A Travellerspoint blog

Day 14 Dughla - Lobuche

sunny

It was only a shortish walk to Lobuche at 4910m; it involved a steep climb up to the Lobuche pass which would take around an hour then another hour or two ascending gradually up the valley.

All the people who stayed in Dughla the night before set off at around the same time, 8.30am. The Balaji's kindly waited for us to get ready but when the time came to leave, they said they would catch us up. The trail up to the pass was really busy that day - a group of Americans (or possibly Canadians) were having great fun on the way up, throwing snowballs at each other with the snow that had fallen overnight.

The climb was another hard one and made much more difficult with the lack of oxygen which we could feel acutely now. But it was enjoyable all the same as the views were great. After many stops, we finally got to the top after around an hour and a half. We were now on the final stretch; after this, the valley slowly ascends up to Lobuche, then Gorak Shep and Base Camp.

Above: At the top of Lobuche Pass. This photo shows how busy the trail was that day. It rarely got this busy, however.

Above: At the top of Lobuche Pass. This photo shows how busy the trail was that day. It rarely got this busy, however.

The area at the top of the pass is dedicated to the many climbers and Sherpas who have lost their lives on Everest and it's a very poignant place. Below is a picture of Scott Fischer's memorial. You will be familiar with this guy's fate if you have read 'Into Thin Air' by Jon Krakauer (a good read) about the tragedy on Everest in 1996 (or any of the other numerous books published by the people who were on the mountain that day).

Above: The shrine to Scott Fischer, an American climber who died in the 1996 tragedy on the upper slopes of Everest.

Above: The shrine to Scott Fischer, an American climber who died in the 1996 tragedy on the upper slopes of Everest.

We were in extremely bleak terrain now; all rock, gravel and dust and not somewhere where one would want to spend too much time. The Khumbu Glacier, which spills out of the Western Cwm between Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse, dominates the valley but could not been seen from here due to the huge mounds of moraine it deposits at its flanks.

Above: Looking down the Khumbu Valley. The glacier is on the other side of the high bank of moraine in the centre of the picture. Pumo-ri (7165m) is on the left shrouded in cloud and the mountain at the top of the valley is Khumbutse (6665m), I think.

Above: Looking down the Khumbu Valley. The glacier is on the other side of the high bank of moraine in the centre of the picture. Pumo-ri (7165m) is on the left shrouded in cloud and the mountain at the top of the valley is Khumbutse (6665m), I think.

There was also a great view of Nuptse from here.

Above: The impressive Nuptse face.

Above: The impressive Nuptse face.

We spent a little while looking at the memorials and taking in the new views of the huge peaks before setting off up the valley towards Lobuche. It was a fairly gentle walk and, after an hour or two, Lobuche came into view. Just before we reached the village, we saw someone setting off what looked and sounded like explosives in the middle of the valley and we could only assume they were trying to trigger avalanches on the mountainsides.

Lobuche is a bigger settlement than Dughla and there were three or four lodges to choose from. The Balaji's had said they were staying at the Alpine Lodge so we headed there. Considering its location, it was a comfortable place. We arrived at 11.45am and went straight in to book a room. It was boiling hot inside - like a conservatory - as the sun had been beating down on the plastic roof all morning. There were quite a few people mingling around when we arrived and we settled down with tea and biscuits for the long day ahead.

In order to keep our backpacks light, we hadn't brought any entertainment along to keep us occupied, however, we managed to while away the time talking to other trekkers and discussing plans for the following day. The big decision we had to make was whether we were going to go for base camp the next day. We were both suffering with persistent headaches and we were not keen to spend more time than we had to up here.

Above: Teresa still maintaining a sense of humour at nearly 5000m!.

Above: Teresa still maintaining a sense of humour at nearly 5000m!.

Above: Looking further up the valley from Lobuche and the trail leading to Gorak Shep with Nuptse towering over it.

Above: Looking further up the valley from Lobuche and the trail leading to Gorak Shep with Nuptse towering over it.

It would take all the next morning to get to Gorak Shep so what we did depended largely on how quickly we could get there and what the weather was doing. Our plan was to reach Gorak Shep by lunch, book into a lodge, dump our bags and, hopefully, have enough time to get to base camp and back before nightfall (three hours there, three hours back from Gorak Shep). It was a tough itinerary but we didn't want to spend two nights in the freezing cold at Gorak Shep. We also needed to decide whether to do the walk up Kala Patthar (5550m) which is a small peak in the valley where the views of Everest were supposedly good. We had heard mixed views on whether it was worth the hard, three hour slog to the top. Our main aim was base camp and there would be decent views of Everest on our way there so we decided to give Kala Patthar a miss.

Above: Looking back from Lobuche. Kangtega and Thamserku appear huge from here.

Above: Looking back from Lobuche. Kangtega and Thamserku appear huge from here.

Posted by Rivercity 22:56 Archived in Nepal Comments (5)

Day 13 Dingboche - Dughla

We were in no rush to leave Dingboche in the morning as it wasn't too far to Dughla so we headed off at around 10am. We were conscious of the poor weather conditions of the previous day and wanted to avoid any snow showers, however, we were out of luck.

Initially, the path was moderately steep as it left the village before levelling out and traversing another barren stretch of scrubland below the Nuptse face (which unfortunately we couldn't see). As we had feared, mid-way round the ridge a nasty storm blew in and we were caught in a blizzard which created near white-out conditions. Trudging across the windy, exposed mountainside in the snow, we felt like Scott of the Antarctic!

The snow wasn't of the particularly wet type but we were still concerned that our sleeping bags (which were hanging off our bags) would get wet. We carried on but after a while stopped by a large rock to brush the snow of us and to try and do something to protect our stuff - it would have been near-to-impossible to dry it out later.

Whilst we were attempting to shelter from the blizzard, an Indian guy who was passing by with his wife and very young son, called out to us to check if we were alright. We were fine and in no danger but he insisted on coming over to us to help out. After a few minutes he declared that his large rucksack was empty (he had a guide and two porters) and offered to carry the sleeping bags for us! What a kind man and typical of many of the Indian people. We did not protest too much and, with our lightened load, the rest of the walk was made much easier.

He then proceeded to holler-out instructions; "keep going", "carry on, it's okay" etc. We felt slightly guilty as he seemed to neglect the fact that his wife and young kid were struggling through the blizzard as well. However, they did have an experienced guide with them (the porters had gone on with their kit) who was looking after their son.

We arrived in Dughla (4620m) an hour or two later after descending and crossing a small bridge which spanned a powerful river. By this time the storm had passed by and the sun had come out, but not before the mountainside had been covered in a dusting of snow. Dughla couldn't really be called a village as it only consisted of one lodge, its restaurant, a shop and horse renting facility. We waited for around half an hour for our new Indian friends to arrive so that we could properly introduce ourselves, thank them and reunite ourselves with our sleeping bags. When they arrived, the Indian guy introduced himself as Balaji; Commander Balaji of the Indian Navy no less! His wife's name was Riki and their 7 year-old son, Aaryan. He then told us that he had been to the top of Everest and the North and South Poles!

He had summited Everest from the Tibet side as part of an Indian Navy expedition in 2005. His helpfulness and assertiveness in the tricky situation we found ourselves in now began to make more sense. He was clearly a man of some importance and influence in India. We joined them for dinner in the evening and found out that the Balaji family were currently posted to the Andaman Islands and they invited us to visit and stay at their house! An absolute result as The Andamans are a tropical paradise and somewhere we had considered going in any case.

From Dughla we could see the steep trail up to the Lobuche Pass. We probably could have continued that day but it would have been a large and fast rise in altitude and we decided it wouldn't be safe.

It was a freezing cold night and it snowed for most of the evening. The lodge was built of thin plywood (like all the lodges on the trail) and you could hear every little noise, especially from the people in the room above us who were extremely heavy-footed.

