I had travelled through the Sahara and been to Timbuktu, seen Iguazu Falls and Rio and lived in Milan and Buenos Aires and was about to go on the trip of my life but I didn’t know it. I sat on the couch with a small pot of expensive lip moisturiser in my hands, crying. Continue reading
He met us at the baggage collection at Lukla airport. After a cup of tea and sorting our packs at the Paradise Lodge we were ready. He tied our bags together with his ropes, positioned the load on his head and led us out of Lukla, stopping every now and then to check we were following.
At first from his lack of response to our questions and attempts at conversation I thought he had limited English. But as he tuned in to our English and accents and we started to get to know each other, he spoke more.
On the second day he seemed a bit more relaxed and he started to teach us some Nepalese words. Jum jum, let’s go and appropriately on the hard climb to Namche bistari bistari, slowly slowly. Jokingly he taught us quickly quickly. When we climbed to Khumjung the thick cloud forced my focus to my feet and the spider webs covered in dewdrops, he told me the words for spider and spider webs too.
Familiar with the trail, he pointed out things I would never have seen without him. He pointed out birds and bee hives hanging in the crevices of rocks on the other side of the river. Sometimes he sang his Nepali songs. We watched fascinated by his animated conversations with others along the track and picked up his sense of humour and friendly nature.
At the end of the day when I wrote in my small diary, he reminded me of the things we had seen on the trail. He spelt out the Nepalese words I had learnt during the day and I helped him with some new English words in our guide books.
In Dingboche, surrounded by magnificent mountains he taught me their names. He helped while I practiced naming them in order, like a child reciting their abc, learning the Himalayan range spread before me.
Many times we waited together for donkeys and yaks to pass. Once I was caught in a tight spot and I turned away when I shouldn’t have. Fortunately Basanta was watching. I turned around in time to see him pushing a donkey away from me. If he hadn’t of done this the donkey’s side load would have pushed me over the small wall.
He pulled me up the huge black boulders to reach the top of Kala Pattar. Took photos of us together and celebrated with us at Everest Base Camp.
He called me Louise, sometimes jokingly Mom and sometimes Didi – Big Sister.
On the last day, walking back to Lukla a woman coming the other way silently pointed at the porter right behind me as if she thought I needed to move aside and let him pass. Yes I know, I thought, he is my porter and he has been close by for sixteen days. He has carried our load making our trek to Base Camp easier. He guided, pointed things out and watched out for us. He was our companion, Nepalese friend and shared his country with us. Thank you Basanta.
Above: The tarmac at Lukla airport and the parking spaces for the four planes that fly back and forward to Lukla every day.
We were up early for one of the first flights out. The Paradise Lodge where we stayed the night is a one minute walk to the airport. The owner of the lodge said goodbye to us and presented us with the traditional cream scarf to wish us well.
The departure hall at the airport is a bit crazy and we were glad to have someone with us to direct us where to go and in which order. We very quickly passed through the tickets and security checks and into the hall to wait boarding where passengers are always keen to watch the planes landing. The unloading of passengers and baggage is amazingly quick and the same goes for loading and boarding.
Being our fourth flight we were fairly relaxed. I was more relaxed about take off rather landing at Lukla.
As we flew back along the line of the Himalayas I wondered if it would be our last trip as I was hooked on this magnificent part of the world.
Missed the beginning of the 2015 trek? Here are the first five days to get you started.
and here is the 2015 Trek Itinerary with links
The first photo for the day was of a dog sitting expectantly outside the kitchen of our lodge. The trainer had taken it because “everyone loves a photo of a dog.” The dogs we saw on the trail appeared well cared.
On the last day of both our trek it was with a feeling of sadness that we made our way back to Lukla. Lingering on the trail as we went. Standing aside for the last lot of the donkeys and yaks, crossing the last bridges which on the way up were the first bridges. Savouring the last of the views of green fields of vegetables, mani walls and stupas as we would back down through a string of villages.
We saw groups of trekkers fresh off the plane new to the trail and not sure quite what to expect.I pointed at the brand new boots of a young woman and I pointed to my boots all covered in white dust and told her that her boots would like mine after base camp.
