Saturday, December 31, 2011

Most popular.

Going through my stats the two most popular entries for this blog are my hike around the Annapurna Circuit and the fake Starbucks in Lukla.
See what you think.

Friday, November 04, 2011

A week in Wellsford.

I am about to pack and drive to Wellsford a small rural town between Auckland and Whangarei. A friend of mine, Dave, has a small farm there and he and I will be looking after Daniel and his sister Laura for at least the next four days but it could quite possibly stretch into the rest of the week. I'll try to make some updates from live on the farm but as there are actually neither Internet nor cellphone connections out there it will probably be a haphazard affair.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Back home.

On Tuesday morning I started my long track back to NZ. First stop Kathmandu airport and while check-in when smooth enough the immigration queue didn't move along at all. So I wandered up to the front of the line and fair enough there was no one actually there to stamp the passports, apparently he had gone for a cup of tea. Ten minutes later a duly refreshed immigration officer showed up and started stamping passports. I decided I could do with a drink myself and headed for the coffee shop. These guys actually have proper equipment and extract a nice cup.
As a last wave to the chaos in Kathmandu the plane left an hour late which gave me all of twenty minutes to run from one side of Bangkok airport to the other to make my connection but I got there, and when I arrived in Auckland to my even greater supprise my luggage had made it to. My backpack was the first piece of luggage on the belt.
I was less amused when I had to wait five hours for my connecting flight North but thems the breaks.
Great to see my parents again at the end of a long journey.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fake Starbucks

A few months ago I put up some pictures of a fake Apple store in Kunming but when I came through Lukla the other day I got reminded that they actually have their own claim to fake fame, a fake Starbucks. The signs and logo are there, it has wicker chairs inside and the coffee and cakes are nice.
I reckon they should start a franchise.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Everest Trek - Day 29 Lukla to Kathmandu

The chaos was as per normal with tour guides and aggressive trekkers (me) fighting at the check in counter then having a good laugh about it afterwards. The planes came in on time and after a hectic thirty minutes of planes landing and taking off everybody was on their way to Kathmandu. The flight itself was uneventful with good views over all the hills that I had spend weeks walking over and at nine o'clock I was back in the Kathmandu Garden House.
Good to be back.

Everest Trek - Day 28 Phakding to Lukla

What i thought was going to be an easy couple of hours walk turned into a bit of an adventure. The earthquake a few weeks ago has caused a number landslides on this section of the trail and has taken out someones house as well as badly damaged one of the main suspension bridges. To get across the ravine that the bridge spanned, caused by a previous landslide, you have to climb up steeply on one side then cross at the top of the slide on a path no wider then your boots while holding some tree roots and not trying to think of the two hundred meter drop below you.
All in all rather eventful.

Landslide in Phakding, most of the buildings on the photos are lodges rather then private dwellings.

A plea for help.

The main bridge to Lukla, or what's left of it.

Everest Trek - Day 27 Namche Bazaar to Phakding

I took a leisurely stroll down Namche hill, cursing the yak trains under my breath. Then had lunch in Jorsale before walking down to Phakding. Not exactly a strenuous day.

A glimpse of Mount Everest from halfway up Namche hill.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Everest Trek - Day 26 Rest day in Namche Bazaar

As the title says a rest day and I did sweet nothing all day long.

Everest Trek - Day 25 Phortse Thenga to Namche Bazaar

I thought that I had gained a bit of fitness but the climb from Phortse Thenga up to Mong still takes a fair bit of effort. Never mind I get there and the walk back down goes quickly enough. Again there are a large number of trekking groups to contend with. In Namche I check back into the Khumbu lodge and arrange a ticket from Lukla to Kathmandu for 4 days from now.

Everest trek - Day 24 Machermo to Phortse Thenga

I walked non stop from Machermo to Phortse Thenga without stopping for so much as a cup of tea. The fact that it's all down hill obviously helped. There is still plenty to see with nice mountain views and beautiful waterfalls, which are really hard to photograph because they are so high. What also is obvious is that the high season has started with lots of people on the trail and several large trekking groups making their way slowly uphill. Shortly after I arrive at my lodge a group from World Expeditions arrive they are tired but talkative and we have a pleasant afternoon together.

Another intermission

I finally got a good night's sleep last night. After watching the Australia vs Wales match I went for a wander up the street and found a dusty hole in the wall drug seller that had Diazepam (Valium) for sale. I got a strip of ten 10 milligram tablets for a dollar and took one last night. Result, great night's sleep!
Tomorrow I will try to post some further updates on my Everest hike but today I am looking for souvenirs as I will be flying back home next Tuesday.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Everest Trek - Day 23 Gokyo to Machermo

A glorious day of snow and sun.

Gokyo looking like a picture postcard alpine village.

