So now that I’ve finished the whole sequence I figured I’d post the whole listing here on one page in order, it will make it easier for people finding it for the first time to access, enjoy:
Posts Tagged ‘lukla’
Tags: breschears, cho oyu, everest, everest base camp, gokyo, gompa, gorak shep, kathmandu, khumjung, life, lukla, mong la, namche, nepal, renjo la, sherpa, thamel, trek, trekking, yeti
Tags: everest, gomap, gorak shep, life, lukla, namche, nepal, steve, trek, trekking
It’s funny in writing something like this, trying to remember everything, even with journal notes, things come to you later, you realize you didn’t get in pictures that you like. You can never catch the feeling or the depth of the friendships that can be created so quickly. One person whose image hasn’t appeared is our friend Steve. Steve of course is not her given name, being born a woman in Hungary and all, but she is Steve, first a picture of my friend Steve:
And now a video to show you what the whole Steve thing is about:
Steve is a truly amazing woman, this was her second trek and she was a zen-like trekker, calm quiet, Steve took everything in her own time. Not to mention that she was fascinating to talk to and was being tracked and protected by the Hungarian Secret Service, at least that was the joke. We kid her a lot that they had her on satellite imagery at all times, and then one day while we were resting under the eaves of a lodge on the trail to Na, a black helicopter came flying up the valley. It really seemed like since she was off satellite coverage they had sent in the choppers. I miss Steve.
You have seen some of the other characters we were with, Stretch, Mark, Philippe and a couple of pictures and a mention of Tom being sick. However, I believe I could write a 16 part series about my friend Tom, it was his second trek as well and he is one of the funniest humans I’ve ever encountered. He routinely kept me laughing and when I couldn’t go above a snail’s pace he spent the day walking with me. With Tom things were up and down, although he kept my spirits up, it was because of him that I ended up at war with Australia.
Our guides were magnificent and truly I wouldn’t trek with anyone else, Kim and Lhakpa are the best. Kim’s company can be found at http://www.project-himalaya.com/ and Lhakpa is branching out on his own and has a new company he has started and can be found at: http://khumbuadventures.com/featured-trek/khumbu-adv-everest-luxury.htm
If you go to see them bring Kim Jolly Ranchers and Lhakpa beef jerky and of course ziplocks and duct tape, they’ll appreciate it.
There are times in the mountains when life can’t get any better, and times when you can’t believe you’re going to finish the days walk. You can build life-long friendships climbing a single hill and totally forget where you are and what you are doing. One of my favorite moments among many was coming up over the ridge to Gorak Shep and looking at the mountains in front of me. Seeing these peaks rising 10,000 feet in the sky I stood there admiring them and then started to laugh. Yes, I was looking at peaks nearly 10,000 feet above me, but I was already 17,000 feet up, such is the power of the biggest mountains in the world.
I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to the Himalayas but I’m glad I went, the peace I gained in the rare air lasted me almost 10 months after I got back to “civilization.” The other thing that is hard to find space for are just pictures, so to wrap up this little odyssey just a set of pretty shots from the Himalayas, enjoy!
A picture holding a package of mountain gold.
And finally the shot I use as the header for my other blog, The Ministry of Happiness.
Tags: everest, himalaya, life, lukla, namche, trek, trekking
Had a great night sleep in Namche, woke up and took my morning constitutional on an honest to goodness sit down toilet, ah the joys in life we take for granted on a daily basis. Fantastic breakfast and with my back still a bit sore and finally tired of walking I decided not to go up to Thame to meet the group and instead spent the day in Namche. I walked around the town for the day, did a little shopping and looked at some amazing Thankas (religious paintings), did some internet, sat in the sun and ate apple pie at the Everest Bakery, damn good apple pie.
The rest of our group came in that night and it was a raucous and emotional reunion, we ate a lot, we drank a lot, and general relaxed. It was also starting to set in that we would be leaving each other soon, people were tired and emotions frayed, so like any good family party people were on edge. Over the last three weeks we had become a family in some sense of the word, we’d bonded over hard work and high altitude and had gotten very close. Like every family however, you had your obnoxious loud cousin, the weird family members, the quiet ones, the mom – I can see all of my former companions reading this and trying to figure out who I thought was who. We’d been living together for three weeks and that brings with it all of the positives and all of the negatives. However what I will say is that in doing these sorts of adventures, I’ve noticed that the people who show up to these things are typically a little easier to get along with than the general population. I do not like to be part of groups as a general rule but anybody willing to pay to walk up mountains and used squat toilets for a couple of weeks has an adventurous nature and those folks are always easier to get along with, our group was no exception. In our group, after we picked up a couple of stragglers, including scientists, teachers, computer programmers, business people and a doctor. The countries represented included the United States, France, Hungary and Slovenia a pretty diverse group. The age range and I’m guessing a little bit here, ranged from late 20’s to the early 60’s and every shape and size, this diversity provided for great conversation and a full rewriting of the Slovenian National Anthem.
