7th November 2016

Namaste mero saathi horu

Yep, totally getting into this Nepali now, learning more each time and the one thing I have realised this time is that the Nepali I learned last time, has stuck and I now find myself answering questions put to me in Nepali, in Nepali without thinking about it…..I am also getting lessons in Sherpa from Kaami my adorable porter, which sometimes helps, but sometimes doesn’t as I remember the Sherpa word but not the Nepali word!

Its been 3 weeks already and I have been extremely shoddy in my blog keeping skills!   But I have already crammed so much into these 3 weeks, its untrue!    The good news is that my fitness regime that has driven some of you to distraction on Instagram (cue pix of healthy food, kettlebells, weights etc) has actually worked and this is definitely the fittest I’ve been when coming to Nepal, definitely something I will be keeping up in the future. It doesn’t make the hills any easier, the altitude see’s to that, but it does mean I can keep going for longer, the squats definitely work!!

Before I start on the story so far, I’ll put the link in for those of you that want to support our cause, but don’t want to read all my blurb (that’s fine!)  As you know its all really about Supporting Nepal’s Children and not about me having an awesome time (although I do at the same time) I am here on very important missions to cover 3 schools on this trip, Pangboche, Kunikhop and Rocham.  If you would like to support us, please click on the link…. www.virginmoneygiving.com/HazelSNC2016  I am always astounded by your generosity, so thank you in advance, you really are making a difference out here

So, back to Nepal…..I had a frantic 40 hours in KTM, catching up with my friends, ensuring Iswari and his crew knew what was needed for the Mera Peak and Island Peak crew, delivering money to Namgel and Iswari, having tea with friends, lunch with friends and dinner/drinks with friends.  The only disappointment for me was that Cobweb (my favourite Nepali band) no longer play the Reggae Bar on a Friday night, which to be fair was probably a blessing in disguise, I left my friends in Sams Bar at 10pm as I had a 5am pick up to catch my flight to Lukla and hope to do #Namcheinoneday

The early night worked, I was in bed by just after 11…..however my head was spinning with all the stuff I had done, still needed to do and whether or not I would wake up to any one of the 3 alarms I had set…..finally at 2am I dropped off….the alarm went off at 4am!

As usual with the guys from Himalayan Guides, the stress of KTM domestic is taken away from you.  This time not only did we have Rajan with us but also Iswari, so we got even more information than usual.  Lukla was open/closed/open/closed all within the first hour of our arrival.  Iswari had told us that he hoped we would fly before 7.30 as the Prime Minister was flying to India then, and there was an embargo on flights for an hour after that!   At 7am we were ushered through onto the buses out to our planes, got off, queued up to get on……Lukla was closed, back on the bus…..5 minutes later, everyone off, Lukla was open!   BUT we still didn’t make it onto the plane as it was now close to the time the Prime Minister was flying so we had to stay put on the tarmac for the next hour.  This is the strange thing about KTM, we were all just wandering around in between the planes…there were 4 flights ready to board, but none of us could leave even though we had seen the Prime Ministers plane fly out bang on 7.30am….for one hour we all sat there, nothing coming in or out of KTM airport, either internationally or internally!    Then all hell let loose, it was time, Lukla was open and we were ushered aboard and on our way!   9.05am I landed at Lukla, Kaami was waiting for me and we headed off round the airport.   I knew those 2 hours lost would be costly, It was going to be a long day if I wanted to make it to Namche, I wasn’t sure I would!   We left Lukla at 9.30, Kaami was still sorting out our bags I told him I would see him at Chepplung for our first break, but I was on a mission…..could I make it?  I sailed through Chepplung and just kept going, I was heading downhill so I felt fine.  My phone rang, it was Kaami, where was I, he was in Chepplung looking for me, I told him I had kept going.    And I did, and I did…..4 hours later I was in Benkhar at the Waterfall Inn ordering “duita dal bhat”   but I was exhausted.  The sign at the lodge says 4 hours to Lukla and 4 hours to Namche “depending on walk”  I was astounded I had made it there in 4 hours, but oh my god did my body know it.  2 hours sleep, lots of waiting around at the airport, then walking like a loony at 2,500m……I slept while our dal bhat was being made.     I left there at 2pm, I’d said that 2pm at Monjo would be my cut off, but I knew Monjo was an hour away.  I had been updating Jagadish in Namche on my progress, he told me that if it was dark he would come down the hill with the emergency light to guide me and Kaami in!   Monjo at 3pm would mean Namche was do-able.  Although Kaami wasn’t sure so I agreed with him that we would get to Jorsalle and see how we felt.

