Nepal April 2012
Apprehensive Nervous Excitement of the Unknown
Well we arrived at OR Tambo to meet up with Corlius and Mark as well as Eric who flew up from Cape Town. We ended up just making it to the Gate in time as passport control was quite busy, and security were not happy with my water which I drank and Liz's mouth organ caused a bit of a stir. They ended up letting Liz through with her water!
As we took off it was interesting watching the outside temps, they tied in pretty closely to KTM 1400m 24 deg Lukla 2800 5 deg, Namche 3400 -3 deg, 5500 -10 deg....The flight was ok, watched the sunset along with a solo free climber doing some tough Yosemite climbs, some young kid skiing on a slope that his dad died on and a bunch of guys climbing Everest in 1924 gear to see if Mallory could have summited via second step or not.
Dubai international is massive, we went down then up, and further up.... We met up with Esther who was on our flight, but she had done her hair in dreadlocks so we missed her on the plane. Mark had kip, Liz and I had an expensive 500 ml water , between AED USD and rands, prices were a bit complicated for 1AM, we then bought 1500 ml Evian for less than the 500. Got some pistachios to nibble on and a bottle of Tulamore dew for inspiration.
Peet arrived on his flight from CT and we moved to another gate where we found some carpets to sleep on.
Not much shuteye in a busy airport that never seems to slow down.
We set off to find Terminal 3, interestingly the bus left from where we had been dropped off the night before. We met up with Eric and got confirmation that John had landed. The KTM flight was mostly trekker, one couple of pro climbers who hoped to summit Everest sort of put a damper on our goals but no worries we are still up to it.
Sitting in the plane enroute to KTM the reality of what we are doing is actually sinking in. One life- Live it. Work on those bucket lists.
First views of the Himalaya, wow but those snow covered peaks are high.
Ok so we had a Nepalese meal in our Thamel hotel , the other were less adventurous. We had a few Everest beers, 650ml. Passed out at 23:30 , woke at 9:10!, oh dear late for breakfast. This is included in our 20 USD cost, made it for an omelette and toast, Liz had yoghurt. We went with Corlius to pay for our flights , a bit scary handing over all our bucks so early in a trip.
We then went shopping, managing to extricate ourselves from the group, albeit unintentionally. Big shopping groups do not work! We found most of what we were looking for. Will I ever trust a label again? Gore-Tex is not Gore-Tex unless the price is right. If it is cheap it is a fake. The problem is, will it work, Corlius suggested blowing into it. If it leaks in it is not waterproof. If it leaks out it is Gore-Tex ie it breathes.
We had a great meal out with Corlius celebrating his Birthday. We bought him a 1L bottle of Amarula which was demolished on the 6th floor roof garden followed by a good night’s sleep. Not everyone comes to Nepal to trek, there were 13 yogi's in the dining room. Poor Mark got there first but was last to get his tea. French toast was good, Liz had Curd/yoghurt.
Another day of shopping, Corlius took us to some different shops. We did drop!! Let's hope we have everything we need.
We have packed our bags Duffels are 12/13 so porters are ok, daypacks are 8 ish. 2 bags get left for when we return!
We are supposed to fly out at 9:30 tomorrow, some others from our hotel have returned 3 days in a row, it looks like it is snowing at Lukla so the same may happen to us. We fly on to Lukla to begin our trek, see earlier map.
We went to Rumdoodle for dins, came back and finished packing with some Tulamore dew.
Well rain during the night, a bit of sun this morning. At breakfast we find out the flight is delayed 2hrs. Well weather websites for Lukla go from 23C to --2 as current, from bright sunshine to snow. www.yr.no, wundergrpound.com, accuweathher.com, etc
I took some videos of the drive to the airport, a hoot means 'I am here" so hooters have short shelf-life. No road markings, saving costs I think. At times it looks like the road has been built up, sometimes halfway up a building. The Hindu temple is at least 5m below the road. Water ways also seem to flow under roads!
Well we have boarding passes, flight is now "12:30" see video for the airport culture shock. Norbu helped us as we went quite quickly through check-in. A fellow South African who will be on our flight, got to the Airport at 6:30 which makes us feel much better. The announcements are quite noisy.
Roll on peace and quiet.
Ok at 12:45 we are told "1" hour to wait. The announcements are so loud one is not if they are in English Nepalese or Russian. Sometimes the flight number is heard, but Agni 111 has not been called yet. Norbu is checking it out for us.
We boarded the plane, watched them replace the oil in the right engine and prepared for take-off. The group with had been at the airport for 2 days so were pleased to be taking off. Interesting take-off for a propeller plane where torque is built up before releasing the brake. Good take-off as we climbed through the height of Lukla 2800, then Namche Bazaar 3400 then cruised at 3600. 30 minutes into the flight we were turned around as Lukla clouded. Landed at KTM got our bags and now we are back at the hotel. We must be at the airport at 6:30 for our flight at 7:30 tomorrow!
Went shopping for some odds and sods and got a soft shell jacket for R100 had a great meal at Funky Buddha after drinks on roof. My headache was treated to a Disprin which seemed to help.
Our 5:15 wakeup call was a bit late. A quick breakfast followed by a nice taxi drive to the airport. Our flight was absolutely amazing, took a number of videos en route, amazing to land on such a short uphill runway. Quite a police presence, felt like an enforcement of authority/ job creation rather than a security threat.
