Today was another rest day. As it was a rest day, we started to scale Nankar Tshang ,a mountain next to Dingbuche. We got up to about 5000 meters, (The peak was at 5083m) before our lack of planning and Diamox in our system enouraged us to turn back. We should have taken gloves and our down feather jackets ~ we knew better from Gokyo Ri. Kempy went up in shorts and a T-shirt, so I was impressed with how war he pushed it in the freezing cold and thin air. Tonight we’ll resume our Diamox diet for the rest of the trip. Tomorrow Lobuche, the day after Gorarkshep and Kala Patthar (from were we can hopefully see everest!) at 5540m, which will be the highest point of our trip. The day after: Base camp. We also appear to be a day ahead of schedule somehow. Oh, and the Kindle ran out of battery today, and I appear to have left the charging cable in Kathmandu with the gear we didn’t take. Ah well 😀 I’ve found myself quite fond of two local drinks: Bournvita – some sort of hot chocolate type drink and Milk tea: I think it’s just black tea with condensed milk and a touch of sugar. If I were to do this sort of trip again, there’s a couple of things I’d do differently, and a couple of things I’d take: * Air freshener for the dirty clothes bag * Box of Hygenic wipes for shower replacement * Solar USB charger Buying a quality sleeping bag that doesn’t make me sweat like crazy would also be a good idea. The hired ones keep me warm, but they don’t breathe at all. I’ve got no idea how much it’d cost, but it’d be cool to have a O2 saturation and heartbeat monitor. Finally a quality beanie. Anything’s better than nothing, but the promotional citrix one I have is not ideal. For water purification, a steripen and a large bottle to sterilize the water in. This would prevent us from using countless plastic bottles and is probably my biggest regret about not planning ahead enough for this trip. Sneakers, rather than flip-flops, for walking in something else than boots for a while at hostels, to give the boots a chance to air out. A hanky for each day or two of travel would also be a good idea.
Today there’s a festival in Kathmandu and a public holiday back home. For us it was a normal start, but thanks to yesterdays long walk my legs refused to walk anything but ponderously slow. I did sleep well though, waking up on my own at 6:45am. The walk wasn’t really that hard today, but I definitely felt the weight of my bag. When we arrived at Dingbuche, I stretched out in the sun a bit, which was lovely but earned me a slight sunburn on the face. Kempy washed his T-shirt in some ‘warm’ water, which we both presume meant ‘not frozen’. Lunch prompted me to have a snooze while Ryan started another book on my Kindle. Oh, and we finally slaughtered a metwurst and some gummi-bears. Made for a nice snack and I felt significantly re-energized.
Today was a long and hard day of walking. We started with breakfast (French toast and Milk tea, yum!) and left by 8am. Our itinary would have us going past Nha and to Phorche via a different path, but due to a washed out bride, we returned the same way we came (via Dolay), which is a 12-ish km trip, where the first 6 were steeply down, and the next 6 steeply up. Overall we still lost about 600m, and I can feel the difference in my breathing. Oh, and there were stairs. Sooo many stairs…. -_- I’m still quite happily carrying my own 12kg-ish backpack though. The med kit and metwurst have been placed into Kempys Duffel bag, which the porter carries. My backpack is now 12kg +/- 3kg depending on how much water I carry on a given day. We had an excellent lunch at Phorche (3810m) which was unfortunately spoilt a bit by the arrival of the noisy group of yanks from Gokyo. On the way from Phorche to Pangbouche we also got to see some roadworks. Instead of a jackhammer, a chisel is hammered through a piece of wood. It’s then held in place by the handle over a large rock. Another worker then hits it with a sledge hammer. Oh, and we had our path blocked by some yak along the way. But our guide simply whistled until they got of the track. Well trained yak! We arrived in Pangbouche exhausted, but went for a bit of an explore around after settling into our room. I found me a replacement bracelet, for 350R (around AU$4) so it was cheap too! Tomorrow we keep going to Dingboche, (4285m) where we’ll have another rest day to acclimatize. Our guide mentioned that on the rest day we’ll probably check out Nangkar Tshang (5083m). That is to say, acclimatize by climbing a 700-ish meter mountain… As we’ve dropped a bit in altitude, I’m hoping to sleep extremely well tonight.