30 minutes out of Benkhar I knew Namche wasn’t on.  My legs felt like lead, my head was pounding, it was a hot day with the sun beating down on our backs.  I had drunk lots of water but I felt rubbish.  As we headed over one of the bridges I said to Kaami….”tonight Jorsalle”…..he just nodded gave me a huge beam and I knew that he was now much happier with the situation, I knew he wasn’t happy when I still wanted to press on at Benkhar.  It took me 2 hours to get to Monjo….. I had gone far too quickly on the first part.

We arrived in Jorsalle at 4pm….I got to my room and slept for 2 hours……Got up, had some dinner, then slept for 12 hours straight, my head was pounding, I had drunk 4 litres of water (Nadine would be proud)  but it had been so hot and I was determined to still make it, even knowing I had “lost” 2 hours with the delays at KTM.

When I woke the next morning, I felt amazing and ready for that hill up to Namche.   We smashed it and I was in Café Danphe before lunch, greeted by big hugs from Jagadish and all the boys.  Kaami and I were fed, I had a shower, unpacked my bag and settled into my room that would be home for the next 4 nights, then headed out to the bar to catch up on all the gossip.

It was a busy night in Café Danphe and the last customers left around 2am …..Jagadish and I carried on drinking the beers he had been bought by customers all night and talking….then it was 5am and I went to the toilet and realised it was light outside….when I came back and told him he just laughed and said “we best carry on then Ale will be up soon”  then at 6.30am on cue, Ale walked through the door.  Jagadish had already told me he was going to take me on an acclimatisation walk…..I thought this was off and we would head off to bed…”lets go”  he said!!  I was in jeans and cheap plimsolls from Primani…..I laughed and said “lets go for breakfast at Tashi’s”  so somehow the 3 of us left and headed out up the hill in the sun out of Namche, with a bag of beers, snickers and chewing gum…..the essentials for any trek surely?

The 3 of us had an amazing morning, we made it to the first chorten and sat on the side, watching Lhotse appear out of the clouds, willing Everest to come out.  Ale decided he was going to head off to see if he could find some cigarettes….Jagadish and I stayed put, laughing and drinking and winding up trekkers by asking each other which one was Everest whenever a new group came through (Everest was still being shy and hiding behind the clouds at this point)

After 2 hours, we were worried about Ale, should we go looking for him, his phone wasn’t answering, Jagadish then lost power on his phone, so we were calling Café Danphe on my phone as it was the only number Jagadish knew and getting them to try him.  We walked to the 2nd Chorten and then as we were sat there looking at the view, I pointed out a figure walking back down, a quick check through the zoom on my camera confirmed it was Ale – we waved he waved back and we all laughed when he rejoined us.  He had been up to Mongla to find cigarettes…..totally ignoring Kyangjuma!!

We headed back and left Ale to get back to work whilst I headed off to bed.   I was shattered, but extremely glad of the 12 hours sleep the night before.  I remembered to set my alarm as my lovely Mingyur and his Dad were coming to see me at 4pm.  I made it and was so glad I did, massive hugs from Mingyur, whose English has greatly improved over the last year since he has been at school and he has grown in confidence immensely .. then my good friend Pasang from Pangboche turned up with her daughter Rhita who was also heading back to school in Namche.  A very social afternoon.   When they left I went back to bed!!!

So I had a few days in Namche to rest, get my head together, catch up with new and old friends in the bar and then head up to Pangboche.  I have done a separate update on that trip, see the next blog….