With all the noise (and cold), it was quite hard to sleep and we were up early for breakfast. Our bedroom window had frozen on the inside and there was snow and ice covering the ground outside. We wanted to take some pictures in the morning but the batteries had been drained of charge during the night despite them being in my sleeping bag. However, as soon as the sun came round, the snow began to thaw and we laid the batteries out in an attempt to recharge them. This did the job and we got some great photos of the surrounding mountains.

Above: The restaurant at the lodge in Dughla with Ama Dablam in the background. The mountain looks very different from this angle. You can also see part of the exposed mountainside where we were caught in the snowstorm the day before.

Above: The restaurant at the lodge in Dughla with Ama Dablam in the background. The mountain looks very different from this angle. You can also see part of the exposed mountainside where we were caught in the snowstorm the day before.

Above: A dramatic view of Cholotse (6335m) from Dughla.

Above: A dramatic view of Cholotse (6335m) from Dughla.

Above: The lodge in Dughla with Tabuche (6367m) in the background.

Above: The lodge in Dughla with Tabuche (6367m) in the background.

Above: Looking back to the "village" of Dughla on the climb up to Lobuche Pass with Ama Dablam and the Hinku Himal range in the background.

Above: Looking back to the "village" of Dughla on the climb up to Lobuche Pass with Ama Dablam and the Hinku Himal range in the background.

Posted by Rivercity 03:52 Comments (3)

Days 11 & 12 Namche - Tengboche - Dingboche

snow 15 °C

We didn't see Rick again after our last night in Namche. Jose was on a tighter schedule and had set off to Tengboche the day before without taking a rest day. Tengboche would be the end of the road for him as he had a flight booked out of Kathmandu that he needed to get back for.

We still hadn't managed to arrange any suitable sleeping bags by the morning we were due to leave. The shop attached to the Khumbu Lodge had rented us some down-jackets but the sleeping bags they had offered us were too cumbersome. The jackets cost 80 rupees per day. So, after breakfast we visited a number of trekking shops in the hope of finding some warm but compact sleeping bags. We didn't have enough room in our rucksacks for the jackets and bags, so we needed to be able to tie the sleeping bags on somehow. Eventually, after trying a few places, a shop managed to find two bags that fit the bill perfectly. They cost 150 rupees per day to hire. We had already bought hats and gloves which were relatively inexpensive. Now we just needed to stock up on supplies and we were ready to go.

We took the same trail out of Namche that we had followed the previous day. It was another hot day but the trail wasn't particularly demanding for the first hour or two and we mustn't have taken much notice of the path that morning (probably too busy staring at the mountains) as on our way back down we didn't recognise it and thought we were going the wrong way.

After walking for around an hour and a half, we saw Jose coming in the opposite direction having spent the night in Tengboche. We asked him about the trail further on and his reply was "save all your energy for the climb up to Tengboche!". Later on, we would find out what good advice that was. For now though, it was one of the easiest days so far. The trail continued round a few ridges before it started to descend steeply to a small enclave by the river called Phunke Tenga. We stopped for an extended tea and snickers break and removed our socks and shoes to allow our (very smelly) feet to breathe. Amazingly, we hadn't had so much as a single blister between us.

After the break, we crossed another long suspension bridge where a guy walked past us mumbling something about a killer goat on the other side (which we never saw) which made us think of the Billy Goats Gruff fable! We then began the long slog up to Tengboche. It was a tough climb which seemed to go on and on. Lots of people were coming the other way (the trails had got a lot busier since Lukla) and encouraging us that it was "only another half an hour to go". You try to look and sound cheerful but it's difficult when you're out of breath and dripping with sweat! The path was very dusty so it was suffocating and dirty work.

At around 3.45pm, we clambered over the final ridge into Tengboche at 3840m. We were both completely wiped-out and, initially, didn't have the energy to choose a lodge. The weather had started to move in as we arrived so the views were not brilliant. During the evening we were basically up in the clouds. Tengboche was as high as we had been so far but we seemed to be coping alright with the altitude; it was just incredibly cold at night time.

There is an important monastery in Tengboche and it's obviously the focal point of the village. Other than that, there's just a few lodges, a shop and a bakery spread out across a fairly flat, barren piece of land. The views in the morning, however, were stunning. The hill that Tengboche perches on is in the centre of a valley surrounded by high mountains - maybe one of the reasons why it has such an important monastery.

We had planned to walk to a place called Pheriche (4240m) the next day, however, after speaking with some guides in the lodge during the evening, it sounded like Dingboche (4410m) was the larger and therefore more comfortable village so we decided to head there instead as they were roughly the same distance away and, as it was at a slightly higher altitude, would help with acclimatisation. We stayed in Pheriche on the way back down and thought it would have been an easier walk on the way up and we preferred it to Dingboche.

We were rudely awoken in the morning at around 6.30am when a helicopter landed right outside our bedroom window! In truth, we were probably awake anyway. Here's some pictures taken from Tengboche before we set out.

Above: The monastery in Tengboche.

Above: The monastery in Tengboche.

Above: Looking back towards Namche from Tengboche with the Kondge Ri range in the background.

Above: Looking back towards Namche from Tengboche with the Kondge Ri range in the background.

Above: Kangtega and/or Thamserku taken from Tengboche.

Above: Kangtega and/or Thamserku taken from Tengboche.

Above: Nuptse, Everest and Lhotse taken from Tengboche. At the bottom of the picture, you can faintly see the trail that leads first to Pangboche then Pheriche and Dingboche before heading north-west towards base camp.

Above: Nuptse, Everest and Lhotse taken from Tengboche. At the bottom of the picture, you can faintly see the trail that leads first to Pangboche then Pheriche and Dingboche before heading north-west towards base camp.

The trail ran downhill out of Tengboche to a small village a short distance away called Doboche (or Deboche). Shortly after Doboche, a suspension bridge crosses the Imja Khola river onto it's west bank. The trail here sits high on the valley wall overlooking the river and there are some rather scary moments where the path narrows and drops-off steeply all the way down to the river. Ama Dablam (6856m) dominates the skyline as you walk up the valley.

Above: The impressive Ama Dablam seen from the south-west.

Above: The impressive Ama Dablam seen from the south-west.

Above: Phil pictured in front of Ama Dablam on the trail to Pangboche.

Above: Phil pictured in front of Ama Dablam on the trail to Pangboche.

After walking for around an hour and a half we reached the fairly large village of Pangboche at 3930m where we stopped for a break. It's at around this point we reached the tree line and the lack of oxygen in the air becomes more noticeable. Pangboche is a popular place for Everest summit-hopefuls to stay whilst taking a break from the high altitude at base camp.

Shortly after Pangboche is a village called Somare which we passed through. Once out of Somare, the trail follows an exposed and barren ridge of scrubland and, by this point, the trees have completely disappeared. It was extremely windy and the lack of oxygen made walking a lot harder. We certainly had to take more breaks and we both had nagging headaches which would worsen when exerting ourselves.

After rounding the ridge the trail descended to a small bridge over a river before a short climb up to the plateau where Dingboche is situated. It was another half an hours walk before we arrived in the village. The weather had been threatening to get nasty all afternoon and the wind was icy cold. Shortly after we arrived we began to hear rumbles of thunder and it started to snow. We elected to find a lodge to get out of the wind and have a cup of tea before looking for a lodge to stay in. A lot of the people staying in the village were from expeditions and the atmosphere here felt a lot more serious. Dingboche was also used by Everest teams as a rest place lower down the valley. It was a shame the weather was so bad otherwise there would have been great views of Nuptse and Lhotse from here.