The morning after our Namche reunion we walked down to Phakding, on the website for Project Himalaya it says this walk we came up two weeks before will seem remarkably easy and quick and it was true. It really is amazing after two weeks in the high country how much easier it was to walk at 10,000 feet and lower. We spent the night at a lodge in Phakding eating popcorn and watching Bollywood music videos. The next morning we were off to Lukla.
The next morning uncharacteristically I was one of the first people to be ready and I set off down the trail toward Lukla. I was the second person out and was wondering down the trail looking at some of the amazing Mani Walls in the areas:
Some of the beautiful homes and gardens:
I was even stopped for awhile so that a train of mules essentially could go through, and at times stopped to let some of the unbelievable porters to come through:
The porters are absolutely amazing, small men by American standards, thin, wearing sneakers and sometimes even sandals and they are carrying crazy loads from 9000 to sometimes 15, 16, or 17,000 feet. I saw porters who were carrying five foot high stacks of can goods, with ten sheets of plywood (the picture above) and the most amazing, a five foot man carrying eight, seven-foot long pieces of rebar. The rebar was so long that he had to go backwards downhill, the same downhills I was carefully picking my way down with trekking poles. Effectively the porters and Sherpas of the Khumbu are supermen.
Now one of the questions I often get was aren’t you afraid you’ll get lost and I always said no, the trails are fairly obvious and they were. Particularly on the way to Lukla, it’s a trail, mostly stone covered that thousands of people walk daily. Of course, this was the day I got lost. It was a short detour, I missed a turn around a little school and instead went off along the river. The trail kept getting narrower and I stopped seeing people come the other way so I realized pretty quickly I’d gone the wrong way. It was a nice little diversion down a quiet part of the valley and I was happy for the mistake.
I backtracked to the trail and ended up coming up behind the group and freaking people out as they were all sure I was up ahead of them. We walked leisurely that day, stopped for tea on a highpoint and enjoyed the sun. There was one last hill to climb and then we entered Lukla a full circle in the Himalayas
We dropped down through the village and stayed at the lodge next to the airport and settled in for lunch, it was Thanksgiving Day back in the states but there was no turkey on the menu in Lukla. I was hungry and so I decided to order the sizzling Yak platter and when it came out steaming and sizzling I was the envy of the lunch crowd. We spent the day in Lukla picking up souvenirs, catching up with the world on the internet and then me, Mark and Tom decided to have a beer at the Everest Rock Bar. It was a fabulous little place, just us and the bartender who I’m sure thought we were nuts, we drank, we laughed and listened to the same loop of music over and over and it was wonderful. The girl who hiked in a skirt and her boyfriend even stuck their head into the bar in a nice little coincidence and said hi. It was a good afternoon.
That night was Thanksgiving Dinner, our last night party, we bought a box of wine and we all ordered the sizzling Yak, within minutes of our dinners coming out the steam had fogged up the entire lodge and they were opening windows. The other groups in the lodge, Italians and Japanese couldn’t stop watching our table. We were happy and rowdy and then it happened, perhaps the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life. One of the add-ons to our group, Chris had gone to an international nursery school as a small child and had learned a Japanese Nursery Rhyme. Suddenly, with no warning Chris leaped up and burst out in full Japanese song mode and started dancing and singing the rhyme. Some of the older Japanese ladies jumped up out of their chairs and joined right in, it was madness as the other Japanese trekkers went for their phones to video the whole affair. Every once-in-awhile I search YouTube hoping someone has posted it, the search continues. A late night and lots of drinking would be followed by an early flight to Kathmandu. As I was nodding off Philippe came into the room and proceeded to spontaneously launch into a flying Tatanka massage. Nothing like being half-awake, buzzed and having a 250 pound flying Frenchman land on you full force to give you a full body Tatanka massage. After my screaming stopped I heard lots of laughter from the other rooms of my mates. I would sleep with one eye open for the rest of the night.
