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Published: March 27th 2016
The public bus swayed precariously along the roadside. We had swung past a slow moving truck, and just got back to our side of the road as an oncoming truck came barreling towards us. The road snaked along side the mountain, sometimes sinking all the way down to the valley, and sometimes climbing all the way to the top. For much of the journey, the bus was crammed full of people, some hanging out the sides and Nepali music blasting from a speaker near the driver. Statistically, the bus from Kathmandu to Jiri has a higher fatality rate than the more common, and more expensive, flight to Lukla. Jiri was my destination. The trip had been on the bucket list for a while and now was finally underway. My ultimate goal was to hopefully reach Everest Base Camp, but I was going to attack it the old-fashioned way, like the pioneers who first went out to scout the great Himalayan mountain ranges of this region. Minus the bus ride of course.
The previous two days in Kathmandu were frantic, as I was running around trying to organize this journey independently. I had to rent equipment, take out enough money, buy
a return flight out of Lukla, research routes and buy maps, get all my permits, get food and other supplies. I was staying in the Thamel district of Kathmandu, but I really didn't have time to do any sight seeing. I had reached the bus with only minutes to spare that morning. An Aussie and Canadian traveling pair, that I had met the day before at the permit office, were on the bus and we decided we'd team up for the first stages. When we arrived in Jiri, we found a cheap lodge and then walked around the town. Adam and Rebecca were a little younger than me, and were high level skier and snowboarders. They had just finished a stint in Kashmir, having enjoyed the powder up there. Jiri still has signs of destruction from the tragic earthquake that struck Nepal in 2015. The Nepalis of this place are extremely kind. That night we all shared a room, and planned out our route over large portions of Dal Baht. We chatted with an older Aussie who had been all over the world riding trains, and was also embarking on this journey.
The next morning we
were off, heading from the town of Jiri (1995m) to Shivalaya (1790m). We passed through the foothills and found the well marked trail, and then went up for 200m before descending to Shivalaya. We passed paddy field and villages on the way. We passed a rural school and children ran out and wanted to practice their English. One of the teachers actually asked if we had some spare pens. In fact, we had many instances of people coming out and waving or saying "Namaste!". It was pretty awesome. In Shivalaya, we ate lunch before taking off for Deurali (2700m). We struggled through hundreds of meters of elevation gain. Already we were all thinking about how much more challenging this was than previously anticipated, and we were only on day 1! To be fair, we had to work out some kinks, like getting into trekking shape and getting used to carrying heavy packs over long distances (10kg to 12kg). Our packs were actually pretty light overall but my back got really sore after only a few hours. Hearts pounding, we made it up through the pass. Cloudy weather had made its way in, and the weather is ever unpredictable and temperamental
in these mountain ranges. We decided to descend all the way to Bhandar (2190m) and then call it a day. We found a lodge and then threw off our packs. My back was killing me. We had climbed about 1500m on this day. About a half hour after checking in, the skies opened up and hail descended. We were really lucky not to have been caught in that! We ate a bunch of snacks and then did some vital stretching. We met a trekking couple who were also staying at this lodge. I was surprised there weren't more trekkers along the way, but most people don't come this way. Considering what a slog day 1 had been, maybe I was beginning to understand why. We ate, played some cards and then had an early bedtime.
We departed Bhandar and descended to Kinja (1630m) down at the valley floor, crossing some suspension bridges and eating lunch there. My back was still killing me. The next five hours consisted of climbing tight switchbacks up a mountain for a total of 1500m of elevation gain! It was exhausting, and everyone was struggling on. My heart was pounding really fast
trying to supply my cells with needed oxygen. Adam and Rebecca were grinders and tried their best to stay positive. Black clouds blanketed the sky. We made it to the top of a hill to a village named Dakachu (2985m). An old man and a younger mute woman lived in one of the only houses we passed. The place we would be staying was a wooden shack, and across from that was another building where the kitchen was located with a wood fire stove. None of these lodges have any heating, so it was pretty cold at this elevation. I got out of my sweaty clothes and put on some warm layers. We ate Dal Baht that night while overlooking our progress on the map. Rebecca tried communicating with the old man but had difficulty with the language barrier. We then sat by the fire stove and then went to sleep quite early with plenty of extra blankets. Weirdly, the old man tucked me into bed on the way to his room. Yet again, this day destroyed me.
I woke up feeling good and the skies looked pretty clear. The old man began making us breakfast.
