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Around the World in 210 Days

The Trek, Week Three: Down & Out

NEPAL | Sunday, 16 March 2008 | Views [1268] | Comments [9]

2-27-08: DAYS 15 & 16
(Morning)
Lobuche (4930m) to Gorak Shep (5140m)
Well, it turns out that Diamox makes peeing as frequent and necessary as breathing. Diamox is a medicine that alleviates AMS symptoms by divulging the body of fluids, and the fluids have to go somewhere... Right before bed we took a second half dose, about 6 hours earlier than recommended, and paid the consequences. That night we had to make trips to the "toilet" (Eastern style hole in the ground) five or six times, and each time we were certain we would explode before we made it. Add to this the fact that we have to get dressed every time, all the way down to our hiking boots, and the fact that the floor in the bathroom has a thin layer of ice across it. It was a major pain.
The next morning, we woke up feeling somewhat better. We both still had headaches, but we were fairly certain they were from being dehydrated rather than above altitude. So we ordered a pot of tea and drank quickly. After that we felt much better, and decided that we could try to make it to Gorak Shep. Before we made it out of sight of the lodge, though, Alex was feeling a bit off. She thought it was actually the Diamox that made her feel queasy, but was able to keep walking. We took things really slow, and after three and a half hours (we were told it should take about two and a half), we started to realize just how hard it was to find the path. We could see Mt. Everest, though, so we kept heading in that general direction until a German couple emerged from what was apparently the right path, and confirmed where we needed to go. It was another half an hour before we could see the village of Gorak Shep, and that was after climbing up and down the side of a very sandy and rock covered glacier. Down in the valley to our side, the main glacier was covered in dirt on the top, but had solid ice waves swirling through the sides. It looked to us like coconuts; brown on the top and shiny white on the inside. We'd never seen a glacier before and wouldn't have thought it could look like West Texas on the surface. Very strange.
(Afternoon)
Gorak Shep (5140m) to Everest Base Camp (5300m)
After checking into our lodge, we ordered a quick bowl of Ra-Ra-Ramen and got directions to EBC. We left for it at ten til one, knowing that if we didn't make it there by three we'd have to turn around to get back before dark. We started by scaling several hills of sliding rocks. We determined that another path, down a valley of sliding rocks and then up another hill of sliding rocks... was a better trail to take, so we made the dangerous voyage to the other side. As we were climbing, a couple huge rocks tumbled down from the hill we were on, for no apparent reason. It was a bit foreboding.
We hiked for one and a half to two hours, and all the while we were on a ledge 50m above the glacier that EBC is on. At one point, though, the trail simply vanished. We wandered back and forth, up and down, but there was no good way down to the glacier. The closest thing to a trail that we found was on the steepest, most perilous pile of slidy rocks we had seen all day, and we made the decision that since we could see the base camp from where we were (it's just a flat spot of ice at the bottom of Everest), we would not risk our lives to actually stand on the base camp. Some might say that if we had, oh, not fired our guide, it might've been easier to make it, but we think that Tika would have gotten us killed for sure. Okay, not really, but we were happier to be without him all the same.

The walk back was surprisingly quick, and did not include any landslides, which was nice. We came back and parked in the sun room and chatted with the hotel guy. Next to us, four Swedish girls were having a conversation in, well, Swedish, so there wasn't much interaction with them. Later, though, the hotel guy turned up the dung heater and we all crowded around to warm up. The Swedes (who spoke perfect English, just like everyone else we've met... Americans are so lazy) turned out to be really cool. We had a very long conversation about all of the food we missed, which for us was mostly a reciting of the fantasy list we made, and Andrew's extensive preachings on how great Dr Pepper is. We found out that the Swedes have hundreds of varieties of licorice, including what they consider a delicacy; salty licorice. We weren't too anxious to try that one out...

DAY 16
Gorak Shep (5140m) to Kala Patthar (5500m)
Last night we slept better than we probably have on the entire trek. We were toasty warm (too warm at times) and Andrew only had to make one trek downstairs to the restroom. It's funny because everyone we met said that it's hard to sleep at all at Gorak Shep, but we slept like baby yaks. Today was the day we were to hike up to Kala Patthar, before starting our trip back down.

Kala Patthar is a well-known destination for people who want to see Everest in at it's best. KP is a hill with a 5500 m peak that allows fantastic views of Everest. Many people we met along the way were planning to trek to KP and forget EBC altogether, because they complained that you can't see anything from EBC anyway. It's also popular to head off for KP in the wee hours of the morning so that you can watch the sun rise from behind Everest.

We opted out of the 4am trek to KP, because we knew that since we we'd be facing East and the sun rising from behind Everest, we wouldn't actually be able to get a good look at it. On top of that, hiking at 4am at an altitude of 5500 m sounds like a recipe for disaster. The kind of recipe that starts with "take a perfectly good set of fingers and expose them to __ degrees below zero weather..." Still, we did wake up around 6 and were on our way up the hill by 6:30am.

