Deboche to Dingboche

An early start after a good night sleep. We check the temperature in out room at 4.7*C and there is a thick frost on the ground, outside it is 0.7*C. It is difficult to function in the cold and paired with being high it is difficult to breath. It takes more than an hour before we are in the sunshine and the track seems busier here with a lot of people coming back from Everest Base Camp (EBC). The season is coming to an end when only the brave seek out the cold on the mountain from December to February.

We follow a river all day and even though it is a few hundred metres below us it is roaring loud and such a beautiful blue of contrast white water over yellow and white rocks. The track leads us over many valley passes and around huge mountains. My endurance is good after a few hours in the sun and leave the boys again as I try a challenge to keep up with some of the younger porters. Even with 100kg they are fast and I am left to leap frog for air breaks with an old Japanese lady.

What makes an old Japanese lady (like 70 and apparently single), want to do something like this? It’s not easy and it is not as if the body gets any stonger after your twilight years. But then I register another thought… ‘why not’? – I hope that when I am old like her that I am doing something this great also.

Our trek is pretty uneventful today although I do see an old European man take a stack down some rocky stairs today. He refused my help out of embarrassment I think but he is going to be so sore tomorrow I know it! He fell hard.

At 4000m the trees stop growing and give way to short spiny shrubs. At 4200m we finally reach Dingboche and appear to be the only guests on our lodge. Wa wander up to the internet cafe which costs a huge A$10 for 30mins (as opposed to $2 at lower altitude). On the way back down to our lodge we watch the shinywest face of Ama Dablam as the sun sets. By the time we get inside and the to the dining room the valley has fille with fog.

The old lady of the lodge lights the stove with a bucket of kero for us and I feel at peace with the world (or it could be the fumes). The sky turns pink and our neighbourly yak just outside the window licks dew off the ground. We will acclimatise here for another day where I know tomorrow is going to be a good one.

10.11.09 – We are smack bang in the middle of the Sagarmartha National Park, Nepal and three quarters of the way to EBC. I enquire about the letters ‘che’ after most village names and am told it is from an ancient past when the creator walked the earth and ‘che’ are the footsteps they left behind. I also learn that ‘La’ means Pass. So when you say Cho La Pass you are actually saying Cho Pass Pass. It’s like saying ATM machine!

We are at an acclimatisation day and we head out at 9am to ascend the mountaint behind us. It stands at the peak of 5000m. It is cold – 0.1*C to be exact but it feels good to be outside all rugged up and warm. The paths are all criss-crossed over the mountain side by animals and trekkers alike. It looks like a rabbit warren exists somewhere. Not only this, nothing really grows up here and I feel bad that I know that I am adding to the erosion. It takes us 3 hours to ascend to 4500m from 4100m and does not cope well at this height so we rest and only half way up decide to come down. At this point nature calls on me loudly (which I have been waiting for for some time) – I am thankful because the bathroom at the lodge is a rank and rancid squat toilet. The smell is worse than Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia. NOTE – it is difficult to poo at high altitude – just in case you are wondering!

On our way up I trek with Lucky in my shadow most of the way; he seems to be my silent body guard as Tendi waits with Brett who is taking it slower. As neither Lucky or I speak each others language, although weird, it is amusing me as I picture Lucky taking on a whole bunch on ninjas. Lucky is 46 years old and has six children so I guess it is more of a nurturing presence.

I notice across the valley that the moon is low and moves across behind the mountains when I realise that what I am actually seeing is the earth move. I have seen this many times before but never have I thought of it like this. They say that being high on the mountain makes you feel closer to God but I disagree. I feel closer to myself more than ever and it is a nice place to be.

It takes us 35mins to descend what we have conquered today. It makes you wonder why we did it in the first place. But as thin as the air was up there and as easy as it seemed to breathe, staying up there longer would have been a different story as your body can’t suck in enough oxygen. When we head to Loboche tomorrow at around the same height we will be able to breathe easy and it will be worth it.

Dawa is the loady of the lodge and she is 50 years old with four children. She comes to sit with us around the yak dung heated fire every now and then to chat. She is missing some teeth and her hands are worn and filthy but she is a gem. I just hope she washes her hands before preparing our food after she has fuelled the fire some more. I ask for a tub of hot water and wash my hair for the first time since Namche, it feels amazing!

Namche Bazaar to Deboche

With a belly full of dried toast and vegemite we pack our stuff and are on the road. The steep ascent out of Namche is tough on Brett as he still lacks energy. I on the other hand am full of bounce and charge on (surprisingly). Another good thing about Sherpa’s is they always stay with the last person of the group so Brett has Tendi and Lucky to talk bloke stuff to. I am liking the solitude; being alone with my thoughts today.