Now I’d visited the school, Kaami and I headed off for my “holiday”  in the spring I had tried and failed to make it to Gokyo Ri…..something to do with not being able to breathe made if difficult to keep going.  This is why I had ramped up the fitness back in the UK, I wanted to give myself as much chance as possible to do this this time!

We headed round the side of the very steep and very high trail from Pangboche to Phortse once more, it was hard but it was worth it, the views were stunning.  In the Spring we had snow and low cloud, today we had clear blue skies and perfect mountain views.  So much different to the time I did this with the team in 2012, the cloud cover was low and basically all we could see was whiteness, I took one picture of my friend, Matty Forbes with just pure white behind him, the caption was “enjoying the views”  this time I could!    We were looking down on Pangboche, Deboche and even Tengboche and its beautiful monastery.   Only close to the end of our day did we encounter a few trekkers, almost the perfect day with Kaami.

We got to our lodge, same one as the spring and were warmly welcomed by the family.  There was a guy here who gave me a couple of looks and then said “you were in Café Danphe watching Manchester United with Jagadish”  he is one of his best friends, despite being a Liverpool fan.  As soon as he said Liverpool I remembered him!   So another fun night, with me being the only trekker in the lodge, so I was eating dal bhat in the kitchen with the whole family……you cannot beat times like this, trust me

Another beautiful day dawned in Phortse giving us stunning views of Thamserku (she is my new favourite mountain) and Kantega and all the mountains up and down this valley….it was time to head off and face my fears.

We dropped down to the river and then up, up, up…..oh and up some more just for good measure! We made it to Dhole in great time where I had to bail in the spring.  I felt good J  I fuelled myself up with dal bhat and headed back up the hill towards Macchermo….this felt OK…….then it kicked in…….I was an hour out of Dhole, with still 2 hours to go to get to Macchermo….this was hurting, oh my god was it hurting.  Each step felt like I had lead weights round my legs, my head was pounding (“drink some more”  “I’ve already drunk 4 litres”  “I don’t care, drink”)    my bag got heavier and heavier….I didn’t let on to Kaami I just kept going and hoping that the top of the next hill would mean that I could see Macchermo, well it was the top of the next one, but only after about 4 or 5 in between!!!

When we finally got to the hill that meant I could see Macchermo and it was downhill, I actually started blubbing like a baby, it was over….no more walking, please…..we checked into our lodge, I collapsed on my bed, started crying again and told Kaami this was it, I could go no further.  He looked at me and said “it is only 3 hours to Gokyo, rest, eat and rest we’ll see”  I promised him I would think about it, but I had given up, there was not a single part of my body that wasn’t hurting.  Just getting my sleeping bag out of my bag took me 15 minutes!  How could I possibly walk for 3 more hours tomorrow….uphill….I was determined I would be going down in the morning.

I laid down for an hour, but was so cold I took my water bottle and headed to the dining room for some tatopani to keep me warm in bed, fully intending to head back to bed as soon as it was filled for me.  But the guys in the dining room had other intentions for me.  There was an American and an Indian guy, both trekking separately but turns out both knew each others family as the American guy’s family was from the same place in India as the other guy (as usual, no names on this trek….sometimes its cool to just encounter people, let them make a difference to you and then move on, these two were such guys!)   They both were not feeling great, but feeling better than me.  The Indian guy said to me “you have insurance, get a helicopter out”  I tried to explain that I wouldn’t get a heli for a headache….if it got worse I would walk back down, it wasn’t an emergency evac for a headache!    But we sat and chatted and bonded, we all had the same aim, Gokyo Ri…..the whole lodge ordered dal bhat and the Sherpani did a little dance knowing she had an easy time in the kitchen.

Then my little moment of fame in this lodge started, the owner came up to me and said “are you Hazel and are you friends with Jagadish”  turns out he had called to tell them I was coming and to look after me….I then felt like I was in a bit of a paparazzi mode as I noticed Nepal’s trying to take sneaky pictures of me.  It was funny and actually cheered me up, despite feeling rubbish.

