This is the account of my travels with World Expeditions in April 2013.
2 weeks ago, we (a newly formed team of Cheryl, David, Hilary, Mimi and I) flew out of Kathmandu via helicopter with our guide, Ramesh. This was my first ride in one!! It was amazing, lovely sunny day so got some fabulous views of the mountains.
We landed just outside Junbesi and trekked up to Serlo Monastery where we had lunch and were given a guided tour while our lovely Sherpas and Porters set up our campsite. The next morning the work began!
The team then spent 3 days working alongside local workmen and some of our Sherpas and finished off the incinerator for the monks. I did everything from lifting the big rocks up onto the wall, filling in the gaps in the walls with little rocks, breaking big rocks into little ones with a hammer to make the concrete, plastering the concrete onto the walls by hand (literally!!) and then handing big bowls of cement up to the guys on the roof. All in all we had an amazing 3 days and the team bonded well and worked well with the locals – a great feeling!
But then we had to depart! The fun then began – day 1 was 3 hours downhill followed by another 3 hours uphill to 3100m and all without my poles!! We have 2 fitties in our group that were keeping up with the porters then we have the sensible slow group, with their very own Keith Kemp leading the way!! Thanks Keith you taught me well as apparently I am a good pace setter!
We spent the night camping at Takshindo Monastery in a thunder storm! An hour into it our tent starts to collapse so I don full waterproofs and disappear into the night to find our head Sherpa, Ram, while my roomie, Cheryl, sits damply in our tent in shock! Cue much giggling once Ram had fixed things!
Next day was another down morning but this was a day when my lessons in trusting my boots in The Lakes came into full effect, I was bounding down the wet rocks! Unfortunately I also had to contend with a couple of suspension bridges, nope still can’t cope with them!
When we arrived at our next campsite we were greeted with stunning views of the hills and I had my first perfect moment of this trip, sat on the side of a hill, glass of Everest Beer in hand watching the sun setting behind the hills, stunning!
After another rainstorm overnight but without the collapsing tent drama, we set off for another 6 hour trek. A hard day all round as the morning was mainly uphill. After lunch we set off for the final 2 hours to camp and then the heavens opened – a hailstorm, great!! I was fine, if I can do a rainy day in The Lakes, 2 hours out here is fine, but not so for my Australian friends!! One of them had asked our guide, Ramesh, what would happen if we got caught in a rainstorm whilst out trekking, would we find shelter until it passed? He was serious!! He found out the hard way that afternoon! But as cold and wet as I was, 5 mins from “home” for the night I came round a corner and spotted a blue sky framing the beautiful silhouette of the mountains, was worth it all!!
We were lucky that night, as everything was wet, Ramesh our guide decided to let us all stay in the teahouse rather than a tent – luxury!!
The next day dawned bright and sunny and showed us just what dramatic scenery we were amongst – beautiful. Now off to Ghat and to join the Everest trail that I knew!
Lots of uphill and we rounded a corner to overlook Lukla and its famous landing strip perched on the opposite hill! Was strange seeing it from that angle, makes you appreciate just how precarious it is!! We had lunch in Surke by the river then headed upwards again and soon I was on familiar territory! We arrived at our first fixed campsite and the relative luxury of raised beds in the tents!! We also had the option of a tent each, but my roomie, Cheryl and I were having way too much fun together (much to the fun police’s disgust) so we opted to continue sharing and the other 3 members of the group picked tents as far away from us as possible!! Luckily enough the Sherpas are enjoying our company and happily spent time with us in the “down” times in between afternoon tea and dinner!
So now we’re off on the short walk to Monjo – many memories here – walked past Mike Harper’s “manhole” – its still there. Had my pic taken at Alastairs “See You Lodge” and then there was the dreaded suspension bridge over to Phakding with the teahouse we stayed in with the ensuite showers!!
After lunch at our campsite at Monjo we headed off to the National Park gates to see what we had in store for the next days trek to Namche. That view didn’t scare a couple of the crew, honest!! “What, we’re going to be all the way up there tomorrow afternoon?”. On the way back I decided to give Cheryl a piggy back, it was all going so well too, she jumped up on my back and all was good, tried to move her further up and my back collapsed. Me and Cheryl in a heap on the floor in fits of giggles as our guide Ramesh came round the corner!! No harm done, just a grazed knee!!