After tea we went to look for a decent lodge whilst battling the snow blizzard. We weren't taken by the first two we looked at so continued searching before finally settling on a chalet-type lodge towards the highest point of the village. Unfortunately it turned out to be a bad decision as the lodge's owners had gone to Namche to do some shopping and had left their two teenage sons in charge. They tried their best but they weren't the most welcoming hosts and the lodge itself was just okay.

We had intended to stay in Dingboche for two nights to aid acclimatisation but come the morning we wanted to move on (we didn't want to stay another night in Dingboche) and there was a tiny village called Dughla (Thukla) at 4620m around three hours walk away. Altitude-wise, it wasn't too much higher than Dingboche and we thought it would be a good way to break up the walk (and height gain) to Lobuche at 4910m.

All the best and thanks for reading.

Next episode - Days 13 & 14 Dingboche - Dughla - Lobuche

Posted by Rivercity 01:55 Archived in Nepal Comments (4)

Days 8, 9 & 10 Kharikola - Puyan - Benkar - Namche Bazaar

rain 24 °C

We had a minor disaster on Day 8. We had planned to walk to Surke from Kharikola and made good time in the morning to reach a village called Puyan (Paiya/Chutok) in five hours at 1pm. From Puyan, it was only a 2-3 hour flat/downhill walk to Surke and we wanted to get there that day so that we had a chance of reaching Namche Bazaar the following day.

We stopped at a lovely place in Puyan called the Beehive Lodge. As we were getting ready to leave after lunch, the weather took a turn for the worse again and a few drops of rain began falling. We were determined to get to Surke that day so put on our wet weather gear and set out. It turned out to be the wrong decision as a full-scale storm broke out. We persevered but the rain became torrential and we were getting soaked. There was also an almost constant booming of thunder around us and the sky was literally electric. At this altitude, it felt like we were actually in the storm itself and the lightening was a bit too close for comfort.

When large hailstones started falling, we thought it was just too dangerous and decided to turn back to Puyan. The path to Surke rounded some high ridges and the drop-off at the trail edge fell thousands of feet all the way down to the river at the bottom of the valley. It would have been a risk too far to have tried to negotiate the paths when slippery with hailstones.

So after covering around 2km we turned back to Puyan very wet and annoyed with ourselves for leaving when it was so obvious a storm was coming. Our mood wasn't helped when the storm moved away later in the day and left enough time for us to make it to Surke if we had hung on. Oh well, no harm was done. When we got back to the Beehive lodge the owner kindly stoked up the big stove in the restaurant so we could hang our clothes up to dry. Water had managed to get into our bags despite them being 'waterproofed' and some of our clothes had got damp.

Above: The Beehive Lodge, Puyan. They were very kind to us when we returned with our pride dented and wet clothes.

Above: The Beehive Lodge, Puyan. They were very kind to us when we returned with our pride dented and wet clothes.

Later in the afternoon whilst we were drinking tea and waiting for our clothes to dry, Jose arrived with another trekker from Sydney named Rick. They had also been caught in the same storm lower down in the valley and had witnessed the hailstones. Rick had been to the area before and had reached base camp. It was good to talk to him as he had some useful information from the time he had spent there. He was going to the Gokyo region this time around.

Above: The trail leading out of Puyan.

Above: The trail leading out of Puyan.

The next day we were aiming for Phakding or, if we made good time, Benkar or Monjo further on. After walking for around an hour we had a quick rest at a lodge from where we could see Lukla and we watched the planes coming and going. We didn't need to pass through Lukla on the way up and it was an hour out of our way, but it was interesting to see from afar. On take-off, when the planes become airborne, they bank steeply to the left in order to get out of the valley and thereby avoid crashing into the other side!

Above: Lukla on the right of centre. The airstrip runs steeply downhill before the land disappears and the planes hurtle into a narrow valley. You can see a plane coming in to land if you look closely.

Above: Lukla on the right of centre. The airstrip runs steeply downhill before the land disappears and the planes hurtle into a narrow valley. You can see a plane coming in to land if you look closely.

Jose had caught up with us whilst we were watching the planes and we invited him to walk with us. It started raining again when we arrived in Surke so we stopped for some tea. Luckily it soon cleared up and we were able to press on shortly afterwards. We were going great guns that day. The enforced rest the day before must have done us good and we were keen to make up lost time. After climbing out of Surke, we took another rest at a picturesque village called Chaurikharka. On our way out of the village, a crowd of locals had gathered who seemed to be celebrating something and they offered us some warm orange squash which we accepted after deciding whether it was safe to drink! They wouldn't take any rupees when offered and were genuinely kind people.

Above: Looking back down the valley to Chaurikharka. Jose named this place 'the town of a thousand steps' and he wasn't far wrong.

Above: Looking back down the valley to Chaurikharka. Jose named this place 'the town of a thousand steps' and he wasn't far wrong.

The trails in this area were fairly flat with the occassional short, steep climb or descent. We were still making good time and reached a village called Ghat (Nurning) when another shower broke out. We took refuge again in a lodge for tea and snickers bars and by the time they were consumed, the rain had stopped. We had been quite lucky with the weather after our experience the day before. As we left the lodge we bumped into Rick on the path with his Nepali porter friend, Pemba, who he had picked up en-route. We said hello, got going and quickly left them all behind.

We made it to Phakding by around 3pm and because there were still a few daylight hours left, decided to carry on to Benkar or, possibly, Monjo.

Above: Some lodges on the west side of the Dudh Khosi, Phakding.

Above: Some lodges on the west side of the Dudh Khosi, Phakding.

When we arrived in Benkar at around 5pm, we thought we could make it to Monjo 200m higher up but took the sensible decision to get a lodge (which was just as well as it started raining and got really cold shortly afterwards). It only left a short walk to Namche the next day so we were very pleased. As we were settling into our room, Jose and Rick arrived at the same lodge so again we spent the evening chatting over dinner. Rick had a portable-GPS gizmo which could measure distance walked and he said we had covered around 20km that day.

The next morning we all set off seperately. It may have only been a few kilometres to Namche but it was hard (probably not helped by our exertions the previous day). The path followed the river gradually up through dramatic gorges to Monjo and then Jorsalle where the entrance to Sagarmatha National Park was situated. The entrance fee was 1000 rupees each (£8).

Above: At the entrance to Sagarmatha National Park they keep a chart showing how many tourists have passed through.

Above: At the entrance to Sagarmatha National Park they keep a chart showing how many tourists have passed through.

After Jorsalle, the path continued up the river until it reached a near-vertical, wooded hillside that ascended steeply for 500m to Namche. You cannot see Namche until you actually get to the top. It's almost like a secret world up there - you would never find it if the path were not so obvious - a bit like a mystical land from a fantasy novel. Unfortunately, we didn't take many pictures that day but will post some that we took on our way down in a later entry.

It took 2 or 3 hours of hard slog in the heat before finally getting to the top and arriving in Namche. Hooray! We had achieved our first aim. From now on, all the villages would get more remote and it would become a lot colder.

Above: A picture of Namche that we took on our way back down when the weather was better.

Above: A picture of Namche that we took on our way back down when the weather was better.

Namche Bazaar is an amazing place. Considering it's remoteness and that it is at 3440m, it has everything that any other town has to offer; coffee shops, bakeries, internet, smart hotels etc. and it is reasonably priced compared to other small villages on the trail. In every shop, you pay only 100 rupees for a bottle of water, for example, which is less than a pound. We had bumped into Jose again as we arrived in Namche and he said that Rick would be staying at the Khumbu Lodge so we all headed there. The lodge was full of memorabilia from famous Everest ascents.

Above: Pictured at the Khumbu Lodge with Rick, Pemba and Jose.

Above: Pictured at the Khumbu Lodge with Rick, Pemba and Jose.

We now had a difficult decision to make. Should we continue to Everest Base Camp?

We intended to take a rest day at Namche for acclimatisation purposes and to regain some energy so we would spend two nights there. On the rest day, we decided to walk a little way out of the town to try and get a view of Everest and the trail that would lead there.

