Sunday, December 7, 2008

Day 7 - Yeti Country

Wednesday 15th October

Woke early this morning, glad to report no nightmares about yeti's.
Also pleased to report that I am feeling refreshed, no sore muscles after yesterday's climb. Up goes the tent zipper, and here is my morning cup of tea and bowl of hot water, the start of another day. Time for my bird bath, to pack my kit bag and day pack and off to breakfast before another day's climb. We camp at 4,000 metres tonight. Stay tuned.

Wednesday afternoon.

Spectacular! I just know that I am going to run out of superlatives on this trip. This morning we climbed up out of the valley. The sides of the mountains were an array of autumn colours. There were fir trees, red birch with their red papery bark hanging amongst the "oldman's beard" that clung to their branches. We crossed a number of small log bridges over streams and small waterfalls. As we climbed higher the -2 C temperature climbed up to a warm 24C. We were all soon peeling off our layers and stuffing them into our daypacks. It was like being in a middle world. Below us we could see the river winding through the valley and snowy peaks towered above us. At one time we could see the peaks of 5 mountains with a number of them over 8,000 metres. A bit of trivia (according to Mani) of the top 13 highest mountains in the world 9 of them are in Nepal.

There was one point where we had a really tough uphill climb. Everyone was focused on putting one foot in front of the other, a little daunted by the task of the path that reached ever up ward. Mani called for a water and rest stop in a small clearing. We all flopped onto the nearest rock, pulled out our water bottles and looked at what was behind us!! Wedged between the sides of the valley was the most amazing view of Khumbila and a number of other peaks whose names I have forgotten. (picture above). We were all gob smacked by the view. Mani, was still below us watching our reaction, was feeling very pleased with himself that he had been able to deliver such and awesome experience.

We arrived at our camp site in time for lunch. Our tents were all set up in a clearing in front of the Yeti Inn. The afternoon was spent catching up on our washing while we still had some sunlight to dry things, writing up diaries etc.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Day 6 - Up we go! Namche Bazaar to Portse Tenga

Tuesday 14th October

I have drawn the lucky straw this evening and have a tent to myself. Better now that later when it is colder I think!. Our camp this evening is down in a valley next to the river. To night I will be rocked to sleep by the roar of the rapids. Today was a big day! We climbed up to nearly 4,000 metres by lunch time (from 3440 metres). The pathway was very narrow, dusty and in places very rocky. So you really had to watch your step. There were times when you just focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

Our Sherpa's monitored our progress and were constantly encouraging us to drink,(to assist us with acclimatising to the altitude). We had regular rest stops, which gave us the opportunity to take in the awesome scenery. The day was clear and sunny so we could see the tops of a number of mountains, including Everest!
There were a couple of times today where I did feel a little light headed, however this evening I feel fine. Just very tired!! I won't need much rocking tonight.
This afternoon after we had settled into our tents we all met in the mess tent for afternoon tea and biscuits. Mani joined us and entertained us with some Yeti tales. He is a non believer, but with a bit of encouragement he did tell us a few of the local tales. Tomorrow we are going to be passing a hut which the locals believe is the sight of where a man was killed by a Yeti. Oh! spooky stories and I am alone in my tent tonight. No worries. I am so tired I am sure it isn't going to be a problem.

Day 5 - Day of Rest - Before we get into the serious trekking

Monday 13 October.

The Bliss of sleeping in a comfy bed!! Our happy Sherpas, knocked on the door at 7.00pm with steaming cup of coffee, closely followed by our bowl of hot water for washing. Then it was down for a hearty breakfast of porridge, omelette's and pancakes, washed down with hot milk coffee!!
Luckily our chief Sherpa (Mani) had a morning walk up to a lookout above the village planned. I can't believe how much I am eating!!
After our morning walk, we took advantage of the sun and spread our "frilly bits" (or not so frilly bits) out in the sun to dry.
After lunch our delightful host Mrs Sonam Sherpa guided us through The Sherwi Khangba Centre , a museum and cultural centre established by herself and her husband. The cultural centre displayed an interesting collection of newspaper cuttings, historical photos and stories of the Sherpa's and the local area. Lhakpa Sonam Sherpa is an accomplished photographer and many of his photos of the area were displayed as well. Some of these pictures can be seen on http://www.sherpa-culture.com.np/CulturalPhotoGallery-images.htm
Visiting the museum, reading the stories, and seeing all the pictures of Sherpa's that had died while climbing the mountains, brought home one thing to me. We hear a lot about the climbers from all over the world that have climbed, conquered or perished in the Himalayans. However we don't heard about all the Sherpa's who have been there supporting these climbers, and their equal achievements. It was very sobering to see the wall of pictures of Sherpa's (some very young) who had perished while supporting climbing groups.
After the tour of the museum a few of us decided to venture down to the village. It was fun wandering around the narrow winding streets, looking at all the colourful stalls selling a variety of souvenirs, trekking gear and supplies. We all purchased last minute items such as suncream, chocolates, and warm hats as these items would be much harder to find over the next few days.
After dinner, Mani gave us the usual "after dinner information session" of what we were to expect the following day, and it was off to bed ready for a 6.00pm start.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Day 4 - First Big Test, Monjo to Namche Bazaar

Sunday 12 October

Today was our first test, climbing for about 5 hours and going up around 700 metres. The first part of the trip we made our way along the Dudh Kosi to its junction with the Bhote Kosi (Rivers). There were lots of milky green boiling rapids and we crossed another couple of quite long suspension bridges. The last three and half hours was a slow trudge up and up. However, I found if you just took it slowly, and got into a rhythm it wasn't too bad.

