Yes i really did it!!!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I survived!!! Im back in Kathmandu after conquering Mt Everest Base Camp (5364m)!  Base Camp was actually the easy part, Kala Pather which was 5545m high was the mission and a half!  I've jumped forward a wee bit so will take you back to when we left Namche Bazaar the first time, seems like so long ago… get a cuppa, this is going to be a long blog..

After our 2 nights in Namche to acclimatize (bear in mind that this was not rest days, we hiked, yes hiked) to an Everest view lodge opened by the Japanese with fully oxygenized rooms (perfect way to give you altitude sickness but I digress) and we got to see a bit of Everest before the cloud came down, there was a lot of cloud over the next few days, and rain but you’ll be able to see that by the pics.  On the way to Mongla which is nothing more than about 3 lodges in one place, we diverted through Kumba (hospital) and Kumjung (with a high school originally built by Sir Ed himself) and got to see some of the small villages of Nepal.  It was great to see the statue of Sir Ed at the high school and see how much he is appreciated (fact for you, when Sir Ed died, he was mourned in Nepal for 1 week, which is longer than when their own king died).  We arrived in Mongla and finally got to spend some time with our porters and guides playing cards and learning some things about them, up until then we hadn’t seen our porters at all.  For the 7 of us, we had 3 guides and 4 porters.  The porters are all from around Lukla area starting with Teju (18), a character who kept us all in hysterics and one of the main card sharks, lives with his family in Phakding (more on that later), Kebin (17), sweet shy kid who came out of his shell towards the end of the trek, Moti (25), wife and 2 kids that live 3 days walk from Lukla and Kerin, wife and child also a couple of days from Lukla (all spoke in Nepalese when we were playing cards telling each other what we had in our hands, good thing we weren’t playing for money as we wouldn’t have been able to afford to eat!)

Our guides were Kabin (main peregrine guy), we nicknamed him the Rooster as he was always strutting around; Deepak who was the guy always at the front, sweet guy who was really eager to learn English, also learned a few Maori words as well (Haere Mai Brooke), and Renjy (nicknamed the Fonz) was like the kid always at the back of the class mucking around).  All are expert card sharks when they want to be.  The nickname I was given by them (we all had one, mine was one of the nicer ones) was Kanchi which means the youngest girl in the family, there are songs and everything about Kanchi and I heard them all!

After sleeping in basically a shed in Mongla  where the toilet was a wooden shed with a hole in the floor with leaves and bark to kick in the hole when you were finished, we headed off to Dole.  Bits of this day were an absolute struggle but we were there by lunchtime.  After a yum lunch of vege noodle soup (yum) we had a wee rest including a nap which isn’t really allowed at altitude, apparently it makes you feel more sleepy (I felt better) we went for an afternoon acclimatization hike in the rain and cloud, none of us were very enthused by Teju (porter) was playing his fiddle as we were going up (proving that while we were all puffing away, Nepali ca walk, talk and play an instrument at high altitude).  Once we reached the top, they played the flute and all danced for us (again showing us that we westerners are weak in comparison, considering we scaled the mountain like goats I think we did pretty well).  I had a wee headache, not sure whether from altitude or lack of sleep but wasn’t too bad.  The toilet here was outside so was an absolute pain to go in the night (put your head lamp, shoes and duvet jacket on, down the stairs, across the lawn…).  Getting back to bed was a mission as well as we were upstairs and by the time I got back to bed my heart was racing a mile a minute!  That’s altitude for you and we were only about 4000m.  Our porters were really coming out of their shells now, especially when the cards came out so our evening was spent trying not to let them win too easily.  Another early night recovering from our exhaustion and my head cold including a runny nose (which I still have now).

The next day we headed to Machermo in the rain and cloud and we seriously tested our wet weather gear today.  Was feeling a bit better after my tiger balm steam the night before to try and clear my nose so at 4465m was doing pretty good.  After lunch (spring rolls like Cornish pasties), we went hiking, again scaling the hills like mountain goats, again with the flute being played.  Was a great afternoon and we all relaxed when we made it down in one piece.  Found out that our guide Renji up until last year hadn’t seen any cars, his first exposure to them was in Kathmandu for a peregrine course, talk about shock for him, there is non stop tooting here!  The next day, we set out for Gokyo (place with the longest glacier in the world and the amazing green glacial lakes).  It took about 3 hours to get there and we stopped at the lakes along the way, absolutely beautiful (dereramro in Nepali).    After lunch, we headed up the hills to see the glacier, looked like the surface of the moon until the fog became so dense all we could see was each other about 5 metres away.  We scaled back down (yes like goats) and headed inside for a nice hot apple tea and waited for dinner reading our books and trying to ignore the loud annoying brit who wouldn’t shut up, before an early night at 7.30, we were to be up at 5am to hike up to Gokyo Ri (5300m).  This hike was an absolute bitch, imagine feeling like throwing up, passing out and sleeping all at once and you can see what this felt like.  I had to sit down for a few minutes at about 5200m because I felt like I was going to faint!  The view was amazing though with the clouds lifting more and more as we went up (this in turn revealed more and more mountain to climb, very demoralizing for us all).  When we got to the top we were all given a cup of tea by Moti (porter) and it was amazing!!  Best cup of tea ever!  Lots of pics were taken and group ones which was gatecrashed by some random Korean woman who decided she wanted to be in it too).  About halfway up we were walking in snow, was bloody cold but really pretty