We set off early with the aim of walking up the ridge to the East of Namche and to the Everest View Hotel. In the event, we couldn't work out how to get to the hotel but, after half an hour's walk, we rounded a ridge and had the most magnificent view of the Everest range. The weather was perfect that morning and the view was unobstructed. If we decided to continue to base camp, our next stop would be the village of Tengboche at 3860m which you can just about make out at the top of the ridge in the photo below.

Above: Tengboche can just be seen on the top of the horizontal ridge in the near-distance. The trail inevitably went all the way to the bottom of the valley before climbing steeply up the hillside. You can see Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse in the background.

Above: Tengboche can just be seen on the top of the horizontal ridge in the near-distance. The trail inevitably went all the way to the bottom of the valley before climbing steeply up the hillside. You can see Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse in the background.

Above: A huge yak we saw on our way back to Namche.

Above: A huge yak we saw on our way back to Namche.

When we got back to Namche, we went for breakfast at the Namche Bakery and after much discussion made the tough decision to carry on. We had come this far and were in good spirits and health. We would need to buy or hire some more equipment so, once we had decided to go for it, we rushed around Namche trying to get everything sorted such as down-jackets, sleeping bags, hats and gloves. Later, we even splashed out on a can of beer - the only alcohol we consumed during the entire trip!

On our second night in Namche, Teresa developed a headache (not from the beer!) and we put it down to mild altitude sickness. If it wasn't better by the morning, it would not have been wise to go to Tengboche at a higher altitude. Teresa took one of the Diamox altitude sickness tablets that we had bought in Kathmandu and, thankfully, was feeling better come the morning so it was all systems go.

Above: The start of the Kongde Ri range to the west of Namche.

Above: The start of the Kongde Ri range to the west of Namche.

Above: Thamserku seen from the trail just outside of Namche.

Above: Thamserku seen from the trail just outside of Namche.

Next time........Day 11 & 12 Namche - Tengboche - Dingboche

Posted by Rivercity 10:10 Archived in Nepal Comments (5)

Days 6 & 7 Junbesi - Nunthala - Kharikola

sunny 30 °C

We still had 2 or 3 days of walking East before the trail turned North towards Sagarmatha National Park and the heart of the Himalayas.

We wanted to be up and away early from Junbesi as both our book and map showed that, on the trail that day, we would get our first view of Sagarmatha - Mount Everest - and we wanted to make sure that the clouds hadn't rolled in by the time we got there.

We left Junbesi at around 8am but not before having another chat with Jose who had arrived half an hour after us the previous day and had booked into the same lodge. He was feeling better and had set out from Sete that morning. Jose was in the mountains on a wing and a prayer - a bit like us - and hadn't hired a porter or guide and hadn't even taken out any additional insurance. We discussed the day's walking plans and studied our maps before beckoning him farewell.

It was a beautiful morning and the walk up and out of Junbesi was very pleasant. The trail climbed for a while as we walked through more pine forest before it flattened out and skirted around the contours of the valley. As we rounded each ridge, we were eager to see what was around the corner. Finally, at 10am, after climbing up some steep steps onto a terrace, our jaws literally dropped at the sight before us. Up until now, we had only had brief glimpses of distant peaks but here the mountains were spread out across the horizon before us. It was breathtaking.

Unfortunately, our camera doesn't do justice to what we saw, but it was an awesome sight.

Above: The view from the trail between Junbesi and Nunthala. Everest isn't immediately obvious - it's the peak on the very left with snow blowing from the summit (not clouds as mentioned in a previous post). The largest peak is Mera Peak (6461m). You can also see Thamserku (6608m), Kangtega (6685m), Kyasar (6770m) and Kusum Khangkaru (6367m) amongst others.

Above: The view from the trail between Junbesi and Nunthala. Everest isn't immediately obvious - it's the peak on the very left with snow blowing from the summit (not clouds as mentioned in a previous post). The largest peak is Mera Peak (6461m). You can also see Thamserku (6608m), Kangtega (6685m), Kyasar (6770m) and Kusum Khangkaru (6367m) amongst others.

This picture shows Everest a little more clearly.

Above: Mount Everest on the left above the Nuptse face. The amazing thing is, the majority of the mountains in this picture are around 25km away; Everest is around 50km away yet can still be seen and doesn't look too much smaller.

Above: Mount Everest on the left above the Nuptse face. The amazing thing is, the majority of the mountains in this picture are around 25km away; Everest is around 50km away yet can still be seen and doesn't look too much smaller.

It was an amazing moment for us after all the hard work we had put in over the last 5 days. This was what we had come to see. We were so pleased, the lodge owner even persuaded us to buy some yak cheese from him! Actually, he was a really nice old guy and he took great pride in naming all the peaks. He even managed to take a pretty good picture of us!

Above: Us pictured at the Everest View Lodge.

Above: Us pictured at the Everest View Lodge.

We had a cup of tea and yak cheese biscuits whilst soaking up the view before pressing on towards a village called Ringmu which was on the other side of the valley. We wanted to make it to Nunthala that day which would mean crossing the Taksindu Pass (3070m) above Ringmu and a descent of around 900m on the other side.

Above: The village of Ringmu can be seen on the other side of the valley with the Taksindu Pass (3070m) above.

Above: The village of Ringmu can be seen on the other side of the valley with the Taksindu Pass (3070m) above.

We continued to make steady progress but, as is the way with the trails in this area, the path gradually descended to the river below. This would mean we had a tough climb up to the pass later in the day.

Above: Teresa crossing the suspension bridge over the Dudhkund Khola river at the bottom of the valley.

Above: Teresa crossing the suspension bridge over the Dudhkund Khola river at the bottom of the valley.

After crossing the river, there was a very steep climb up to Ringmu about halfway up to the pass. Teresa was extremely determined to get up it without stopping and succeeded. During these hard climbs, we often said very little to each other. We were both thinking about and going through the same mental and physical struggle.

After around 30 minutes we arrived in Ringmu tired and sweaty. We stopped for lunch in a lodge and had possibly the worst meal we had in our entire time in the mountains - cheese and tomato pizza. It consisted of a chapatti with tomato ketchup smeared on it and a sprinkling of yak cheese. It was awful but we still ate it as we needed sustenance for the walk to Nunthala.

The food in the mountains was, in general, fairly bland and you needn't look at the menu to know what was on offer. Breakfast was a choice between eggs and chapatti or porridge. Dinner tended to be daal bhatt, noodles, rice or mo-mo's. Mo-mo's are small, steamed or fried filled pastry shells which on occassion could be quite tasty.

After lunch at around 2pm we set out for the pass. After another hour of steep climbing the path opened out to an area with a few buildings and lots of animals. It was a hive of activity as people herded their animals up or down the slopes. Just over the other side of the pass was the village of Taksindu.

Above: The village of Taksindu.

Above: The village of Taksindu.

The 900m descent into Nunthala (which we could see in the distance) was difficult. The path was very dusty with a lot of loose rock so it took all our concentration to get down without slipping. It would have been game over if one of us was to sprain an ankle or break a bone. Whilst going downhill doesn't require as much effort as going uphill, it's still tiring and time consuming. This particular descent went on and on and we entered Nunthala at 6pm completely exhausted. We had set out at 8am that morning so we had been walking for a total of 9 hours.

We desperately needed a shower as we hadn't had much luck with the ones at the other lodges we had stayed at so far, so we made sure we saw it working before agreeing to stay at the first lodge we looked at! Most hot shower units in the lodges consisted of a Calor gas canister connected to a small water heater. The gas canisters needed to be portered in so, consequently, a hot shower cost 200-300 rupees (£2-£3) but were well worth the money!

Lodges make most of their money through the food they sold. The room charges are nominal - usually 100 rupees - but they would stipulate that you had to eat there as well. Which was fair enough.

