EBC, Downhill & Hail Storms
7am Wake up/5.5hrs Hiking/353GL
Thankfully we were able to get going as Kev felt better after some boiled eggs and chapati w/ jam. We did a bit of laundry at a stream where Kev saw the bushy tail of a local marmot of some sort dash by. Despite not gaining much elevation it was a draining and sluggish day. Everything felt heavier and as we moved further into the new valley the icy wind pushed us back. We passed an Italian Research Team (looked a bit like an Illuminati hang out) as we crossed an old sandy lake bed. As we got closer to our most Northern destination it got sandier and rockier and we followed a glacier field until we got to Gorak Shep. The first lodge we checked in we found a note left by “Team Turtle, etc”. Hurray! We got an hour to lay down before we saw our larger crew come back in and heard about their adventures to Everest Base Camp. There was much excitement as it was the first season after the earthquakes that people were attempting to summit Everest and the Czechs had befriended a team of Slovakians of whom they knew if through the hiking world. Erik and Dee were in search of a hut there that sold apple pie but they never found the elusive baker...perhaps he only bakes for the summiting lunatics...It costs $15,000 just to get the PERMIT to summit Everest, let alone having to pay for all of your equipment and oxygen tanks to be carried up with you as you go. And before you even go all the way up, you must acclimatize for 3months, going up and down from base to base 2. And don't forget to pay your team of experienced Sherpa's who are the only reason people can get to the top, let alone survive in some of the harshest terrains!
Gorak Shep is buzzing with people, most of who are just coming for the night. A huge array of spreads and spices are left at a central table as donations from groups passed and tells a story of the many nationalities. A young PHD student from the USA has been interviewing people as he wants to research the affects of altitude sickness...you hear helicopters flying in and out of the village every 30min or so...many times to take people down. There has been a case of a man last week who pushed himself too far and insists to go back down on a yak but dies upon reaching the village below...regardless to say that the mountains are not for the faint of heart. A funny note is that our bumpy hands have now started to peel, en masse! We look like travelling lepers.
We play more card games and prepare ourselves for our highest altitude yet.
7:30am Wake up/5.5hrs Hiking/400GL
Had brekky with the gang (most expensive location for food; 2 boiled eggs were 500Rps!) and collected our energy to trek up to the viewpoint and highest altitude point of 5622m of Kalla Pathar. We headed out into the chill together, but soon fell behind the crew as it got steadily harder to breathe. Ariel had taken some diamox the night before and full body tingles made it more difficult. It was the most challenging part of the trek but we were determined to make it to the top. We pass dozens of prayer flags set up to pass prayers upon the wind, and finally, nestled on top of the mountain, was our group amongst the flags and rocks. We were incredibly lucky with the weather as our views, yet again, were stunning. Everest was right next to us. It didn't seem THAT big from where we were...but from the hike we just barely completed we couldn't imagine the strain of going up higher. We took a million photos and ramped ourselves up to get down again.
We had a quick lunch break when we got down and said bon voyage to our crew as they were now eager to get down and some had booked flights out. Back to the 2 of us, we headed off to Base Camp. It seemed that we were the last people going out that way which was nice as the trail was narrow and we mostly passed porters carrying in and out loads needed for summiting groups. Incredibly none of them seemed to wear gloves despite the chill weather. We followed the glacier all the way to the camp at 5358m. Dozens of yellow and red and orange tents spotted the end of the glacier yet barely a soul was seen moving about. Mounds of rocks with Buddhist symbols and flags were spotted around to symbolize the locals prayers for a safe return from the treacherous climbs. Not only did they have to make sure their teams got to the top but they had to make dozens of climbs up and down from each camp to make sure that ropes, ladders and sites were all secure.
We returned and defrosted ourselves while befriending a Danish couple.