I left the dining room with the American guy to head off to bed.  Our rooms were outside and we both stopped in our tracks as we got outside.   WOW it was such a clear night, we could see a million stars…..we both stood there open mouthed looking round, we could see the milky way, the outline of the mountains and just stars, stars, stars……I really wished I knew how to use my camera but of course I haven’t learned that particular skill yet.

The next day I agreed with Kaami that I would walk for one hour and then see how I felt, if I felt fine we would keep going, if not, we would head back down.    Of course we kept going, up through the barren landscape that reminded me of the part of the EBC trail to Lobuche above the memorial cairns…..it was tough going, but the views were incredible, we were right in the middle of all these massive mountains, but due to our height, around 4,600m they all seemed so much smaller.

Then we came to the first lake….it was breathtaking….I knew I had 2 more lakes to see before Gokyo, but oh my god this was stunning….I naturally took lots of pictures, the colours were spectacular, but little did I know what was to come.  Lake 2, even more amazing….Kaami just stood stunned as I took more pictures.  Then we headed up the slope away from the 2nd lake and eventually I saw Gokyo, was I really here, I actually didn’t feel that bad, yes I had a headache and yes I was aching, but I had felt worse at Macchermo yesterday.  Maybe it was because yesterday it was cold and cloudy and then today we were in beautiful sunshine and I was warm, oh so warm.  The lake here at Gokyo is such an amazing blue colour, I think we should call it Gokyo blue!  We went to Namaste Lodge where we had been recommended by Chirring in Phortse, but it was full, as was the next one, and the next one.   We headed down to the lake, this one had rooms and was right on the lakeside…..my room had no curtains but was warm and views over the lake and Gokyo Ri.  Again I realised just how lucky I was.

I headed into the dining area to order lunch…….my 2 friends from Macchermo were here they were both immediately on their feet, hugging me and telling me how happy they were to see me here….it was right that the other lodges were full, I was meant to be here among friends.  I felt fabulous, so  much better than 24 hours ago.  I ate my dal bhat (what else), updated Facebook so the world knew I was alive and then went to bed for a few hours rest, I knew tomorrow was going to be a hard day, if I made it of course.   But my headache was back with a vengeance……I checked my stats, not good, oxygen way down……I drank some more water, then settled myself into my sleeping bag, with the sun still warming the room.

A couple of hours later I headed back to the dining area, I had probably snoozed for about an hour after taking some Diamox…. But I now felt dreadful.  My new friends were concerned as I had been so perky when I arrived but was now not so.  We were all nervous about tomorrow but were all determined.   Me and the American guy were heading off at 6am as we were heading straight back down, him to Dhole and me to Macchermo.  The Indian guy was taking it easy and leaving around 8ish as he was staying there for another day before heading over the pass towards base camp.

The blessing about my room with no curtains was that I was inside my warm sleeping bag looking up at the stars…..yep, I couldn’t sleep, one of the things that always happens to me at altitude!   I reckon I got 2 maybe 3  hours sleep in total, but I rested…..the water was working, I was going to the toilet lots, so I clearly wasn’t dehydrated, but the headache persisted, despite the paracetamol and diamox.

At 6am Kaami was outside my room “mornings”  he was chirpy, I was not……my oxygen levels were still low but …..I was here……it was rude not to…..I could take it slowly….we had plenty of water…..I would be fine….a couple of deep breaths and it went higher, but still probably nowhere near where it should be!

So off we set just as the sun was starting to rise, it was magical.  I had seen some head torches heading up from my window, luckily enough we didn’t need ours.   Kaami took my backpack which had minimal stuff in it seeing as I was wearing my warm layers, and we headed up….bistari bistari……we crossed the walkway by the lake, it was frozen and I crunched my way across it.    Then we were straight onto the hill.  It was straight up….I had looked at this bit from my window and it looked like it was going to be hard, it was.   There were zigzags, but not many…..in between the zigzags it was a high incline, no gentle Namche or Tengboche hill here,  oh and we were heading up to 5000m.