We slept well once the dog outside had stopped barking! In the morning we had breakfast and found four kittens that the lodges cat had recently given birth to. Here's some soppy pictures of us with them.

Above: Teresa with the kittens at the lodge we stayed at in Nunthala.

Above: Teresa with the kittens at the lodge we stayed at in Nunthala.

Above: And a sleepy looking Phil with their Mum.

Above: And a sleepy looking Phil with their Mum.

There was not a huge amount to report from the next day. We were aiming for Kharikola which was not too far away. The days seemed to be following a pattern - one hard day followed by an easier day.

The path continued to descend out of Nunthala all the way down to the bottom of the valley at around 1600m (all the height gains lost again!). There was another suspension bridge over the mighty Dudh Khosi river.

Above: Phil holding on firmly to the suspension bridge which crosses the Dudh Khosi river.

Above: Phil holding on firmly to the suspension bridge which crosses the Dudh Khosi river.

Above: The Dudh Khosi river. We would be following this river up the valley to Namche Bazaar for the next few days.

Above: The Dudh Khosi river. We would be following this river up the valley to Namche Bazaar for the next few days.

On the other side, there was another climb up to a small pass then we were in Kharikola. There were a lot of stormy clouds around in the afternoon and the weather had turned very humid so although it wasn't a long climb, it really zapped our energy.

Above: A monastery and chorten at the top of the small pass before Kharikola. The stormy skies created a really humid atmosphere that afternoon.

Above: A monastery and chorten at the top of the small pass before Kharikola. The stormy skies created a really humid atmosphere that afternoon.

As we settled into the lodge for the night, the heavens opened and we were treated to a powerful display of thunder and lighting. It was raining heavily where we were but, higher up, the peaks around us were being covered in a fresh layer of snow.

Above: A picture of the spread out village of Kharikola taken the next day whilst ascending the other side of the valley.

Above: A picture of the spread out village of Kharikola taken the next day whilst ascending the other side of the valley.

Above: Another picture of the beautiful Nepalese countryside.

Above: Another picture of the beautiful Nepalese countryside.

In the next instalment - Days 8, 9 & 10 Kharikola - Puyan (Chutok) - Benkar - Namche Bazaar

Posted by Rivercity 02:57 Archived in Nepal Comments (5)

Days 3, 4 & 5 Bhandar - Kinja - Goyem - Junbesi

all seasons in one day 20 °C

The first couple of days were tough going as we were not used to the trails or the demands of trekking. Once we began to get used to how things worked, it got easier to find the right path and we were never far from refuge if needed. You couldn't walk for more than an hour without coming across a teahouse or local Nepalese family who would take us in if we got into difficulty. Also, the trails became more well-trodden and so more obvious and we learnt the art of communicating with the locals.

Our plan on Day 3 was to walk to Sete at 2700m. However, after the previous day's efforts we decided we should have an easier day (we soon realised there was no such thing as an easy day!) so we settled on going to Kinja. In any case, we had left Bhandar too late to reach Sete in one day.

Kinja was at the bottom of the valley at 1630m - the walk involved descending a little then rounding a few ridges on flattish paths then another descent into Kinja.

We had a sneaking suspicion that, from Bhandar, we could see the Lamjura Pass which we would have to cross at 3530m in the next couple of days. We asked the lodge owner if she could point out the route to us and she confirmed that it was indeed the pass. The Pass is the most pronounced dip on the far ridge in the photo below. Kinja is down in the valley and Sete is around three quarters of the way up the mound in the centre of the picture. Goyem, where we lodged on the fourth night, is a further 500m up the same mound.

Above: Lamjura Pass 3530m, taken from Bhandar

Above: Lamjura Pass 3530m, taken from Bhandar

The next picture is looking back towards Bhandar and Deurali from Sete.

Above: Looking back towards Bhandar. Deurali is the dip on the ridge in the background.

Above: Looking back towards Bhandar. Deurali is the dip on the ridge in the background.

In this region, all the rivers and valleys branching out of the Himalayas run from North to South. For the first 7 or 8 days of the trek we were walking West to East so each day we had to ascend, only to lose the altitude when we descended into the next valley. We therefore decided that walking downhill was not good!

It was really, really hot on the walk to Kinja as the sun was beating down directly onto the mountainside we were walking along. It was very scenic though and not too demanding. It still took us around 5 hours and we were exhausted again when we arrived (mainly because of the heat). Here's some views that we snapped en-route.

Above: The river and valley that lead towards Kinja. We thought the houses in this picture was Kinja but it turned out to be further on. You can just about make it out in the distance.

Above: The river and valley that lead towards Kinja. We thought the houses in this picture was Kinja but it turned out to be further on. You can just about make it out in the distance.

Above: A view of typical Nepalese farming countryside.

Above: A view of typical Nepalese farming countryside.

Above: One of the many waterfalls that bisect the paths along the way.

Above: One of the many waterfalls that bisect the paths along the way.

Kinja is a nice village with a powerful river running through it. We stayed in the New Everest Lodge where there were good views of distant Numbur (6959m) and Khatang (6853m). Whilst we were relaxing outside the lodge, many porters filed past with their incredibly unfeasible loads.

Above: A porter carrying his supplies through Kinja.

Above: A porter carrying his supplies through Kinja.

Above: Two porters make their way up the main street in Kinja. Porters seem to have been born into a life of purgatory but they go about their business with the minimum of fuss.

Above: Two porters make their way up the main street in Kinja. Porters seem to have been born into a life of purgatory but they go about their business with the minimum of fuss.

We were up early again the next morning as we had a day of steep climbing ahead of us. We didn't know which village we were aiming for so decided to see how far we could get. There were a couple of small villages after Sete so if we made good time and wanted to carry on, we could stay in either one of them. In the event, we got to Sete at around noon and stopped at a lodge for lunch of tea and garlic soup (better than it sounds!).

Whilst at the lodge, we met a guy called Jose who was about our age and from Los Angeles. He was trekking alone and had been taken ill the day before and had been forced to stay the night in Sete. We would bump into him a few times over the next two weeks.

We pressed on after lunch and reached the next village, Dagchu, fairly quickly. There were a few nice lodges here but we decided to try and get to Goyem so that it would save some time the following day and help with altitude acclimatisation. Goyem is at 3200m so we had ascended around 1600m in one day and were very pleased with our efforts.

In Goyem, the lodge we decided upon was a rustic affair where the family and guests would snuggle up in front of the kitchen stove to eat and chat. At this altitude, once the sun went down the temperature drops quickly and the cold seems to penetrate everything. It wasn't much fun going to the toilet during the night as it consisted of a wooden hut at the bottom of the garden with a hole cut out of the floor.

Above: The Tashi Delek Lodge, Goyem

Above: The Tashi Delek Lodge, Goyem

Above: And its cat enjoying the morning sun.

Above: And its cat enjoying the morning sun.

The next morning we were up and ready to go by around 9am. The lodge and its buildings created a large, natural courtyard that also formed part of the main trail down from Lamjura Pass. It was a popular stopping place for porters and tradesmen with their horses and donkeys who were making their way to villages to sell their goods - it was a hive of activity that morning whilst we were sitting in the sun having breakfast and brushing our teeth. We also saw some trekkers returning from the high mountains.

It was another 300m up to the pass and started with a steep climb before levelling out and traversing around the ridge. Here's a picture of the pass from the ridge.

Above: A view of the Lamjura Pass - the pass itself is by the roof of the building.

Above: A view of the Lamjura Pass - the pass itself is by the roof of the building.

Above: The path over the Lamjura Pass and porter taking a rest.

Above: The path over the Lamjura Pass and porter taking a rest.