Tags: everest, himalaya, himalayan, life, lukla, nepal, trekking
We landed at the Kathmandu Airport (elevation – 4300 ft) with all of the associated crowds and insanity, standing in line to get our visas, customs, changing over money and then trying to find our connection and ride to the Kathmandu Guest House (KGH). We did find our connection and a large crowd of gentlemen happy to help us with our bags for a tip of course. The other thing that happened, of course, was we had to wait for another flight and other guests before going to the KGH. While waiting we got familiar with all of the operations at the airport including the taxi line, and it became obvious that gas prices are high in Nepal as the taxi drivers were not willing to waste money idling.
During the ride from the airport we would find out there was a general strike on, we saw marching crowds in the street and the traffic was unbelievable. At one point our van driver actually leaned out fo the window and tried to push the vehicle next to us out-of-the-way. Then suddenly traffic would part for a cow in the middle of the road, it is a Hindu country after all. Finally we made it to the KGH, checked in and met our guide briefly, we were told when dinner would be and were left to relax and nap. Eventually we crawled out to the dining area and met a couple of folks from our trek and sat down for a beer and a snack. It felt good after traveling for two days to finally just sit and relax with nothing to do. We had dinner at a place called the Road House, met the whole gang and got instructions for the next morning, a very early morning call for our flight to Lukla. We did a quick bit of last-minute shopping, had a beer and crashed for the evening.
Up and out pre-dawn we piled our bags and ourselves barely into the van and made our way to the airport. The airport was already bustling with other trekkers and we hustled through the ordinary madness of the airport morning to finally find ourselves waiting on the tarmac for our Yeti Airline’s twin engine otter to be ready to go. It was a spectacular morning as the sun came up and gave us our first clear views of the big hills.
We boarded the plane, listened to the props start to fire up and a lovely tiny flight attendant in full uniform came through the cabin, I believe she actually sat on some of our luggage in the back the plane was so full. She came through the cabin with a tray that contained cotton for earplugs and Japanese Melon candies, actually one of my favorite candies. We rolled down the runway with the engines roaring and took off, flying the route to Lukla with the Himalayas out my window, it was truly spectacular and Lukla loomed in the distance.
Now let me tell you a little something about the Lukla airport, it is the exact minimum length an airport can be. When you are landing in Lukla the runway ends with the vertical rock face of a mountain. When you take off from Lukla, you take off downhill and the runway ends in a 1000 foot vertical drop off. About 10 month before our journey a plane full of German trekkers had not quite made the take off and crashed in the valley. We had been warned, this would be the most intense part of our trek and this is what I was thinking about, looking up through the aisle and out the window past our pilots to see the runway below us. When you land in Lukla you come down to the runway at a desperate angle and can see the runway screaming at the windshield at what seems like an impossible speed. You hit the ground violently and then you see the pilot literally jump on the breaks as the co-pilot drops the throttle and you start swerving back and forth as you fly up the runway. Just as you think you are about to hit the face of the mountain the pilot whips a right turn and drives into the unloading zone. If you don’t like to fly, don’t go trekking in the Himalayas, this was as intense flying experience.
The link below has a perfect set of images of what the trip into Lukla looks like:
It was both a joy and a relief to make it to Lukla (9350 ft), we ate a quick breakfast and hit the trail, our first day walking would effectively take us downhill with our first day ending in Monjo at (9300 ft). We hiked for 5 hours at a calm pace and arrived at Kailash Lodge, a really nice place, albeit with a cranky hiker on his way back down, the lodge even included in-room hot showers. One of the things that you hear before you trek is how horrible the conditions are going to be, smoky lodges with bad beds, no chance to shower, human fecal matter on the trail and terrifying wooden bridges across the gorges. It’s not true for the most part, over my 22 days I saw only one small wooden bridge, only one slightly smoky lodge, enough showers to feel comfortable and absolutely no human waste on the trails. The beds, well hell, you can’t complain about anything that can reasonably be called a bed, even if it is a wooden frame with a piece of foam for a mattress.
Here below are my exact thoughts that I wrote that afternoon as I made it to Kailash Lodge:
“It was beautiful all along the trail, big mountains, crazy blue rivers, yaks, shrines, paintings, the bridges are all steel cable so not nearly as terrifying as I expected. Sherpas carrying insane loads, happy, dirty, crying and playing children, smiling people greet us, Namaste.”
A good meal, a shower, a snoring roommate and a surprisingly good night of sleep.