As predicted, the day started extremely early. We got up at 4 am into the freezing cold and dark. I carried only my daypack, with some water and a wet-weather jacket in it. I wore 3 layers of jumpers and my down jacket, two layers of warm socks and my trekking pants. A beanie, head torch and trekking sticks (invaluable for trekking in the dark!) completed my outfit. If it wasn’t for our guide I’d have lost the path on the way up. It was a hard slog, but I coped batter with this one than Kempy. So I went last and walked at his pace. Being just a touch slower than my own made it quite plesant for me, though he was cursing and swearing. About 1/2 way up the mountain (a bit over an hour walking up a 30-45 degree incline) it started to become light. While there was no cloud in sight before ( you could see all the stars over the mountains!!) the mountains got a bit shy in the light and covered up in clouds. I put away my sticks and started taking photos anyway. Eventually we made it to the top. Oh my, what a view! Even cloudy, it was spectacular. We were the first there, but were soon joined by a group of noisy older yanks. I explored the ridge a bit further away from them and their noise, only to have an old guy follow me to piss of the edge. I kept going to the very far side of the ridge (which I was later told isn’t very stable…) and took some photos and video, hopefully far enough away from them that they couldn’t be heard too much in the recording. When I returned to Kempy and the Guide we took some photos of ourselves and then headed back down. The trip down was easier, but harder on my knees, which made me extra cautious and slow. A spot of breakfast later (I had the most fantastic plate-sized hash brown with egg and cheese!) we packed up and headed out. We were going to go back to Dolay, but we only made it to Machherma before our guide succumbed to a massive headache. No issue for us though, the people here are lovely and the food is fantastic! The 4 am start left me a bit weary, so I slept for a few hours while Ryan read my kindle. It sustained a scratch in the last few days of travel unfortunately… I should have bought a cover for it! 🙁 Anyway, I awoke to some Noisy chinese neighbours moving in for the night, had dinner and went back to sleep not long after.
We started at a reasonably normal time, and headed off towards Gokyo. The walk was extremely scenic and I kept stopping for photos. Kempy was a bit sore from his game of soccer yesterday too, so we took it slow. Even though, we only took around 3 hours to walk the distance. Amongst other things I saw a cute little critter which I think is a pika (
Today was another scheduled rest day to allow us to acclimatize. Nelly and Travis wanted to head out early, but Nelly caught a bit of a cold overnight, which delayed them a bit. We shared breakfast and gave them some metwurst as a parting gift (yes, I over-prepared, we had waaaay too much of the stuff!) Our guide soon took us on a short trip onto the ridge of the mountain vally. Beautiful views, but Kempy also insisted we go high enough so he could play with some snow. When we finally got high enough, I turned to take pictures of the view and promptly got hit in the backpack with a snowball…. but being on the edge of a cliff I thought it prudent not to retaliate. Kempy quickly started building a snowman. Once his artistic flare had run its course, and we’d documented it with photographs, we headed back down. I read for a while and Kempy puzzled over some soduku. At about 14:30 we decided to go over to the local medic station and hear their talk about AMS. Most of the information I already knew, but I also learned some interesting bits and pieces. There’s actually 3 types of Altitude sickness: AMS, HAPE and HACE. AMS (accute mountain sickness) is your most standard altitude sickness. It essentially makes you feel hungover and only requires rest (in the early stages) to settle down. HAPE (High altitude pulmonary edema) causes issues breathing, especially when lying down. It requires immediate decent and treatment, and is essentially fluid in the lungs. HACE (High altitude Cerebral Edema) makes you seem drunk, and much like HAPE requires immediate decent and treatment. Victims of HACE often have very impaired decision making. While most of the time all of these are precoursed by very light AMS (tiredness, lack of energy, headaches, loss of appetite, vomiting) both HACE and HAPE can happen without warning. Scary stuff, but good to know. Diamox is a bit of a wonder drug for all kinds of altitude sickness, especially as a preventative. It’s also really good to help sleep more deeply ~ one of the biggest symptoms of altitude sickness is not being able to sleep deeply due to the lack of oxygen. Half a tablet of Diamox with dinner fixes this for most people. Of course, diamox does have some side effects: Mostly pins and needles in the fingers, feet or on the scalp, but also not being able to taste carbonisation in beverages. I paid 100R to get a O2 saturation test, which is at 84% and my resting heart rate is 72 bpm. When we returned I read some more while Ryan played soccer with the locals. I showed our guide some basics of the Ambitious card routine too. All in all a fun, informative and relaxing rest day.
At Breakfast we met up with Travis and Nelli again. They used our porter to carry Nellys gear from the last stretch to Dolay, and our porter was happy to oblige and make an extra US$15 for the day. The same went for today. It was absolutely freezing, so we pulled out a jumper for the walk. Once we got going, Kempy quickly removed his, though I was still comfortable in mine. As always so far, the hardest bits were at teh beginning and end of the day – Steepest at the beginning and least air in the end. In Nepal everyone always says ‘Slowly, Slowly’. Luckily for us our guide doesn’t. He’ll walk at a good pace and only slow or stop when we fall behind too far – a system that works brilliantly for Kempy and I. Today, though, we got stuck behind a group of swiss tourists doing it ‘slowly, slowly’. I was /cold/. Luckily our guide saw an opportunity to overtake and took it. We arrived at Machherma for lunch and Travis and Nelly joined us not long after. Here I had my first truly bad tea. The mint tea tasted like it was made of dirt. So much that I let it cool before puring it out. Luckily the weather favoured us and we had the tea outside – I’d have hated to let a full cup of tea go back. After another delicious lunch, we noticed a ball on the wall (in a net) and asked if we could have a kick of it in the front yard. We were allowed to and played hard for a good 3 minutes before being exhausted and needing a break. Several minutes later we resumed until we lost our breath again… I think we lasted nearly 10 minutes this time by pacing ourselves a bit more 😉 After the strenuous ball game we sat around and chatted for a bit and the others had a beer. When the sun hid behind the clouds it got cold real quick which made us retreat inside. Nelly and Travis bouthgt some chips and Kempy and I cracked out some metwurst to share. We chatted for a bit longer before settling in to read a bit. Eventually it got cold inside too, and the innkeepers tried to get a fire going in the common rooms pot belly oven. An hour of mucking around with it by Kempy, myself and the innkeepers it got going. They used a hand-cranked blower and a lot of kerosene to get it started, but once it was going it was faboulously warm. At some point we gave our dinner order and I purchased another deck of cards (local ones!) and did my best to recall the rules of canasta. We played an open hand before dinner, and a proper game after another delicious meal. Nelly and I got to 4750 of 5000 points and we decided to call it a night. I settled in to sleep while Kempy read on the kindle for a few more hours.