Got to meet our porters at last, set off at a slow pace , amazing views of small villages, tea houses, rivers and prayer chortens, we stopped at about 12 pm for lunch in Phakding. My Garlic omelettes went down well. A slight rain has settled in and the temp has dropped quickly. Not to say that pre Phakding is not beautiful, we did go through seeing some beautiful lodges and pools and a few peaks sticking out way above what looks high. Similar to seeing Table Mountain above you, with the snow-capped peak, Kusum Khanghara, behind being 2000 m higher.
We have got to Monjo and are in a newly built tea house with no cold water in the bathroom, 400 rupees per room per night ie R20 each per night, but you must eat at their restaurant. The food was pretty reasonable, I had chicken fried rice for Rs290 , and my double cheese omelettes will be the same for breakfast. Bread is expensive except for homemade based products like chapatti/ pancake/ spring rolls. The dough is quite thick but tastes ok. I expected more chilli and spice. Liz managed to organise a plate of fried bokchoi which gave some green. She was at least happy, we had a chat with the owner of summit home, he grows the bokchoi, they had a wind about 6 weeks ago that blew down half the pine trees in the valley- about 1 million that is. He lost his green house in the wind. He has owned the tea house for 3 years. The area is famous for their apple pie, I tasted some but found it a chewy and oily. At least our joints won't squeak with all this oil!!
It rained most of the night, the snow line is about 100m up so we are surrounded by magnificent snow-capped mountains. Breakfast is at 7:30 as we head off for Namche Bazaar, our first and only "city" in the sky.
Namche Bazar 6-7 April
Believe me Namche Bazaar is absolutely beautiful in the snow albeit a bit chilly. The walk up was quite steep gradually getting more and more cold. We gained about 700m today. We are now at 3440m which is a high as anything in the Drakensberg/ Lesotho. Altitude is an unknown territory from here on up. Sweating on the way meant stopping to put on and take off my Marmot soft shell jacket. Liz was alternating T-shirts with comrades top and her Sherpa soft shell. We probably did not drink enough but the water was really cold. We are enjoying a nice Masala tea now as we sit in the Sona lodge. The stone masons are at work outside, chipping away at making rock bricks. I am waiting for some Garlic soup, sorry my soup has just arrived, now this amazing, I think I must learn to make this. I hope not to sweat tomorrow or those around will really suffer.
Going up to our room after lunch, I felt really cold so was put in sleeping bag by Liz, covered in warm clothes and left to stew until I got warm. There was a lot of help in this from Liz. Liz went off to find Eric our resident doctor who said take Antibiotic so I am the first in the group on drugs. I am feeling a bit better and have ordered fried noodles and veg with hot lemon which is a lemon powder with boiling water. Liz is making me a medlemon, hopefully we can nail this soon as we leave for Tengboche on Sunday. We also have a rest day there so more time to recover. By supper time I was feeling much better thanks to my wonderful wife. I enjoyed my noodles and watched Liz eat a whole plate of potatoes and veg. I doubt she would do that at home. I got some extra garlic which I shared with Liz. I think we may become outcasts soon, no-one else seems to like Chilli or Garlic. We are planning a walk to 2 villages tomorrow started by Edmund Hillary after he summited Everest in 53. We gain about 400m which will help with acclimatisation.
We had a beautiful view this morning with sun shining on some peaks, almost not known because they are only 6000 odd meters.
Namche bazaar is a real vibey place the only thing that is difficult is finding reliable Wi-Fi. Mars bars are R6 a litre of water is R10, just bought some tang to make drinking water a bit easier, ie by adding flavour. It tastes quite good. I have taken to drinking hot lemon, it tastes like med lemon without the Disprin. We think this is just tang with hot water. I have taken it easy today with my cold, but am really feeling much better than yesterday. Looks like Corlius has done a Liz as his boots have also lost their soles. He bought a pair of LaSportiva lightweight boots at US prices in a local shop, so is chuffed. He is a real gadget person and has to have the "best" equipment. We have numerous debates around what is best. Similar to most things it can be very personal. Brand names and knockoffs we are almost on the Tibetan border and you expecting to pay the same as a US store somehow I doubt it.
Currently the sun is shining brightly although most peaks around seem to be snow covered. On our walk this morning up to the view point we had a little snow, but the clouds obliged and gave us a stunning view of Ama Dablam, Island peak, Lohtse and Everest. We could also see Tengboche in the distance. A pair of Lammergeyer flew past which was also rather special.
If we were still here on Sunday night I could have watched Arsenal play Man city at the Everest bakery!
Had a quiet day just wandering around looking at the village from various angles and perspectives, Liz went out on the circular route to Khumjung and Khude, coming back around 3pm. We then went off to do some shopping, coffee , strepsils and more tang, including a walk up to a helipad, one of I do not know how many in the area. I suppose varying weather conditions dictate the need for this. Some Japanese tourists got flown out today, money obviously is not an issue for them. Amazing how the clouds close in at night. Maybe my hope for a view of a sunrise/sunset on Everest is just a pipe dream. I never thought that Nescafe Gold would taste this good. I can't wait for Ethiopian Espresso when I get home. The in thing here appears to be either Illy or Himalayan Organic coffee, maybe I should have brought my Espresso machine.
Tengboche 8 April
At 4 am this morning I watched the moon over a most glorious snow-capped peak only to realise that the sun would rise shining on the peak. My camera went into the sleeping bag to warm the batteries up. I took some awesome pics at least I hope I did. Eric did a real nice touch by giving us each an Easter egg to celebrate Easter Sunday, thanks for that!! We had a nice slow 11k walk up to Tengboche, it was a tough climb but we just dawdled along, it ended up taking us 5 hrs. We took some amazing pics along the way, lots of "photo opportunity" corners.
