A Travellerspoint blog

TREKKING Sagarmatha National Park Pt. 3

EBC, Downhill & Hail Storms

semi-overcast

DAY 15
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!
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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.

DAY 16
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.

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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.

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DAY 17
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!

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DAY 18
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.

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DAY 19
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.

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DAY 20
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.

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DAY 21
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.

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DAY 22
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).
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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.

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DAY 23
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!

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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 16:30 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

TREKKING Sagarmatha National Park Pt. 2

Overcoming the odds, Sacred Lakes and Cho La Pass

sunny 12 °C

DAY 8
? Wake up/6hrs Hiking/180m gain
Ariel had a bad night of food poisoning(?) and didn't get much sleep so we agreed to meet the team at Phortse-Tanga. It was a long exhausting day (especially for Ariel) with lots of stops. Kev was the champion by taking most of the load and making sure we were fed with chapati and peanut butter. As we walked, instead of huge teams of mules, yaks were now everywhere! Such cool looking animals. Big rocks were painted with Buddhist prayers and shrub and rocks now dominated the landscape of the long valley we were following. We went up, up up, then dropped down at the end where we found Richard at the only lodge. Soon after Dee and Erik showed up. Ariel wasn't the only one that was sick that day but luckily we all powered thru and the team was back together!

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DAY 9
8am Wake up/3hrs Hiking/520m gain
We all felt much better the next morning however it was quickly evident that Dee and Erik were slower hikers so we left “Team Turtle” behind with plans to meet at our next destination. The trail was studded with rhodo's and we were greeted with more and more stunning views of the mountains. And then we had arrived in Dhole! It was a windy, exposed village and we enjoyed the rest of the sun with some other Sherpas and watched the local dogs try to play with the yaks. NO DICE. That evening it snowed and we huddled inside with our sleeping bags over us around the yak-dung fire as we played cards and ate soup.

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DAY 10
8:30am Wake up/3.5hrs Hiking/210m gain
We treated ourselves to a bit of a sleep in and shared a plate of fried rice and got some stream laundry done before setting off around 10:45. Was another short walk as we needed to be careful not to go up too fast and get altitude sickness. We had already heard from other groups the horror stories of being flown down via helicopters and ruining whole treks just because people rushed or didn't pay attention to the warning signs of going up too high too fast.
The days trek was nice long winding paths along the tundra hills, passed hairy majestic yaks and little villages of mountain stone. The further we were getting the closer we were getting to the wall of snow-clad mountains. Kev had started to feel heaviness with the altitude but we were already at our village of Machermo. The lodge we had planned to meet at (recommended by the last village) was already full! But a relative of the locals walked us to his brothers lodge and we were happily accommodated. We played Yahtzee and cards over tea and soup. It snowed again and had long chats about each others' spirit animals and everything in between.

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DAY 11
6:45am Wake up/7hrs Hiking/349m gain
Had a punctual brekky in order to get up to the Sacred Lakes. There are 6 Sacred Lakes and our sleeping quarters were after the 3rd one and we wondered how many we could see in 1 day. So as we set off in high spirits until Kevin's health became worse . We stayed a bit longer before leaving the lodge when he felt better and then took it slow. The altitude was getting thinner and tried to distract with the incredible views as we got higher. We passed a village that was destroyed by an avalanche in '95 and more yaks...and finally we could see the whole mountain range we had been walking along and the first of the Sacred Lakes!
The first was a small pond size, but a beautiful bright turquoise. Soon after was the second, bigger sacred lake which was surrounded by prayer flags and rock towers...had to build an inukshuk!

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The last sacred lake was uber blue and the town of Gokyo was set up next to it.
The Turtles were well behind so Kev went to bed while Ariel and Richard went to see the next lake. It was a ways past Gokyo but surrounded by ice and small boulders. They turned around to arrive back at the lodge just in time for the end of the sun and joined the others and ate some Sherpa stew and pizza. Just a few card games before we were all keen for bed.