As we were going over the pass, the weather took a turn for the worse and it became cold and windy. There was a steep descent on the other side through ancient pine forests. It was very peaceful and picturesque and it started snowing as we made our way down the dusty, rocky path. It really was 'four seasons in a day' kind of weather. As the trail flattened out, a beautiful valley opened up before us. Again, we could have been walking in the Lake District or mountains of Wales.

Above: One of many Mani Walls which you pass (to the left) frequently on the trails.

Above: One of many Mani Walls which you pass (to the left) frequently on the trails.

The weather didn't really improve and the snow was turning to rain as we walked the remaining kilometres to Junbesi. As we rounded the last ridge, Junbesi could be seen in the valley floor and some stunning mountains rose above the town.

Above: As we came round the last ridge before reaching Junbesi, we saw a stormy landscape with the tops of Numbur and Khatang visible.

Above: As we came round the last ridge before reaching Junbesi, we saw a stormy landscape with the tops of Numbur and Khatang visible.

Junbesi is quite a large town where Edmund Hillary opened a school in the 60's. It is an important place for Sherpa people. We stayed at the Apple Garden Lodge (along with a lot of other people). A nearby Buddhist monastery was displaying the preserved body of a monk who had died three years previously at the age of 83 and who was revered by many followers in the area. The owner of the lodge we had stayed at in Kinja had set out at 7.30am that morning to go and be blessed. He overtook us on the path down from Lamjura - he had walked from Kinja to Junbesi in less than a day - what took us two days!

Here's the view from our bedroom window when we woke in the morning.

Above: Numbur, 6959m could just be seen above the ridge from Junbesi. It's peak is over 4000m higher than the town - over 2 vertical miles! The sun hasn't reached the valley yet but can clearly be seen shining on Numbur.

Above: Numbur, 6959m could just be seen above the ridge from Junbesi. It's peak is over 4000m higher than the town - over 2 vertical miles! The sun hasn't reached the valley yet but can clearly be seen shining on Numbur.

In the next instalment - Days 6 & 7, Junbesi - Nunthala - Kharikola

Posted by Rivercity 02:01 Archived in Nepal Comments (5)

Days 1 & 2 Kathmandu - Jiri - Shivalaya - Bhandar

sunny 30 °C

Day 1 - Kathmandu - Jiri (by bus) - Shivalaya (on foot)

We thought the bus ride from Kathmandu to Jiri would be terrifying and we were not wrong. We were up at 3.45am as we needed to be at the bus station for 5am in order to get tickets for the 5.30am 'express' bus to Jiri. It was due to arrive at around 1pm.

The mountain roads were truly scary; they were often just two strips of tarmac and at other times pot-holed gravel tracks - not the best when there are huge drops of 1000's feet outside the window. All this wasn't helped by the fact that one of the rear wheels was spewing oil and each time the bus stopped, passers-by would look worryingly at it. With about 20kms to go, the guys who were in charge needed to make running repairs and although we didn't really see what they did, they pretty much took the wheel apart at the roadside.

The worst part was when we met another bus coming the other way. This would result in one of the buses reversing to an adequate space (just) to allow the other bus to pass, or, more often, one of the buses trying to pass in a very tight space (with the huge drops at the side of the road). Luckily, our bus always seemed to stay on the inside but we did see one bus going by with literally millimetres of dusty road between it and certain death.

Needless to say, we were very relieved peeps to arrive in Jiri and jump off.

Above: a bus similar to the one we were travelling in - when the bus got full, people just jumped on top or hung off the sides despite the massive drops at the edge of the road

Above: a bus similar to the one we were travelling in - when the bus got full, people just jumped on top or hung off the sides despite the massive drops at the edge of the road

Neither of us had any idea what we had let ourselves in for when we arrived in Jiri. We could have read all the books and blogs in the world but, until we actually got there, we had no idea how difficult it was going to be. To be frank, the first couple of days were a bit of a shock.

Our plan on arriving in Jiri was to walk to Shivalaya the same day. The guide book we had bought said that it was a half a days walk and would be a nice introduction to the rigours of trekking. There was a 'small pass' which we needed to climb up to and then a descent into Shivalaya.

Jiri is at an altitude of 1955m. The pass was at 2343m and Shivalaya 1770m.

Well, after walking down a dusty track for 10 minutes, we had no idea where the trail went so we asked an old Nepali chap who was sitting at the roadside. He just pointed nonchalantly at a steep, rocky and dusty path opposite him. We were surprised at how rough and steep it was but started climbing. However, before long, we weren't sure of the way again.

The trail from Jiri is rarely used nowadays (since they built the airport at Lukla) so there aren't many people around to ask the way and the local Nepalese spoke very little English. Time was not on our side in terms of daylight and we were getting worried that we would be stranded in the middle of nowhere in the darkness.

We persisted though, and somehow found our way up to the pass with around an hour and a half of daylight remaining. It was a gruelling couple of hours as our hill walking ability was zero as we hadn't worked out how to climb hills effectvely at this point. Over the first few days, we quickly learnt to walk in small, rhythmic steps which although slow, meant you could continue without having to stop every 5 minutes.

At the pass we had our first glimpse of a snow-capped peak in the distance (not sure which one). You may not be able to see it in this photo (they seem to lose quality when put on the blog) and it doesn't look much, but seeing it really helped to lift our spirits.

Above: Our first glimpse glimpse of a snow-capped mountain

Above: Our first glimpse glimpse of a snow-capped mountain

We had around one and a half hours to get down to Shivalaya. Provided we could find the way!

By now, we had noticed some orange/pink, spray-painted cirlcles on rocks and trees. These were the only indication of the correct route but they could sometimes be misleading - as we found out as we neared Shivalaya. We thought one of the circles led towards a group of houses perched above us on the side of the hill so we climbed up to them only to find a group of men laughing whilst telling us Shivalaya was over the river at the bottom of the valley and around the ridge. Darkness was falling by now so out came the torches and we somehow managed to scramble our way in the dark to Shivalaya.

We booked into the New Sherpa Guide Lodge absolutely exhausted. Had we bitten off more than we could chew? We certainly thought so that first evening. The guide book said that tommorrow's walk to Bhandar would be a tough day. Great. We went to sleep at 8pm, too tired for dinner.

Above: the New Sherpa Guide Lodge, Shivalaya

Above: the New Sherpa Guide Lodge, Shivalaya

Day 2 - Shivalaya - Bhandar

It's amazing what a night's sleep can do for the soul and we woke up full of optimism for the day ahead.

After the previous days experience, we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get to Bhandar before it got dark. We were out of bed and breakfasted by 7am and ready to go by 7.15am. We asked the lodge owner to point out the trail/route to Bhandar. We knew it was a steep climb to another, slightly higher pass called Deurali (meaning 'pass' in Nepalese so there are lots of villages with this name) and then a descent over the other side but when he pointed to a phone mast on a distant ridge, we thought there was no way we could walk there in one day.

Shivalaya is at 1770m. Deurali was 2710m and Bhandar 2190m.

It all started quite well as we walked up steeply for around three quarters of an hour and thought we were making good time. It was then that we were mislead by another of the spray-painted markers and took the wrong path. This resulted in a tiring detour that lost us around one and a half hours time but, more importantly, energy. Oh well, there were still plenty of daylight hours left.

Here's a view of Shivalaya as we ascended the ridge on our way to Bhandar. The rivers and valleys on the early part of the trek were reminiscent of the Wye or Conwy Valleys in Wales.

Above: looking back to Shivalaya on the steep climb to Deurali

Above: looking back to Shivalaya on the steep climb to Deurali

Eventually we got back to the correct trail and wondered how we had ever taken the wrong route.

Above: some local Nepalese kids who insisted on having their photo taken

Above: some local Nepalese kids who insisted on having their photo taken

The temperatures at these relatively low altitudes were scorching so it made for difficult walking conditions. Luckily the price of bottled water was still cheap at around 50 rupees (generally 25 rupees in Kathmandu but the price goes up as you get higher as it has to be portered in because there are no roads). Eventually, we would be paying 300 rupees per 1 litre bottle (£2.50).