The trail up the hill was steep and split into multiple options. We did our best to stay on the less steep of them, but they were obviously more fit for yaks than foreigners. There were two plateaus along the way. We made it to the first, and could feel the nerves in our hands and feet deciding to take vacations. By the time we made it to the second plateau, our hands were numb and our feet had gone from painful to numb and back to painful. At that point, we evaluated our necessity to see Everest from up high versus keeping all of our fingers and toes. And as Andrew had already warned Alex that if she lost any digits he would be "so very mad," we decided that we would call it a morning and head back down. The second plateau was probably only about 75 meters from the peak, but we could see Everest just fine, took a few photos (as soon as we took our gloves off to take the photos our hands turned to ice) and then made our way, quickly and numbly, back to the ground.

On the way down, we were seriously worried about Alex's toes, and kept our minds off of it with visions of giant pots of hot chocolate and a dung-feuled fire. Thankfully, the Swedes were awake and downstairs already when we got back to the lodge, so the fire was nice and warm. We took off our gloves and boots and thawed out.

(Afternoon)
Gorak Shep to Pangboche

We're about to start our way down, and we are planning to make it to Pangboche today. It's a long way, as Pangboche is one stop away from Tengboche, but we think we can do it. The Swedes are planning to stop there the night as well, so we are going to go down as one big group.

...

We did indeed make it to Pangboche. It took us about 7.5 hours including a one hour lunch. Between us and the Swedes we were able to navigate our way back down the near trailess path.

Along the way, though, Andrew lost his red jacket rainshell (made famous in so many travel photos), which was "annoying." Luckily it was fairly empty at the time of it's departure, so all he lost was a chance to stay dry if it rains. But hey, we're almost out of the mountains and then we'll be in Thailand. Who has ever heard of it raining there?

2-28-08: DAY 17
Pangboche to Namche Bazar... Bakery
Last night was soooo cold. We tried to share a single bed, but it dind't really work. We had five or six blankets, but as has been the case in most places, they are all made of some kind of super slick material that allows them to silently sneak off of the bed one by one until you are laying, uncovered and shivering, in near freezing temperatures. At about one in the morning, we tried pushing the two single beds together so the blankets couldn't leap off of the bed anymore, but it was impossible as the beds were the exact length of the room, apparently built into them.

Today we plan to trek again with the Swedes to Namche Bazar. We will stay at the same lodge as before, but there is a bakery across the street that is famous among the trekkers. They have a real pizza oven, among other delicious treats. And because all of the lodges require that you eat their food (or they can charge exorbitantly higher room rates), we are going to stop at the bakery, have lunch, and then check into our lodge. But for now, we are huddled around a fireless heater waiting for breakfast. Brr.

...

So today felt like it took forever. By the time we got down the Tengboche hill, we were seriously dreading the climb back up to Namche. It took about 5.5 hours total. When we got to the bakery, there was a sense of celebration as everyone cheered and hugged and, more importantly, ordered pizzas. We also orderd a chocolate donut and an apple strudel. Alex wanted to go ahead and order a slice of chocolate cake before the pizzas arrived, but Andrew convinced her it'd be better to "wait and see" if we'd be hungry after the pizzas. We weren't.

We are somewhat dreading the long walk tomorrow, but similarly looking forward to getting back to KTM (and hot showers... it's been... a while since we've showered). Tonight we might buy a few more cokes and just hang out. Tomorrow should be a long, long day, but how worthwhile to finally get there.

2-29-08: DAY 18
Namche Bakery to Lukla

Indeed, today was difficult. We started with breakfast at the bakery, which was nice except the bread was a bit undercooked... We bought an extra loaf to have for lunch so that we could get to Lukla faster, specifically because we wanted/needed to move our flight date up (as we were scheduled for the 4th). About 2 and a half hours into our trek, which was incredibly slowed because tomorrow there is a market and Namche and therefore every few minutes we had to "pull over" for a herd of yaks carrying RaRa, Alex came up with the brilliant (perhaps obvious?) idea to call ahead and arrange our flights for tomorrow by phone. It worked, but because Agni Air didn't put their phone number on our tickets, we had to ask the Swedes to let us talk to their carrier, Yeti Airlines, and procure Agni's phone number from them. It was a pain.

After that we were able to slow down, and slow down we did. It took something like 6 or 7 hours for us to get to Lukla, but getting there was so satisfying. We were done. We and the Swedes celebrated by stopping at a bar that had 30 minutes left in their 2 for 1 cocktail happy hour. We partook.

