Trek 2: Look at me ma! I climbed a hill!

Trip Start Feb 06, 2005
Trip End Jul 2005

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Monday, April 25, 2005

The day before we met our Everest (EBC) trek group was Holi day, a great send off. At the end we were soaked in paint and water (whatever you do, keep your mouth closed!) and had managed to retaliate quite effectively to the locals. A really cool festival which we're thinking of bringing home. Nothing quite as satisfying as the look on a waiter's face when you walk into a restaurant and sit down, covered in paint.
Considering that after Gosaikunde we felt like the walking wounded, it was quite a relief when we arrived at the group meeting and found 'normal' people, aged from their early 20s to their 50s. No psychotically fit people, just the normal psychotics, who we felt more than capable of dealing with. It turned out to be a good group overall- no one argued, and everyone made it to base camp, which is no mean feat. Altitude kills, as they seem to get so much satisfaction in reminding you everywhere you go. It was funny though, watching the supposedly cosmopolitan Aussies learn to communicate with the locals. Even our guides, who spoke fluent English, were subjected to the 'speak slowly and loudly in very simple words' technique.
The first day we flew from Kathmandu to Lukla, the airstrip of which slopes up, so you're going uphill when you land. This is pretty cool, but the departure is even better- you take off downhill, then just manage to pull the nose up in time to fly over the opposite mountain face.
The first few days of walking were pretty easy, and even on the short stretches of difficult walking, we had our technique down from Gosaikunde. The only difficulty was the altitude, which wasn't to hit us until after Namche Bazaar.
We had our first acclimitisation day in Namche Bazaar, a large town perched between mountains. This place is notable only because of the German bakery next to where we stayed. It was amazing, absolutely the best bakery we've seen yet outside of home, and it has spawned a million attempts to imitate it throughout Nepal, all unsuccessful. I don't know how or why it exists, but I will be forever grateful. We also took a stroll to a nearby village's school, built by Hillary.
The next day we walked through snowflakes to Tengboche, home of Tenzing Norgay's daughter's teahouse and a famous monastery. Not only did Tengboche provide mountain scenes which could have been straight out of an oil painting, but we had the chance to flip through Tenzing's trekking photo album.
Our next acclimitisation day had us walking past 5000m, and it was here that the most obstinate of our pace setters learned their lesson. From then on it was slow and steady. I have to admit feeling a tad smug.
Finally, on the 8th day, we had our walk to base camp. We trudged along the side of the glacier, and then on the glacier itself, dodging yak trains bringing supplies to the climbers. Despite the spectacular nature of the trek, and the sheer effort needed to walk for five hours at 5400m EBC is nothing if not boring. Imagine a few tents and an upside-down helicopter on a pile of rocks and, ironically, with no view. The day did bring a few firsts though. I saw my first avalanche, walked on my first glacier, walked on a frozen lake, scrambled through my first rockslide (while it was happening- that was exciting) and pee-ed at 5350m.
It was this day which also brought a weird allergic reaction to both of our hands. It kept growing no matter what we did, and then it started to blister. It wasn't till recently (3 weeks later) that we found out it was frostbite. Now, with black thumbnails and splotched skin on our hands, we look like goths.
The trip down was much faster than our trip up, and the difference wasn't just the downhills. Our bodies adapted to the altitude, which meant that we were able to do so much more at low altitudes than before. Somehow we also managed to avoid destroying our joints like we did on Gosaikunde. In other words we're supermen, so bring it on.
Arriving in Kathmandu on the 15th day was, without a doubt, fantastic. Not showering is cool for a week. Two weeks is a bit much though and we well and truly abused the endless supply of hot water at the guesthouse. It was great, but after doing 3 weeks of treks in our first 4 weeks in Nepal, we swore no more treks and we have remained faithful to that tenet so far.
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