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DAY 12
7am Wake up/4 & 3hrs Hiking/550m & 629m gain (max elevation 5340m)
We didn't have very good sleep dealing with the altitude but we were quiet keen to get up Gokyo Ri, or the veiw point next to the village. If the weather co-operated we would have some epic views...but first we had to get up there. Team Turtle decided to take their time to get to the next village so we started up with Richy.
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Gokyo Ri was much more challenging than anticipated but it was definitely worth it. Not only could we see all of the Sacred Lakes we past but Everest, again!!! Got oodles of photos then headed down.
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We had a small lunch then collected our bags to get to our next lodge of Tagnag. We had to cut the breaks short to make it past this ice/rock field before sunset. We could hear ice falling into pools around us and small rock slides as we went. It was a little daunting with some rock hopping but we finally made it to the other side and to the one village before the Cho La Mountain pass. The others had already befriended a small group of Czechs and a German who were all much more experienced in mountain climbing and it looked like we would all be taking the pass tomorrow.
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DAY 13
7am wake up/8hrs Hiking/ Max elevation 5419m
HUGE day. Started off strong with sunshine and muesli and got some lunch pre-packed as going over the Cho La Pass would be the longest stint without any villages along the way. As we wound our way past fuzzy green boulders and little streams Kev started to feel worse... It looked like we might have to turn back and find lower altitude but with the help of Richard we lightened Kev's load and with lots of breaks kept going. The trail was highlighted by little rock piles and we continued through rockier terrain. Just before the rock face of the pass, we caught up with the Czech boys! They were happy to have us tag along and we huffed and puffed up the pass. Finally, finally at the top we had a rewarding view of more epic peaks of the Himalayas but also the daunting huge glacier we had to pass next. We also got a good view of the rest of our team who had caught up with the German! It was slightly terrifying to watch them pick their way across the glacier and wondered why we didn't get clamp-on's (spikes) for our shoes....but barely anyone else seemed to have them so tally-ho!

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We finally got down to the ice field and one of the boys had a good map to find our way across. It was very unnerving walking across the ice and after what felt like ages we finally got across..to a boulder field.. ACK. These boulders were huge and not all sturdy to stand on so it was a good thing we bought our walking sticks.

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We finally picked our way to flatter ground but then we were still WAY up and more boulder clumps in our way. We skirted along the side of the valley until we could slowly get down and back to a real path. By the time we could stop paying so much attention to where our feet went, we were in awe of the mountains we were now completely surrounded by. The scale was immense! By the time we hobbled into the lodge at Dzagnag we were not far behind the rest of the group. Apparently they had a tougher time getting through the boulder field and were close to calling a helicopter to get down! Luckily they found a way and we celebrated with big dinners.

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DAY 14
Rest day for Kev
Woke up to the sound of Kevin nearly being sick on Erik...stomach was not made of steal unfortunately. We decide to take it easy and take the day off for Kevin to recover so we said bon voyage to our travel mates and hoped to catch up with them the next day. Spent the day sleeping, reading, splurged on a can of Pringles and playing cards.

Posted by Kev n' Ariel 02:10 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

TREKKING Sagarmatha National Park Pt. 1

Kathmandu -> Namche Bazaar

sunny 15 °C

Once we got back to Kathmandu from Pokhara we wanted to get going on our trek as soon as possible. We quickly ran around the city, adding in a tiny visit to the Langtan House (new baby puppies!) and secured ourselves a jeep to Salleri which was about a 4day trek from the park and a few last minute hiking items. We had already purchased our T.I.M.S Cards and our Sararmatha National Park Card. This was the most costly part of our trip and we even got broadcasted on some Nepali news channel as a little news team was quizzing trekkers due to the fact that it was the first season that many of the major hikes were re-opened due to the recent earthquakes.

It was a really hard decision for us to decide which trek to go on. It was between Sagarmatha and Annapurna but Sagarmatha eventually won as we were pretty keen to get a possible glimpse at the tallest mountain in the world.