The music was hooked up to an ipod, and the bartender let us pick our own soundtrack for the celebration, which was awesome. We danced into the evening, still in our hiking boots, mind you. One of the Swedes, Malin, even donned her trekking headlamp, set to strobe, which completed the party atmosphere. Afterward, we went to the North Face Resort, whch would have been a nice lodge except for a peeping Tom who was busted watching one of the Swedes in the rest room and then mysteriously vanished... Anyhow, we're about to go to bed, and are very excited about getting up early for our flight "home."

3-1-08: DAY 19
Lukla to... Lukla
We woke up, paid up, and headed to the airport. The runway was quite terrifying to Andrew, as it wa built on a hill and on take off it was obvious that the only way to take off was to start the plane downward toward the cliff. Bleck. We got our boarding passes, checked our bags, and waited eagerly. The "airport" in Lukla is notorious for delays and cancellations due to weather, but after about two hours a plane from Yeti Airlines landed. The Swedes were quite ecstatic as it was their plane, and they proceeded to board and eventually take off. We were so jealous that they got off the ground before us, especially as we had all planned to go to a steakhouse in Kathmandu and dine on something other than spinach and rice. Before they left, though, they told us that they heard no other planes would be arriving because of bad weather in Kathmandu. Not a funny joke, we thought, but it turned out that was because they weren't joking at all. It was true, and after a couple more hours of staring out on the tiny, sloped tarmac with anticipation, we decided to roam around until our flight came in.

We waited at a lodge across the street from the airport, figuring it was close enough we'd hear a plane landing when it came in. The TV was on, and tuned into two pairs of Chinese women competing in a Swiss badminton tournament. It was worse than it sounds. Add to that the sinking feeling that we were indeed not getting to KTM today, and you can imagine the atmosphere in the room as the women swung silently and uneventfully at the birdie.

After a considerably depressing amount of time, we decided to assume we weren't leaving the ground today, and headed to a lodge that a Belgian guy we met in Lobuche had recommended. He had said it was nice and warm, and indeed it was. The owner was a nice lady, and she kept trying to find a movie for us to watch on the satellite channels. There wasn't anything good on, so we settled, and we mean settled, for a Vin Diesel movie called The Pacifier. It was horrible, but a welcomed dulling of the mind after the morning of grief. We were content to sit by the fire, watching bad movies until bed time, but unfortunately the power kept cutting out and the hotel owner's solution was to turn off the TV for gaps of time. We may never know why Vin Diesel had a duck that would take attack orders from him...

3-2-08: DAY 20
Lukla to Kathmandu!!

Yesterday afternoon, we were watching Saw 2 (fairly bad, but again mind-numbing in a good way), and decided to sneak out for a coke (again, the lodges would charge us if they knew we were buying food outside of their marked up markets). When we came back, the owner had switched the channel to some Bollywood film, and the most mysterious thing is that the power didn't cut out once the entire time. Later, though, when we once again helmed the remote, the power cuts resumed with such frequency that the woman eventually told us watching the TV would be impossible.

Anyhow, none of that matters now because... we are in the air!! Our flight "home" just took off and we couldn't be happier. Actually, Andrew has had an odd mix of exhilaration for heading back to civilization, and terror, as the plane we're on is smaller than Alex's minivan. The weather seems fine, though, and we should be in Kathmandu soon. While we were waiting for planes to land and pick us up, and Agni plane landed, picked up "yellow ticket passengers" and took off again. It was horrifying, and for a moment we thought we might have to make Lukla our permanent home. A few minutes later, though, a second, bigger plane landed and we were quickly ushered aboard. And although the plane had about 16 seats on it, we had a flight attendant who offered us cotton balls for our ears and candy for our mouths. That was nice. Now things are getting a bit bumpy, so we have to stop writing before we get motion sickness and throw up our complimentary sweets...

After the Trek...
Thus completes three weeks of serious trekking. After arriving to Kathmandu, we grabbed a cab to our hotel and promptly took the most delightfully hot showers. It would end up being probably two or three showers before we got all of the "trekking" off of us, but it was a great start. We also returned our rented sleeping bags, dropped off nine kilos (18 pounds!) of laundry to be cleaned, and went to our favorite bakery to pig out.

From then on, our time in Kathmandu consisted almost entirely of eating and shopping. Oddly enough, it's also felt like so much more of a vacation for us since we got back from the mountains. The Swedish girls were planning on going to Thailand as well, and booked tickets for a few days after we got back. We were jealous of their imminent beach prospects, so we went to Thai Air and moved our flight up an entire week, free of charge.