Back down to had brekkie and a short rest before hiking all the way to Dole, about 9 hours hiking in total, we were exhausted!!  We were running on adrenaline I think to just keep going, even though it was still raining (our motivation was that Dole had the better toilet than Machermo, plus nicer noodle soup, priorities).  We were now half a day ahead of schedule so we got to sleep in (until 6.30am).  By better toilet, I mean back to the wooden hut (think slumdog millionaire – we all had visions of that scene).

We pretty much doubled back but diverted off the Phorste for lunch, a really old style Tibetan village that survives on agriculture along as not many trekkers go there, aside from being accosted by an uppity cow (yes an actual moo cow), the town was pretty quiet.  With the adrenaline from yesterday having worn off, we were all pretty tired and would have stayed there if we had the choice, but on we went (in the rain and cloud) to Pangbouche, more grueling uphill where we couldn’t see a lot except cloud so it was just keep walking, just keep walking…  When we arrived through all the yak crap (its everywhere, so are the yaks but their dung is dried out and used for fire fuel) to the lodge and were grateful to be out of the rain at last.  We all got cleaned up and had a rest before dinner.  The lodge was owned by a monk and his family (his son – also a monk, quite likes bollywood pop music).  Was feeling a bit down this afternoon, just overtired I think, and the weather just made me feel dreary.  Few facts for you though, monks decide childrens names, not the parents.  The child is not allowed in the rooms of the house until the monk has assigned them a planetary sign etc.  Also, the Kumari (the young girl goddess) are only from blacksmith families (the lowest caste) and there are around 82 selection criteria to be chosen.  Once they reach puberty, they are no longer able to remain kumari but they are also not allowed to marry as one time a prince married an ex-kumari and he died so now they are not allowed to marry as its bad luck, sucky life really.

Saw a porter sherpa today who was lugging 108kg of bottled water up the hill, made me glad that we were boiling all our water from the local supply, he looked exhausted.   By this stage, my hair was absolutely disgusting (no shower since Kathmandu), im looking like one of those hippy outdoorsy women who belong to tramping clubs (no offense if anyone belongs to one) and yes it is still raining and cloudy and the walk to Dengbouche was horrid.  We passed though another school by Sir Ed which was great and the curry at the lodge for lunch was delish, felt much better after that.  I started to read Russel Brands book (the only thing in the lodge that was in English), interesting and no alternative so got through most of it, this trek seems like it was easier than his life).

Next day, yes more rain but wait for it, we were walking in snow to Labouche and it was horrid.  None of us could be bothered as we couldn’t see a thing, it was freezing and walking in snow that was like mini hail was not pleasant.  The lodge was like heaven when we arrived.  On the way though we stopped at the memorials of all the trekkers who have perished during high altitude expeditions, was eerie through the mist.  Another early night (7pm this time) as we had to be up for the walk to Gorek Shep then to Everest Base Camp.  Got my Sir Ed t-shirt out to wear at base camp and my silver fern flag all ready.

After rain, snow and fog the day before, we woke up to blue skies (cheers all round) and we were all buzzing on the trek as we could actually have a clear day for base camp, the first one on over a week!  Talk about lunch (we taught Deepak about crossing fingers for good luck).  As we were walking along, we could see Everest glacier, again like the moon and the walk to Base camp was like rock climbing, only not vertical (well some of it was pretty much).  Didn’t feel the altitude at all and the walk wasn’t too bad, base camp was great even all it really is is a bunch of rocks, hard to believe people camp there.  You actually walk through the glacier to get to base camp so that was pretty cool.  We could also see Everest a few times peaking out.  We were all exhausted after walking for 8 hours got another early night.  Base camp was 5364m and we were sleeping at 5160m so our highest altitude for sleeping yet.

