just coming off the mountain after an unsuccessful attempt at summiting - they had wanted to be the first Thai expedition to summit for the kings 80th birthday. They had to turn back about 350m from the top due to bad weather"
Base camp was more of a village than any of the other permanent settlements along the way. They live in luxory there, and the Khumbu Icefall makes for a dramatic backdrop. It was much rougher than I'd expected - plenty of sharp rocks to dig into your backside in the tent spots. But I suppose if they can't hack that then they'd have no show on Everest! "It's an unbelievable feeling to be right underneath the highest mountain in the world"
Climbing Island Peak 6189m
When my alarm went off at 1am I thought What the hell am I doing, this is a damn holiday!
But then I jumped out of bed (fully clothed) and forced down a bowl of lumpy Tshampa porridge. At 4 or 5am I ate a frozen snickers bar. I was pleasantly suprised by how easy I found the climb. I was the second to last person to leave base camp and the 4th person to reach the summit and I thought that was pretty good going considering there were around 35 climbers, and some had even left from Advanced Base Camp which made their day a good deal shorter. It took under 6 hours to reach the summit and the first 3 1/2 were in the dark. My fingers and toes were killing me until the last half an hour when we were in the sun. I was a little shocked at the fixed ropes near the summit, especially because Mt Everest is exactly like that - if people lack skill with crampons or are too tired to climb properly, then they can just pull themselves up the rope. I felt something was missing when I got down. Then I realised what it was. Fear. A bit of fear
The world on his shoulders
...and he's not even breaking a sweat
is natural when climbing mountains and it's sad when that element of climbing is taken away. "you're the toughest 19 year old chick i've ever met" was the compliment of the day from a 40 year old man from Perth. "It's 4pm and i'm sitting in my tent freezing my bum off. Base camp is still in the sun. I've just set my alarm for 1am and am now feeling incredibly sorry for myself"
For a new meaning to the word tough
check out the loads that the porters carry. Even after 23 days hiking their loads didn't fail to impress me. Walking wheelbarrows, planks of wood, generators, baskets of live chickens, boxes of beer...anything - and everything - you could possibly imagine. And it all walks past you at a hundred miles an hour with flimsy flip-flops & bulging calf muscles. I will never look at the men in the gym at home the same again in my life. No bench-press effort will ever raise an eyebrow with me! Most of the porters carry 60-120kg. It might sound relatively easy for a few hours, but they walk for over a week, then practically sprint back before picking up
another load and repeating the process. They're the hardest working people i've seen in my life & the average wage is terrible.
Chhukung- porters road - Mong La Pass - Khumjung - Namche "Today turned out to be a very eventful day. After scoffing a chocolate pancake for breakfast I started speeding towards Dingboche. I wanted to walk on my own so I told Sailor that i'd meet them in Namche. I left Chhukung at 8.30am and arrived in Namche at 5pm. I'd had no rests - not even a short 5 minute breather - and nothing to eat since breakfast! Instead of taking the turnoff to Tengboche, I ended up on the steep - and never ending - porters road to Phortse. I didn't mind too much because I had heaps of energy and it was nice seeing no tourists. But after leaving Phortse I got incredibly lost. Somehow I ended up in the middle of the bush next to a huge drop-off into the raging gorge below. It was a 100-200m vertical drop-off into the river! I could see the track that I'd come from and I could see the track that I wanted to get to,
but there was no way for me to cross the huge river that stood between me and my destination! After about 1 hour of bush bashing like a true kiwi, I emerged - with my hair full of sticks and moss - at the edge of the river further upstream where there were no drop-offs. I could see a small footbridge further upstream and headed for that in excitement. I inadvertedly christenened my guidebook in the raging river, but apart from that it was smooth sailing to that holy footbridge. By that time I was on the track heading into the Gokyo Valley! Despite what people say about the Mong La Pass from the Gokyo direction, I found it quite easy. However, I was relieved when I reached the top and realised that Namche wasn't too far away. A million wrong turns later I had passed through the sherpa town of Khumjung instead of taking the downhill - and more direct route - that winded its way around the hill! Shortly after leaving Khumjung I asked how long it would take to walk to Namche and recieved 3 different answers: 2 hours, 1 1/2 hours and 15 minutes. I couldn't
help but laugh at how unhelpful the answers were, but I decided to believe the last one! When I finally arrived in Namche I was exhausted and starving. Gara and Dil were initially shocked at how long it had taken me to reach Namche, but when I told them that i'd come via Phortse, the Mong La Pass and Khumjung they just burst into laughter. Local porters are renowned for walking huge days, but I had just walked - in one day - what they would do in two!"