About half way along I saw Liz and Mark stop I thought she was putting on a top and carried on about 200 m to join up with the others. As soon as Corlius left a huge group of trekkers left a tea house and I did not see Liz or Mark. Eventually I moved on across the suspension bridge only to discover in my looking for Liz I had left my stick behind so back across I went, totally confusing the Indian camera crew, - found Corlius and Norbu to confirm that Mark and Liz were behind. I was just about to go back when Liz came round the corner carrying two packs. One of her fleeces had fallen out and Mark went back about 1k uphill to find it. What a star!! He did find it! Liz had borrowed it from a Jane a friend!
We then set off for Tengboche, 700m up. It was quite a walk I am the only one who preferred it to the Namche climb, probably mostly because I was sick going up that one. These antibiotics really seem to be working. I am feeling good. I think everyone is strong so far, just to juggle the acclimatisation, now where to go next.
As we have gone up the rooms have got smaller , still only rs200 per room as long as you eat dinner and Breakfast there. Prices are going up a bit.
On putting on dry clothes we went up to the monastery as a ceremony started, interesting concept going to a Buddhist ceremony on Easter Sunday. Many eastern people feel that a part of their soul is taken when a pic is taken, even though pics are not allowed many still just clicked away, some with flash even.
I could feel a presence of God in the very ornate temple, the structure, design, icons etc were amazing.
One of the people we met at KTM airport when we arrived, was in the ceremony, he came to base camp 16 yrs ago and had now brought his family, wife and 3 kids. They took 2 extra days to get here but they got here. He is very keen on also doing the Ama Dablam walk tomorrow, before descending and going home.
I am currently sitting in Cafe Tengboche where I have just had an amazing Double Espresso with a very tasty Chocolate Brownie, Liz had a Latte with apfel struddel. They even have sour dough bread here. We are trying to get our group to walk to Ama Dablam base camp tomorrow, this was achieved by inviting everyone into the bakery where we decided to leave at 7:30am and get to Pangboche followed by a trip up Ama Dablam. The eating room was very hot where we had supper, I watched Liz eat 6 potatoes last night! I had to help her to finished plate of roast potatoes and tuna. We had Apple tea which was a bit tannic but ok. Took a small pot of hot water to the room for Nescafe! Early night.
Pangboche 9 April
At 1:30 this am I had a bit of headache so drank some water, I had slept well till then but only dozed till around 6 am when I glanced through the windows to some of the most amazing views I have ever seen. I alerted Mark who came out in slops and ended up with cold toes. The views were absolutely amazing to get an awesome picture did not require anything other than point and shoot, 360 degrees of stunning, stunning views. The apple pancake was very nice for breakfast along with the obligatory hot lemon. The walk to Pangboche was great , on arrival we decided to push on and do Ama Dablam without waiting for the bags to arrive. Mark ended up deciding to do his washing before going up, so Liz Peet John and I set off. It was quite a steep climb to start, but although we climbed about 700m it was a comfortable walk. We passed Dave (our Pom) and his son on the way up. They were busy establishing the base camp for an expedition so we saw lots of Yaks and porters carrying chairs, fuel mattresses etc. Mark arrived about 15 mins after we did, Norbu and Eric having turned around after the steep bit. The views were amazing all the way up, lots of photos were taken by all. There was a totally surreal feel , 360 degree views, absolutely amazing. Having shown my Mom a picture in Cathy O’Dowd’s book of Ama Dablam the day before leaving SA and now having stood at the base and taken in the amazing view was very hard to fathom. To think how quickly things can be achieved when the wheels are in motion. Liz and I stayed on for bit after the others left to enjoy our rs180 apple. Dave arrived just as the clouds came in and blocked the view with the resultant drop in temperature. It was quite cold coming back down. We are back at Pangboche now enjoying a hot chocolate before we set off to try and send these updates.
We managed to transfer the word docs to a pc and email to our sisters hopefully for wider family distribution. Somehow my email to blog does not work. So I had to use Gmail to send emails, they seemed concerned and I had confirm who I was probably because of the new country/ remote login. It really highlights the technological problems of travelling. While paying rs20 per minute for slow internet and using Firefox I could not work out how to login to my blog as the layout in Firefox is different. I use Chrome an IE normally. It took 17 minutes to end the mails, I tried email blog update as well but the update did not go through.
When we got back to Kamalil tea house the overseas contestants in the Everest Ultra marathon had arrived, they are on their way up to start on the 13th the start having been delayed because their flights to Lukla had also been turned back and their arrival was 2 days late. Liz and I are both quite envious of the runners, although 65 km from Gorakshep to Lukla sounds like quite a challenge. We may see them on the 13th when they come through Lobuche as we should be staying Lobuche. There are also 30-40 locals who will be competing.
Liz made a mistake ordering just a salad, there was not much, a bit of cabbage and some carrot with a sprinkling of Yak cheese on top. My Chicken Chow Mein was the first spicy dish I've had here, I thought it was pretty good. We had an early night as the rooms are pretty cold.
Dingboche 10 April
We woke this am to snow falling, what a treat. I had to wake Liz as she was fast asleep. I took a few photos of Ama Dablam and went to breakfast. Our cheese omelettes (Liz with tomato) and hot lemon was good. By the time we left the snow had stopped and was almost melted as the sun came out. It is really difficult knowing what to wear most days. We had quite climb out of Pangboche to Shomare, as we walked along, in the mist. John and I seemed quite slow but kept moving along, after all it is not a race! Some of the views in the mist of deep gorges and plenty rock falls were truly amazing. About 20 minutes from Dingboche John, Mark , Liz and I just lay down in the sun and enjoyed beauty of our surroundings. A while later Norbu came back to the others were wanting to move on to Chhukhung, I had looked at that option yesterday but decided we may then end up climbing 800m two days running so we just said no ways.