We all got up and packed up our gear, and after eating we departed towards the Lamjura Pass (3600m). We climbed up and up and the trees became more and more gruesome. Cloudy weather came in quickly. Luckily, we were all exerting ourselves or we would have froze. We walked along a snow covered ridge for a bit before descending the other side of the pass. It warmed as we descended and we saw some beautiful trees along the way. A group of monks passed us, climbing towards the pass. Several hours passed and we approached the town of Junbesi (2700m). On the way we went through a Tibetan monastery. I also got to witness the Himalayas for the first time with my own eyes, seeing some massive 6000 and 7000m peaks in the distance. I was motivated! We ate a much needed lunch at a nice Sherpa lodge. I was feeling stronger this day, and my back wasn't hurting nearly as much. We decided to press on and went across the valley to the mountain on the other side and then climbed for a while. The hike evened out by the end and we simply had a ridge walk
all the way to Salung (2960m) passing some villages and stupas. There we found an awesome tea-house to spend the night and ate more Dal Baht and played more of the card game called Shithead. Up until now I'd been having surprisingly good luck with that game. There was no electricity or internet and it felt nice to be disconnected. The beds were comfortable and it felt warmer than the previous night. I would sleep well.
The morning greeted us with a panoramic, if hazy, view of the Himalayas in the distance to the north. We each completed our morning routine and then strapped on the gear and headed towards the town of Ringmu and then continued up to the Taksindu La pass (3071m). From there we passed a stupa and then, yet again, descended down the mountain. Our descent lasted hours, and we passed through many villages and trail filled with Rhododendron flowers and pine trees. We made our way down to Nunthala (2330m) and stopped for a food break. By this point, everyone was getting really fed up of downhill. Rebecca had a close call where she nearly rolled her ankle. At another point,
I was in the rear and then heard the sound of bells moving in close from behind us. I yelled out at everyone to get to the side and then a few donkeys rushed passed with their handler close behind in pursuit. We made our way all the way back down to 1600m where we crossed a suspension bridge and then up to the beautiful town of Jubhing (1680m). We had the option of staying here but we all agreed that we wanted to try for the next town. After a brutal uphill, we did finally make the town of Kharikhola (2040m). I met a few Nepali trekking guides on the way and they suggested a nice lodge for us to stay in. The night consisted of enjoying more Dal Baht, playing cards and taking a hot bucket shower, my first of this journey!
After a solid breakfast, we departed on a beautiful morning and began climbing towards the town of Buspa (2360m). This part was easy but then the climb continued up the side of a mountain towards the town of Paiya (2730m). Unfortunately, this part felt as though it would never end, and I
started longing for some of that downhill I had been fed up about the day before. The trail there led us through gloomy forests and plenty of mud. Many donkey caravans passed us and we often had to wait until they fully went by before we could continue. The trail narrowed in many parts. We all had to rush through at one point when a large tree was being cut down. Definitely no security measures that we would have been used to back home. We got through and then some young boys finished cutting and the tree came crashing down onto the trail and partly off the mountain. We reached Paiya quite late, just as some rain began coming down. After eating we decided to continue and I put on a plastic bag that I had makeshifted with duct tape. We descended this time and the trail was super muddy and miserable. I was losing more and more grip and eventually slipped on slick piece of trail and, although I was able to catch my fall, my whole backside and bag were covered in mud. It was already 1700h when we arrived in Surke (2290m). We decided to call it
quits for the day, although I wished we could have gotten further. Six to eight hour days of tough hiking were beginning to take a toll, I was feeling pretty wiped. We ate well and got to sleep early, determined to push on the next day.
This was a big day. We were pushing to get to the large Sherpa town of Namche Bazaar. We were starting at pretty low elevation in Surke and began the climb up towards Lukla. Most trekkers seem to begin their journey by flying in here, but we just took the scenic route. We didn't actually go into Lukla, instead bypassing it and moving towards Phakding (2610m). On the way we noticed that our trek was now going into another phase, as our trail became increasingly busy and we noticed more foreigners than we ever had in the previous days. We were going up with a blue rushing river, and crossed many suspension bridges back and forth across it. Rebecca hated going over them, thinking they would collapse under her "massive" weight. It was funny really. Already the views were becoming better and better as we approached tall peaks on either
side. We ate lunch in Monjo (2835m) and then were ready for our big end of the day push. Our first Sagarmatha Park checkpoint lay just beyond this. We needed to climb about 600m to get to our destination. The climb began with a few more suspension bridges and then a difficult two hour climb up the side of a mountain. Rebecca had been having some right thigh issues but was leading on and setting a challenging pace. We hardly stopped and by the end my breathing became so heavy. With a final push we crossed through another park checkpoint and we made it into Namche Bazaar (3440m). The town seemed like nothing else I had ever experienced before, a true getaway to the Khumbu region of the Himalayas. I didn't really expect to have made Jiri to Namche in six days but we did it and felt quite accomplished. Our reward would be a full day of rest to heal our sore bodies and to help us with acclimatization. We calculated that we had done an incredible 7600m of elevation gain during this stage. The best was hopefully yet to come.
Tot: 2.808s; Tpl: 0.062s; cc: 40; qc: 140; dbt: 0.0751s; 2; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.9mb