First 6 days of the treck...
10.05.2007 - 15.05.2007
Day 1: I have now managed my first day on the Everest Base Camp Treck and it has been great. We were picked up at 5.30am in a tiny little taxi where the 4 of us plus driver just about managed to squeeze in. The petrol tank was in the boot, the luggage on the roof and I think we were all releaved when we got to the airport.
Our very old 18 seater plane looked a bit scary and it didn't make us feel better when they announced "technical problems" which were apparently solved within 30 minutes.... not a great feeling to get on the plane. After landing at the smallest airport with the shortest runway by doing pretty much a hand break turn we arrived safe and sound. The airport is build on the hill and as the runway is so short they had to help landing and taking off by building it in an angel, so the moment you land you straight away go uphill to help the plane breaking and when you take off it goes downhill and suddenly drops into nothing and you just hope you have managed the edge and stay up in the air.
After breakfast we met our porters and started the treck with a nice 3 hours walk. The scenary is absolutely stunning. Green mountains with a few local houses in between with some cute little sherpa kids sitting on the doorstep, yacks carrying several bags for the big expeditions summiting and the very happy little Nepali porters carrying up to 100kg each on their bag strapped around the forehead. Incredible how they can carry so much and then go uphill in that altitude and not even wearing proper shoes. Most porters wear some sort of plastic sandals/flip flops.
The yaks are really cute, I fell in love with those hairy creatures straight away, although you have to watch out for them, as they will push you out of the way. Several people get pushed off cliffs or bridges by them every year.
The porters/sherpa have to carry everything up the mountain, like bottled water, drinks, food everything. They even carry whole or half animals that are not preserved in any shape, not even covered up as a matter of fact. So, you can see a whole yak leg in a basket carried by a porter. We therefore have been advised not to eat meat for the whole 2 weeks. Great!!! But if the meat could have been carried for up to 10 days, it actually isn't that tempting anymore.
Our cute guide who is only 20 seems very nice and we also met some nice people on the treck, so it has been quite funny so far.
I have strained my calf a bit, but I suppose that's what you get when you as unfit as me.
So far, I am absolutely loving it. The accomodation on our first day in Phakding is very basic but what else do you expect.
I had my first Dhal Baat (traditional Nepali dish which our guide eats every day) today which I enjoyed and also tried Yak Butter Tea, which is absolutely disgusting. I thought kava on Fiji was bad. It is basically tea (I think) and they put yak butter into it, so all the grease is still swimming on the top and also quite a lot of salt, so it is salty tea.... Nah, not my cup of tea. Even Michael Palin found it revolting, but you have to try it....:-)
Day 2 and 3: Our second day was really tough, no more nice short walks ;-) We went up 800 meters in altitude to a place called Namche Bazaar which is apparently really famous with the trecker community, so not to me.... never heard of the place before...:-)
I just started to read the famous book of Jon Krakauer Ïnto Thin Air" which is about the disasterous Everst summit in 1996. It's a great book by the way, and hopefully it will bring me up to speek and get me into proper trecking mood.
Although it was a very hard day, I just love it so much. The scenary is so spectecular. The hills, the yaks, the prayer flags everywhere, the prayer wheels, stupas etc.
Also, I never expected hiking to be so rewarding and I am really getiing into it. I really love it and are getting more confident that I will make it. The guys and I have the same speed and we walk slowly but continously which is great. Not so good if you have people who just storm off. I really had enough after my second day but it was a really hard day and at the end of the day we got completely soaked too.... So far we doing well with timings and usually need less time than the guide says. The straining in my calf is not gone but apart from that I am coping much better than I thought and fell less under pressure now.
The only thing I worry about is the cold. Already now I sleep in my down sleeping bag, plus a sleeping sheet inside it and a blanket on top. I am also wearing a pyjama, a jumper and socks and a hat. Not sure what to do once we get up higher. We are currently at 3400 meters which is the highest I have ever been and hopefully the garlic soup is going to help me to avoid altitude sickness...
I think it is also a state of mind.... everyone was shocked when they found out that I am brushing my teeth with tap water and not bottled water as you apparently get sick from it. It might explain my stomach cramps but apart from that I am fine. I think you can also worry too much about food, water, altitude sickness and might increase the chances if you constantly think about getting sick.