I have to say every single step made me want to throw up, but I was determined.  I was stopping after about 40-50 steps for a breather, Kaami just handed me water now, didn’t even ask his traditional “chu?!”

But each time I stopped I did my usual, turned round and looked back down rather than up.  Boy was I glad I had started doing this trick so that I wouldn’t realise how far I had to go, just how far I had already come…..and the rewards were amazing.   The higher I went, the better the views got….then all of a sudden we saw a small part of Everest……time to keep heading higher, I had added incentive.

I was passing people heading up!  Best slow down……but I already thought I was going slow…..I kept up my pace, it’s the only pace I know and the one that I know works…..Kaami was ever patient and ever watchful….then I could see the flags….surely not, that cant be the top can it.  I stopped and looked back……wow, I reckon it could be.    Everest loomed large over the other side of the glacier.

As I turned around to head up again I saw a familiar figure……here was my American friend heading down with a beaming smile “you are nearly there, the views are definitely worth it” warm hugs  exchanged knowing I was close and we would never see each other again.

10 minutes later I was on the top……I couldn’t actually believe it.  All the pain was forgotten as soon as I looked all around.  I was  bouncing over the rocks trying to get in a good place to get pictures….Kaami was trying to get me to drink water but I felt amazing.  Some selfies, some shots of each other, grabbing random strangers to take pictures of us together (he was rubbish, he made sure our heads were blocking Everest!)   Then a video to show all my friends just how amazing this view was, I knew pictures couldn’t do it justice and to be fair, I’m not sure the video did either!    We spent about 15 minutes up there in the sun, taking pictures galore and hugging each other.  This was Kaami’s 5th time and my first (and last)  so we headed off down.

Just as I was about to leave the top I walked past someone I thought I recognised, then I saw his guide…..it was my Indian mate…..he jumped up and immediately hugged me telling me he was so pleased to see me here and so proud of me.  It was a special moment between 2 people who didn’t know each others names, but had shared so much……so of course I took a selfie with my new mate

Down we bounced, an hour later we were back ordering breakfast.  It had taken me 3 hours and 11 mins to get to the top and less than an hour to bounce down.

Bags backed, bellies full, we headed down through the valley in the sunshine, this all seemed so much easier until I got close to Macchermo…..what is it with this place!  The cloud had rolled in again and it was cold, and as I came up the last hill everything started hurting again, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be!   Again as soon as I saw Macchermo I started crying with relief that the day was over.   We walked in and my new friends greeted me with warm hugs and big smiles.  There was a big group of French trekkers in who had just taken over the whole dining area so there was no where to sit…..I just grabbed a patio chair and moved it close to the fire…..I was greeted with tuts as it appears it was supposed to be for one of their friends…..they had taken up every table with no need to, so I didn’t care, I was exhausted and needed to sit down and get warm, if they could be rude, I could be ruder!

My friends got my room ready and I took my hot water bottle with me and jumped straight into my sleeping bag and slept for 3 hours.   When I got to the dining room we had the same scenario except there was another couple who had arrived now and were also trying to find somewhere to sit.  I just joined the Nepali’s around the heater.    Then I got asked by the guide of the French group if I knew Jagadish…..word had gone round again that I was his friend…..this guy was also his friend, Babu and lived a couple of places up from Café Danphe J   Time for a selfie of course!!    Kaami had already ordered dal bhat for me, I needed it.

It was quickly despatched and I took my newly filled hot water bottle off to my room……..sleep was the order of the day!

I was woken by the guys next door noisily moving round their room…..when I got to the dining room, they had made sure that the tables were all set specifically for the French group, to leave lots of space for us mere mortals that happened to be sharing their space (can you tell I didn’t like them much?)  Tsampa porridge wolfed down.   Pictures taken with my new friends the owners, a necklace given to me for safe travels and Kaami and I were heading up  out of Macchermo and down towards Mongla  our home for the evening.   This was so much easier, I was enjoying this walk down, I could feel the air getting thicker and my head getting better, sleep and food had helped but this thicker air was helping more.

