Nepal · 43 Days · 19 Moments · March 2017

Kathmandu....oh yeah and Everest!!

29 April 2017

19. Before we knew it, a brilliant experience had come to an end. I really hope and genuinely think that I have made a few friends for life. Who would have thought that a group of Aussies could have put up with me and Glutes like that for over 2 weeks. We presented Prem with our signed Purple Cobras shirt which will hopefully be hanging in a bar somewhere in Lukla now and over the couple of days said our goodbyes. If ever I travel Aus, I should be able to find a sofa to sleep on somewhere, or of course I could always go see Leeson in Singapore....but that's an idea for after Nepal! Just like that our amazing holiday within our travels was over and we were back in a crappy Hostel with the newly acquired Harry who'd managed to make his flight out from China at the second time of asking! Everest, you were fantastic, but now onto the next experience...
18. It's not often that a plane taking off is greeted by a rollercoaster style cheering with hands up in the air. The flight was fairly smooth again though and we were back in Kathmandu for breakfast. Another nice moment was being greeted by a much healthier looking Lesley that morning. We all had a couple of days together before heading home and they were spent holidaying it up. Mine and Dans ballin on a budget went out the window as we enjoyed nice meals and cocktails with everybody. I'm very aware of how cliche I sound, but we had really become a little family over the last couple of weeks and I think I speak for everyone when I say, no one wanted to say goodbye to the experience or the group. We were going to spend as much time with each other as possible for the next few days and one afternoon a group of us took in Durbar square, which I wouldn't recommend to anyone, but did highlight the poverty in Nepal. After a few more touristy sites, we returned to the cocktails!!
17. Basically we all spent the afternoon in a bar, playing pool and drinking...cut to, lots of drunk people having dinner with all of our porters and sherpas. Leeson led a fantastic speech as we handed over some well deserved tip money before the local Nepalese music was turned up loud. What a fantastic, well deserved and thoroughly unforgettable night that was. It's not everyday you get drunk with the locals in the Himalayas, dancing to their music and drinking their rum. I hope the videos of me, Ryan, Casey and Sophie dancing to DJ I.An's playlist don't ever make it onto Facebook or wherever, but we were having a fun time!! Let's just say, a few people woke up a little worse for wear the next morning as we had to make the 6am flight out of Lukla. Mel decorated the runway with last nights vodka as we boarded the first plane of the day. The take off was hilarious as the plane revved and revved before speeding down the hill, just making it off the tarmac before the drop below.
16. A hilarious twist in the tale! Those 'lucky 5' had actually been rather unlucky as the weather was against them! Their helicopter had been postponed until the next day which meant they had to spend the day in the ass end of nowhere with nothing but a freestyling monk for company! Classic. It made it easier to accept that I was sleeping in a rat infested guesthouse that night as well! The remaining 10 of us set off as usual knowing that by lunchtime we would be back in Lukla and reunited with the others, ready for a horribly drunken blow out party! Will was in charge of the music as we all sung our way through the last couple of hours of uphill. Spirits were high and just as we had started, the group had finished with smiles on their faces. As we walked through Lukla 'high street' we were greeted by a huge round of applause from the very fresh looking faces of the others. Ryan had even managed to half his age overnight, amazing. I treated myself to a trim in the same barbers later!
15. The next day things just got weird as seemingly overnight half the group decided they wanted to fly the rest of the trek! Obviously as me and Glutes were 'ballin' on a budget' we wouldn't be joining, but 5 of the group chipped in and booked the chopper for the last 1250 metres of downhill. An awesome experience for the lucky 'quitters' and with Allanah's smug wave face in my head, we set off back to Namche for lunch. I managed to get onto the wifi for the first time in a while which coincided with Great Grandmas funeral, so it was nice for me to be able to send a message home. It was strange talking to all the trekkers that were effectively beginning their trips, knowing that just over a week ago this had been us. The afternoon was a very tough one as we had to descend the killer hill that had originally led us up to Namche. It was strangely satisfying seeing people's faces in pain as they passed us on the way up, knowing that we had been through the exact same!
14. Somehow, despite going down, Tengboche had managed to perch itself on top of the steepest incline we'd done yet! We were back in the trees now though at just over 4000m and the accommodation was probably the nicest since Lukla. Everybody enjoyed some proper coffee (hot chocolate for the cool kids obviously) before we headed over to the monastery that afternoon to see the monks in action. With the greatest respect, I still have no idea what was going on inside the monastery as several people told me the monk was blessing things, including Jens recently purchased artwork from Kathmandu. To be fair to the monk, I've never heard anyone speak tantric jibberish that fast and there's definitely a career as a freestyle rapper waiting for him if he ever leaves the Himalayas! Myself and Ryan also spent a good half hour playing keepy ups with the Hakky Sack, a skill made a lot harder by the altitude. I was knackered after 30 minutes, as we managed a massive 9 keep ups!! Good work Ryan!
13. The rest of that day we were faced with a further 1100m descent, it was due to be a tough one on the knees. Unfortunately, our group was made one smaller that morning as Lesley was Helicoptered back down to Lukla, before going onto Kathmandu. A sensible decision as no one wanted to see her end up in serious trouble. Prem showed the value of having an experienced Sherpa in charge as everyone filled their role seamlessly and the evacuation went perfectly. The rest of the day we had a lot of distance to make up in a shortened day, but the group rallied and ploughed on. It's fair to say I was very ready for sleep when we made it back to our guesthouse having been walking for about 12 hours. Of course I wasn't allowed to complain as we had chosen the extra walk in the morning, a fact made abundantly clear by the smug faces of those who didn't go to Kala Patar. Oh well, a good nights sleep was all that was needed as we only had a morning walk to Tengboche the next day.
12. Turns out it's really cold at 5am when your based at 5200m. A far smaller group of us set off long before the sun came up to make the top of Kala Patar by sunrise. I'm not sure why, but I felt great as I made my way up the steep incline. My water had frozen inside my bottle, my toes were blocks of ice and I couldn't feel my fingers, but for some strange reason I had energy to burn as the 6 of us trudged on upwards. The early start could not have been more worth it as we made it to the peak 5 minutes before the sun popped its head up directly over the top of Everest. It will definitely be a morning I won't forget in a hurry. I already can't wait to be that annoying dick who says 'yeh, it's a nice sunrise, but this one time, on Everest...' The views were the best I had seen on the entire trek as the sun made its way across the valley below, heating us up as it did so. We got plenty of pictures (including my best David Brent impression apparently!) before heading back for breakfast.
11. Strangely, the main emotion I felt at EBC was pride, as I genuinely could not have been prouder of every member of our group. Which brings me to my highlight of the trek, as the team along with all the strangers at base camp gave Lesley a huge round of applause as she made it up to the finishing point. She had given it everything and done herself proud reaching her goal, raising some money for charity along the way. However as the afternoon started draining away, it was time to gear up again and make our way back. For me personally it was a strange walk back to our guesthouse. The overall feeling was happiness and a little relief that we had all made it, but we were now faced with 4 more days walking now with effectively no goal...There we're plenty of smiles that night though and more relief once Lesley had made it back safely. The next day was the optional summiting of Kala Patar, which at 5600m would provide views of sunrise over Everest. I prepared myself for an early start!