The trek all day is up hill. Some parts are so rocky it is difficult not to slide all the way back down. It is hard going but I manage to stay ahead, resting when I cannot see the boys so they catch up a bit. I met a man today who is in training for a Nepalese marathon (they are big things here), and he is walking twice as far as us today. We say good luck to each other and before I turn around to watch him go he has already conquered the next big hill and is gone. That’s some good training.

Today we see our first yak. They are big and with wool down to their knees they must weigh a tonne. So placid, they meander on under orders in a line of dust across the valley from Ama Dablam – one f the many mounatinous ranges and peaks we are in shadow of.

At one point on the trck I stop and am surrounded by birds. They are three different kinds and one with a dusty  pick chest. I feel greatful to have been so close but they just don’t seem to care as they bop abut their business (I hope my pics turn out). Other than Dzo (yak/cow) and yaks and mules these are the only wildlife we have seen. Although on day one Brett was followed shadowed by a dog for a few kms and a yellow butterfly landed on his chest today. I say he is being looked after.

A few metres below Tenboche the cold starts in. It is 3.30pm. We started at 9am and stopped for lunch for an hour at Phangi Thangi. Tengboche is home to a large monastery on a hill and most people are moving in-doors because of night-fall. We have 20mins more before we get to Deboche. On the way we see three black pnies playing tag with each other. They are so close you can touch them. We finally arrive at the lodge, have a baby wipe shower and get warm before heading to the dining room filled with warmth and 20 other trekkers. The old people (tourists) nearly out number the young. I hope my sleeping bag and lodge blanket are warm enough – it is SO cold here.

Bad Food

Today is not a good day for me but fortunately a great day for Brett. I have sever abdonimal pain and diarrhoea (one day day I wil learn how to spell it). We walk down to the nurse Rita and the clinic to pay Brett’s bill which comes to Rs15150 (A$70) and whilst there I ask Rita to rush me to a bathroom.Lucky me it is a squat toilet – when you are unwell there is nothing worse. Rita gives me some Buscopan and I spend the rest of the day sleeping it off. I feel absolutely exhausted. Brett is feeling marginally better and takes a short walk up the hill to the heli-padt o photgraph the helicopters and the valley. He is back in time for dinner where we eat in the large but warm dining room by ourselves. There is no one else but two Russians in house tonight. I have plain rice with boiled bok choy and carrots and Brett has chicken fried rice. We go to bed feel ing warm and and much better, hoping the worst is over. It is just bitter bad luck for us. Brett blames the yak steak but I am not so sure?

Tomorrow we will resume our schedule and take our alternate route to Base Camp via Dingboche.

Kids and Markets

As Brett is still unwell I decide to go for a wander through the streets of Namche and somehow I always find myself where the local children are playing. My journey takes me gradually downhill through town and around to the bottom where a field of sorts sits. There are about 12 kids playing soccer and chasing whirly gigs as they spin them up through the air. As I sit and watch two girls come over to me. As I ask if I can take their picture the eldest one jokes that she wants payment of some kind. I laugh and say she is cheeky which she seems to understand and she pulls a bon bon (lolly) out of her own pocket and hands it to me. I am permitted to take their picture afterwhich I hand her back her lolly which she receives with verver. She then places it on a rock and smashes it with another and shares the crystals with her friends. She offers me a few shards and I accept pretending to eat them; I am grateful for her sharing and tell her it is very good.

As friendly and charming as they are, most of the kids I have seen are filthy with runny noses and dirty faces. As the small girl runs off to play I notice that she has soiled herself (some time ago) and has a rather large patch all the way down her pants. Then I see a little boy of about 3 running with his pants around his knees whilst doing a wee. You can’t help but laugh.

On my way back up the hill I walk through the Tibetan market. These markets are for locals; they are full of local clothing, blankets and other household items and plenty of sneakers. I wander through the alley ways slowly increasing uphill and find myself bargaining for a porter hat (a neanie with ear flaps). The woman is charming and I also spot a gift for someone so we barter. She takes me inside her little stall where I see she is making jewellery so i spy a trinket for myself and pay her Rs1100 for my goods. She also allows me to take her picture; she is beautiful. Her sons friend is there and asks if I am Indian because I have beautiful Indian eyes; this is funny to me because just earlier someone asked if I was Nepalese because of my nose and my piercing. I guess I am blending in better than expected.

In the afternoon we take Brett to the local clinic and the nurse gives him an injection to stop vomiting and an IV line as he is extremely dehydrated. He conitnues to be sick so we take him back to the hotel and set up our own little hospital bed – IV hung from a newly hammered nail in the wall even. Over the next 24 hours he receives 6 IV bottles and three injections (those who know us will have de ja vu right about now as this is a repeat of our trip to Cambodia three years ago).