The evenings are quite entertaining and we are usually hooking up with Les and Jason. It seems that none of the teahouses are heated apart from one stove in the main communal room which they fire up in the evening, so everyone spends the evening in there, as your room is just too cold. Even the main room is freezing occasionally and our bedrooms only have 0 C. It also seems that Namche is the last place where we can shower, as it is just getiing too cold. When I had a shower yesterday I could actually see my breath because it was so cold.
But so it is a unique experience that I certainly wouldn't want to miss.
Today was our first acclimatisation day. So we went up another 400 meters in altitude up to 3800 m to the Everest View Hotel. Unfortunately the weather was still quite bad so we couldn't see Mt. Everest. Apparently if the weather stays like this it could happen that we never actually see Everest which would be a right bummer. All that exhaustion and then you might not even see the damn mountain....:-)
On your acclimatisation day you are not meant to rest, like some people believe, but have to go up higher and then come down again and sleep low which will help you to cope with the hight over the next couple of days better, so I am really glad we went up all the way to the hotel.
Day 4: Day four was another very tough day for me. We woke up to glorious weather and went up to the Military Point to have our first look at Mt. Everest. It looked amazing but it was so far away that it is difficult to imagine that we eventually get there. We visited the museum there too which was quite good and very informative. That little de-tour was well worth it.
For some reason I was really struggeling today. My muscels were really aching and in a lot of places it was really steep. I also had constant mild headache. We were meant to walk to Tengboche within 4 hours but it took us 5. We were walking through amazing scenary again, fantastic forests with huge rhododendron trees. The weather was fantastic so that was great. The views over the mountains were incredible, Mt. Everest at 8848 m, Lhotse and others. We also had the Milk River next to us for the whole time. We went all the way down to the river to have lunch which was a great place although the toilets seem to be getting more and more basic the higher you go. We have now reached a hight where it was basically just a wooden shed where they have cut a whole in the wooden floor. Underneath are leaves piled up which are also inside the shed to cover your business, so they don't even use water here anymore to "flush". Apparently the mixture of leaves and excretes is used as fertiliser for the fields. Nice! That explains the occasional strange smell on the treck. And I was blaming the yaks or my fellow travellers! :-)
After a great lunch we had to walk all the way up again which was so exhausting and seemd so pointless and I was really struggeling here, but so were the others.
By the time we got to Tengboche, another famous place within the trecking community my headache was getting worse and I was getting a bit worried as it is still much further up to go. You need to drink so much up here, that quite easily that can cause the headache, so I might just need to watch out for it a bit better. I think I need to start carrying 2 wather bottles from now on. Maybe that altitdude sickness thing is a bit more serious than I thought. Maybe the others didn't make such a bit fuss after all, maybe I just under-estimated it.
At Base Camp you only have half the oxygen you have at sea level. That thought is quite scary.... Just read that in ïnto Thin Air"which is a fantastic book.
Kirby is suffering big time too, so I hope he is not altidue sick already.
Tengboche is great. We are at almost 3900 m and it's only a very small village with wild ponies running around. They seem to use ponies in these high altitudes. You also have a fantastic view over Everest, Lhotse and the lot. Incredible views. Hopefully it will be clear tomorrow morning.
They also have the biggest monastery of Nepal here which we visited. On two hours a day you are allowed in and can watch the monks praying and meditatin. Quite and incredible experience.
Our teahouses are getting more and more basic too, the higher youget. I don't really mind that at all, but I am really worried about the temparature here. The toilet which is just squatting whole is almost outside and freezing cold. I think it's time to make use of my hot water bottle for the sleeping bag.
I also just experienced my first Mars pie which is basically deep fried Mars bar. How bizarre to have that in a place like Tengboche. Blackpool maybe but here at 3900 m??? Delicious is all I can say.
I am also just overhearing the conversation here in the communal room of a German talking to to two monks talking about his next expedition to the summit which he will be doing next year with a British expedition.
Also, one of the rescue helicopters crashed recently and we saw today how they recovered some of the parts by helicopter and the guy sitting accross to me just said how that helicopter crashed into their camp where they had their kitchen. The group fortunately had just left an hour beforehand.
Amazing to meet people who actually make it all they way up there, especially when I am just reading in my book how dangerous it is and how many people still die every year.