18 April 2017

10. So guess what, more walking was in order! Before we knew it though, we made it up to the big day! It was due to be an early start as the morning was going to be spent hiking to Gorekshep, the final guesthouse we would stay in after achieving our goal of base camp. After breaking the 5000m mark, we embarked on the final 2 hour walk to EBC! The home straight was very narrow, which meant everyone passing would tell you, 'not far now guys', and 'keep going it'll be worth it' as we weaved in and out of the steady stream of yaks coming back from their morning supply drop off. For the final hour we could see down onto the tents of EBC as they edged closer and closer. Then, by 2pm we had all made it, all 16 of us, together as a team. It was a truly brilliant feeling as everybody hugged each other and started grabbing photos. We had plenty of time to take it all in as we tucked into a few goodies that the silent assassin Ken had snuck up. We had reached our goal and it felt incredible!
9. Once we had enjoyed another rest day at around the 4500m mark (and enjoyed some of the best brownies I've ever had in the infamous French bakery) we continued onwards. The first couple hours of the day was along a genuine flat, unbelievable scenes, however this meant that we were in the mother of all wind tunnels. After a tea stop we were all very relieved to be faced with the 400m hill up to the memorial site for those that have lost their lives on Everest. For me personally the site was amazing, to be able to see some of the names etched up on the memorial stones and realise that what we were doing wasn't even comparable to what some of those climbers had achieved. Still though, while our trek may not have matched up to the greats, it was ours and of course was still a tough hike. The short time spent chilling out in the heat at the memorial site was greatly appreciated by the whole group! A new highlight so far.

9 April 2017

8. To be honest, without wanting to go on too much, the next few days were, unsurprisingly, full of walking. Generally uphill, sometimes with the incredibly steep downhill thrown in, aka 'Nepalese Flat', a term that was said a lot over the next week or so. Other phrases that were now being said a lot included 'ballin' on a budget!', 'cooking chocolate!' (as I had packed over a kilo of the worst chocolate ever), people making gluten free jokes at Dans expense and of course, hunger silences being broken by the shout of 'Chicken Shop!', as me and Glutes had found the greatest/cheapest takeaway in Kathmandu. We already couldn't wait to be reunited once we made it back, but for now there was rice, potatoes and porridge to enjoy! After Namche we walked up to over 4000m and stayed at 'Mr Everest's' house. He had summited 7 times! Incredible, although this counted for nothing to Lesley who only cared about the fact he made arguably the worst porridge in Nepal. He'll have to stick to trekking!