The climb to Deurali was a killer and there were a few occassions when we both thought about giving up. However, there isn't really much of an option other than to go on. The only places you can get transport out is by bus at Jiri or Shivalaya or a flight from Lukla (unless you are rich enough to charter a helicopter).

Somehow we managed to reach the pass where we stopped for a well deserved cup of tea. It's amazing how the temperature drops as you get higher or when at an exposed pass. You soon get cold when you stop.

The time was around 2.30pm and we only had 500m to descend (still around an hour and a half) so we were pleased with our days work.

On the way down, it started raining so we took shelter at a teahouse and introduced ourselves to the family dog and goat. We got to Bhandar at around 4.30pm and booked into the Ang Dawa Lodge for the night.

Above: Ang Dawa Lodge, Bhandar

Above: Ang Dawa Lodge, Bhandar

Above: the twin chortens of Bhandar. Deurali is high on the ridge in the background.

Above: the twin chortens of Bhandar. Deurali is high on the ridge in the background.

To be continued....

ps. the pictures get much better as we trek further into the mountains

Posted by Rivercity 21:34 Archived in Nepal Comments (8)

Back to the real world...

sunny 30 °C

Phew! We made it back to Kathmandu this morning after catching a flight from Lukla - the most dangerous airport in the world.

It's a bit unnerving (actually, quite terrifying) hurtling down a steep runway before flying off the edge of a mountain. It wasn't a pleasant flight but we landed safely. We're just enjoying a few creature comforts now.

Here's a picture of us in the blizzard at the boulder that marks the entrance to EBC - please don't laugh at our 'get-up'!

Above: We made it!

Above: We made it!

Over the next few days and weeks we'll add a blog entry for each day of the trek so that we can document the experience and post some of the better photographs.

Posted by Rivercity 02:50 Archived in Nepal Comments (3)

We made it!

overcast 20 °C

On Saturday 12th May at 14:50, exactly 15 days after we set off on foot from Jiri, we reached Everest Base Camp at an altitude of 5364m above sea level.

Unfortunately, as we were approaching EBC (as it's known by officionados :-) ), a huge storm came up the valley which created blizzard conditions so we didn't stay there long. The camp is actually pitched on the Khumbu Glacier so you have to cross it to get to base camp. It's not the safest place to be with a covering of snow! One slip and we could have ended up in a freezing glacial lake.

We got from Namche to base camp and back in 7 days and we're now half way back to Lukla where we will catch a flight back to Kathmandu. When we're back in the free wi-fi (10 rupees per minute here in Phakding) we'll post some further details and piccys (with snow!).

Thanks for all your comments - keep them coming.

Love P&T x

Posted by Rivercity 03:35 Archived in Nepal Comments (4)

A short hike from Namche

sunny 20 °C

On our rest day we decided to get up early and take a short hike out of Namche to look at the views while the weather was clear.

As we rounded a ridge above Namche, we had the most incredible view of the Everest range:

L-R: Cholatse (6335m), Tabuche (6367m), Nuptse (7861m - the flat ridge below Everest), Everest (8848m), Lhotse (8516m), Lhotse Shar (8382m) and Ama Dablam (6856m)

L-R: Cholatse (6335m), Tabuche (6367m), Nuptse (7861m - the flat ridge below Everest), Everest (8848m), Lhotse (8516m), Lhotse Shar (8382m) and Ama Dablam (6856m)

A close-up of Everest - it's the peak above Nuptse with the wisp of cloud (or possibly snow blowing of the summit)

A close-up of Everest - it's the peak above Nuptse with the wisp of cloud (or possibly snow blowing of the summit)

It is absolutely stunning here. Whichever direction you look in there are mighty peaks. Here's another one of Thamserku (6608m) with Namche in the foreground:

Thamserku and the view from our bedroom window!

Thamserku and the view from our bedroom window!

Having now seen the trail that leads towards Base Camp, we think it's achievable and have somehow managed to talk ourselves into pushing on over breakfast. We will probably head off tomorrow morning or the day after as we need to arrange sleeping bags, down jackets, gloves and hats as we haven't needed these so far in temperatures that have been bearable at relatively low altitudes. Once we get over 4000m, it's going to be really cold at night time.

Thanks for your encouragements - we'll try and post an update on our return to Namche.

Posted by Rivercity 23:43 Archived in Nepal Comments (8)

Mission Namche Accomplished

We've made it to Namche Bazaar (3445m) after 9 days of really, really, really gruelling walking!

We've covered around 130km over some of the harshest terrain imaginable and traversed many a mountain and valley to get here. Touch wood, we've suffered no injuries or illnesses and apart from being extremely tired (and cold), we are in fine fettle.

I'm not able to upload any photos here but needless to say we've taken plenty and will post some of the better ones when we're back in Kathmandu.

We've seen some amazing sights and, on Day 5, walking out of Junbesi, we had a great view of Mount Everest!

We now need to make the decision whether to press on or not. The weather has not been too kind to us in the last few days - each afternoon has produced rain which makes it hard going. It also means the views are spoilt. I think we've missed some amazing peaks, but we've also seen some great ones too. Notably the Mera Peaks, Gonglha, Numbur, Khatang and Karoylung.

We're staying in Namche for two nights for rest and acclimatisation and need to decide our next course of action. Hopefully the weather will improve and we can sort ourselves out for the final push. It is, however, incredibly tempting after grafting for so long in fairly basic conditions to jump ship and head back to the comfort of Kathmandu.

Thanks for all your messages and much Love to all in the UK.

P & T x

Posted by Rivercity 04:16 Comments (4)

Route to Everest Base Camp

sunny 28 °C

Hi All

We've been running madly around Kathmandu trying to get everything sorted for the trek such as registering with the Trekking Information Management System at the Nepal Tourism Bureau ($20 each) and making sure we have enough cash to take with us - you can only get cash from ATM's here and there are limits to how many withdrawals you can make in one day so this has required some thought as well.

We are leaving Kathmandu by bus headed for Jiri. This will take anywhere between 7 and 8 hours. We're already at an altitude of 4500ft in Kathmandu and Jiri is at around 2000m, so 6000ft. Everest Base Camp is at 5500m so it ain't going to be easy.

We've decided to take out extra insurance which will cover us if we need to be rescued from the mountains! A helicopter evacuation costs around $25,000 so we didn't want to be in a position where we might have to consider paying for this ourselves!

From Jiri we head to Bhandar which is around one and half days walk so we will spend the night in a village called Shivalaya mid-way.

From Shivalaya, it's a tough day's walk to Bhandar.

From Bhandar, we go to Kinja.

From Kinja to Junbesi where we may spend two nights for acclimatisation purposes.

From Junbesi we head for Nunthala.

Nunthala to Kharikhola.

Kharikkhola to Surke.

Surke to Phakding.

Phakding to either Monjo or Namche Bazaar. If we reach Namche on this day, we will spend two nights there to acclimatise before deciding whether to push on to EBC. We think it will take around 7-9 days to get to this point.

Past Namche, we'll be up in the high Himalaya at altitudes of 4000 metres plus so we need to proceed with caution. We're hopeful that we will be acclimatising well as we are beginning the trek from the old start point at a lower altitude. Many people now fly into the new start point at Lukla which is much higher and doesn't give their bodies sufficient time to acclimatise.

A steep climb up from Namche is the Everest View Hotel. It's from here we will get the first really good views of Everest.

Should we decide to continue, we will head from Namche to Tengboche.

From Tengboche to Dingboche.

From Dingboche to Lobuche.

From Loboche to Gorak Shep.

Gorak Shep to Base Camp.

