Rule Number Two : Give Way to the Donkeys on the EBC Trail
On a trek to Everest Base Camp the first rule of the trail is to give way to the yaks on the trail and stand to the mountain side, unless you want to be accidentally pushed off the side of a mountain. The second rule is to give way to the donkeys
I posted this video on Facebook on our first trek in November December 2013. It was taken on my iphone and shows the number of donkeys on the trail and why you don’t want to be on the bridge at the same time as a donkey herd. It also shows that the bridges you regularly cross can be areas for a little bit of congestion and turn taking. One way flow is definitely the safe way.
Why the Trainer and I turned back before Everest Base Camp in 2013.We trained more than when we made it in 2015 . We were fit enough. So why didn’t we make it ?
The Background Story
.One Monday morning the sport teacher at work took an interest in my EBC training asked how it was going. I pulled up my trouser leg to show him the rash on both my ankles. He told me to go to the hospital immediately.
Another colleague came to look at the rash. Unbelievably his wife had had the same rash and he told me to see a doctor. At the appointment, the doctor looked at the rash on both my ankles said it wasn’t Cellulitis and agreed it was probably caused by my trekking socks. My bamboo socks. He told me if the rash changed in any way to come straight back. The rash cleared up and some months later and the trainer and I left for Kathmandu to trek to Everest Base Camp. With the same bamboo socks. I didn’t really think about not taking them. They hadn’t caused anymore problems. Life is great in retrospect.
Day Five Namche Bazaar to Tengboche
On the trek to Tengboche the rash returned with vengeance caused no doubt by the eight hour walk that day and the dusty trail. And the socks. However it was a lot was redder than it had been back home and coming up over the the sock line. I was a bit panicky.
It had been a unexpectedly hard day’s climb. It was freezing cold and late in the afternoon when we arrived in Tengboche. A lot of the lodges were closed as it was getting late in a quiet season. We weren’t that thrilled with the accommodation and the shared toilet arrangement which we had managed to avoid until then. It was turning out to being not such a great day.
Day Six Tengboche to Pangboche
The next morning after breakfast I showed my rash to a woman in the lodge we had met the day before. She had told me she was carrying a lot of medicine and as I suspected she was a nurse. She agreed with me the rash looked like it was caused by my socks and told me if it got worse or started to feel hot to start taking the broad spectrum antibiotics and ring for a helicopter.
I was a bit panicked at this comment given we were trekking without a guide or porter. The Trainer tried to calm me down. We walked to Pangboche a lovely walk and found a lodge fairly early. I spent some time trying to find out how we would call a helicopter without much luck. We had showers which made the day seem a bit better. During the night I started the antibiotics because my leg felt hot.
The next morning the Trainer suggested we walk to Shomare have a coffee and then decide whether to go on or not. And yes, we had that drink and decided to turn back.
Life is great in retrospect I should not have taken the bamboo socks to Nepal, bought some topical cream, investigated the rash more on coming home but I didn’t.
When we returned home I heard a lot about bamboo socks not being good for trekking. They retained moisture instead of wicking the moisture away. The socks were banished from my sock drawer forever. I had actually had been recommended the socks in a camping store. In retrospect don’t buy hiking gear in a camping gear shop. I recommend finding a hiking gear shop that employs staff with lots of trekking experience.
I bought woolen socks for our second trip. Trained with them and packed more pairs.
Ironically I got the rash again on the second trek. And on the first day. Just a tiny bit at first and with woollen socks. I applied the cream I brought and raised my legs. By the end of the trek the rash was being annoying.
The type of socks you wear trekking are really important. I was very excited to find a post devoted entirely to socks in my travels around the blogosphere. Here it is
Links to related posts
Don’t be put off Tengboche. It is a hard days trek and being mentally prepared will help.
In a nutshell – one very high bridge and one big mountain.