Another rainy night in a tent meant not much sleep for me, but not sure if that was down to the rain or the excitement of heading up to my fave place, Namche – probably a bit of both!!
The massive suspension bridge and the final hill into Namche were still as hard to deal with, but through the trees I caught glimpses of blue……we were close!! Then I was on the final walk through the outskirts and wham, here I was again at the bottom of the bowl – it still felt like home! Walking through the streets my senses were in overdrive, the smells, the sights of the brightly coloured stalls laden with jewellery and other artefacts, and then there it was, Everest Bakery – home of the best apple pie in the Khumbu!! We carried on up the really steep steps to the top of the town and just as I reached the teahouse we stayed in last year, our chef appeared and ushered me in – yes, I really was “home”. After a quick lunch, Cheryl and I headed back into town and straight to Everest Bakery – their standards haven’t slipped, including the colour of the custard!! I was asked by other trekkers for my recommendation “on your head be it”. Naturally they all were very happy with my recommendation!!
The next day luckily enough did not start with the promised 5.30 alarm call to head to the Everest View point, it was too cloudy!! So we packed our stuff, ate our brekkie then headed up to the part of the trek I was dreading – the road to Tengboche!!
I made it to Tashi’s in double quick time, even had time for an unscheduled applejack and sprite – then the team caught up and we headed down to the river for lunch! Now the hard bit – the hill up to the monastery! Hilary was suffering really badly, so I was her Keith Kemp and made her follow my heels and walk slowly up the hill and into the snow storm (thanks again Keith for last year – you were my rock!!!) Then we were there! We decided not to hang around as it was snowy and cold and misty, so headed down the muddy hill to Deboche. Again my training in the Lakes came in handy, everyone was pussyfooting around – so I jumped the queue and bounded on down – yes it was really muddy but you could clearly see stones to place your feet onto!!
So another campsite awaited us at Deboche but also fabulous views of the sun setting over Everest! I have soooo many pictures of her now, from afar, zoomed in, sun at one angle, sun at another….
Next morning we were rudely awoken by Ramesh whooping and hollering at 5.20 – when I unzipped my tent he was instantly forgiven, my first sight was Ama Dablam in all her glory!! Then I ventured out and was greeted by clear blue skies and clear views of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse amongst others all around our campsite – truly magical!
Breakfast in the sun with views of mountains started our day and also the way back down for this team! But first we had to head back up to the Monastery – god that hurt!! My chest felt like it was about to explode all through that 30 min walk, but then the Monastery appeared and more stupendous views! I decided not to go inside – didn’t think I could match the experience of Dorje taking me in there last year and witnessing him praying, so I left that to the others. Meanwhile outside Cheryl, our head Sherpa Ram and I had a snowball fight!!
On the way back to Namche I had a lot of time on the trail on my own as I was just behind the fastest and way ahead of the slowest – but it was brilliant sunshine and I loved being alone with the mountains all around me!
After lunch I could have opted for the easy route back to Namche, or to head up to Khumjung and Khunde – within 15 mins I regretted choosing the harder option!! But when I got there I was amazed by how peaceful it was, until of course the kids kicked out of the school – no matter where you are in the world, some things don’t change and the happy chatter of schoolkids at the end of the day sounds the same no matter what language it’s in!!
All too soon we were back in Namche and getting ready for my last dinner with this team – it was a sad night, and then our chef appeared with a cake he had made for me saying “hope to c u again my friend”. All our Sherpas and our Sirdar followed him in and we all sat around and laughed and ate cake, a special way to end a trek with them all.
So, after an emotional goodbye 2 days ago and 2 days rest, I am waiting the arrival of my next team this afternoon. We then have a rest day here tomorrow and head off up to Everest Base Camp on Sunday (well, Deboche, Dingboche, Leboche, Gorak Shep and then Base Camp!!)
I have finally giving into the diamox only because my oxygen levels are low – no headache, no cough, no loss of appetite (Everest Bakery can confirm the last point, profits are up!!). But I have been on it the last 2 days and getting stronger and stronger as it kicks in – fingers crossed the next email in 2 weeks will be from a clean me back in Kathmandu confirming I made it all the way to the top of Kala Pathar!!!
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for your patience, if you gave up after the first couple of paras, then you missed loads of fab stuff!!!