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Everest Base Camp II

all seasons in one day 0 °C

Today is day six of thirteen on the trail and it's been challenging in different ways. Every day we move forward it feels like a small victory as both the days and nights are long. I’ll rewind back to Saturday when we left Namche Bazaar… Alberto had been feeling very sick with a cold and it was touch and go whether he’d be able to continue. With thanks to the classic bowl of hot water, herbal remedy and a towel over the head followed by some antibiotics he started to feel a lot better and we could continue on together. Phew!

We woke up that morning colder than the previous day in Namche and it only took a peak outside the curtains to understand why. There was no sign of the sun as the sky was filled with cloud and rain looked imminent. We began a steep uphill walk to the top of the town just before 8am, and that’s when the rain began. We were told by others who were on their way back to look out for beautiful forests during this section. With the rain it didn’t look so great and visibility was poor. Our main priority was staying dry and our waterproof clothing did the job. After a couple of hours of walking through the mud and avoiding animal droppings (believe me there’s plenty of it) we were able to stop for tea and it tasted like the best cup of tea I ever had in my life. Please sir, must we go back outside? Come hither young men, you must move on.. grow a pair! Oh alright then.

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After a nice flat section (thank the gods, the old and the new) we were soon losing altitude and we realised this would have to be regained. And fast. Our final few hours were uphill and unlike day two we took it much slower and paced ourselves. It was far more manageable and the cold weather did mean less sweat. One must stay positive! I had envisioned another few hours of this and when we arrived at Tengboche our next stop I couldn’t believe it. This time I could actually speak on arrival and my legs were in decent shape. It gave us an increased sense of confidence that we could do this. #gotthis? We’ll see…

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Tengboche like most towns in the Himalayas is home to only a few hundred people but is home to one of Nepal's most famous monasteries. After some more tea we paid a visit and it definitely had that comforting feeling of serenity inside. Quick side note… I’ve lost count of how much tea I’ve drank at this stage and I am going on a tea strike as soon as I'm back in Kathmandu. By now you could see a lot more snow and although it was pretty cloudy when we arrived it later cleared and we had a magnificent view, including our first sight of Everest in the distance.

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I had a terrible night’s sleep. The room was freezing and temperatures at night time are now dropping below freezing. I wore almost everything I had and could barely move in the sleeping bag. It was anything but cosy. FML. I took a couple of herbal sleeping tablets to help send me off but I must have only slept for a couple of hours in total. I had to sit up a few times as I felt I couldn’t breath properly. This is quite common and apparently sleeping tablets can cause this. No more sleeping tablets for me so! Aside from that you’ve got a lot less oxygen than usual and with five layers of clothing, a sleeping bag and a duvet it all feels very claustrophobic. I told myself to take lots of deep breaths and stay calm. We woke the following morning to a blanket of snow covering most of the fields surrounding our lodge.

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Snow was definitely better than rain but I couldn’t help but think to myself for feck sake, they’re really testing us now between Alberto getting sick, rain all day yesterday and snow today. On we went and the initial scenery in the snow was quite beautiful. It had a kind of wintery Japanese quality to it. We’ll take that. A few hours later and you could notice everything becoming a lot more desolate. Vegetation became less frequent and large areas that resembled a wasteland began to appear. We had expected this and it felt like a check point that we were getting closer to our destination. The walk that day was more of a consistent gradual increase and again we could manage this.

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We’ve been staying at our current stop in Dingboche for two days to allow for acclimatisation. We’re 4,410 metres above sea level but we still have another 1,000m to go. The temperature has noticeably dropped and even at 7am this morning it was -6 degrees celsius. I did sleep a lot better though, Alberto not so much. We’re starting to think that perhaps the physical part of this trek won’t be our biggest obstacle but perhaps it’ll be the cold and possibly the altitude as we get higher. We met a Japanese lady named Kayko back in Phakding (our first lodge) and she turned around at the stop we’re at now due to the cold. We sort of shrugged this off and told ourselves ‘ah it’ll be grand, she clearly overreacted’ until she told us she had been to Antartica seven times as a tour guide! Gulp.