Most treks do Phakding to Namche Bazaar on day two. Before we left Australia, the Trainer decided to add a day to our itinerary and walk to Namche Bazaar on Day 3 instead.We had time and it would be easier on our legs and lungs. I was happy for him to do all the research and planning and trusted his judgement. From my minimal research and a friend’s first hand experience I knew the infamous climb to Namche Bazaar was a hard one. The friend had trekked with group and had been one of the earliest to arrive. He sat in a cafe and watched others from his group walk into the town. One very tough character from their group finally arrived, absolutely exhausted. He came up to my friend with tears in his eyes, hugged him and said that it had been the hardest day of his life. So when we set out from the tea house in Monjo I was mentally prepared and planned to take it slowly.
Just outside of Monjo is the entrance to the Sagarmatha National Park the checkpoint where Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) card details are recorded. TIMS cards no longer exist as such (2018) however there is a permit and a process for registering trekkers.
The Sagarmantha National Park entrance outside Monjo
I realised I wasn’t quite up to the local speed when an older Nepali woman with a load of 40 kilos of cabbages on her back passed me.
The bridge to Jorsale festooned with prayer flags
A rest before the climb to the higher bridge at the Dudh Kosi Gorge and famous bridge.
Almost off the high bridge across the Dudh Kosi Gorge
Fruit sellers at the resting place on the climb to Namche Bazaar. there are toilets here and ….
your first view of Everest – one of rewards for the strenuous day’s climb
The trail around the mountain
The infamous climb to Namche Bazaar almost finished.
Phakding to Monjo Day Two Treks to Everest Base Camp
Follow the Pumpkin Coloured Backpack
This day was a short walk. For many trekking tours Day 2 is Phakding to Namche Bazaar. The climb to Namche Bazaar is a big day so the Trainer added a day to our itinerary so we didn’t need to rush and allow time to acclimatise to the altitude. Groups were leaving our lodge for Namche a good hour before us. Setting out we looked forward to a leisurely day taking our time and taking in the views around us.
Before leaving Melbourne our plans to trek the Everest Base Camp by ourselves and without a guide or porter had a few people concerned. Me as well. The Trainer explained to my mother before we left that trekking the trail is not like trekking a in remote location, well in the lower part of the trail anyway. He explained the trail is through villages with small tea houses dotted all the way, with lots of people trekking, porters and Nepalis going about their daily business including school kids walking to school. We did in fact see many children walking to school along the trail. Small children in small groups without adults running to school had my herd mother radar working on overdrive at times.
Kids walking to school
Vegetable gardens and stone walls line the trail through the lower villages along the trail. Note the Donkey train coming up the path.
Different types of prayer wheels are all along the trail. The important thing to remember is to turn them clockwise.
Cable hanging bridge across the Dudh Kosi river after Benkar. I got off the bridges as quickly as possible.
Doing a bit of traffic duty and keeping the slow donkeys moving from the safety of the sidelines. Chuk Chuk!
The EBC trek. Me the over 50s anxious woman and her husband “The Trainer” starting out from Lukla. Well prepared newbies on the trail.
Before our 2013 Everest Base Camp trek training and preparation, videos and photos helped get an idea of what the trail is like. A photo I found on Pinterest made me realise the need for step training. The photo below is not what I found, but how I found the trail!
Above Namche Bazaar heading to Tengboche
Why step training is important
However, the guide book and The Trainer’s overview of the first day’s walk to Phakding didn’t quite match up with the experience. A two – hour easy downhill walk said the guide book. The Trainer had done all the research and his words echoed the book. In the next few days I discovered easy and downhill are relative and how important mental preparation is.
EBC Trek Trail What I Learnt on Day One
Before we started out for Phakding my idea of downhill was downhill – not up hill and downhill in a general downhill direction. You can see what I mean here with a elevation profile chart of Lukla to Phakding. There are some uphill sections.
It took us about four and half hours walking and I thought we would never get to Phakding. From experience trekking in the Anna Purna region years ago, the Trainer had forewarned me the trail would be uneven and rocky. He had done a great job as personal trainerof designing our training to prepare us for this. The track varied incredibly on the first day from cobblestones in Lukla, to meandering flat paths, to rocky steps and very rocky sections. In the scheme of things Lukla to Phakding is an easy day and after the trek we knew to double the time needed in one guide book. A second guide book we bought in Kathmandu has a handy basic info table with more realistic times in the time usually taken.
