Monday, December 28, 2015

Everest Base Camp Trek - Journal (Part 1)

For our tips on how to cut costs for the EBC trek, go here.
For part 2 of this journal, go here. It covers days 4 to 6, from Namche to Tengboche to Dingboche.
For part 3 of this journal, go here. It covers days 7 to 9, from Dingboche to Lobuche to Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp.
For part 4 of this journal, go here. It covers day 10 to 13, from Gorak Shep to Everest and back down to Lukla.
On the way to Phakding.

Day 1: So it begins.
Kathmandu - Lukla - Phakding
           We woke up at 4AM to hurriedly get ready for the taxi that would take us to the airport. We paid the taxi a small fortune since India is holding back oil shipments at the border to pressure Nepal into amending its new constitution, creating a gas shortage.
When we got to the airport, there were almost no lights on. However a stray dog was in the terminal, waiting to welcome us. We also met an Icelandic fellow named Iva at the gate. He was on the same flight as us. Some people have the talent of making even the mundane fun, drawing water from a stone ; he is one of those. We passed the gate and sat in a bus for a few minutes. The bus never moved, but we were soon told to get off and board the 18-seat plane right next to it. No idea what we were doing on the bus, but at least we were on the plane.
Our new friend Iva and the view from the plane
         The flight was beautiful. We passed right beside some peaks, our first glimpse of the Himalayas. Everyone was oohing and aahing. But the moment of truth soon arrived : Lukla airport is the most dangerous in the world. Its runway is on a 10% incline. The plane descended as everyone held their breath, but we landed without a hitch. Our porter-guide Ngima (nee-mah) was there to greet us. It turns out that I was still dealing with diarrhea. Bet you weren’t expecting that sentence. I’d had it for a week now, ever since Varanasi. Try not to drink lassi in Varanasi before embarking on a 12-day trek in the wild. You’ll thank yourself. But for time being it was part of the adventure, I guess. 
Day 1 was a short two-hour hike to Phakding, a lovely little town along the Khumbu Kola river. Although the walk was a short one, we were working on 3 hours of sleep. When we arrived around lunchtime, Squid napped until dinner. We ate again and then we fell asleep immediately afterwards. For those of you counting at home, that was 14 hours of sleep for a certain someone who shall remain unnammed. Day 1 was a knock out. The room was chilly ; a warning of what was to come.

Day 2 : Where I hold out false hope of being healthy.
Phakding - Namche Bazaar
           I woke up before 6AM, energized. I packed the bags while Squid slept.
She rejected this bright new day and tried to shrug it off for a fifteenth hour of sleep. I attributed my zip to regaining my health and renewing with solid stools, huzzah ! Well, that was soon proven to be inaccurate. We had a good breakfast and left before 8. We walked along the Khumbu Kola, but we would soon leave its bank ; today we climbed 700m., leaving the river and our breath far below in the valley.   However we did not leave the river altogether. We would continue to follow the path it scratched over the centuries through the tallest mountains in the world. We would follow it all the way to Everest Base Camp, situated on the Khumbu glacier.
           Our destination was Namche Bazaar. The town is impressive both for its relative size and for its location, spreading across a bowl in the mountain. Before we got there, we passed through a gate inviting us into the sacred Khumbu Valley, and by a guardpost « inviting » us to pay a small fee. Namche looked like a lot of fun, but we were just too worn out to go out and enjoy it. Instead, we slowly thawed in the common room which had a heater.
Khalij Pheasant
The rooms have no such luxury on the trail, so we hid in our sleeping bags as much as possible, turning blue whenever we had to go to the bathroom. Thankfully, it was in the room, but that too was a luxury would not have for long.

2015 earthquake damage, the tragedy's effects are long-lasting.

Room with a view, for those still alive to appreciate it.

Day 3 : Old man yells at cloud.
Namche - Everest View Hotel - Namche
        People say the nights are long and boring on the trail, but we felt there was always a wide range of activities to do at night. Beyond the thrill of lying motionless in your sleeping bag, you could rest, chat with your companions, hear your teeth chatter, read, try to avoid exposing skin to the biting cold, stare at the ceiling, contemplate your life’s mistakes, shiver to keep warm, write in your journal, question your sanity for trying to go 5500m up when just weeks ago the 6th floor seemed like a hassle… The fun never stopped.
         Day 3 was an acclimatization day. That’s a « rest » day where you climb endlessly just get your body accustomed to the higher altitude before hiking all the way back down to sleep safely at the same altitude you started off at. This day we were hiking 600m up to the Everest View Hotel, which promised a glimpse of Everest. It was an arduous walk, but the weather was clear and we got to the fancy Japanese designed hotel, with its huge fireplace, elegant paintings and its prized balcony with a view of Everest, before lunch. We took a seat and looked for the world’s third pole. We looked some more. My earlier assertion about the weather was wrong. There was a single cloud in the sky, plopped right in front of Everest, oblivious to our frustration or worse. Maybe it was enjoying itself, like a cat enjoys jumping on your keyboard. It was definitely enjoying itself, the bastard. Although, perhaps, seeing Everest on the third day would have been akin to cheating. A glimpse of Everest shouldn’t come so easily. It should be earned, and we hadn’t earned it yet. I'd also forgotten to bring my camera, so I ended up making peace with the cloud. The view was still beautiful. We sipped our exorbitantly priced drinks in the sun and returned to Namche with a little extra determination.

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