Going to bed has become our least favourite time of the day as we desperately try to stay warm and comfortable enough to nod off. We’re wearing thermal vests and leggings and filling our bottle with hot water and placing it in the sleeping bag to provide some heat and comfort. Unfortunately it’s your face that feels the cold the most. You can put your neck scarf around your face but then it’s difficult to breathe so you’re left with pulling part of the sleeping bag over your head but allowing just enough space for the air to come in that doesn’t feel too cold, whilst getting comfortable enough to fall asleep at the same time. It’s definitely an art and we’ve yet to master it! The lodges are starting to decline in quality and we expected this. We were actually give an 'ensuite room' at this stop but when we saw the toilet without a seat or a flush I couldn't help but laugh loudly about it. Flushing would require dropping large amounts of water in via the bucket we were provided. I wonder what our final two lodges have in store for us...

I haven't spoken about food yet but can say overall we're pretty happy. Animals are not allowed to be killed on the mountain for religious reasons so after Namche so we were told by our guide to avoid any meat. We've only had meat twice in the past week and unlike in Rishikesh we're not missing it as much as the meals here are more varied and freshly made by the Nepalese with love and pride. We've had toast, fried/scrambled eggs, porridge, muesli, corn flake and Nepalese bread for breakfast. Lunch and dinner are interchangable and could include all sorts of rice and noodle dishes, soups, curries, potatoes, veggies etc. The variety is starting to diminish so perhaps in another few days we'll be starting to struggle.

Today is a beautiful day weather wise and this morning we trekked a few hundred metres up for some panoramic views of the glaciers and the fourth highest mountain in the world, Lhotse. We’re off to a bakery now to enjoy a warm pastry and watch a documentary on the Sherpas. The Everest Base Camp Trek is overflowing with challenges and rewards. I’ve shared a lot of the challenges we’re facing but equally I am almost pinching myself being in such a remote and beautiful part of the world. We have just a few more days before we hopefully reach Everest. Fingers crossed.

Posted by mattld 02:39 Archived in Nepal Tagged everest asia nepal tengboche dingboche everestbasecamp namchebazaar Comments (1)

Kathmandu & Everest Base Camp I

semi-overcast 5 °C

Nepal is one of the least developed countries we’ve visited. You won’t find a single motorway and you’ll struggle to find many decent roads outside of its capital. It’s been a little bit like going back in time but as with Myanmar the Nepalese are very friendly. Most of them will greet you with an enthusiastic ‘Namaste!’ and a warm smile and we really got the impression that they genuinely appreciate the tourism and the money it brings in that the country so badly requires. The main tourist area is populated with cute cobbled stone streets lit up in multi-coloured fairy lights at night time with 100+ shops selling the same trekking equipment. There are different coloured triangular flags dotted around the town and cafés/restaurants are well set up for Johnny foreigner. Fancy a soy chai laté with vegan foam? No problem!

We arrived in Kathmandu on Monday 1st April (happy April Fools y’all!) in the evening time. We’d only have two nights here before we’d start the trek and our main priority that day was to meet with the company we booked our trek with, Nepal Environment Trekking. They were highly recommended to me by a work colleague and trusted recommendations are worth their weight in gold when choosing who to pick as there are many choices available. That initial meeting was a chance to meet our guide Kaji who’s been doing this for fifteen years and take a look at the items they were supplying us with: a sleeping bag, outer jacket, trekking poles and a duffle bag. We were happy with everything. It was just going to be the three of us plus our porter Rami who we’d meet in Lukla and would carry our main luggage. Porters are incredible people with super human strength (carrying bags using a strap on their heads) and we’re so grateful for his help as it just wouldn’t be possible otherwise. I was hoping we might have other travellers with us but in hindsight it’s been nice to be able to go at your own pace.

If you’ve ever followed the tv show known as ‘The Apprentice’ you might recall there is always an episode where the contestants are given a shopping list of random items to hunt down in an unfamiliar market place abroad and haggle as best they can for the lowest price. This was our second day in Kathmandu and it was definitely stressful! We managed to buy half of what we needed in Dehli but couldn’t buy the bulkier items in advance as we had very little room in our bags. We made a decision that morning to get a suitcase so we could keep everything we bought and have a little more breathing room for souvenirs. We’d leave it behind in Kathmandu along with other luggage we wouldn’t need for the trek and collect it on our way back. It was a long day and having to haggle on every item as you know the original price is far too high is exhausting. By the end of the day you’re almost ready to hand them whatever they’re asking for.

The Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek is one of the best known in the world and regarded by many as pretty damn difficult. We’re three days in and we’d definitely agree! You’ve got three main obstacles in your way that you need to conquer… the walk itself, the cold weather and the altitude. We saw the movie ‘Everest’ years ago and felt inspired to see the highest mountain in the world in person. We’ve wanted to do a fundraiser for charity for quite some time and this was a good way to combine the two. We’ve managed to raise almost US$2,800 for the children’s International Make-A-Wish Foundation for terminally and seriously ill children and we’re very thankful for every single donation. If you want to know about this charity, check out our page http://worldwish.rallybound.org/mattandalberto.