Most trekkers going to Sagarmatha usually take a tourist bus and enter the National Park from the Western Region which is only a few days hike or they fly into Lukla (craziest airport ever and daily uncertainty of flight availability due to weather) but we had wanted the cheapest and least touristy route. Therefore, we had decided to walk in and out of the park (mostly to save money) and take the route North-West up to the Sacred Lakes of Gokyo and do 1/3 of the Passes and hit Everest Base Camp before looping back down. We estimated it would take us about 3 weeks and therefore give us enough time to catch our flight we had pre-booked to Perth, Australia.

We had a taxi picking us up at 3:30am and we were busy until midnight packing our bags. Luckily most hostels/hotels in Kathmandu offer free storage for the large demand from trekkers.
We were bringing our main big bags, but packing as light as possible as there are Tea Houses/Lodges all along the trekking route with food & beds. We learnt that if you promise to eat dinner and breakfast there you have a very high chance of getting free lodging ;)

This is a list of everything Ariel packed for anyone that's wondering what to bring:
1 pair of comfortable shoes (Ariel wore Blundstone boots & Kevin wore Timberland hiking boots)
1 walking pole
1 light jacket
1 rain jacket
1 pair of gloves
2 shirts
2 pairs of thick socks
1 fleece layer
1 pair of tights
1 pair of pants/zip off shorts
3 pairs of undies
1 sports bra
1 head band
Water-proof backpack cover
First-aid kit w/diamox for countering altitude sickness & tensor bandage
Water purifying tablets
Water bottle
Headlamp
Reading book
Maps (including a downloaded version on our phones)
Journal
Elastic laundry line (great for cleaning undies and letting dry while you hike)
1 bar of soap/toothbrush/toothpaste
Swiss army knife
Snacks (dried fruit/snickers/mars bar)

DAY 1: Now we were ready for our 12hr ride to start our trek! The only hiccup was that Kevin was sick all night and barely got him on the taxi. Luckily he pulled himself together as we got crammed into a “8” seater jeep...in Nepal this ended up being an 11 seater...we were a little crammed in but the weather was good and we befriended a local teacher who was going to visit family and bought us breakfast on the way. The poor thing was sick the entire way up along the winding roads. Meanwhile, the woman next to Ariel had a toddler who helped to distract us on the long trip. The views were already beautiful as we zoomed along twisting roads along a big river called the Dhudh Kosi. PaniPani! (water)
The young driver stopped numerous times either along the road to pee in a bush or at small villages for delicious food.
And when we got to Salleri we were already at 2300m and we were recommended a Tea House/Lodge by the teacher.
We ordered some dinner and went to sleep early, excited about the anticipation of our trek.

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DAY 2
6:30am wake up/6hrs Hiking/668m gain

We were ready to start trekking! We quickly peel off our layers as we gain elevation and enjoy the glorious weather. We walk through pine forests and pass buffalo herders and sometimes local kids followed us from one village to the next yelling “Namaste” and asking for treats. A group of men pass us, cheering and singing as they carry a huge log. There are massive rhododendrons, natives to this land and then the stairs begin. We stop often to drink water as we are not used to our bags, let alone the strenuous hikes as we go up and down the valley, but mostly UP. We go higher and higher until we hit a Buddhist shrine covered in flags. Passing through lavishly painted gaits we then take a steep path down until we arrive at our first destination of Taksindu. It is mostly made up of a Buddhist Monestary but it is very quiet and we only see a few young monks wandering around in their deep red robes. Women with huge nose rings and thick warm saris are happy to say “Namaste”. We find the only opened Tea House and settle in. Only another Nepali family are there and we are exhausted. We feast on fried rice with yak cheese, spring onion and spinach? And Noodle soup with egg and more local greens. Our diet soon become repetitive due to the scarcity or resources and means of transportation...the food cravings come later and other than the sore joints is the only woe of our journey.