The trail was very busy with trekkers and villagers bring goods back from Namche Bazaar. There were many groups of villagers herding jokpu (cattle) heavily laden with market goods. When we arrived at the village of Namche, we climbed up through the village to the Hotel Sherwi Khangba. This delightful hotel and restaurant was established by Lhakpa Sonam Sherpa. His amazing wife manages to cook hearty meals for trekkers, clean rooms, wash and dry trekker's clothes, assist with charging batteries and phones, accessing Internet, providing hot showers and towels. On top of this she provides tours and information sessions on the Museum that she and her husband have set up in honour of the Sherpa's that have lost their lives in the Himalayas. She was like a traffic policeman directing peak hour traffic, always with a smile on her face.

The bonus of staying here was the short requite from sleeping on the ground, a wonderful cosy dining room. Then came the exciting bit!! hot showers!! for only 200 rupees (money well spent!! it was divine to feel nice and clean).

We spend the afternoon in the library, some of us played a rather rowdy game of cards while others caught up on emails etc. After a hearty meal of mushroom soup, Buffalo stew, veggies and rice we all stumbled up to our rooms to recover from our big day. The zzz's were pumping out very quickly.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 3 Ghat to Monjo

Saturday 11 October

As I sit in my little orange home, I am surrounded by mountains that go up for ever. Just next to our camping ground there are veg fields with stone fences and then the small village of Monjo. In the distance you can hear the soft roar of the river as it boils its way through the valley. (how poetic is that!!!). This has to be the prettiest of camping spots!!!

Today we walked for about 5 hours, with a few more ups and downs that yesterday, crossed another three suspension bridges, passed through pine forests and lots of small rural villages. In many of the villages we saw the Mani walls. Stone structures made up of many stone tablets with the inscription "Om Mani Padme Hum" a Buddhist mantra.

We arrived at our camping ground in time for a late lunch. After lunch we went for a climb up through the village to the local school, and monastery. It is amazing how quickly you run out of breath when climbing up hill. All good training for what is to come.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 2 - We're on the Trail

Friday 10 October

Here I sit in my orange tent (my home for the next 22 days) and I have already had to give myself the silly award for the day. The Sherpa's came around with our bowl of hot water (for our evening wash) and I succeeded in knocking the bowl over!! I couldn't believe it. A mad panic, luckily we pulled everything outside, the corner of my mattress being the only casualty.

This morning was a very early start, up at 3.30am, dressed, bags down to reception, quick breakfast and onto the bus to the airport. Now this was and experience. Hopeful trekkers lined up from the airport out into the car park, lots of pushing and shoving. We got our first taste of some of the bad manners that some groups of trekkers can display!! We eventually got through the pretend bag checking station. (Our bags are loaded onto the conveyor belt and slide through the Xray machine, funny bit is the two men who are watching the baggage are in deep conversation with one of their mates and not even looking at the luggage!) Finally after more pushing and shoving and a body frisk we were into the terminal. We were advised, because of the backlog of trekkers wanting to fly through to Lukla World Expeditions had made special arrangements for us, and that we would definitely be getting a flight out that morning.

Next surprise! we were loaded onto a small bus with another group, and whisked across the tarmac to a small hanger with army planes in the front. Yes, our special flight was an army parachute plane complete with a very attractive, smiling soldier in battle fatigues as our hostess. We sat on bench seats, with our luggage piled up in the middle. What a buzz!!!

After a 30 minute flight and the "have to see to believe" landing in the little airport of Lukla, we met out head Sherpa for the trip Mani, and made our way through the crowds of villagers watching the planes land around to our starting point where all the Sherpas, cooks and porters were preparing for our trek. Soon it was on with our backpacks, and off we go. Ringi was the leading sherpa today, keeping a steady pace with a few stops, to help us acclimatise.(2,800m).

Today's was an easy 4 hour trek, through beautiful, lush farmland, crossing a couple of quite large suspension bridges and following the boiling milky blue-green waters of the Dudh Kose (Milk) River. When we arrived at our camping ground our bright orange tents were already set up, and afternoon tea of hot tea and biscuits followed quickly.

There were a couple of other groups camped in the same ground. One group was returning from the same trek that we are doing. Dinner was served in our Mess tent, three courses of pretty delicious camp food. Good thing I am doing a lot of walking, to burn all those carbs off!!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 1 - Sites of Kathmandu

Thursday 9th October

After breakfast we all assembled in the foyer, met our guide for the day, and climbed into the small bus. The first place we visited was the Hindu temple of Pashupathinath which sits on the banks of the holy Bagmati River.


videoThis is the site of a large number of Hindu temples and the banks of the Bagmati River is the site for many Hindu cremations. Many Royal cremations take place at this site. At first I was a bit dubious about visiting this site, however I found it was very natural and peaceful. There were 6 sites along the river that were for the cremation and in other areas along the river families were preparing the bodies for cremation. I was pleased to say that tourists were polite and respectful.
It was interesting to see the mix of people visiting the various temples, holy men, mourners and of course the odd cow. There were a number of groups of Holy men who I found a little amusing. One couple were standing chatting and when they saw a group of tourists coming the jumped up and sat cross legged in one of the arches ready for photos. Another group were sitting and grooming themselves, taking great care in painting their skin and eyes. One of the younger holy men was the most amusing, looking a mirror and adjusting his face makeup. There were many long looks at his reflection in the mirror as he made minor adjustments to his make up and hair.

The next stop off was the Buddhist site- Bodhnath Stupa. As we had visited this site a couple of days previously, I took the time to wander around by myself and take pictures. I was fascinated by the colours of Nepal. They are so vibrant!

The afternoon tour was going to take us to Durbar Square in Kathmandu, as I had already visited this area I opted to stay at the hotel and start the task of packing my gear for the trek. The challenge of fitting all I needed for 22 days into that red bag and keeping the weight below 15 kgs was a little daunting.