Reflections in the second lake.

From the second lake looking towards Machermo.
After taking copious amounts of photos I decided to get out while the going is good, there is more snow forecast for the next week, and started breaking trail back towards Machermo. It's tough going and it actually takes me longer going down the mountain then it took me to get up.

Everest Trek - Day 22 Gokyo

It was snowing this morning when I got up, snowing when I had breakfast, snowing when I had lunch and still snowing when I had dinner. At least thirty centimeters has fallen so far and the lodge staff have been busy most of the day clearing it away from the roof to avoid collapse. And while snow is hardly uncommon out here it is unusual for it to fall this heavy and at this time of the year.

Unhappy Yak in the snow.

Snow clearing Nepalese style.

Everest Trek - Day 21 Gokyo

Slept a great deal better then last night and didn't get up till 7:30. That's downright late when you are hiking but as I will be staying for a few days in Gokyo that's OK.
Helen one of the doctors at the Machermo health post came in today she is doing the rounds of the lodges to spread the word on what's new for the season at the clinic and to hand out information packs that trekkers can read on the dangers of altitude sickness. You would have thought that after all these years of publication in guide books and general awareness amongst trekkers this wouldn't be necessary anymore but there isn't a single day that the rescue helicopter doesn't have to fly to pick up someone dying from going up to fast.
For exercise I walked up to the fourth lake but the weather has changed yet again and continuing rain and sleet eventually drove me back to the lodge. The outside temperature is just above freezing and that's around midday.

Gokyo as seen from the glacial moraine.

The Ngozumba glacier.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Everest Trek - Day 20 Gokyo

I slept badly, most likely because of the altitude and got up at 6:00 am. The sky is clear and there is a light dusting of snow that I decide to climb up Gokyo Ri. At almost 5500 meters this is one of the highest peaks in the area that you can walk up without having to resort to climbing equipment. As expected the views are stunning but even while I slog my way to the top the clouds are moving in and by 9:00 am it's hard to even see the valley below me.

Everest Trek - Day 19 Machermo to Gokyo

Another day, another change in the weather.
We all get up early and Michael, Werner and I are walking before seven in the morning. There are glorious views everywhere and I stop every few minutes to take photos.
It takes about three hours to walk up to Gokyo and we find rooms in the Gokyo Resort, the first lodge that was built here and probably the best of the bunch.

Yours truly at the first lake.

Some yaks parked up and ready to be unloaded. The shiny mirrors in the background are solar cookers.

Everest Trek - Day 18 Acclimatisation day in Machermo

Didn't do a great deal, other then reading and eating, but did manage to climb the ridge behind the village to a string of prayer flags.


OK I admit I have been rather slack in updating the blog or doing much else for that matter!
After returning to Kathmandu I have spend most of my time hanging around the Kathmandu Garden House, eating curry, and drinking beer. Any weight I lost during my walking has probably been regained by now. Never mind I promise to do better from now on, or at least for today. So expect me to post the missing Everest Trek blog entries over the next few days and generally be a little more active.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Everest Trek - Day 17 Dole to Machermo

What a difference a day makes. The weather has cleared and we got our first glimpses of the mountains. The walking was pleasant and we reached Machermo in under three hours including a stop for tea and plenty of stops for photos.
In the afternoon we all went over to get the altitude and AMS lecture and have our SATo2 measured, while far from definitive this gives a measure of how well you are acclimatised. I outscored everybody with 91%! Not that I was really surprised by this I have always done well at altitude but nice to know anyway.

Everest Trek - Day 16 Phortse Thenga to Dole

I was greeted by a dull and grey morning but it was dry and around eight thirty I started my walk to Dole. After a few minutes I ran into the medical team that is going to Machermo to open up the Aid post there for the trekking season. One of them I had met last year and another one was a Dutchwoman living in New Zealand. Small world.
The trek itself was short, only two hours, and with the low clouds not much reason to stop and look at the scenery. So now I am in a lodge again chatting with all and sundry and entertaining the owners young son who is busy playing with the paper airplane I folded for him.