7am Wake up/8hrs Hiking/1500m loss
Kev had complained the day before that there wasn't enough snow, so as we finished our brekky it started to snow...all the trekkers on tight schedules would miss any views of Everest which is a shame but a gamble we all take. It was now time to go down. Ariel was not looking forward to it as her knee's didn't fare so well. When we hit the village bellow, Lubuche, we found our Czech and German friends were trying to wait for the snow clouds to pass so they could do the next Pass of Renjo La. We hoped that we would see them in Kathmandu but who knew! We were now fully in the Khumbu Valley and zooming past trains of yaks and groups of trekkers. We had less pity on the ones who had paid porters to carry their bag yet it was quiet impressive the amount of retiree's that were making the journey. The further down the more grasses and hairy yaks were around and we stopped at a lodge right along the ridge looking over the river for lunch. We crossed the river a few times (one bridge was make-shift as the old one had collapsed?!)We were trying to get back to Namche to reach the others but Ariel's knee's had had enough and we finally found a lodge in Teng. We befriend a lovely kiwi couple and we now debate wether to walk or fly out...we are pooped!
8am Wake up/6hrs Hiking/ 1000m loss 250m gain
Everyone was up and gone north when we woke up and by the time we set off the sun was out. We were winding through pine forests again and as we climbed up again we emerged at the top to a huge Buddhist monastery. We were too tired to explore the buildings and discovered that we had to go all the way down the mountain to the river. Ariel had a near miss with a yak and was glad to get to the bottom and take the trail upwards again. We had a few more mountainside views before the mist came in and we wound back and forth along the valley, dotted with Buddhist stupas. We finally rounded the last corner (seemed endless) until we appeared at the back of Namche Bazaar. We immediately went to check if the team was at Chappi's house but they had left that morning. We were so happy to see our local friends again and eat her delicious food and we asked if it was possible to sleep there too as we heard other's had. She was more than happy to accommodate us and we spent the evening in town walking with Cher, picking out a yak bell, connecting to wifi to let family and friends know we were alive, and eating.
7am Wake up/8hrs Hiking/ ?
Woke up to crows dancing on the roof and got some home-made samosas for the road. Got some photos of Cher in her school uniform before heading down. We got one last look at Everest at the view point where we had first seen her...so lucky to see the peak 4 times! We had decided to walk out, so the trail was familiar as we crossed the swinging bridges and all the lodges. As the rainy season was coming, we ran into the rain around 2pm which were followed by hail! Ouch! The storm passed and we followed a doggie to Musey. We seemed like the only trekkers in the village and found lodging at a dark tea house where the Grandmother was happy to feed us, but lacked any english. The grandson helped translate and watched Wresting Mania intently when he was not busy. (it is taken as a very real sport in Nepal and India and you will break their little hearts if you reveal the truth as we have heard happen). We ate veg spring rolls, fried rice and fries. When the cooking was done the local ladies came in quietly until the Roksi came out (similar to Chaang). Went to bed early and watched the thunder and lightning roll by.
6:30am Wake up/6hrs Hiking
Got going early to avoid the early rains and got some eggs and chapati to go. We passed through a town which on the way up was fully employed with lining the roads with stone which they were hauling from the river bed and nearly done now! We took more breaks as the donkeys passed and had to bundle up fast as the rain came in early at 1pm! Huge clumps of hail came shortly after as we were still high up in the mountains and then the thunder was right beside us! The loudest thing we've ever heard!! But the hail raged on and we still had no sight of the next village. The first buildings we saw were very rural but we found a room to board in where other locals were hiding from the storm. The hail pilled up like snow around us and we soon discovered that our little house had a puppy and the tiniest cat in the world! The owner was a wife and her toddler who looked like an old man...very unusual for Nepali children. A donkey nearby howled in fright every time the thunder clapped.
Our clothes were soaked so we spent the rest of the day playing with the animals and drying our clothes and ate a huge meal of dhal baht.
5:30am Wake up/8hrs Hiking
Woke up to toddler screams and quickly had breky to continue our way down. Mountains were in full view as we picked our way past the more frequent villages. We passed a village in full festival swing where everyone was yelling “Namaste” at us and from the broken english of a few locals we asked it was music festival! We wish we had time to stop and join them. We passed the mountainside farmers and were finally back at the river-side lodge where we first saw Richard and had lunch. We climbed up until we got to Namthala which was 90% lodges. We picked the cutest looking one and got a delicious meal of fried potatoes, veggie momo's and cheesy chapati made like a quasidilla. They were even playing the news and Indian music videos which seemed so strange and alluring after so much time away from the modern world.