We arrived at Mountain Light lodge at midday, and walked up to the top of the town where we found Wi-Fi. So maybe you will get this update.
Just had great chicken soup with a chapatti, Liz had garlic soup which was also very good. We sat in the dining room watching the snow come down. It's amazing quickly it melts once it stops falling. This is now our 6th night only 14 to go, time sure is flying by. So far this has been such an awesome experience, I can only see it getting even better though. Temps may go down, prices may go up, looks like snow will come down and altitude will go up. Today we sleep at 4410m tomorrow Chhukhung village at 4730m, we then climb to 5546 or maybe 5833 ( weather dependent either we do just Chhukhung Re or on to Chhukhung Hill itself ) then back to Chhukhung.
We had some amazing sunset shots this evening, it’s amazing how we do not think about alcohol up here. I think I have had 3 sips of whisky since Kathmandu, Liz maybe a few more. We got a very different view of Ama Dablam from here. We have had snow on and off all day. But now we have a starlight sky who knows what tomorrow brings. I just had a chess game with Liz and played travel scrabble with Mark and Eric. I was last while Mark is a real whiz.
Oh well off to bed now.
Chhukhung 11 April
I did not sleep well last night, I think my pillow was too low probably my bed was sloping down. I got up with a slight headache and swollen lips. After doubling my pillow I did feel better. The sunrise photos were amazing, in all directions, only a few small clouds down below new Namche. By the time we had breakfast it was snowing. The garlic omelette was better than the apple pancake. Amazing how quality and quantity varies from village to village. We had a few snowflakes in the 5.5 k 2:30hr walk. Mark and John took a bit of strain so we stayed behind with them. Walking across streams where ice was on top with water just flowing below. The ice crystals made a great sight.
Chhukhung is a small little place, prices continue upwards, Liz is having a shower for Rs500! The loos are Asian so you flush by taking a jug of water from a bucket. The bucket has rather large ice cubes floating in it so I guess it is cold here. It has been pretty much over cast all day, but we needed to do some washing, expecting hot water we were provided with a stainless steel bowl and shown some drums with water, which when poured contained ice crystals. I thought my fingers were going to break putting them in my gloves after doing the washing. Eventually with my hands around a hot cup of coffee I managed to get some feeling back, otherwise I would not be updating this! Our washing is now on the line in bright sunshine. The eating room is warming up as the sun beats down on the roof.
We were moved to the dining room for supper, a fire was supposedly alight. I kept our place while Liz went and took her frozen washing off the line. She was too scared to try and straighten them in case they cracked! I had my first Dahl Bhat, which is a plate of rice with a bowl of lentils and bowl of spicy veg. These bowls can all be refilled @ Rs495, a good deal if you are hungry. The dining room was pretty cold so we went off to bed. I did not sleep that well and once again woke up with a headache. Not sure if it is altitude or cold that is causing it. We had early omelettes before embarking on climbing Chhukhung Re (5563m), the others just left without us, much to Corlius' dismay as he ran around the village looking for the path. We eventually saw the others starting up a spur so set off in that direction. My headache was gone by now, I have set a rule for myself to walk as slowly as possible during this acclimatization phase, so we just kept going slowly. This was to be 5 of our team’s first attempt at over 5000m, on Esther's Birthday nogal!! It took Liz and I 2;37 to get to the top, 3km on the GPS, 800m up. We were in total awe as we sat and stared at the amazing beauty. We stayed on top for quite a long time, before getting a little chilly. Liz developed a bit of a headache as well. We took our time coming down, to eventually get down much to Norbu's relief, "The others have all ordered lunch", we just had hot lemon and hot sea buckthorn juice which is indigenous to the area and they are trying to get more people to drink it. It is a mixture in flavour between Orange, peach and maybe some passion fruit, Liz and I both like it.
Liz and went off for a walk along towards Imja lake, it got pretty cold and started sleeting so we just returned and made some hot drinks. We are currently lying in our rooms under sleeping bags trying to warn up.
Had a good dal Bhat followed by good chat with some others doing a similar route to us.
Lobuche or rather Kongma la pass 13 April
Early morning wakeup call followed by a cheese chapatti. We set off to climb Kongma La pass, I wish I had words I could use to describe the walk. It was 11.5 km in about 7;30 it is I think the fourth highest pass in the world, although it is the highest trekking pass in the world. It was quite a climb up but for me it was not as bad as a Drakensberg pass, the lack of oxygen seems to be less of a problem now. Liz has a slight loss of breath going. The views going up were some of the best I have seen in my life. You will need to see some of my photos to try and appreciate what we saw today, from frozen lakes to glorious peaks to stunning cloud formations. I think this will be our last view of the Imja valley as we cross over the Kongma to the khumbu. Going down to Lobuche was quite an experience, there was a layer of snow which made the initial steep descent quite a challenge. I managed to ski down on my boots, having old boots is a slight negative as the tread, my heart was pumping faster going down the slope than it was going up the other side. We made it down to a nice grassy slope where we watched the others crossing the glacier, thinking it was quite close. It ended up being quite an up and down crossing albeit a very different one.
We are in a real rundown ram shackle place the room is disgusting, the food has not been too bad but we have already booked a "better" place for our return trip. One never knows what one will encounter in these places.
Let's hope tomorrow brings a better day. This evening has been a let-down for an otherwise perfect day.