Everest Trek - Day 15 Namche Bazaar to Phortse Thenga

I had only just gone to my room last night and was looking at some photos when everything started to shake. I've been in a few earthquakes before and this was obviously a big one so I jumped out of bed and braced myself under the doorway to the bathroom, The shaking seemed to go on for a long time but it was probably no more then a minute. In the aftermath everybody streamed outside not really a safe place either as all the buildings in Namche are two or three stories high, really close together, and made out of locally mined slate. We milled around a bit and even the elderly owner of the lodge said she had never experienced something like this before. The building was Ok although the kitchen and dining area were a mess and some of the water pipes had come apart. The only casualty of the quake that I could locate was an Englishman who had twisted his knee when he tried to run down the stairs. I gave him some of my Nurofen tablets which I carry around in bulk to treat my own knee problems. As there were no aftershocks we all went back inside after an hour or so but I did sleep fully clothed in case another tremor would hit.
In the morning after a not so good night's sleep I set out for Phortse Thenga and as everywhere in Nepal you start with climbing up. First to the top of Namche then to a small pass at Monjo just under 4000 meters in altitude. It was midday when I finally got there and had my usual lunch of vegetable noodle soup and a pot of tea. While I was having lunch the Danes came by, turned out they were suffering from knee problems as well and had decided to turn around from Dole and go back down probably all the way back to Kathmandu. They also wanted to get back to Namche to ring home and let their family know they were OK.
I dropped down the pass after lunch and an hour later was at my destination. Walking days are getting shorter now because of the altitude and tomorrow I expect to walk no more then three hours.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Everest Trek - Day 13 & 14 - Acclimitisation in Namche Bazaar

They are known as acclimatisation days, time to get used to the altitude, but in reality for me they are rest days with much sitting around drinking tea and eating some of the nice food that they have here. Potato and egg salad as well as salami pizza are high on my list after twelve days of dal bhat.
Tomorrow I will start trekking again up the valley to Gokyo and if I feel up to it crossing the Renjo La to Thame before returning Namche for a few rest days. We'll see how it works out but I expect to be out of contact for between ten days and a fortnight.

Everest Trek - Day 12 - Phakding to Namche Bazaar

The first part of the day is easy enough and the walk to the National Park entrance goes without a hitch and then it's the climb up the Namche hill. It's busy with lots of porters and it's bloody steep! I follow a porter who carries 8 cartons of beer or close enough to 96 kg and I can almost keep up with him. In the end it takes me several hours to get to the top of the hill but when I get there I find a room in the Khumbu Lodge have a nice hot shower and unleash my ravenous appetite on their menu. I'll be enjoying the next few days.

Everest Trek - Day 11 -Puiyan to Phakding

The rain has stopped and it's another glorious day for mountain walking. Up until lunch I am the only trekker around then I come around a Mani stone and all of a sudden I am on the main trail from Lukla to Namche, there are yak trains, trekking groups and porters everywhere and I am stunned by all this activity after ten days of being largely on my own.
The trail now heads for Phakding and a second surprise, there is quite a bit of damage from land slides, non of the lodges has been taken out as far as I can see but some of the larges land slides have come uncomfortably close. I decide that I'll pick a lodge away from the canyon wall and settle on one across the river and away from the land slide area.

Everest Trek - Day 10 - Bupsa to Puiyan

Turned out to be a pretty short walk today. The weather was nice enough when I set out but by the time I got to Puiyan, three hours later, it had started to rain and with no let up in sight I called it a day and spend the afternoon reading a book.

Everest Trek - Day 9 - Nuntala to Bupsa

It's a nice clear morning and I am heading for the low point of the trek. In a few hours I get to the Dudh Kosi and at this point and after climbing as high as 3500 meter a few days ago I am lower then where I started in Jiri. From now on it's uphill all the way to Everest.
I start climbing from the river towards the village of Chaurikharka and after an hour or so see a trail leading of in the fields, I am pretty sure that this is a shortcut around the next ridge so I start following it.
Six hours later having descended back to the river, crossed tracks no wider then my boots and at one stage having slid on my bum down a set of rocks with no footholds at all before climbing almost a kilometer back up I arrive in Bupsa, not much of a shortcut but I am back on correct trail.

Everest Trek - Day 8 - Junbesi to Nunthala

It rained all night but when I got up the weather was gorgeous. The trail largely follows the contours of a hillside and once you are out of the forest gives fantastic views of the valleys below. I am starting to feel a bit better about my hiking abilities each day and feel that I finally start to get in the swing of things. after an hour or two I get to the Everest view point that as the name indicates gives a view of the mountain. To see it however yo have to be there at sunrise and when I got there the monsoon clouds had well and truly covered the mountains. I also ran into the two Danish guys I ad met in Jiri and we followed each other down the hill to Ringmo where we had lunch. That was also the point where the weather turned and when we got going again it started first to drizzle and then to rain.
When I got to the top of the Trakshindo pass the sky cleared for me though and while here were no spectacular views at least I got to see the spectacle of a yak owner chasing his unwilling animal across the pass into the forest, back over the pass and finally down the trail. Not much you can do when half a tonne of angry animal doesn't want to listen to you. At hat moment the clouds rolled back in again and I spend the next few hours going down almost eight hundred meter to Nuntala. When I got there I was only fifteen minutes behind the Danes which pleased me greatly as they are less then half my age.