After some breakfast and repacking we left Namche Bazar around 8 am. Along the way we got to another town at about 4000m, and our guide asked us how we felt. Neither of us had any issues with the altitude there and we were both feeling like we could deal with a longer walk to make up for the lost day yesterday. So we decided to move on to Phortse Tenga for lunch, but then keep going to Dolay. We had some interesting water crossings to make today, thanks to the downpours yesterday. One staircase was pretty well under a waterfall. Several parts of the path had rivers running over them. And there were herds of Yak being herded along the path which we had to make room for and wait to pass. Still, with a decent walking speed we got to Phortse Tenga by about 11:30 for lunch. I had a nice fried rice, but Kempy had Bok-choy noodles with egg. These turned out to be 2 minute noodles, deep-fried, with a couple of leaves of bok-choy and an omlette on top. It may also have had some yak cheese in it which Kempy appears to dislike. All in all a bad meal with too much grease which made him feel a bit queezy all afternoon. Another two hours of (mostly upwards) hiking and we got to Dolay. Here the lodge we are staying at was pretty much full – only downstairs rooms, normally for guides and porters, remained. So we’re in a quaint, all be it noisy, room. In the common room we met a couple we’d bumped into on the way already – Travis from Darwin and Nelly from France. We chatted for hours and over dinner. Travis bought Nelly a birthday pancake with honey, which we shared with them. They’re traveling on their own, for 6 weeks, around Nepal. Nelly was feeling the AMS a bit so we gave them some of our massive store of Diamox which seemed to improve her a bit. At some point the conversation turned to cards and I spent the next hour or so doing card tricks, much to the entertainment of some of the locals and our porter. This post is a bit out of order, but I had to describe my dinner too: At Travis and Nellys recommendation, I tried the vegetable spring roll… Well, it was essentially spring roll ingredients wrapped in some home-made dough, in a pasty kind of shape. It was both different and delicious. Eventually it got lateish and we retreated to bed. It’s cold here, so for the first time the sleeping bag doesn’t feel too warm and sweaty, but rather comfortably toasty.
Today it rained. Not ‘a little bit of a drizzle’ style rain that one can laugh off back home, but the torrential downpour type. The rain had started late last night, and kept going all night. The streets were so flooded it would have been dangerous to walk anywhere in this city of Stairs. Some trekkers without guides tried, but after 45 minutes or hiking in the rain uphill, found paths that were litererally impossible to cross. They had no choice but to turn around and hike back to Namche. That would have been very wet, slow going and frustrating, so I think our guide made the right call to stay! Kempy spent the day pacing the building like a caged tiger and trying some harder soduku, while I just curled up in bed reading the latest game of thrones book. In the evening the rain started to cease a little and we explored some pubs. In one we met some canadian trekkers briefly (Chris and Kevin) and had a game of pool on a pretty bad pool table. Ryan had his first scotch and coke and we played a round of pool regardless of the table. Eventually we returned to the lodge for some sleep.
We rose reasonably early, and besides an earache I felt fine. We had a light breakfast and headed for Hotel Everest ~ apparently the fanciest hotel on the trek ~ and were greeted by dense clouds and some rain. The trek up to Hotel everest was 400ish meters of stairs. I only took my daypack for this round trip and I found I could hardly breathe at some points. But I made it none-the-less, all be it slowly. We decided to skip exploring the surrounding villages as the rain was getting worse and the cloud so dense we could hardly see 20m in front of us. We returned to a different lodge for lunch, where Kempy had his first bad meal ~ turns out ‘Yak cheese’ on lasangae tastes somewhat like vomit. As my stomach was still recovering I played it safe with some stir-fried rice which was plain but edible. Still couldn’t finish it though. After lunch we went shopping ~ bought me an ear-warmer and some postcards. We bumped into a couple of hikers we’d met on the way up and heard about a bomb threat at Kathmandu airport and a plane-crash (19 dead) on a mountain flight. This prompted me to spend an our at the internet cafe, update this journal and send my family a ‘we’re fine’ email. Now Kempy is reading on my kindle and I’ve written a bunch of postcards. Should be dinner time soon, then sleep!