I started training for EBC immediately after Christmas. I run three times a week in the gym but I knew I would need to make some modifications. I upped it to four times and rather than just weights and running I mixed it up with a lot of stair climbing and outdoor trekking. We had to buy our trekking booths a few months beforehand and break them in to avoid any blisters on the mountains. We joined up with a simulated high altitude gym in Sydney which removes the oxygen from the room to simulate 3,500 metres above sea level. We were able to spend time walking at a steep incline, running and lifting weights to get our bodies used to higher altitude conditions. Alberto has previous mountain trekking experience summiting Kilimanjaro and while I’d liked to have done more hopefully we are able to do this. I worry about one of us not being able to make it. There is no shame in at least trying though. If you’re considering attempting EBC there is plenty of professional advice available online. Ian Taylor Trekking is a great website with an abundance of information. They charge more than twice the price than most other trekking companies… I didn’t see enough value add to justify the higher price when scrutinising our final two choices but I’ve no doubt they do a fantastic job with their clients and the information they provide is free of charge and really valuable. They were a very close second choice.

Normally trekkers would fly from Kathmandu to Lukla but as of April 1st runway repairs are taking place and we would instead have to be picked up at 2am and driven for four hours on the bumpiest of roads with barely a wink of sleep before a three hour walk to our first overnight stay in Phakding. Looks like the April Fools joke was on us! Thankfully the first day is a relatively easy walk with only modest inclines and declines. Lukla is 2,800 metres above sea level and Phakding is 200 metres less. The whole trek is filled with ups and down. Every time you gain some good height it’s not long before you’ll lose some of it and even by the second day your heart will sink when you realise you’ll have to go down as you know it’s only a matter of time before you’ll have to go back up. We’ll be returning via the same route so it may not be a huge amount easier on the way back.

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Our lodge, aka tea house that night was very basic as most of them are up here. There is no heating in the bedroom, toilet paper, an ensuite costs extra and most have paid showers only. By our third tea house we’re told not to even attempt a shower as it could result in a severe flu. We shall heed this advice and baby wipes will become our new best friend!

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Day two was an early start and we had to be ready for breakfast by 7am. We’re told there’s usually blue skies and sunshine by morning making it quite warm before cloud arrives in the afternoon followed by a sharp drop in the temperature in the evening. So far they haven’t been lying. Our research told us that April was a great month to go and we were not prepared for how cold it gets in the evening. Bearing in mind we’ve come from India which was almost 40 degrees at times and I guess it was going to be that bit harder for us to get used to it. Our six hour walk on the second day took us to Namche Bazaar, the last big town in the region and the last chance to enjoy a shower and buy anything else we may need. Between the temperature dropping further and the altitude it’s apparently going to get a whole lot harder from here on in. The last two hours reaching Namche was painful. You’re hoping against hope that there will be a straight section but the steps keep on coming. During a particularly difficult section my thoughts varied from ‘wow I sound like Darth Vader’ to ‘FML I regret every KFC and cider I’ve ever had’! We could barely speak by the time we reached our tea house but we felt like kings having a hot shower completely ignoring how basic and cold the bathroom was. After two days it was lovely to put on new dry clothes that weren’t smelling of cold sweat. Better appreciate these good moments while we have them.

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This is our porter Kami (to the left) and guide Kaji (front). They've been looking after us extremely well.

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And of course, there's an Irish pub up here!

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Today is a welcome day of rest as you need to let your body acclimatise so as to avoid altitude sickness which can induce headaches, nausea, lack of appetite and generally feeling awful. Speaking of which, Alberto’s had a cold since our 2am start in Kathmandu and thankfully he didn’t have to walk today. My legs are not feeling too bad considering yesterday but tomorrow is going to be another hard one as we make our way to Tengboche. Don’t let my above rants put you off from EBC or another physical challenge you may be considering. Some of the scenery out here is just postcard perfect and photos don’t do it justice. The air is so fresh and this certainly beats sitting in the office. Aside from a few 5km races and one 10km this is my first major physical challenge. I’d really love to accomplish it and I’ll be thinking about the generous donations for the Make-A-Wish Foundation when the going gets tougher.

Posted by mattld 04:10 Archived in Nepal Tagged everest nepal kathmandu lukla phakding everestbasecamp namchebazaar Comments (0)

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