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DAY 3
7am wake up/8hrs Hiking/920m Gain&Loss

Breaky is Nepali bread with Yak cheese and garlic and eggs. We continue down the mountainside into a deep mist. It's a LONG way down, which is not easy on Ariel's knees. We take lots of stops which usually co-inside with the passing of donkeys hauling water and propane. The tinkling of bells usually announces their arrival which is a great safety feature as they could easily shoulder you off the trail. We finally get to the bottom where the river lays and eat egg thukpa (soup) and another solo trekker with a funny hat says hello as he passes by. We have only seen a couple of trekkers so far. We cross a 109m long suspension bridge at 1500m which will be the lowest point of our trip. We now are going UP. We pity ourselves less and less as we pass locals carrying all means of food, goods etc. Young men are bent completely over carrying huge metal poles for new lodges, going only a few steps at a time and using short wooden poles for balance. Many Nepali men will die every year carrying their goods in the Himalayas despite their almost unnatural way they can flit up and down the rocky paths.
Due to knee issue we don't reach our planned village but end up in the cutesy village of Kharikola instead. We find a room in the first lodge we get to and befriend the owners children. Ariel teaches them to make cootie-catchers and we eat a big helping of mac&cheese and daal bhat while the rain comes in.

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DAY 4
5:30am wake up/7hrs Hiking/412m GL
We are greeted in the morning with a stunning view of the Himalayas! We have only had a brief glimpse earlier but now we feel like we are already so close. We eat creamy porridge with chumpa ( a thickening product) and a cheesy omelette with chapati. Today is the easiest so far and we cross 3 massive swinging bridges. We cross a few rivers and more and more buddhist wheels and flags as we go. We start to see a few big groups of trekkers as we cross paths with the Lukla trail. There are oodles of lodges around here and people are everywhere. We save our rupees by eating our snickers and we take a breather after getting to the top of one trail which is just enough time for someone to notice our Canadian flags sewed to our backpacks. It's another Canadian couple but from Manitoba! They are Erik and Danielle, a construction worker and a nurse. They have just been in India and as we walk and talk with them we decide to stop in Monjo at the same lodge. Inside is the man with the funny hat! His name is Richard and his is from NZ. We all get along famously and decide to keep trekking together as long as our time-lines make sense. We try our first glass of Chaang together (home brewed alcohol) and we try some veggie pizza and sherpa stew .

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DAY 5
6am wake up/3hrs Hiking/751m Gain
Met the team for brekky and walk into the sunshine. We are now really in the mountains and it's a short but intense walk to our acclimatization stop. We walk through the pine forest and after a short walk we get our TIMS cards checked at little hut before we are OFFICIALLY issued in the SAGARMATHA NATIONAL PARK!!! We walk along a azure blue river, searching for remains of bridges that have been swept away in past rainfalls as we cross 3 swinging bridges (2/3 have been destroyed). We pass more groups, mostly led by the local Sherpa (the native people of the Himalaya who fled Tibet and are now the best guides) and then THERE IT IS! EVEREST! There is a break from the trees and with clear blue skies we get our first view of the monstrous mountain...kinda lumpy compared to it's neighbour K2 but still awesome!!!
We arrive shortly in Namche Bazaar. Once we find a lodge together (epic views) we dump our bags and explore this little hub. Well established for being the centralized point of all the major trekking routes and also necessary for acclimatizing it is stuffed with stalls, lodges and the last place to take out your rupees! We splurge on some food items we may not see in a while (burgers and baked goods) and play lots of games of cards. We start planning our route with our little crew and decide that to best off-set altitude sickness we should stay in town 2 full days. We have also identified, with the help our of new nurse, that the tini bumps on our hands we originally believed to be as spider bites is extreme eczema that we have given ourselves due to extreme changes in altitude. This is the most plausible answer anyways as we went from Chitwan at Nepals lowest/hottest region to the Himalaya's in about 24hrs..it's irritating but we will live!