I smiled a woman we passed who pointed behind me and mouthing “there is a porter behind you.” I think she thought he was trying to get past. I wanted to say yes he has been behind me for 16 days, he’s my porter. Although he wasn’t always behind sometimes he was ahead and leading. But he was always there walking beside me essence, keeping an eye on where I was stepping. Only a short time before he had pulled me out of the way from a donkey half, because I turned around and wasn’t paying attention.
In the end, despite not wanting the trek to end we were glad to get to Lukla’s entrance gate. The last of the hills seemed endless. And we had just walked 130 kilometres.
We walked through the streets of Lukla which we very quiet.Lukla would normally be a bit of a party town with people celebrating the end of their treks. It is always a place people stay at the end of the trek not at the beginning.
At the lodge we were happy to have a shower, do some washing and explore the town a bit more. Basanta came back later in the afternoon. We had a few beers together and said thank you and goodbye. He was going to have three days rest and then going to back on the trail again with a group.
After dinner and a chat with the woman who owns the lodge we were ready for an early night ready for the first flight out in the morning.
Leaving our lodge in Namche Bazaar was a bit sad. We had stayed there four times and a total of six nights with the acclimatisation days. It was located in the middle of Namche, the owners and staff were lovely, the menu and food good and the hot showers wonderful.
Leaving Namche Bazaar and the Kwangde Range
Not long after we started out, Basanta our porter guide pointed out a Danfe or Danphe Nepal’s national bird, a beautiful large black pheasant with a metallic green head and a chestnut tail.
We had our last look of Everest at the resting spot on the way down. We crossed the high bridge again across the Dudh Khosi gorge. The fourth time over it I was still glad to get off however Sam stands in the middle looking over at the view.
Back down on the old river bed we posed for a photo together and watched some of the porters with huge loads of building materials slowly make their way up to cross the bridge.
We stopped at Monjo Lodge where we had stayed on the first trek and another place that I felt a connection to. Waiting for lunch in the garden in the sun we took some more happy snaps feeling relaxed, fit and happy. The trainer, yes my husband Sam looked really relaxed in the photos, his job was done. His training and planning had got us up and back without mishap. Following the no more than 300 metres increase in altitude a night had been a key factor I am sure.
Porters carrying building materials up the trail
Waiting for lunch in the garden at Monjo Lodge
The lodge we stayed in Phakding on the way up and on the way down
The trainer was very excited about finally seeing the marathon runners who had started early that morning from Everest Base Camp running past, all of us on our way to Namche Bazaar. The event was originally in May but was rescheduled to the beginning of October after the earthquakes.
We left our lodge at Pangboche as doctors prepared the medical check point and lodge staff the water bottles.
A half marathon runner who started at Dingboche at the Tengboche check point
The following photos show the track. The steep uphill climb (600m) had nearly killed me on our 2013 trek. Coming back down isn’t easy either. It can impact on your knees which is why I chose to use trekking poles. The steep track with lots of small loose rocks can be slippery so the only way to go is slowly.
That’s me picking my way down with the trekking poles.
The view of Namche Bazaar from above. I had my sights set on the red roofed lodge in the middle, right …. which for me meant our favourite lodge, our own bathroom and a hot shower at last.
We had a drink here to celebrate our successful, wonderful trek to Everest Base Camp. Huddled together in the bar we looked at all the photos Sam had taken. For the best of an hour I sat with tears streaming down my face, hardly able to believe the photos of the magical places we had just been.
We had reached our goal of Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar and now our focus was getting back to Lukla for our flight out while savouring the final days of our trek. Descending in altitude is easier than ascending as you don’t need to worry about gradual increments of altitude. The plan for Day 13 was to walk to Pangboche.
The photos remind me that the trek looks different in reverse. Generally you look in the direction you are going and don’t look back at where you have come from which usually it quite a different view. The memorial cairns above Dughla looked different with the mountains behind.
We crossed the small bridge at Dughla. Sam turned around to help me step up and over the gap between the side of the rock and the bridge.I momentarily froze looked at Sam’s outstretched hand and thought I had better not miss the large step onto the low rock bridge.
With the trail to Dingboche above us we walked through the Khumbu Khola valley into Periche. The small settlement had been badly affected by the second earthquake in May 2015 but had been rebuilt and only limited damage was evident.The medical centre and the daily talks about altitude sickness were operating business as usual.
We stopped in Periche for a drink and toilet break and Shomare for lunch.
Above is a small yaks enclosure before Pangboche.