Next morning (5am) we were dragged out of bed to start the mission that was Kalaphatar (where you can actually see the Everest mountain range 360 degrees).  Black rock as it is also known is 5545m high and it took 3.5hours to get up, believe me when I say it took forever (Kea your 500 training session was a breeze in comparison to this).  It was steep, long, long, long and then the last 50m or so was the hardest, had to sit down every 5m or so as felt like throwing up, made it though and was a bloody relief to be at the top!  We all had tea and bikkies to celebrate, then a snowball fight as yes we walked in the dark and snow to get there!  The view is absolutely amazing!!  We even got to see a small avalanche about 4km away on one of the mountains.  By the time we thawed out, it was time to come back down (again like mountain goats) but an absolute breeze in comparison to going up.  After brekkie we got to wash and rest before starting the trek back down.  We saw a chopper overhead and through the porter jungle drums learned that it was for an emergency evac of another trekker who had been on oxygen that morning cos he refused to go back down for bad altitude sickness, got an expensive ride in a chopper instead.  The walk to Pheriche was so long, you could see the town from about 2 hours away and it was like walking for ages and it just not getting any closer, couldn’t really complain as was following a guy lugging an 8 foot post, my bag was lighter than that so had it easy really.  We crossed dozens of streams and finally arrived at this little wee town before resting before dinner, we could all have just gone to sleep right then and some of us napped in the dining room anyway (its where the porters sleep and quite comfy).  We came down over 1200m today so no wonder we were tired.

The lodge we were staying in had its own wind turbine for power and all the lodges had their own solar panels for all their own power, plus the dung for the fire of course.  That’s the great thing about Nepal folk, they create anything from anything.

The walk to Namche felt like it took forever but was really about 2 hours from Tengbouche where we had gone for lunch, also saw the 16 century monastery where the monks were having a ceremony, just a beautiful place!  We were now on the home stretch and actually able to see the scenery which we had missed previously from the cloud.  At lunch we met this group of old guys from above Barcelona, the oldest was 72 years old and they had just done the same trek as us, and after lunch the 72 year old got out his cigar (he has one after every meal) and he lit up and off they went.  They were staying in the same place as us in Namche as well so caught up with them there, they motored along putting us to shame really!  We were all glad to be back in Namche (civilization = bakery with apple turnovers all around).  We get to have a sleep in tomorrow (7am) before a slow morning with shopping and heading back to Phakding after lunch.

In Phakding, we had a cup of tea and an apple at Teju’s house (we had been teasing him the whole trip that we were going to talk to him mum and come over for tea when we arrived).  We showed him mum and sisters the videos we had taken of him dancing and playing the flute and she loved it, it was so nice of them to have us all and his mum ran a little shop (his dad is a migrant worker in korea) so we all bought little things from her shop, she was so pleased!  This is our last night before heading back to Lukla and we were all talking about what we were going to do first when we all got to Kathmandu: 1-shower and wash hair and shave, 2. eat fresh fruit and vege, 3-shop.

Today was the walk back to lukla (airport town) and the walk seemed to take forever cos it was mostly uphill! Took a while and when we made it back to the archway at the start we all had photos (mind the sweat marks) and tried some of Teju’s mums baking (fox bread, not very nice, like a dry doughy doughnut).  We headed back to lodge to clean up then off to the bakery for coffee and cake (after lunch of course).  In the afternoon we had a soccer match with the porters, Peregrine Utd beak the Nepal Yaks 4-1, the game ended when the ball went on to the runway, the army was not impressed.  After this, we headed to the pud for some cocktails (basically just alcohol with a splash of juice), then back to the lodge for daal baht and hot chips with the boys.  It was great night, topped off by us all dancing to the vengaboys (nepali love them for some reason), bizarre night but great memories.  We all trotted off to bed super late (9pm) and were up at 5 to get tickets for the plane back to Kathmandu.  The guys presented us each with a prayer scarf which was so nice, more pics then off to the 'departure lounge’ to wait for the signal that planes were allowed to land.  The runway here runs uphill for landing and obviously downhill for take off, we all cheered when we actually took off as it meant we weren’t crashing into the Himalaya mountains.  Back to Kathmandu and after some shopping this afternoon, I lounged by the pool, bliss.  Am thinking tomorrow will be massage, sleep, maybe yoga, more sleep.  Nice
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nicole_sparrow on

wooo hooo!
Hey Brooke,

An experience you will never forget thats for sure! So glad you made it all the way without getting too sick. Your guides sounded like heaps of fun, getting to know them and their families must have been one of the many highlights!

Nicole xo

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