8:30am Wake up/8hrs Hiking
Was our last day and we were filled with mixed emotions to end our journey. We ordered more chapati with yak cheese for the road and set off into the sunshine but soon were high up in the fog again. Ariel befriended some goats and nearly took a kid with her (baby goat).
We stopped at the Cheese Factory with was on the other side of the Stupa that peaked the last mountain. We went off-track for 5min and then we were back on the dirt roads with vehicles! So weird. As we got closer to our final destination our joints got worse but as we hit pavement that made everything worse! When we finally stumbled back into Salleri we were stopped by some young jeep drivers who got us set up for our ride back to the city. We figured we would go back to the same lodge we stayed at on our first night. However when we arrived and asked for prices (as you do) they had nearly doubled them! We nearly laughed as we tried to explain how much we had paid just a few weeks ago but the owners wouldn't budge and neither would we! We would find better hosts but with limited energy we popped our heads in the next lodge we found. It was considerably more down-trodden but the woman who greeted us was so lovely and welcoming that we couldn't say no. She had a very basic room for us and was more than happy to feed us. We asked if she had any beer and she brought it up for us! She introduced us so her “daughter” Raz who knew no english but was all smiles and insisted on painting Ariel's dirty finger and toe nails! When we had “tidied up” we went down and met the son, Ragan. His english was quiet good and explained that the girl was actually a niece who they had took in as her family was so rural that she had never attended school! He was lucky enough to support his mother who had been abandoned by the father as he was a local banker and had learned how to play the guitar with thru the internet! We sat and chatted with him and befriended many other locals who wined and dined there. We had a weird interaction with the Chief of Police who drunkenly kept demanding that Kevin play music...mostly Coldplay? Later another drunk fellow who said he was an District Office (i was Friday so everyone was drinking) tried to invite us to meet his family and have dinner but we had already paid for a meal at our Tea House. He kept insisting and finally Ragan and his niece told him off as he explained that he was actually the Cook at the army base and was trying to get us to sponser his daughter. Poor fellow.
In the meantime we learnt the Nepali crorkinole-esque game the men all played and met their uncle who taught English in the mountains. His english was worse that Ragan! We ate the best and cheapest dhal baaht that night and Ariel kept getting dolled up by Raz. We were ready for bed after so much excitement and food and beer. We had pushed ourselves to the furthest of our physical limits but enjoyed the whole trip.
4:30am Wake-up/12hr Jeep
Said goodbye to Raz as we made our way to the line of jeeps heading out of the mountains. Our driver had sobered up and was ready with the longest playlist of 80's rock/love ballads. We were lucky as another westerner, a tall Romanian man who had travelled/biked around the world was put in the back with us. We therefore insisted that we were at max capacity for our row. We bumped and swerved down the mountainside and got a last glimpse of the Himalayas. We stopped at a few villages for meals and we indulged in fresh fruit and snacks. SO MUCH FOOD CRAVINGS. It had really sunk in on the last week of trekking and we now understood why Kathmandu hosted so many different varieties of restaurants. We got stuck for 15min as we waited for a mudslide to be cleared away. The hail storm we experienced must have ravaged these villages with floods. We even saw an excavator further down that had been washed away in the river and half-submerged under a huge pedestrian bridge! We also got views of the construction of the “Largest Shiva Statue” shining bronze on the hillside as we started to hit the city traffic. Oh the stench and the noise! We certainly did not miss this but as we finally got in the city we started to smell all the food. We made our way back to Happily Ever After Hostel and were greeted warmly by the staff who got us a private double bed room WITH a walk-in toilet. YAYYY! We grabbed our bags at the other hotel (everything still there!) and stopped at the first restaurant that sold burgers. Welt like ages until we got our food and it was a big let down as the buns were still half frozen...but we were back, alive and had successfully completed our trek!