In the mean time, we finally had our celebratory dinner at a fantastic steakhouse called K Too with the Swedes. We started out with a bit of pre-dinner wine, and then enjoyed a wonderful Steak Bearnaise ("Don't get saucy with me, Bearnaise!"). We also did more shopping and eating, ate at K Too again by ourselves, and for good measure, met up with the Aussies Michael and Kim, to have one more steak dinner before we left. That night we told them all about firing our guide, and we shared our suspicions about how much Tika disliked them. It turned out they knew it from the start, as Tika had apparently made some fairly rude remarks to them in Bupsa.

We caught our flight to Thailand, complete with free drinks and in-flight entertainment (although it is arguable how entertaining a half hour of TV devoted to Beyonce's fashion really is...), and made it to beautiful Thailand in the evening. If the airport was to be of any hint, Thailand was going to be awesome. It was, we decided, the biggest and best airport we'd been in on the entire trip. It was ultra modern (including fancy blue ceiling lights!) and made us feel like we were truly back in civilization.

Tags: mountains, mt everest, planes trains & automobiles

Comments

1

oh too bad richard, when you sleep in on sunday you come in second. hahahahaho short but sweet to be first mom

  mardi Mar 17, 2008 4:00 AM

2

OH AND COME IN SECOND TO, TO BAD SO SAD. THAT WAS A GREAT BLOG. I'M GLAD YOU TWO LEFT WITH ALL YOUR BODY PARTS INTACT, BUT SO SAD TO BE BACK IN CIVILAZATION TO LOSE A PART OF YOU. BUT AT LEAST YOU LEFT YOUR MARK FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD TO SEE. WHEN THEY SAY YOU SHOULD ALWAYS LEAVE SOMETHING OF YOURSELF BEHIND I DON'T THINK THEY MEAN SKIN AND BLOOD, BUT I GUESS IT WILL DO. I'M GLAD YOU MADE IT OUT AS I WOULD HATE TO HAVE TO COME AND GET YOU. SO YOU HAVE ALMOST COME TO THE END OF YOUR JOURNEY. I JUST WANT TO SAY THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR TAKING US WITH YOU TO SHARE IN ALL THE LAUGHTER, FRUSTRATIONS, SIGHTS, SMELLS, TASTE, AND EVEN YES THE SNOT ROCKETS. WHILE I AM SO HAPPY TO KNOW YOUR COMING HOME IT IS KIND OF SAD TO HAVE IT END. FOR ME YOUR GREAT ADVENTURE HAS MADE MY LIFE DIFFERENT IN THAT I WAIT TO READ WHAT HAPPENS NEXT AND REALLY LOOK FORWARD TO THE NEXT CHAPTER. THANK YOU. LOVE YOU BOTH SO MUCH AND MISS YOU MORE. LOVE MOM

  mardi Mar 17, 2008 4:09 AM

3

Oh I didn't sleep in.
I sacrificed first place for a higher calling.
SOMEBODY has to go to church
and pray for the souls of two people who think they can take meds at their own random schedule.

You know the type..college grads who double the time of physical exertion at high altitudes because they don't do maps. What a couple of snot rockets!

But I suppose life has a way of teaching you a lesson even if it has to resort to punishing you with two pairs of Chinese women competing in a Swiss badminton tournament and then the thespian skills of Vin Diesel. Karma can be a Hilary.

  Richard Mar 17, 2008 4:56 AM

4

Enjoy Thailand.
You will be treated nice.
You should be able to eat and party for very reasonable amounts of money.
Do the elephant rides.
But
avoid Southern Thailand due to Muslim unrest.
It is quite dangerous right now.

  Colonel Curtis Mar 17, 2008 7:22 AM

5

A final mountain climber thought...

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.
- Sir Edmund Hillary

  Richard Mar 18, 2008 12:49 PM

6

Remember the good ol days when Annie the legal beagle would post on here. Boy those were the days.

  Rrrricardo Mar 20, 2008 11:38 AM

7

it would have been a cool souvenir to have one of andrews monkey toes as a key chain after it was amputated because of frost bite. I would have kept it in my deep freeze with my penguin that was stolen from the aquarium and all of that would have been placed next to the the lion or tiger or liger that you took form india. But I bet that you two will have something even better for me upon your arrival.

  spanky Mar 20, 2008 1:04 PM

8

Spanky,
hey man, how are things on your street???

Great ideas but...
I don't think they let you ship packages large enough to contain one of Andrew's toes.

I heard from the travelers today on the space phone. They called from Thailand.
They are claiming that during their deep sea dive there they saw sharks.
Andrew claimed he bonded with them.
Probably did a Hindu zoom.
Based on the lack of sense they showed in other adventures I imagine they both had bloody fish bait hanging in bags around their necks.

  Richard Mar 20, 2008 1:46 PM

9

Based on all of the shows I have seen on the discovery channel and animal planet, that is the only way to swim with sharks. I bet if Steve Irwin was still alive he and his baby would prove that to us.

  spanky Mar 20, 2008 3:40 PM

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