While Brett sleeps I sit in the kitchen with the Sherpas, a Japanese tourist, our porter Lucky (who has a concerned interest in Brett’s health) and the two female cooks. I am told they are mixing Japanese with Sherpa language and although I do not know what is being said it is hilarious and everyone is in stitches. I go to our room after ordering us some plain rice and mash potato. Brett eats a sparrows worth but manages not to throw any of it back up, he is getting better. We will stay another day until he gains his strength in the shadow of the mountain. The day after we expect to take the five hour journey to Tengboche.

Sherpas and Porters

Sherpas are a full service affair. As we have pre-booked we have everything catered for. It didn’t even cost the earth. They arrange the housing, the meal orders and they even bring it to you on a tray to your table or in our case our room. They make sure you have had enough of everything before sending you on your merry way. They play nurse maid (carrying Brett to the clinic and waiting until we leave), and assist the nurse with her business. If you are ever going to do a trip like this fork out the extra few bucks and get the full treatment. It makes a hard days walking less stressful when your brain cannot function from such hard labour. And pay the extra for a porter, not only will you feed his family for a few months you will save your back a lot of pain.

Namche 2

At 4.40pm yesterday we take Brett to the clinic where he is put on an IV line and given a shot to stop vomiting. The clinic is a small two room shop stype set-up and has the only qualified medical nurse for miles. While Brett sleeps I find out that our nurse, Rita, has been nursing for five years and only opened the clinic two months ago. She is missing a lot of items to make her one room clinic a smooth operation, like a pole to hang the drip. Instead she gets a hammer a hammer a nail into the shelf. It does the job.

The medicine here is twice as much as Kathmandu because of the travel is must make to get here. The clinic is not funded in any way so all costs are paid for by Rita. With so many tourists in peak season and the local flu in off-peak the balance of busy days is relative.

We head back to the hotel at 9.30pm and go to sleep. Brett wakes again at 3.30am vomiting so in the morning I call for Rita againand we set Brett up with another drip in our room. We will stay in Namche for another few days until Brett is better. Our itinerary remains uncertain but with a view like this there are worse places to be held up on a sick bed. Fingers crossed the next set of medicines works a treat. In all seriousness if this is not effective we will need to medi-vac Brett to Kathmandu. Mums, stop worrying, he will be fine, it is just food poisoning. He is in good spirits and is feeling better already!

Namche Bazaar

Bizaar more like it. It is a small city built into a valley on the side of a mountain. A sheer mountain. It is crawling with people and the first thing that stands out after the buildings is the market. I am told by Tandi that the markets are run by the Tibetans who trek for one week to get here. They bring mostof their worldy possessions and what they plan to sell. They stay for two months (peak season) in the hope of making money and then head back home for the winter. Whilst here they live next to their stalls with their yak/cow in pitched A-frame tents and wash in the stream running through the town down the mountain.

As we climb up through the rubble stairs the streets are filled with goodies for sale. I aim to purchase a yak bell on my return and may be some hand-made HImalaya socks because they are so gaundy they are just too cool! They are practical though and do look warm.

We are staying at the Mt. Kailash Guest House which sits half way up and our twin room has 180* views over the Valley, the market and an incredible snow capped mountain. I feel stuffed. Accomplished but stuffed. Our room is filled with sun-light and it is so toasty we have a baby wipe bath and put on clean clothes. Wemanage to get in a nap and Tandi brings us the dinner menu to pre-order (which is very common here). Guess what is on the menu guys? Yak steak!

The yak steak is just like I imagined. I nearly knock the drinks off the table trying to cut it and it is a little more than clightly chewy. But it’s good! It is served with onion flake garlic gravy, garlic bok choy and carrots and hand cut chips. I am so full afte it I roll back upstairs into bed surrounded by duckies and a distant mooing. The serenity is profound.

Unfortunately my serenity is short lived. Brett has gagged on a tablet and has started to vomitinto the bin. He is severely ill and continues to vomit every hour on the hour until 3am. Then starts again at 7am. He continues to be sick in small amounts after eating or drinking in between bouts of running to the bathroom. I go and see Tandi and he gives me somemedicine. Brett rests and consumes a forced ginger tea and garlic noodle soup. Nothing else has worked so natural remedies is the next step. Teo hours in and so far so good.

I have chosen to re-route our pre-planned trip in case Brett is still unwell. We will stay another day in Namche and then take the easier route to Base Camp. This should take us four days instead of seven and only if Brett can hold down 3 meals and have a normal bowel movement. It’s hard watching someone suffer and not being able to do anything. Here’s hoping he will regain strength soon.