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DAY 6-7
Rest & Acclimatization Days
We get a nice sleep in and set off trying to find cheaper breakfast prices as it turns our our lodge is nice, but the food prices are not so nice...we go on a hunt and slightly out of the main hub of town, debating where to go next, a Nepalese woman pokes her head out of her home and tells us to come in! Her name is Chappi and her daughter Cher of 6yrs old are kind, silly hosts. Chappi uses her 1 room home as means to cook delicious food for whoever will stumble by while her daughter runs around town smacking people's bums and getting sweets from the locals. We promise to eat there every day as her prices are much more fair than the tourist prices in town and we greatly enjoy their company. Cher loves to steal and hide anything loose on us dance and yell her ABC's.
One of our afternoons we go on a short day trek up to the Heritage Museum that houses old trekking gear, information about the local flora/fauna & locals. According to one post, from 1970-2000 there was a jump from 1500-25000 trekkers!!! It's shocking to think of the changes that have been happening in this region since Hillary and Norgay made the summit. There are also 30 different types of butterflies.
We hiked over to an old landing strip and returned to town via a big Buddhist monastery (you could hear their horns during the morning/evening). The rest of our time was spent planning our trek, eating and playing cards. We were eager to carry on, but also not ruin our trip from altitude sickness!

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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 23:12 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

POKHARA

Relaxing, Eating and HAPPY NEPALI NEW YEARS!

overcast 35 °C

It was now time to get a move on, and so it seemed for the rest of the volunteers...and all heading the same directionto Pokhara!
We caught the bus with Tom and said good-byes to Bishnu who we do hope we will see again to see all the amazing projects he will have accomplished.

We arrived that afternoon in the lake-town of Pokhara. We got a rare glimpse of the Annapurna Mountain Range as we drove in as the skies were still very dusty. This was the jumping off point for the other major trekking neighbourhood but this town was where everyone came to relax. (We hope to return one day to hike it!)
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The Phewa Lake that the town was attached to was very alluring and we were originally planning to stay 2 nights but with the Nepali New Year so soon and our friends in town we decided to extend to stay 5 days. This was a great choice. We eventually found most of the Eco Park crew and stayed at a nice lodging up on the hillside tucked between macrame and breakfast shops. Everyone seemed to be on holidays here.

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We spent an afternoon with Gigi and Amanda looking for some local waterfalls...turned out to be on the other side of town and for a fee you could see the dribbles of the remains of the falls...bit of a let down. But we got to see some funny shops with robotic buddha's and bus with some little chicks stuffed in a box.

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Next adventure was renting a big paddle-boat with our park buddies. It was more successful as it was a lovely easy paddle to the middle of the lake and the water was surprisingly clean and refreshing to swim around. Nepalese people would paddle by and admire our swimming skills and some even cheered as we jumped off.

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Meanwhile, our friend Tom had discovered a hidden Juggling festival just outside of town on a farm. He led our small group towards the secretive spot. It was a lovely grassy property owned by a German/Nepalese couple who yearly hosted this week long festival filled with schedules of hulla hoop classes to yoga leading up to the New years. We learned how to build and use “flower sticks” and Kevin upped his juggling game.

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Every meal was also a challenge as there was SO many options, especially after our limited meals at the Eco Park. We dined on non-traditional burgers and Israeli dishes (very popular in Nepal apparently) and of course went back to eating momo'. However we avoided eating the lake fish as the murky waters did not seem like a nice home for tasty meals...

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The last day was to celebrate the arrival of 2073!!!! Nepal uses the Vikram Samvat or the Hindu Calendar. During the day we enjoyed viewing locals arriving in their traditional attire, lining up for a big parade through town.

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We joined the masses of people after a long wait for dinner (Nepali time + NYE does not make for efficiency). We walked towards the field where rides and a big stage had been set up and from the hillside we could hear and sorta see a popular Nepali band being cheered on by a sea of people. Of course the night ended in fire works and drinks. The whole town seemed in great spirits. The only downside was having to say final farewells to our group the next morning...it was time for the pinnacle of our trip...to hike the Himalayas!