Day 5 and 6: Yesterday was a good day. We woke up to glorious weather again and had fantastic views from Tengboche over the mountains. We saw two guys that were flying with paragluiders and attached engines of 200 horse power over Mt. Everst. They were filmed by the Discovery Channel and apparently they were trying to set a world record by by trying to hit the jetstream above Everst and then glide down. That was probably one of the craziest things I have ever seen.
The hiking was really good and not too hard. We got to Dingboche in the afternoon to a really nice teahouse, the Peaceful Lodge. They have the best shower on the whole treck and also have a cute little cow with an even cuter little calf which is completely fluffy.
Unfortunately the evening didn't end so nice, as my room got broken into. When I tried to get into my room it appeared to be locked from the inside and they have just taken out the window climbed in and locked the door from the inside and went through all my stuff. They have taken all my cash, about 15,000 Rupees, my mobile with all the numbers and birthdays, my MP3 player and first I thought my camera too, which was of course the worst. Fortunately I found it the next day, as they must have dropped it. They have taken it out of my fleece jacket and must have dropped it into my rucksack. Apparently it has never happened before. The strange thing is, in order to take out the window out of the frame in my room (without braking it) someone would need to be in the room, which would mean that it was an inside job. I feel so violated and disappointed. It's really one of the last places where I would have expected this. The Nepalese are so friendly and honest that it is very disappointing. Fortunately I got my camera back, but the phone is still quite bad, as I won't be contactable anymore, so if anything happens....
The boys kindly offered to swap rooms with me, so that at least I didn't need to stay in that room, and theirs was going into the courtyard so was much safer. Needless to say that I still didn't get much slepp...
Today, 6th day, was a strange day. I was just really down all day although I found my camera in the morning which was great news and I have also taken the whole thing quite well, but still... It could have been much worse, that I would have been robbed and maybe attacked or they would have taken my passport or anything like that but it still feels strange. Now that my backpack is all I have it almost feels as if someone has broken into my flat. Had really strange dreams too but hopefully I can leave that behind me very quickly.
The owner of the teahouse went to see the Lama about the whole thing and he actually said that we won't need police or anything like that, as the stolen goods are very close by, much closer than we think.... If only we knew how true that was...
Everyone is really nice. All the guys offered me straight away to give me all the pictures and take them for me going forward whenever I want to (that was before I found out that my camera was still there). The MD from British Oxygen who I met the night before as they broke into his room too, but just took cash, he even offered me his memory card for the camera. Everyone is also helping me out with money, as I haven't got anything left now. Hopefully there will be enough money for some souvenirs....:-)
To call the police we had to go to the next village, Pheriche, which was a 1.5 hour walk over the next mountain (not easy these things here...), just in order to get to a phone. We all went there and Rabi made the call for me, so at least I won't need to interrupt the treck much more. On our way down, I just have to stop in Namche to go directly to the police and get a report for my insurance.
So today was another acclimatisation day. After we have been to Pheriche we walked up a hill. Everything here that is not 8000 m is just a hill.... so we walked up that "hill" but I didn't make it to the top and neither did the boys. They went a bit further than me, but I felt so down, that I just decided to stop at 4700 meters and sit in the sun to get a proper sunburn! ;-) I hope it was high enough to acclimatise, as tomorrow is going to be a really tough day where we will go up to just under 5000 m.
I have also decided today that I will have to skip Chitwan National Park and with that the bath with an elephant. Gutted but I won't have enough time and it's enough hassle as it is to change my flights, arranging Tibet, shipping everything and so on.
Hopefully it will at least give me enough time to upload all my pics in case anything like that will happen again. So far that was really the only bad experience on this trip (apart from Kalkuta of course...:-) and hopefully it will be the last one.
On the positive side, they have a georgous little Sherpa girl here in the teahouse that I played with all evening and that certainly cheered me up. We played cards for hours and as she is only 3 it meant you had to through away all your cards as quickly as possible and then raise your hands in the air to signalise that you have won. As the rules changed while we played along it was of course here who won all the time...:-) Also did a bit of colouring in which was slightly more successful. Amazing to see with how little the kids are happy here. I don't think she has any proper toys.... but such a cute girl. Very entertaing to watch when she is chasing the baby calf so much that they both end up in the mud. :-)