The following day the annual ultra-marathon started the next day from Everest Base Camp and our lodge in Pangboche was a medical check point and drink station for the event. Three doctors from Kathmandu were staying the night in the lodge and to check the vital statistics of the runners.
The walk into Base Camp took me by surprise as I hadn’t read the section in the guide book. The trail isn’t much of a trail, making the walk a little crazy. At the end you just clamber over boulders and slip everywhere. But that’s getting a little ahead.
The photo shows the middle section of the trail which had lots of boulders and scree. A defined path becomes non existent, so we headed in a general direction picking our way as best we could. As a result of clambering over boulders, I developed blisters on my toes. Applying bandaids before setting out is probably a good idea.
EBC has the reputation of lookng very dull. Most trekkers visit it in the afternoon when the mountains can shade the area. We took the advice to visit in the morning and with the light it was quite lovely.
I plan to write a post about the runners and the marathon as they were a feature of our trek. We bumped into them several times along the trail much to the Trainer’s delight.
The Main Everest Base Camp Trail’s highlight is the view of Mt. Everest and the Himalaya Range from the top of the hill Kala Patthar . Not everyone has heard of Kala Patthar. However Everest Base Camp is famous, so it is a must do. Or is it? I felt uneasy at Base Camp, being directly underneath where the 2015 avalanche came off Mt.Pumori into Base Camp (or so I was told). If I go back I would climb Kala Patthar twice, climbing it once in the afternoon and again the next morning at sunrise.
The triumphant team of three, lined up to take the obligatory photo by the sign and flags.
The sign for my choir had its big moment here. 130 people sang Climb Every Mountain to me before I left Melbourne. It was very special.
The round trip to EBC from Gorak Shep is 8km and takes 6.5 hours. Back at Gorak Shep (the end of the trail and starting point for Kala Patthar and EBC) we had lunch at the lodge where we had slept the night before and left. We headed back down to Lobuche (a 2.5 hours walk) through the long valley that feels like a moonscape. Back in our lodge in Lobuche we ate and went straight to bed. Exhausted but very happy and very pleased with ourselves.
All the training had prepared us well. The trek to Everest Base Camp is more than the walk to that point. It is about the training before hand, getting all the right gear and training with it, the research and preparation and then the trek itself. So It had been a long journey in many ways, for which you are rewarded in many ways.
Now we just had to get back down to Lukla in one piece.
People who have trekked to Everest Base Camp, or have friends that have, or are busy planning and researching the trek themselves will know the highlight of the trek is not Everest Base Camp but in fact, is climbing to Kala Pattar above Gorak Shep to view Mount Everest from the closest and highest viewpoint on the main EBC Trail. Continue reading
Dughla to Lobuche 1 October 2015
I had a shocking night’s sleep because of Diamox the altitude sickness tablets, which make you go to the toilet all night. We left our lodge quite late as we did not have far to walk and also wanted to wait for some of the cloud to clear. It was a steep climb up from Dughla. After the climb we saw some very large quail type birds called the Tibetan Snow-Cock or Snowbird on the slopes.
Above that there are many cairns or chortens, memorials for all the mountaineers who have died on Everest including Scott Fisher’s memorial. Some of the climbers made it to the summit and then died on the way down. The area is quite beautiful.
The clouds cleared above the chorten area. The landscape became very much like a moonscape with a small stream and also reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands.
The walk was only two and a half hours. Sam went for a walk to see the Italian weather pyramid. Inside our lodge was very warm with lots of laser-light in the roof letting the heat in. I was happy to stay in the lodge and rest up for the next two very big days.
We retraced our steps into the town for the initial part of the walk and then took a trail along the side of the hills past yak pastures and herders huts. A few big trekking groups were walking out probably groups doing the trail in fewer days along the main trail.
It was great walk across flat plains, slowly going up hill with great views of Periche below. On the way we saw some teenagers carrying large baskets of dung and Basanta had an animated conversation with them. Continue reading
The hard slippery climb to 4,700 metres is worth the magic view. Continue reading
Three hours walking today.
The yaks that arrived after dark the night before at our lodge were brought from the hill early in the morning. They were loaded up on the lawn in front of the lodge. A vet (well possibly not a vet as such) came to attend to one of the yaks so we witnessed the ointment and injection procedure while we waited for our breakfast.