Gorakshep 14-15 April
Ok so after sharing a single bed with Liz as the other bed did not have a mattress. Liz has started taking antibiotics as her cold appears to be moving to her chest. We had greasy omelettes before heading off at a leisurely pace for Gorakshep (the place of the dead crows.) It was a beautiful walk, I felt a bit flat but still kept going, and there is no real option other than packing up and walking to Lukla so one needs to keep motivated. We are now halfway through our trek and enjoying it immensely. We juggled with the idea of going up Kala Pathar or going to Everest base camp. We noticed the weather was closing in so settled on EBC. It was good walk of about 2 hrs either way, we saw incredible glaciers and now have a concept of what EBC really is the views of really cold ice which appears blue or pink is something to see.
We came back to our much improved lodge, Kulman left Lobuche at 5AM to get here to ensure we had good accommodation, we are most satisfied we have the top floor of the Snowland Inn, pretty much the highest lodge in the world. We are looking forward to a good night’s sleep. This will be our first sleep over 5000m. I think it will be fine as we have spent a lot of effort in acclimatising.
We had good supper Liz spent some time chatting to a Polish girl, who was not interested in Corlius' pickup line....
We went to bed around 8pm and I had good night’s sleep. Woke with a slight headache, but this was soon gone after starting our climb up Kala Pathar which is a peak with the best view of the Himalayas. It had snowed during the night which left a 10mm snow covering mountain to climb, we left at 6am, going from the 5180m at Gorakshep, up to 5545 at the top, 2 hrs up and 1 down. It was beautiful up there with views all around, it was quite cold up there Liz had her inner and outer gloves on. The weather is far better in the AM than PM so if you do a view activity it is always in the morning. We saw a casavac of some guy who could not handle the altitude. We got back to the Snowland highest Inn at 9:30 where I had Tibetan bread and Liz had a pancake for breakfast. Both were pretty good. The bread was much more like a pastry than bread, others who have had it say it tastes like vetkoek. Most food here is fried, so most of our joints are moving quite freely. After breakfast we sat in the warm dining room before eventually leaving for Lobuche where we had some garlic soup with papads.
We are now sitting at a nice Alpine Lodge in Lobuche playing travel scrabble while snow comes down outside. This could have significant impact on our attempt at Cho La pass which is sometimes closed due to heavy snow. There is also not a real escape route on this pass so it would mean a complete rearrangement of the rest of our trek.
Dzonglha 16 April
The Alpine Inn is far better than the Mountain Park View lodge. We enjoyed our stay there playing cards etc. We had an easy walk down to Dzonglha which was only 2:30 so an easy day. Liz and I then shared a bucket shower, managed to wash hair and some clothes. It was our first warmish afternoon other than a rather chilly breeze. We ended up playing cards again which was good fun. Off to bed quite early as we have an early start tomorrow!
Dragnag 17 April
Up at 5:15 this AM as we are due to have breakfast at 6 (Green valley lodge) followed by our attempt at Cho La (Cho means lake and La is a pass- Cholatse is lake pass peak)
We setoff and as per usual Liz and I were quite near the back. It was a great walk starting off with a gentle pull for about 2 km then a steepish climb up a spur before starting to encounter our first ice and snow. At the top we as per instructions kept to the left of the glacier ,it was quite testing for me with no snow experience, but I made it. We got to the top in 2:30 as the last to arrive, the book said 3 hrs so obviously it was an easy day.
We ate some snacks at the top of the pass and then proceeded to start going down the other side. To say that my heart was pumping faster going down the pass than going up says it all. I dare say I now at least have some experience on snow walking it was very much an adrenaline rush for me. The walk down to Dragnag was good, and we are now staying at an amazing lodge the Chola Pass resort, nice to stay at a place which acknowledges the pass that we have just negotiated.
Gokyo 18-19 April
Well we got to Gokyo and it was amazing, what an amazing lake system being fed by snow fields which are supposed to melt and feed the lakes. As summer approaches the lakes unfreeze and become really beautiful. If it still snows then the lakes freeze over again. On arrival from Dragnag Liz and I did a walk up to lake 4, Gokyo town is situated at lake 3. No one else seemed interested on walking. It was a bit cold coming back at around 3pm but not too bad. We had a really nice meal, the owner being a south Nepalese had more of an Indian feel to it. Liz had a Paratha which was pretty good as she ordered the same the next night. I have sort of given up on Dal Bhat as I tend to eat too much then. The next day we set off to get to an Everest viewpoint, there was much debate as to which was Everest believe it or not! The biggest mountain on earth and we are not sure which it is! As per usual I did my own thing walking along the ridge of the Glacier and experiencing some amazing views. We got as far as 5th lake where everyone except Liz and I turned back, we ended up at 6th lake which had an amazing view of Chyo oyu ( 8201m) as well as its base camp. At around 13:00 as per usual the wind really starting howling, just as we were setting off back to Gokyo Resort. At one stage I was walking with -2 inner gloves and -17 outer gloves and my fingers were still cold. We got back at 16:20 which made it quite a long day, from our 7:30 start, we did around 20km topping out at 5200m. I had an amazing Pizza and managed to sleep through the night and woke up without a headache for the first time on the trip I think.
Ludgen 20 April
Well today is Peet's 40 th birthday, what a way to experience a birthday by going over Renjo La, this is an amazing pass, I cannot really say which of the 3 passes is my favourite, all I know is that they are all so different but absolutely amazing. I know that my adjectives do not do justice to the views we have seen. Most views are actually indescribable in English! So adjectives are not needed. I have managed , I hope, to take a sequence of photos of Everest which I would like to make into an animated GIF to show Everest from various elevations as we climbed the peak. I really enjoyed going up the pass, it was tough as any pass is, but I was really in awe of the views of the Himalayas. Esther struggled a bit up the pass but we think it was Asthma. John took a Diamox halfway up the pass, I think he is the only one in the group who has taken Diamox and Esther is the only one to not take anti-biotics.