Down through the forest we bounced towards Phortse Thanga where we had agreed to have lunch.   Dal bhat in the sunshine overlooking stunning views of Thamserku and Kantega, the perfect lunch spot.   Then of course it was up to Mongla which is perched neatly on top of a hill…..up, up, up for an hour and a half.  Kaami usually has his mobile playing lovely Nepali folk songs, something I love when we are walking along together, the theme tune to my walks with him.   This time it was my turn to supply the music and we had Cobweb blasting out, I was educating Kaami in the joys of Nepali Rock.   I heard him singing along occasionally, not sure I have converted him, but at least we kept a good pace up.

The cloud started dropping as usual around 3pm, extra layer added and we continued up, we could see Mongla sitting pretty on top of the hill, but the route round was windy and up, it still looked a huge way above us, this was starting to hurt again, despite the lower altitude.   But of course we got there, headed to our home for the night, again I was the only trekker here.   Got shown to lovely warm and cosy rooms, they had had the sun shining into them most of the day which helped.   I took out my sleeping bag and jumped in, a couple of hours snooze was the order of the day.

Dal bhat again that night, I was the only trekker, no point in them making a separate meal for me, may as well make their life easy…then off to bed.   Again, stunning clear night, the stars and silhouettes of the mountains looking amazing, I thank my lucky stars (excuse the pun) that I am able to visit this beautiful country time and time agan and experience views like this.  Maybe one day I will learn to use my camera and capture these moments, for now they are firmly fixed in my head.

I knew the next day was an easy one, it was literally all downhill from here!  Just 50 mins out of Mongla, we bounced into Tashi’s at Kyangjuma where we were greeted as usual by massive hugs “Hazel, carne?”  asked Tashi….no, I didn’t want food, I had filled up in Mongla and knew that an early lunch in Namche was on the cards for Kaami and I…..we sat and drank tea, and lounged about in the sun for an hour and a half watching the trekkers come and go.  I knew it was an hour to Namche from here, there was no rush.

Eventually around 10.30 we left Tashi, promising to come back and see her over the next few days when I was in Namche.  I sent the text to Café Danphe asking for the shower to be prepared as I was an hour away “no worries, we look forward to welcoming you home” was the reply.

Off Kaami and I set around the trail, I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it again and again, this is my FAVOURITE part, walking round the side of these spectacular hills with stunning views back down the valley to Lukla and beyond where I would be heading in a few days time, then turning round and being lucky enough to see Everest out to play again….surely I needed just one more picture of her….and maybe another, and another…..

I got to the corner where I knew this was my last view of her for a few days, said see you soon, took another selfie…..then headed down into Namche.

We bounced into Café Danphe to be greeted once again by warm hugs from Jagadish and the boys……they all smelt so good and clean “you want buff momos, freshly made…?”   hell yeah, both Kaami and I wolfed these down before we deposited my bags in my room, I gave Kaami some money for his next 4 days here and I went off to get clean.    It had been an awesome few days and we had achieved so much, big hugs between me and Kaami……he truly is my best friend up here and there is no way that I would ever be able to do any of this without him.  Our next adventure was to his village to distribute uniform to his school……but that’s for next time.

Now it was time for me to settle back into my main home for this trek, my room was organised, my bag of laundry ready to take to my lovely Sherpani ……and I was clean…..time to head up to my “office” and then to the bar…..and repeat.

You can view the pictures for this part of my trek here  there is also a video of me at the top of Gokyo Ri here

Until next time…….dont forget, as much as I seem to be partying, the main aim is to help the kids out here via Supporting Nepal’s Children.    The Pangboche update and the next one about Kaami’s school at Kunikhop will focus more on that work…..this was the social update for you all.   the link if you do wish to buy me a congratulatory beer/wine that will be converted into school books/uniform/helping rebuild schools/new furniture/new sports equipment/the list is endless is…. www.virginmoneygiving.com/HazelSNC2016   thank you in advance for your help, I really do see how far it goes

Lots of love from the hills





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