Which reminds me it usually is a good idea to order your breakfast the night before Continue reading
We walked up out of Phortse and then up forever. At the top it was very cloud (dherai mukpa) which was disappointing as the views would have been spectacular but because we were trekking at the very end of the monsoon season there were still clouds around and we could not see a thing.
At Pangboche and went inside the monastery or gompa here while our lunch was being cooked. It is the oldest monastery in the Khumbu.
We came in and walked out of Pangboche a totally different way from our 2013 trek. Our impression walking in was of quite a different village. The walk out past the helicopter rescue pad and lots of chortens and mani stones was interesting and the cloud broke and we had some sneak mountain views at last. Continue reading
The clouds cleared in the morning and we took some video and photos before we left the village while we still had mountain views. We had seen the spectacular views above the town on our 2013 trek.
Many treks go from Namche Bazaar to Tengboche possibly because some parts of the trail are very narrow and may not be suitable for lots of trekkers. So the trail to Phortse was very quiet and we saw hardly anyone going in either direction.
Unfortunately it was very cloudy most of the day so we missed some spectacular views. The walk up to Phortse after crossing over the river through rhododendron forests was lovely.
Phortse is a very steep town so the walk up to the monastery at the top of the village was quite a walk. The village grows wheat and buckwheat. We saw the Rock Climbing Academy being built which will be fabulous when it is completed. The woman who owned the lodge we stayed at was lovely. I remarked on the coriander she was picking in her garden and she asked me if i liked it. To which I replied yes. So she put it in the momos I ordered for dinner. They were the best I had eaten. Over dinner we had some Nepalese and English lessons with Basanta and ‘Nepal on a Shoestring’. We were the only guests and the only trekkers in the town. We had our first shower since leaving Kathmandu.
The climb out of Namche is steep and we were in thick cloud. We could not see very far but sounds travelled up the hill to us – the chinking sound of the stone masons and the anthem and then music for a fitness program from the school below. I practiced my newly learnt Tashi Dele greeting, much to the delight of the Sherpas passing us. Possibly they were going down to prepare for the market the following day. The large market on the Saturday is very famous and sadly as we had changed our itinerary and we would miss it. Perhaps next time.
The landscape changes and reminds me of the moors in Scotland. The thick cloud made me focus on the low heath like plants. Spider webs bejewelled with water droplets reminded me not to forget the beauty at the ground level. Consequently new Nepalese words included putali (butterfly), makura (spider) and makura zal (spiderweb).
I was keen to see that the school built by Edmund Hillary had not been badly damaged by the earth quake which had affected Khumjung. I was pleased to walk into the town and past the school just as the children finished their half day Friday. Sadly though the gompa near the school had been damaged.
We found a lodge, organised our room and had lunch. Later we walked to the town’s monastery and home of the famous Yeti skull (Wikipedia). The monastery was quite beautiful and worth the visit.
We were the only guests in the lodge and after our dhal bhat we watched a video about the life of Hillary.
We woke in cloud, walked straight up out of Namche in cloud and went to sleep in cloud.
See photos for our walk into Khumjung
It is best to think of the acclimatisation day involving some walking above where you are going to sleep. We walked above Namche Bazaar to the helicopter landing strip and quarry. The day was cloudy and the sound of rocks being chiselled for structures over the stream near the stupa rang out across the arena shaped town.
We also visited the monastery and turned some of the many prayer wheels on the way up. On the path to Khunde we sat on a large flat boulder and looked out over the pines and down to the river way below.
After our walk at one of the town’s bakeries I remembered meeting a French woman in 2013 who had spent her “rest day” walking up to Khunde and Khumjung and back down to Namche. At the time I thought she was mad but she was walking to Base Camp in less days than us and so walking the large circle up to Khunde and Khumjung would have helped with her walk to Tengboche’s altitude the following day.
For our 2015 trek we had decided to sleep a night at Khumjung. This was not the original itinerary. We had planned to sleep our second night in Monjo but we reached there by 11:00 and were feeling great so we decided to continue and climb to Namche Bazaar. Trekking independently with a porter gave us this flexibility. We were then able to walk to Khumjung on the following day and sleep at a slightly higher altitude allowing us more acclimatisation time for the altitude.
Below are photos taken on our Acclimatisation Day on 24 September 2015.