We had a nice evening playing cards at Valley view lodge, Sherpas and Nepalese are short subsequently I either keep on bumping my head either in the loo or bedroom or passage way!!
I had potato chips last with omelettes, these cost half the Gokyo price. It is amazing how prices vary with altitude/ route/ proximity to popular routes etc. These include food prices and accommodation, eg accom has varied between Rs200 and Rs600, food is almost in the same range.
Thame 21 April
Woke at about 6am but only had breakfast at 7:30 I had a pancake Liz had a veg omelette, I wonder what all these eggs are doing to our Cholesterol. It was a beautiful 10k walk down the valley to Thame, Liz and I being the last to arrive as per usual, not so much because we are slow or unfit but more because we stop to admire the view more than anyone else. At one stage we thought the group had just gone straight through to Namche.
It turned out we were wrong as we moved Thameleng or upper Thame into Thame proper. We had our obligatory lunch ie Potato soup for me and veg soup for Liz, and were just on our way up to the Monastery when the 13:05 rain started falling, amazing how the weather always changes around this time. We ended up playing chess then scrabble until around 4pm when it cleared and we went up to the Monastery, Thame is really nice as they have info boards explaining various aspects of the town and of Tibetan Buddhism which appears to be the predominant religion. Interesting to people walking around with Rosary like beads chanting mantras quietly. I asked one of them if it was ok if I also spun the prayer wheels, he seemed genuinely pleased that I was keen and informed me that as long as I spun them clockwise it was fine, both here and in Namche, I was then guided around a prayer/ holy rock also in a clockwise direction, he then continued up the long wall of prayer rocks, probably 200m in length. As it was Saturday there were a number of people praying.
As per usual in a group of 8 newly met people being together for 20 odd days tensions do arise, mostly around money, precisely the reason Liz and I had opted to manage our own finances. We seem to have cleared the air but have found out that the Porters are only receiving 10usd per day and not the 20usd that we are paying, it appears that Norbu's company is more involved than what Corlius had been told. We will be paying the tip directly to the porters at Lukla, even with this thee is a variance between 15 and 20 percent or 50usd per week!! We have decided on the last option. Porters are lucky to get 4 trips a year which invariably keeps a whole family going for the whole year.
We are trying to be as fair as possible.
Namche Bazar 22 April
I had an amazing sunrise experience today, I woke at 5:30 and went down to a little hill which allowed me to take some amazing photos. These will be shared later.
This was followed by an amazing walk where I managed to get a Yak bell and tie it to my daypack. I got some extremely strange stares from both Yaks and Nepalese, but it did help clear the path!! Liz Corlius and I then went on a side trip with Kulman to the two villages started by Edmund Hillary as an acknowledgment for his achievement in climbing Everest. It was a great walk probably close to 20km today.
We got our last views of Everest today more photo opportunities!! We are now in Namche , back at our previous lodge, it was nice to "come home"
Well I managed to download emails today at least my dear sister Gill is interested in our travels, thank you so much for updating Mom and keeping her in the loop. Your email really made us feel good. You talk about flying in food, sorry Gill but Lukla airport(2800m) is really only used for passengers and sometimes for expedition equipment. Namche airfield (3900m) is used for building equipment and also expedition equipment. I doubt that food features in equations as it is a low value item. Food is carried in by porter. As an example the race from Gorakshep to Lukla was 65km so any food at Gorakshep has been carried that far. No wonder the prices are higher.
Above about 4000m only potatoes grow, as it is spring they are only just planting so we hardly saw any produce grown
We went to Namche bakery and I had a chocolate donut and a chocolate cake and an espresso, Liz had a Latte with apple struddel. While we were there Scott and Carin who we first met in Chhukhung came in, we had left them at Gokyo as Scott was suffering with a cold. They came over Renjo La the day after us and had snow from halfway down to Ludgen. Amazing how we keep bumping in to some people. They are from San Francisco and are on honeymoon, they leave for Thailand ASAP for the second leg.....
Mark and John have got an earlier flight so walked to Phakding yesterday and should fly to KTM at 10am Monday.
It is amazing to compare my photos of the Namche area peaks, the snow is now almost all gone.
Monjo 23 April
Well my Yak bell really helped coming down the path from Namche Bazar, people readily got out of my way with the Yak herder ( Liz) being left behind a bit. I took some interesting videos on the suspension bridges, I hope they make for interesting viewing.
On arrival at Monjo Eric announced that he was taking a porter and heading for Lukla to try and get home earlier. We once more had a discussion around the financial implications!
Liz and I went for a walk up a mountain through some amazing (sorry) pine forests which were damaged by high winds about 2 months ago. The owner of Summit Home was a guide who summited Everest 3 times during a 14 year guiding stint then went back to school to get an education!! He showed me the route up to a viewpoint. The fallen trees managed to make the path quite difficult to follow. We ended up going up for an hour, we almost got back up to the height of Namche! We then had some snacks and came down way of the path, ending up stumbling on some lumber jacks who were busy sawing up some of the logs that had come down. Amazing to see how straight and quick they cut.
Came back to summit lodge for a drink and now we are busy trying to shower. The water is not as hot as Liz would like it to be!! Well I nearly froze my butt off. I managed to survive the shower and will not try showering again until KTM.