Posted by Kev n' Ariel 18:00 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

The Eco Crew

River Fun, Mud Mountains and Jungles

sunny 40 °C

With the help of the locals we found a relaxing watering hole to escape the heat of the farmlands and to spend our free time.
Our first visit to the river was a long hot walk past goats and buffalos and little shops. We had nearly given up finding our destination when we found the hidden, unnamed restaurant along the river across from the Chitwan National Park.
This place served ice cold beer in rare ice cold glasses which was heavenly in the 40C heat of mid-day. We could relax and view alligators which sometimes came up on shore to suntan or the occasional elephants were seen grazing as they are used frequently by the tourists to explore the park lands.
Upriver we noticed local kids swimming so we took this as a safe place from the gators and joined them! On the way back we hoped on the last bus and they didn't even charge us to take us home!

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Our peaceful Eco Park was now growing nearly every day with new volunteers (we don't think that Bishnu knew how to say NO to them). Grace from the United States and Tom from France joined us soon and after that Gigi from Italy, Amanda from Brazil, Ondo from Basque Country and Katrin and Kirsten from Denmark. We helped show them the ropes and our love of samosa-o'clock.

We went back with bigger groups to the river and one time we went with Ida and Ane to visit an Uncle in the next-door resort (Ida had just found out he was in Nepal, let alone in the same town as us!) and we were treated to the BEST COFFEE EVER as we lounged by the exquisite pool. We ended up missing the last bus that day and refused to get a taxi to get us as we were overly caffeinated and had plans to walk back but we came across a group of men on their scooters who, of course, knew the Eco Park, and were happy to race us back with 3 to a bike. Everyone arrived back safe!

Camille from France and Julia from Denmark arrived next. It was becoming such a big social experiment figuring out where to have people sleep but there was always enough dhal baht and we entertained each other wonderfully.

Thibaut was the main man for activities with a sports degree; He carved out a chess set, spear-headed a volleyball net and bought a ball, travelled with a slack-line which the local kids loved to use and he and Tom taught us the crazy French card game of Tarot! Kevin had also carved some dice for Yahtzee and Ondo taught us macrame which he had learnt in India. We all shared around our travel books and Grace had also volunteered herself as a secondary yoga teacher as most of us were not able to wake up for the 4am one.

Another project Bishnu had for us was re-creating the mountains of the Himalayas. We hauled more and more dirt and since so much water was sloshed around it was inevitable that a mud fight erupted.

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We also did more serious work such as fixing the irrigation for the plants, building support beams for sprouts and started building another recycling house...many blistered sprouted using our natural wooden hoes.

A night-time activity we organized was setting up movies with a projector and made popcorn from the local store (30Rp for a whole bag of kernels!). Ariel found the secret ingredient of cut-up dill-weed is perfect on top!
One evening we found ourselves trying down the hatches as a big lightning storm rolled in. It was amazing and afterwards we even got a brief glimpse of the mountains off in the distance!

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Our last big adventure was doing a jungle walk!
We set off with Bishnu, 2 Guides fitted with strong bamboo sticks (for the tigers) and 6 of us volunteers. We got a short tiger talk aka if they gave you a stick and tiger comes at you, you were supposed to jam it in their mouths before they ate you. GREAT. LET'S GO!
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We walked for about 7hrs and saw 2/4 local deer (spotted and hawk), a fox, storks, tiger scratches (locals get killed yearly, eep!) and FINALLY we found what we were searching for, RHINO's! We found a little family lounging in the river. As we watched we also scoped out which tree to scramble up if they charged (we saw lots of paths created by them coming up the banks). We saw a few more crocs as we crossed back over the river and cooled off from the long day, very successful day.

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(Will be adding more photo's once I can steal them from our friends)

Posted by Kev n' Ariel 16:59 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

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