8 April 2017

6. We were under way! Right foot, left foot over and over with amazing views, plenty of jokes, some sing alongs and a few tea breaks throughout. Day one was an 'ease us in' 4 hour walk to our first guesthouse. Our first chance to test out the new sleeping bags and see how cold it gets over night. The answer, really cold! I however, was next level hot in my sleeping bag, it was just getting out of it at 6am that was tough! The next day was probably the toughest walking day as we headed off for Namche Bizarre which was a pretty gruelling 800m ascent finishing at 3400m. The sights that day were unbelievable. We crossed a few bridges, waited for half the donkeys in Nepal to pass over the course of the day and kept heading up. About 9 hours later we had made Namche. Ian had been very sick on the way up, but the team was still in one piece and so began Wills' stretching classes!
5. It's amazing how much you can do before breakfast. I was waking up in Kathmandu and now I was 'enjoying' the first of many bowls of porridge while watching the planes come in and out of Lukla. Already the views were incredible and we were only at around 2800m. You can almost feel the wave of relief from each passenger as every plane successfully lands and more impressively takes off throughout the morning. After eating, we all marched through Lukla together, a fresh, clean, healthy group that couldn't wait to get going! How that would change! I don't have the group picture from the start line just yet, but for now I've uploaded another group photo. From back left first, we have: Ian, Will, Johnny, Leeson, Me and Glutes, Ryan, Ben, our Sherpa Prem, Ken, Amy, Mel, Allanah, Soph, Casey, Jen and Leslie. The dream team or as we ended up calling ourselves; the Purple Cobras.
3. The day had arrived, we were finally staying somewhere with a proper shower!! Yay! Oh yeh and we were meeting our group, packing for our 4am start the next day, buying the last few bits of gear (or in our case, buying shoes!) etc etc, but more importantly a hot shower! Our group of 16 consisted of 13 Aussies, 1 Canadian and 3 Brits, including 61 year old Leslie. We were all very lucky as immediately the group clicked and I think we all knew we were going to get on well over the next 2 weeks. Very cliche I know, but we really did end up becoming a family and hopefully I've made a few friends for life. The group thought it was hilarious that me and Glutes both had hangovers, hadn't got much gear yet and had worn our shoes for about 2 hours between us, well except Mel who'd been training for the past year! It was quickly apparent that we were not overly prepared (to say the least), but how difficult could it be? It's just left foot followed by right foot for a few hours a day right!?

7 April 2017

1. Before I begin writing about my adventures in Nepal so far, I have to start by saying that I have no idea how I'm going to fit everything into several short paragraphs, let alone start filtering through the hundreds of photos I have while at the same time doing any of it justice. First of all, the last few weeks have been unbelievable, brilliant and have certainly far outdone any expectations I had before arriving. I suppose the natural place to start is Kathmandu airport. Another airport, another Visa sorted easily and another new country to explore. We got into a 'taxi' (see attached photo of the car that I would be proud to drive) and made our way to our £3 a night Hostel. Kathmandu is mental!! The city has such a buzz about it, with people, cars, mopeds etc everywhere. Nothing is finished, the roads are a mess, buildings are still half rubble, the smell of sewage regularly invades the nostrils and I've been offered drugs every time I step outside. No change there then!
7. Following the previous days exertions, a 'rest' day had been planned at Namche. That morning we went for a walk up to see our first glimpses of Everest in the distance. Again, more fantastic views were enjoyed all behind the statue of Tenzing. We spent a little time looking around the local museum and then continued 'resting' as we went up to the highest airstrip in the world. There were definitely more Yaks lining the airfield than vehicles, which added to the charm of an already very cool place to enjoy a hot drink. The afternoon was definitely more chilled as we took in the strange, but awesome village of Namche. How some of the gear gets up there is incredible and watching the steady stream of porters carrying delicately balanced loads of goods up the mountain never became any less impressive, no matter how many we saw.

19 March 2017

4. Another thing I learnt at the meeting was that we would each be provided with a large bag that we could put 10kg of gear in which the porters would carry for us during the day from guesthouse to guesthouse. What a bonus! I'd already packed everything into my own rucksack and was starting to get a bit nervous as it was worryingly heavy! Hahaha, more expert preparation on my part! A nice group dinner that evening was followed by early nights all round as the next morning we were heading off to board our flight to Lukla. There were definitely a few nervous faces that morning as we made our way through the total carnage that was our flight checkin procedure. By some miracle the chaos works and with great excitement everyone was on the matchbox sized plane. Our lead Sherpa Prem had somehow got us and all our gear on board. The flight was surprisingly smooth and before you knew it, we were landing on Lukla runway, comfortably the smallest airport I've ever seen. What an amazing start!

17 March 2017

2. Obviously we were in Nepal for one reason, our trek to Everest Base Camp, but first we had a couple of days to 'relax' and buy some much needed gear to help actually get us up there! However first things first, we had a new cities nightlife to sample, so along with a few really good guys from our Hostel we did what we do best, drink too much rum, find somewhere to dance like idiots and completely ignore our to do list! The next day, along with 3 very nice Israelis, we walked up to the Monkey Temple that looks over the city. There were literally hundreds of monkeys! Feral looking pickpocket's just waiting for their chance to give you rabies, but still pretty cool. As always though, the rain caught up with us and we managed to get caught in a torrential thunderstorm. A weird evening then became completely bizarre as I agreed to join the girls for a Vegan restaurant. I'm obviously becoming a well rounded backpacker! Fortunately I won't be quitting meat anytime soon!