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.

Everest trek - Day 1 - Kathmandu to Jiri

I got up at six had a shower and headed for the bus station. The walk takes about twenty minutes and i was suprised how many people were already out and about. Admittingly that says more about me then about them but I figured I metion it anyway.

After the usual confusion at the bus station I found the "Micro Bus" or what we would call a Van that is to take me and sixteen others to Jiri. I am the only back packer.

After being serenanded by a duo of buskers we are off right on time. And while all seats are taken they dont try to fit any extras on board so we make good time and within half an hour we are going through Bhaktapur, heading for Dhuklikhel and the valley rim this is also where the first of many police checkpoints is but after a cursory glance we get waved on. The road deteriorates rapidly from this point onwards with large pot holes and land slides taking out whole sections at a time.

Two and a half hours into the trip we cross the Bhote Kosi and start heading up the switch backs to Jiri. This road is basically single lane with some pasing bays and for the next 110 kilometers we have to negotiate with traffic coming from the opposite direction on who has right of way.

Finally five and a half hours into the journey we reach the top of the pass andhere at over 2500 meters high we stop for lunch. Everybody heads for the Dal Bhat shop and has their fill then twenty minutes later we are on the move again. The us driver now has to negotiate a number of washed out bridges and while its a slow process all goes well until a rain storm suddenly hits us and the small creeks we were crossing turn into large muddy torrents. At one of them he hesitates has another look then plunges in and I can feel the water pushing the van, I have my hand on the door handle ready to bail out but he regains control and we continue on our way. Ten minutes later it is dry again.

And then finally we arrive in Jiri an old fellow gives me the card for his hotel and ten mintes later I have a room and a pot of lemon tea. Tomorrow the real hike starts.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Everest Trek

(The Kathmandu to Namche Bazaar section)

Tomorrow I will be off to Jiri by local bus, a ride I am dreading, as even when I was twenty years younger it was one hell of an uncomfortable ride. It is however the only way, short of hiring a taxi for around $150, to get there.
Jiri is an alternative starting point for the Everest trek and used mainly by those with time on their hands as it adds about a week to the trek each way and is considered hard going. The road officially goes as far as Shivalaya but I have been reliably informed that a landslide has taken care of the section beyond Jiri so that's as far as the bus will go. From Jiri it will be shanks pony all the way.
The trail goes against the grain of the land so every day you are either going up a ridge or down one the other side. On day 4 you cross the Lamjura pass at 3530 meters before descending to the Ringmo Khola a thousand meters lower. The next day you go back up to 3071 mtrs at Trakshindo La. Then it's down a long way to 1400 mtrs at the Dudh Kosi. At that point you are 400 meters lower then at the start of the trek in Jiri! From here the trail is going more up then down and the next few days hover between 2000 and 3000 meter before the push up to Namche Bazaar at 3480 meter. By this time I should be well and truly fit enough to tackle the trail to Everest base camp and Kalar Patar.

I know it's a crappy picture but it gives a good overview of the ups and downs of the trek.


A stay in Kathmandu is not complete if you haven't been to Swayambodnath. the monkey temple. One of the nice things about this place that there is always something new to see and of course there are the monkeys.

A resident monkey.

A resident Buddha.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Trekking permit and TIMS card

I walked to the Tourism Office this morning to get my trekking permit (1000 rupees) and my TIMS card (1500 rupees). The cost for the trekking permit is meant to go to the maintenance of the Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park. The TIMS fee is just a rip off concocted by the Thamel Trekking Agencies to persuade you to go trekking with them rather then independently. Never mind I'll get over it.
On the way over to the Tourist Office I took some photos of the goings on along the road. Hope you like them.

Suspicious stall holder.

Sidewalk saleswoman.

Ambulant vegetable vendor.

Homeless woman sleeping in a doorway.

Visit Nepal Year

From the moment you land it's clear that you are in Nepal. Kathmandu airport has no air-bridges so you have to come down the stairs. However since my last visit it has been decided by the powers that be that rather then walk from the aircraft to the terminal you have to go by bus. So the first thirty people get of the plane and on the bus, the bus drives fifty meters to the terminal building and unloads everyone again, then it drives back and picks up the next thirty people. It takes a while to disembark a plane load of passengers this way.
The next act gets underway when everyone lines up to buy their visa. The young Spanish couple behind me try to pay for their Nepali Visa in Nepali Rupees. No luck.
"Sorry we only accept Euros or US dollars"
"You don't accept your own currency?"
Embarrassed looking guy behind the counter,
"Please change your money at the bank over there"
he points at exchange window.
When I get down to the baggage collection area I still have to wait another ten minutes for my luggage. Luggage handling is done manually here.
The taxi to the hotel looks like it was recycled after the it got hit by bomb and the driver charges a premium because there is a festival and the direct road from the Airport to town is blocked by people going to the Pasupatinath temple.
When I finally sit down in the hotel and ask Yves what the government has done for Visit Nepal Year he deadpans "They raised the prices".