We had a good "curry" chicken which included a second helping which was good. Liz had a hash brown - I am not kidding I think it is her 3rd one in a few day, along with a very generous helping of fried greens- probably spinach but quite tasty we had a beer each in the restaurant which was a change. We ended up playing travel scrabble, I made some long words with very poor scores.
An earlyish night followed.
Lukla 24 April
I had Tibetan bread with fried eggs on top this time the bread was more like vetkoek! Liz had a Chapatti with veg omelette.
Then followed our Survivor Memorial walk as we wandered the last 4 hours of our trek, seeing places from 3 weeks ago, blossoms were now surrounded by green leaves, fallow lands were now green with Barley, Bokchoi was now turning.to flower and seed. All the changes were interesting, less snow on the peaks. Everything was greener, - probably the odours emanating from our sweaty bodies as well. The last 2km was a steepish climb up of about 200m where I did a bit of hill training by just keeping going at a consistent pace until I arrived at Lukla, I guessed that we would stay at our original meeting place which was Sunrise lodge and I was not let down.
On arriving my shirts were soaked and I did not have a dry T shirt in my day pack so I ended up in my walking second skin. This was a very useful piece of clothing during. The trip as it stopped wind but has breathing holes as well to prevent sweating. Interesting to see what I would pack if I were setting out today!! My bag would be a lot lighter.
We have just walked through Lukla and bought a few gifts, along with a new daypack for Liz which has a frame to prevent sweating, it is similar to mine. It was only R 160 so must be a knockoff as Deuter start at R600 in SA.
Liz has just finished changing over her goodies so we will soon find out how well it works.
It feels quite weird to have arrived back at Lukla, now just 3 flights and we will be home, we need to find some things to do in KTM , other than shop, eat and drink!!!
Well we had a few beers on the grass overlooking our lodge tonight! Our last Himalayan sunset! Liz is getting a cold from her cold shower and I have sore throat both of which were given a dose of chilli with dinner. Up to now I have not added Chilli sauce as I was wary of the possible consequences if I got the runs. I have not had bad stomach issues, Liz had a few but also not too bad so it looks like we have done well with using our drops on the water.
We are booked on the second flight tomorrow so must walk to the airport at 7:30, the plane may leave around 8 but we only will know when it arrives!!
Off to bed now
KTM 25 April
Flight to Ktm was not bad, it's amazing how hot KTM is, not sure how hot it was before we left but I suppose that was 3 weeks ago so summer is making a concertive effort at warming us up.
What a pleasure to have a nice hot shower!! Liz is still struggling with a cold so we went and found the equivalent antibiotic that was prescribed for us in SA, we paid R60 for 10 Ciploxx, and here we got 100 for R105. I am pleased with my CiplaMed share purchase!! We found a quaint roof top local restaurant and had a Lassi with carrot and cucumber salad, - nice to have fresh veggies , along with a poppadom with chilli and onion on it accompanied by some fried Paneer Chilli- Paneer is a type of Indian cottage cheese- fried it has a similar squeaky feel to Haloumi.. We both ended up sweating profusely as we watched a wedding procession with band and all bring the chaotic traffic to a standstill as the procession walked through. We did some shopping and came back to the room where Liz is sleeping. Not sure what will happen this evening Norbu is supposed to take us to a Nepalese restaurant. Going down to buy water , R2 per litre, I bumped into Clemens who we met in Dragnag a number of days ago. He is here in our hotel till Friday. He climbed Island peak which is a 6100 odd m ice climb so way out of my league. He says it is all roped but some abseiling experience would be required so that counts me out, I will not abseil. I will definitely not do any ice climbing!!
We had a relaxing day yesterday as we meandered through shops and spent some time in the Garden of Dreams, amazing how quite it was in there with such high walls in the middle of a bustling town. We did some gift shopping then bought 2 Kathmandu beers and watched the sunset from our roof. We could see the monkey temple from there, will be walking there tomorrow!
We went to Thamel house for dinner on Thurs, we all had the set menu, only Liz and Peet risked the meat version, it was pretty good, the rice wine was however not enjoyed.
On Friday the others in our group have gone for a 6 hour Mountain bike cycle, initially 72k but whittled down to around 45k. With Liz being sick and us having not cycled for a bit we decided not to join hotshots Peet and Esther, who regularly cycle in the Cape Mountains. Hope Mark and John enjoy it.
Liz is responding to the Antibiotics and is feeling a whole lot better. This resulted in us walking to the Monkey Temple complex today, only about 2.5k there, it was quite an experience getting out of Thamel which is the real tourist area. We went more to residential Kathmandu, I am pleased that I did not take any photos of the river we crossed, it was really really bad and smelt like raw sewerage. The pollution in the river was horrific and to think that people live near there!! We are both really struggling with the pollution we keep on seeing. The temple itself was in a poor state, some refurbishing was underway but on the whole I felt it was filthy and not really looked after, despite the Rs260 per person entry fee. It had a long staircase entry of a reasonably steep climb, maybe 400m long with a climb of about 100m. They charge you at the top of the climb and there is no real turnaround option. We saw some poor women with kids begging on the climb, they ask for money in a real hard, forceful way, which I actually found disturbing. I was really not quite sure how to respond! I had compassion for them but essentially felt it was for Buddhists to help as it is their temple. Not sure how right I was but that is how I felt at the time.