You can see a basic map of the route here (unfortuntately it only starts at Nunthala) - Here's another slightly more detailed map that starts from Lukla.

All the place names have different variations of spelling, so it get's quite confusing.

There are internet cafes in the mountains so, with any luck , we'll be able to post an update en-route.

Posted by Rivercity 09:26 Archived in Nepal Comments (10)

Kathmandu, Nepal

sunny 28 °C

Just a short note to say we arrived safely in Kathmandu, Nepal yesterday (I didn't think I would ever hear myself say that).

To say the flight was amazing would be an understatement. Kathmandu is virtually due east from Delhi and the flight takes you parallel to the Himalayas. The views of the mountains were phenomenal. It is quite strange to see mountains virtually as high as the plane was flying.

We're now getting prepared for our trek towards Mount Everest. There are quite a lot of logistics to sort out such as registering with the Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) and making sure we have all the right kit.

I'll post a short itinerary soon of our intended route so you know where we are.

Bye for now.

Durbar Square, Kathmandu with foothills in the background

Durbar Square, Kathmandu with foothills in the background

Posted by Rivercity 23:18 Archived in Nepal Comments (4)

To Kathmandu via Delhi

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Hello Again Readers!

We arrived in Delhi on Tuesday morning after a long 33 hour, 2184km train ride from Chennai. Surprisingly, it wasn't that gruelling and we had a fairly comfortable journey which went right through the heart of India. Amazingly, the train departed Chennai on time and arrived in Delhi bang on time as well! There can be no excuses for a UK train to be late again!

We're staying in the Main Bazaar area of Paharganj which is a bustling street where you can buy just about anything for a "cheap price". It's not the safest place in the world but it's not that dangerous either - we quite like it. Our accommodation is acceptable and it's only 500rps per night (80rps to the pound) and we have free wi-fi so cannot complain. There are lots of cafes, restaurants and bars where the typical fare is butter chicken or chicken tikka which goes down really well with a butter naan bread.

Main Bazaar, Paharganj, Delhi

Main Bazaar, Paharganj, Delhi

We've managed to explore a fair bit of Delhi and have been pleasantly surprised at what an enjoyable city it is. The highlights have been The Red Fort and Humayun's Tomb. As luck would have it, because The Red Fort is a world heritage site and it was World Heritage Day on Wednesday, admission was free when we visited. It's usually 250rps.

The fort was Shah Jahan's residence (or palace, not sure which) when the Mughal's were in power. Shah Jahan is responsible for the building of the Taj Mahal and Old Delhi was once known as Shahjahanabad.

The Red Fort, Old Delhi

The Red Fort, Old Delhi

In the last couple of days we have ventured onto the new(ish) Metro system; Delhi's equivalent to the London Underground. It's a lot more straightforward to understand than the tube and is cleaner/cheaper etc. and is an excellent way to get around the city. Today, we went to see some tombs in South Delhi (near the racecourse). Unfortunately we missed the racing as it was on Friday. Maybe next time we're here.

The most historically important tomb we saw was Humayun's Tomb, another World Heritage Site and a pre-cursor to the Taj Mahal. This time we had to pay to get in which, again, was 250rps for foreigners. Admission for Indians is 10rps so it's 25 times as much for us. Still, we can't complain as it was well worth it. It's an amazing monument where some 100 people have been entombed. If you ever to happen to be in Delhi, the fort and this tomb would be the must-see sites to visit.

Humayun's Tomb, Delhi

Humayun's Tomb, Delhi

All in all, we've has the most shaandar (amazing) time here and am looking forward to passing through again.

A couple of days ago we took the decision to fly to Kathmandu rather than going by train and bus. It will save a huge amount of time and hassle and we will arrive in Kathmandu in much better condition ready for our trek into Sagarmartha National Park where Mount Everest is situated. So, tomorrow morning we fly from Delhi to Kathmandu. Very excited!

Oh yes, and just when we thought the cricket was over, the country is currently firmly in the grip of IPL fever (Indian Premier League T20 for those not in the know) so we just had to go and watch The Delhi Daredevils play Deccan Chargers on Thursday. Kevin Pietersen scored a superb century and, as the Indian's are mad for T20, the atmosphere was electric. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take our camera in so we have no pictures so here's one of the Delhi Stock Exchange instead!

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We'll post another update when we arrive in Nepal with some details of our trek.

Bye-bye for now x

Posted by Rivercity 09:51 Archived in India Comments (0)

Goodbye Sri Lanka, Hello India

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Vanakkam Everyone!

Right, the cricket's over until late September (T20 World Cup back in Sri Lanka) and four test matches in India in November/December. Surprisingly, they have already announced the venues (Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad & Nagpur) but as our experience from last year testifies, these are highly subject to change......time to get back to writing a travel blog and not reporting on sport!

Sri Lanka was superb. We loved it. It's a fantastic country and we have a feeling we will be going back there before our trip is finished as we didn't see a huge amount and would definately like to visit the hill country in and around Kandy. The Sri Lankan people are really friendly and helpful and whilst it's a poor country, it's not as obvious as it is in India. We didn't see anyone relieving themselves in the street, for example, and begging was a rarity.

We had a brilliant time at the last day of the test match. The tickets we were given were right next to the England camp. There were jubilant scenes at the ground as England won the match easily to draw the series and retain their No.1 status. Teresa was given an England hat by Monty Panesar and in the evening we went to the team hotel and got it signed by most of the players. We're turning into cricket groupies! How sad!

Teresa with Matty Prior, England Wicketkeeper

Teresa with Matty Prior, England Wicketkeeper

Last Sunday, we travelled to Chennai on what was a quite unpleasant flight with some scary turbulence early on. However, we landed safely and took a couple of buses to Mahabalipuram (about 55km south of Chennai and the town we spent a week in last time we were here). After Sri Lanka (which was effing hot), India seemed a little bit cooler which is quite unusual for this time of the year.

We were quite spoilt in Sri Lanka as we had free wi-fi in both the places we stayed at. It's a lot harder to find wi-fi in India and it certainly doesn't come free. Blog entries will probably be less frequent as a result.

On Wednesday we went to a town called Kanchipuram to look at some temples. The bus ride there was bone-shaking to say the least. The driver was completely gung-ho and wasn't going to slow down for such things as speed humps or corners. A couple of times it felt like the bus would roll over and we considered getting off but in the end we stuck it out and arrived at our destination. The return journey was fine. At one point, we counted around 100 people on the bus! It was probably more like 80 but that's still a lot of people crammed into one bus!

Nothing much to report from Kanchipuram - a fairly typical Indian town but we did see one impressive temple. In 1979, 10 million people arrived there to celebrate a happening that takes place once every 40 years. It would be quite a thing to visit it in 2019 when the next one takes place.

Mandapam at Devarajaswami Temple, Kanchipuram where every 40 years they drain the water revealing a huge statue of Vishnu

Mandapam at Devarajaswami Temple, Kanchipuram where every 40 years they drain the water revealing a huge statue of Vishnu

When we got back to the hotel, we put the TV on and the news programmes were reporting an earthquake in Indonesia with aftershocks being felt in Chennai. Tsunami warnings were issued but later withdrawn but it looked pretty chaotic in Chennai. It's definately something to be wary of when staying in south-east India, Sri Lanka or south-east Asia.

Tomorrow, we board the Tamil Nadu Express train for the mammoth journey from Chennai to Delhi, a trip of around 2000km. It will take around 33 hours but we're quite happy as we're getting two nights accommodation as well!

We will spend two or three days in Delhi before heading overland to Kathmandu in Nepal for our rather optimistic attempt to reach Everest Base Camp. Our objective is probably a bit fanciful but we'll be delighted if we get as far as to see the mountain from afar. There will also be other amazing peaks to look at on the way such as Ama Dablam

Posted by Rivercity 07:44 Archived in India Comments (6)

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