Phakding to Namche Bazaar

Early mornings are far from being a favourite but when you go to bed at nanna hour it’s achievable. We head out after breakfast following a string of other tourists. There are family houses still along the path and we see the locals getting ready for the day. Some even getting ready for school though I have only seen one school house and that was yesterday an hour and a half away.

As we move along we catch up to our porter who I have nicknamed Lucky (Brett has named him Fang) and he shadows us the whole way. It is tough going. I mean REALLY tough. No matter how hard I trained or how ready I thought I was no one can be ready for this kind of strain except the locals; and even they take a lot of air breaks.

As we climb higher and higher, it is harder to breath. The climb gets steeper and I can bear only 50m at a time. Within 50m at a resting start my heart rate is 160 beats per minute. This is like maintaining an hour worth of cardio at the gym. My muscles scream and my lungs ache. I would be lying if I didn’t say I have thought of asking Brett, “Tell me again why we are not in Vanuatu?”.

We pass many porters carrying twice their own body weight on their head strap, portage beasts and a few donkeys heading downhill. Everyone stops when they see the yaks coming. They are so big and extra wide with their loads so you must stand mountain side so they don’t push you off. We event see a crazy guy on a horse cantering down very narrow paths on a hill. What I wouldn’t give for a gee-gee right now. I have to stop suddenly for a bathroom break – a happy bush (Laos style). Shame to say this is the first sign of a bad stomach.

As we climb to 3300m we can see Everest in the distance through the trees. I feel so small right now. As we round the corner we see our stop – Namche Bazaar – it could not have come at a better time when you start to think will this ever end!

Lukla to Phakding

We start walking from Lukla to Phakding. The track is made of large boulders and rocks which have been cut from the mountainside. We are currently at 2800m from sea level and our trek today will take us 3 hours plus a lunch stop. All along the track we pass many porters on their return from Base Camp with their respective tourist in tow. I am told the porters heading in our same direction towardsNamche Bazaar (our next days walk) carry up to 110kg. They are paid 20 Rupee (NRs) per the kilo so the more you carry the more you make. So at maximum that is Rs2200 each way which is less than A$70 return. I don’t EVER want to hear ANYONE EVER complain about hard work again; these guys are champions!

The scenery is not yet breath-taking but it is beautiful. As we walk, the houses and villages sit right on the path and the locals go about their business as we go by. They are mostly self-sufficient and the terrace hills are brimming with vegie crops. The hybrid yak/cow partaging supplies is the only other livestock we see and even they labour at the altitude.

The mountains surrounding us are covered with snow but I wear a t-shirt and wind-stopper vest as the temperature is around 18*C. We walk through the main centre (if you can call it that) of Phakding to the other side where a flash looking resort style compound juts out of the hillside behind a turquoise blue torrent river. This is where we will sleep and the only way across is over a cable bring over the river.

The place feels like five stars and probably is out here. We get our own room with ensuite and a view across the valley. To be honest I am a little surprised; I was expecting a scout hall type set-up with a pot belly stove. In our room I am short of breath as altitude runs through me. I take a puff of ventolin and feel fine, adjusting to the air. Here’s hoping it doesn’t get worse than this. Look out Namche Bazaar, here we come…

Flight to Lukla

The crazy flight to Lukla… I thought I was going to die more than once. There is nothing like that sinking feeling in your stomach when you hit turbulance but the views are spectacular. The Valley is an amazing landscape of terrace hills and mega mountains. Our plane is a 16 seater and everyone gets a view (one seat either side of the aisle). A little disturbing though as the pilot takes photos out the front window of the mountain on his mobile phone and a GPS sits on the control panel. Somewhat worrying but if you’re gonna go it may as well be froma great height somewhere profound.

The runway is short and runs up-hill on the side of a mountain. We break heavily on landing nearly shooting everyong through the front windshield as none of the seat backs are attached to anything. A safe and almost crap-your-dacks landing really makes you thank good will over good measure.

We meet our guide, Tandi Sherpa, and our porter whose name we f\do not know (Tandi forgot to ask). Tandi is 40 years old and has four children but looks a lot younger. He has summited Everest twice and this will be his second trek this season to Base Camp. Our porter looks like he is well over 50 (in the shade) and stands at only 5ft tall at a stretch. He cannot speak a word of English and is missing his front teeth; I think he is fantastic! He will carry our large pack which currently weights 23kg. He laughs when Tandi tells him the weight as he was expecting much more and two of them. This will be a walk in the park for him. I can see he likes us already. And although our pack has allthe required straps for carrying he still puts on his own strap to carry it from his head. This is going to be one hell of a journey.