The Everest Base Camp trail goes through small villages and is narrow in parts. Shared by trekkers, porters, pack animals (yaks, donkeys and horses) and kids on their way to school it can be busy. I selected the photos to show how the track varies on the first day.
That’s me walking out of Lukla feeling very much the Newbie.
One of the many villages and tea houses along the trail.
That first bridge … always a bit scary
At this spot on the way back down my Nepalese Mobile rang…..so weird
Here is the link to one of the guide book we like we bought in Nepal. Trekking in Nepal’s Everest Region by Milestone Books. The times usually taken between places you stay.
I knew that Day 3 of our itinerary, climbing to Namche Bazaar would be strenuous. We trained well and though it wasn’t easy we managed the climb well.
When we set out two days later for Tengboche, Sam told me it would be a relatively easy day. That proved far from the case. We had a breather at the top of Namche after a steep climb out of the amphitheatre – shaped town. After a few more challenging hills with spectacular views, the track really leveled out. That bit was the honeymoon period.
The trail then descends 570 metres to the river after crossing this, there is a relentless 750 metres 2-3 hours climb (according to the guide book) to Tengboche. I am sure this section would have taken us much longer.
The funniest bit was the signage. Not far from Namche there was sign “2 hours to Tengboche”. Two hours further along the track there was another sign “2 hours to Tengboche” and then about another two hours further on, you guessed it – “2 hours to Tengboche”. Hence the comment on the video and the post title. At one point we stopped to catch our breath. Another trekker was doing the same with his guide waiting for him. When we asked the guide how much longer to the top, what do you think he replied? I couldn’t believe it.
On that day I learned mental preparation is everything. I had heard it said in relation to physical challenges but didn’t relate to it until then. For our next trek to Everest Base Camp we will be prepared for the two hours to Tengboche. In fact we are changing the itinerary to start the trek from Khunde or Khumjung and not Namche. The other tip is don’t believe the estimated trekking time between the towns and definitely don’t believe the signage.
At this small shop in Shomare, over a coffee we decided to turn back from our trek to Base Camp. Given the rash creeping up both my legs it seemed the best decision. It was 2013 and was a fantastic experience. Later it felt like unfinished business. In October 2015 we returned and made it to Base Camp.
I knew climbing to Namche Bazaar on Day Three of our itinerary, was going to be a strenuous. We trained well for the trek and though it wasn’t easy we took the climb in our stride.
When we set out two days later for Tengboche, the Trainer told me it would be a relatively easy day. That proved far from the case. We had a breather at the top of Namche after a steep climb out of the amphitheatre-shaped town.
After a few more challenging hills with spectacular views, the track really levelled out. That bit was the honeymoon period.
The trail then descends 570 metres to the river, after crossing this, there is a relentless 750 metres two to three hours climb (according to the guide book) to Tengboche. I am sure this section took us much longer.
The biggest problem was the signage. Not long out of Namche there was sign which said “2 hours to Tengboche”. Two hours further along the track there was another sign “2 hours to Tengboche” and then about another two hours further on, you guessed it – “2 hours to Tengboche”. Hence the comment on the video and the post title. At one point after the third sign, we stopped to catch our breath. Another trekker was doing the same with his guide waiting for him. When we asked the guide how much longer to the top, what do you think he replied? I couldn’t believe it.
That day I learnt mental preparation is everything. I had heard it said in relation to physical challenges but had never really experienced it. For our next trek to Everest Base Camp we will be prepared for the “two hours to Tengboche”. In fact we are changing the itinerary to start the trek from Khunde or Khumjung and not Namche. The other tip is don’t believe the estimated trekking time between the towns and definitely don’t believe the signage.
People who have trekked to Everest Base Camp may forget some of the names of villages along the trail but are unlikely to forget the name Lukla. Unless you opt for the five-day hike in from Jiri, Lukla is the start of the trek to Everest Base Camp. Google Lukla and “air crash” appears near the top of the key words search list. “Flying into Lukla” was on the top of my Why I Don’t Want to Trek to Everest Base Camp list. Continue reading →