The trek to Gokyo has been a great success. The weather has been terrific everyday with great views and just the sort of right weather to trek in ,neither to hot nor to cold. As a matter of fact the temperature never dropped below freezing even in Gokyo during the night. From Namche bazaar the increase in altitude is sharp but the walking itself quite short, and while I am going quite slow these days, I like to blame residual injury but it's probably more like lack of fitness, I still can leave late in the morning and still get at my next destination well before the end of the day. The knees have been holding up well although especcially on the way back when there are days that you go down over a thousand meters they did complain a bit. All in all a very pleasant way of recuperating and assuring myself I can still cut it at altitude when it counts.
Just a quick update on my trek so far. The flight to Lukla was better then last time but still pretty exiting all the same. After arrival there I walked to Phakding a three hour largely undulating stretch without any serious climbs and you guessed it I was exhausted. The next day I made my way uphill to Monjo where the entrance to the National Park is and then walked a little further to Jorsalle where I stayed for the rest of the day. I must say I was starting to feel better already. On day three I did the climb to Namche Bazaar, three hours of unrelenting uphill slog. While it sounds like hard work, and it is, the views were spectacular with snow capped peaks, including Mount Everest whenever you looked up. The last few days I have been here in Namche and doing some acclimatisation walks and tomorrow I'll be off in the direction of Gokyo that I dont expect to post any further updates for the next week to ten days.
In spite of the strike I have already managed to get a trekking permit, TIMS card and cash from the bank to go trekking. I got my airline ticket this morning and I'll be off on Monday to Lukla and then very slowly towards Gokyo. Hopefully I have a better flight then last time. As I still suffer daily from sore knees it is my intention to use 3 days rather then the usual 2 from Lukla to Namche Bazaar, then stay for at least 3 nights in Namche to acclimatize before taking 4 to 5 days to walk to Gokyo. I'll then stay there for a few days while making day trips to the lakes and glaciers that dot the landscape in this area. After that time and state of my body permitting I will walk back to Lukla and fly to Kathmandu or spend an extra week walking to Jiri and take the bus from there to the capital. Either way I have to be back by the end of May to extend my visa or leave the country for Tibet or India.
The strike to end all strikes has ended with a whimper. Comrade Prachanda and his merry men have decided to end the strike for the good of the proletariat, and pursue other "peaceful" action to overthrow the government. It was quite clear to most of us that the Communists weren't getting any traction and in fact the citizens of Kathmandu were more then fed up with the whole situation. (For those that aren't familiar with strikes in this part of the world. Participation is mandatory, and those that open their shop or drive a vehicle can expect to be beaten up by strike enforcers.)
The Communists are still doing their level best to overthrow the government but so far without much luck. And while they are succeeding in ruining the economy even further,if that is at all possible, the nett effect of their actions so far has been annoyance rather then hardship. Shops and restaurants are closed, there is no public transport and the ATM's have ran out of of money and while I have gotten a few walks around town and out to Swayambutnath in a lot of my time right now is spent sitting in the hotel garden drinking coffee.
" Thanks to the UCPN (Maoist) indefinite strike since May 2, consumers across the country are enjoying uninterrupted power supply." According to the headline article in the Kathmandu Post. The idea being that as business and industry comes to a grinding halt there would be enough power for regular households. Needless to say we had NO power for the next twenty hours.
My original plan was to travel to Thailand and then on to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and China. However protests in Thailand that seemed to get more violent by the day made me change my mind at the last minute and fly to Nepal instead. Funnily enough that meant I still had to fly to Bangkok and stay there for the night before flying to Kathmandu. As it turned out apart from a few extra soldiers at the airport lazing about with their guns and riot shields stacked in a corner there were no signs of impending doom and my hotel fifteen minutes down the road was undefended. Never mind I just dropped my luggage, swallowed a sleeping tab and slept till the next Morning. Then it was on to Kathmandu where things are rather more askew. I was greeted at the airport by nothing really. There is currently a general strike enforced by the communists and nothing is moving. After sizing up the situation I started a conversation with a driver from an official looking vehicle and indeed it turned out he had just dropped of some UN personnel and was willing, for a small fee, to take take as far as the royal palace which is only a five minute walk from my hotel. So there I went happily being waved on by the protesters.