It is amazing how many dogs were lying sleeping at the temple, all dogs look severely underfed. Not sure what they live on. I think we saw more dogs than monkeys, there is some story about how the monkeys just invaded the temple. The Temple was in some or other Indiana Jones movie. There seems to be so little extra of anything in this place other than poverty and starvation. On the whole the people do seem happy, but deep down they must really be struggling. A number of shops we went to today claimed us a their first customers, some as late as 2pm. We stopped at the Nepalese kitchen for a spot of lunch, where Liz was most distressed about a poor mangy dog, that was obviously in a lot of discomfort. With so little money and food it is amazing that any dogs survive.
We have managed to more or less finish our shopping so Liz has started the arduos task of packing. We brought an extra travel bag that we bought in Oakland after visiting Gill, it is a really nice ex Army carry bag.
Well we did a quick shop this morning bought a few odds and sods, then finished packing. Not sure how much it weighed at the hotel we were pleasantly surprised at the airport, weighing in at 55kg.
We had a great lunch at Thadike where we had lunch the other day. We had a great selection of very different foods which went down very well with Lassi. It was really good to be introduced to Lassi it is a mixture of Curd which is very similar to plain yoghurt and milk, in a type of yoghurt shake
We have now checked in and Liz and Corlius are trying to sort out the finances. It is quite interesting listening in from the side, what one person sees as fair and what others see is quite diverse. We do not want to be anal about all the costs but we all need to look at it reasonably accurately.
I cannot believe that this trip is almost over. Two flights and a drive and we are back with Max and Sash.
The flights were ok, the time between flights not so great.
Dogs were fine when we got home, the red wine was exceptional as was the leg of lamb that Liz cooked for us.
We are both on antibiotics just to clear up anything we brought back, my stomach is not so great, my sinuses were bad when I arrived but are fine, and Liz is still quite blocked up.
It is a good idea to just reminisce on the trip so here goes.
1 This was definitely the most enjoyable hiking trip of my life. The views were amazing, the effort was not that hard, often Liz and I would try and equate the day to a race, and I think our toughest day came out as a 32k road race, probably not as hard as Tough One. The one difference was we never had a day off trekking- but I do not think we needed one! Or should I say when others took a day off we often did side trips. Corlius said some days were as tough as he has ever hiked, maybe some days made it into my toughest 10 days of all time, but a real berg pass I find tougher.. I did not ever feel totally exhausted, I did lose my breath on some long climbs but I tried to walk at a pace just slower than sweating, this meant I stayed warm and did not lose too much liquid through sweating. This was also a tip that Clemens shared with me. One loses enough liquid just through one's lungs breathing in the dry air above about 4000m in the cold! I was never dehydrated during the whole trip. I drank more than 3L every day.
2 If you are taking a leader, the leader must have previously done the trip you are planning to do or at least have an accurate knowledge of both conditions and facilities. We took self-inflating mattresses, which were redundant but took up a lot of space in my bag, we were told we would need them by Corlius.. Estimated costs of food etc need to be relatively accurate. In my mind it is not acceptable to estimate prices that are 200 percent out. I realise that costs are not easy to get right and overall our budget ended up being quite accurate but overall I think this was very much a "lucky guess"
3 It was quite interesting, interacting with our group of porters, I wish we could have got to know them a little better but I suppose that was not really part of the plan as they seemed to keep very much to themselves. It was quite scary to note that Bikram's 2 month old child died during the trip and Kulman's father and son were not well, it brought home the reality that these were real people as well, yes we were paying them to do a job, but they still had family issues to deal with. The life expectancy in Nepal does not appear to be very high.
4 Coming back to KTM brought with it different sorts of challenges. I guess you could say 20 percent of people in KTM walk/ drive around with masks on due to the pollution and fear of disease!!
I must say the air is not very clear down here, I know it is difficult to compare it to the mountain air we had for 3 weeks but unfortunately one has to do. I find my mouth is very dry and I still need to drink a lot of water. The pollution can be seen in my Facebook sunset photo.
5 The experience of having flown in to Lukla airport is a very special one. I never once felt endangered at all but I did realise the potential for a major disaster! A flight after landing at Lukla can be airborne again within 5 minutes. As soon as all passengers have disembarked the new load starts getting on, we were actually standing outside the plane waiting while in our case cargo was unloaded so that we could board! The speed of turnaround is great, the efficiency is maybe not as great! I think I read up to 100 flights a day can land and take off at Lukla. Remembering the airport is mostly not functional in the afternoon due to weather!
6 The best saying I have heard on this trip is "they are so poor that at all they have is money" I feel that I have experienced more than what money can buy today! I know this can be taken out of context in a poor country like this but I am referring more to rich people!
7 In some ways Liz and I just wanted to get home, however it has been a good time of reflection as we think about our trip, looking at it in a relaxed manner, not a rushed one. I never thought this trip would go so quickly! At least Liz's voice is coming back so the Antibiotics must be working, pity we could not get her on them a bit sooner.
8 Load shedding is not unique to Eskom. Kathmandu loses electricity for 8 hours every day. This is on a rotating schedule, sometime you go to a restaurant, and you cannot something because an electrical appliance does not work, but generally the use of non-silent generators makes one fully aware of when the power is off. This includes throughout the night as Hotels attempt to keep their clients happy. Many shop owners have fitted solar power and only switch on lights when customers enter the shop. A stark reminder in an over populated city, where pollution is really bad, that even still the locals risk their health for some financial gain.
9 Would I come again? Would I use a company or try and find my own guide and porter. Would I prefer a smaller group? These probably require some more thought. I must say I do fancy coming in autumn when everything is greener and one just gets hints of the approaching cold, but on the other hand there would be less snow which really made this trip enjoyable. My first experiences of real snow were really enjoyable.