Everest Trek - Day 7 - Dagchu to Junbesi

Not a very good nights sleep but at least it wasn't cold. By 7 am I am walking again the mountain is still covered in fog and there is a light drizzle coming down, a small dog has decided to keep me company and is very persistently following me uphill. The trail is steep and quite scrappy in places with lots of boulders and uneven stones When I walk through the village of Lamjura the village dogs spot my companion and lay into him their is lots of flying fur and he scoots into someones house To my surprise the owner doesn't chase him out. I continue uphill, it is getting a bit cooler now and the rain a bit heavier so I don my rain coat and keep on moving. Three hours after leaving Dagchu I reach the pass of Lamjura La, the view is non existent so I don't linger and start the decent.
The way down is like a rocky river with boulders everywhere and different streams splitting of and then rejoining the main flow. The forest adds abit of gloom to the whole affair but apart from sliding around on the wet stones I don't come to any major harm. Just when the trail levels out and I exit the forest a real heavy downpour begins funnily enough of in the distance I can see the valley Junbesi is in ahead in bright sun shine. I keep on walking and a few minutes later the rain abates, another thirty minutes and I put my raincoat away, another thirty minutes after that I am in Jubesi having a cup of tea. All in all I have walked for six hours non stop and my knees feel a bit iffy from the steep down hill hopefully they are OK again tomorrow.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Everest Trek - Day 6 - Kinja to Dagchu

The only way is up!

I still have sore calf muscles but today is one of those days where there are no downhill stretches at all, It's cloudy but that makes for good walking weather and I set off with the intention of getting as close to the pass as I can. it takes me 4 hours of uphill scrambling and ever more frequent rest posts before I reach Sete.

This is a small vilage with a number of lodges and teashops. I spend almost an hour and a half here drinking tea, having lunch and resting up. Then I move on to Dagchu a series of lodges spread along the hillside around 2900 meters high. I have another cup of tea, look at all the clouds and decide to stay here. Good call its starts raining five minutes later.

Everest Trek - Day 5 - Rest day in Kinja

Had a great view of the mountains beyond the green valley that Kinja is in and a great reluctance to walk uphill again today so I called it a rest day and stayed put.

She cooked lots of nice things for me while I was in Kinja

Everest Trek - Day 4 - Deorali to Kinja

When I woke up it was dry and a beautifully clear sky with my first sight of a snow covvered peak in the distance. Time to get walking!

As expected the trail from the pass down to Bhandar was steep ans slippery but I got there without a hitch then after traversing the farms around this area and frequently asking for directions the trail dropped doen again crossed a river and stated contouring around the hills.

There are some really nice views here and the hillsides are dottedd with small villages. After a while the trail decends again and when I reach the valley floor I have come down over a kilometer from the top of the pass. From here on the trail is mostly level and five hours after leaving Deorali I enter Kinja.

Everest Trek - Day 3 - Shivalaya to Deorali

Got stopped while leaving Shivalaya this morning by a lovely young lady who wanted 2000 rupees for a new permit the government has instigated to celebrate Visit Nepal Year. I told her flat out I wouldn't be paying and would rather be going back to Jiri then being ambushed with extra charges during my trek. I think she quickly understood that I wasn't going to budge on this one and let me go. I am still pissed off about it while I am writing this.

The trek itself went largely as planned with a steep upward path right from the start, I wasn't going fast but was reasonably satisfied with my progress until ten minutes before I got to the pass at Deorali it started to rain and by the time I found shelter in one of the tea houses it absolutely poured down.

It never stopped raining and as I know the downhill section on the otherside is pretty steep I wasn't keen on trekking on in the rain so it was an easy decision to call it a day, grab a room and roll out my sleeping bag.

Everest trek - Day 2 - Jiri to Shivalaya

A goodnight's sleep the first really cool nights in over three months. The two Danish guys that were in the lodge last night were feeling a bit under the weather and decided to stay for another day in Jiri. Not an auspicious way to start their trek.

Just after eight I put my pack on and headed out of the gate it felt pretty good to be on the trail again. The route is quite indistinct in places but there are plenty of locals to ask and I make my way steadily upwards. After another hour I am still making my way upwards but less steadily and after three hours I am starting to really slow down and taking lots of rest breaks. Eventually I crest the ridge though and stride into Mali a village of five houses or so but most importantly a teashop!

After tea and a rest I get back on the trail it plunges down the side of the ridge on a jumble of rocks and slippery clay. I have never been a very comfortable downhill walker so I take it very easy indeed and after an hour and a half I reach the valley bottom and Shivalaya my destination for today. It has taken me almost 50% longer then the guidebook's recommended "slow" time. Never mind I am here and I made it in one piece and without any drama. Tomorrow I should be just that little bit fitter.