During a quiet night in at a teahouse in Gorak Shep: "After dinner while we were laughing around the fire a group of porters and men in their Nepalese Army uniform burst into the teahouse dancing and singing. Every few minutes more people would pour in and by the time they left - still singing and dancing their way out the door cheerfully - there were at least 40 of them"
- In Gorak Shep
A snippet of my last evening in Lukla before flying back to Kathmandu: "After a few hours of Chang and rum drinking the end of trek party really kicked into gear. The sherpas and
porters danced and danced and the music got considerably worse - and much louder - as the night went on. The lanky Italian men were dancing like drugged-up hippies and shouting everyone far too many drinks. The owners were making a killing and they loved it!"
Check out the photo! It's crazy! I've never seen anything so steep...or an airstrip with such a huge obstacle right infront of the runway. But I was lucky i'm not afraid of flying. In fact, I was very excited before my flight and very impressed with it when I landed in Kathmandu - the views were fabulous!
Looking back on the adventure
I had a fantastic time in the Solu Khumbu region and suspect I will be heading back there one day in the near future. I find the effects of altitude fascinating, but a bit overwhelming at the same time. During the time I was in the Everest region 4 tourists died of altitude related illnesses. One had a pre-existing lung condition, but apart from that they were all fit, healthy young men. It really opened my eyes.
The photos just don't do this adventure justice. You need to hear
Plenty of Chang (Nepalese home brew) on the house makes for a raging sherpa party
the sherpa music, use the stinky squat toilets, not shower for weeks, taste the Daal Bhat, freeze your bum off & let your eyes water from the yak dung in the tea house fires - then you will have experienced a trek in the Everest region!
I have so much more respect and admiration for high altitude mountaineers now. The conditions they're put up against are crazy. In fact, I think anyone who would put themself through such tough conditions must be inhuman! Yet the sherpa people have lived there for generations and generations. They're amazing people.
Getting fat on chocolate cake in Kathmandu
is a highly probable consequence of baring the boredom that eating Dal Bhaat for 3 weeks brings. Actually the food was pretty impressive, but I'll let you believe it was terrible! I suprised myself during the last week trekking with a huge craving for a big juicy steak (I refrained from ordering the popular "yak steak" along the way which walked past me every day covered in flies on the back of a poor scrawny porter). But I will be heading to the Curry House in Kathmandu (their steaks look legendary!) for a big juicy
one in the next few days. Perhaps I'm destined to become a true carnivore!
Where to next?
I'm currently pondering that one. At this stage i'm tossing up a week in the Pokhara area (with a spot of kayaking or rafting & a few days mountain biking) or a visit to the Royal Chitwan National Park, where the annual International Elephant Polo championships are currently being held. Or should I just stay in Thamel & eat momo's till I pop?!
I will let you know.
Don't forget to check out the second page of pictures!
Day 1: Jiri - Deorali
Day 2: Deorali - Sete
Day 3: Sete - Junbesi
Day 4: Junbesi - Nuntala
Day 5: Nuntala - Puiyan
Day 6: Puiyan - Gumila
Day 7: Gumila - Namche Bazaar
Day 8: Acclimitisation day in Namche - walk to Everest View Hotel
Day 9: Namche - Thame
Day 10: Thame - Lungde
Day 11: Lungde - Renjo Pass - Gokyo
Day 12: Sick day in Gokyo - walk to the fourth lake
Day 13: Gokyo - Gokyo Ri - Thakna
Day 14: Thakna - Cho La Pass - Dzonghla
Day 15: Dzonghla - Lobuje
It looks inviting, but I'm glad I left my bikini at home!
Lobuche - Gorak Shep - Everest Base Camp - Gorak Shep
Day 17: Gorak Shep - Kala Pattar - Dingboche
Day 18: Dingboche - Chhukung - Chhukung Ri - Chhukung
Day 19: Chhukung - Island Peak Base Camp
Day 20: Island Peak Base Camp - Island Peak - Chhukung
Day 21: Chhukung - Mongla Pass - Khmunjung - Namche Bazaar
Day 22: Namche Bazaar - Phakding
Day 23: Phakding - Lukla
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