Pure Randomness!

Pure Randomness!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Everest Base Camp Trek, Day 2

We braced ourselves for the long and arduous trek. Chhiri had warned us that the trek is going to get really difficult in the afternoon. I do not know whether the my fellow trekkers wondered whether they will survive the day, I did. But I was ready to take it from moment to moment and kick the shit out the day. It was a climb from 2610 mtrs to 3480 mtrs, almost a km of vertical climb. The trek started out like the previous days, a little climb up and then a little down and then a stretch of plain. The whole day the accompanying music was of the chirping birds and the gushing of the Dudhkoshi river. 

Dudhkoshi river flowing past a resort

Most of the time we walked along the river while climbing up, down and ahead and many times crossing it over tall long steel hanging bridges. I forgot to count the number of bridges, but it felt like we were continuously moving from one mountain to another over these bridges, throughout the climb.

At times we had to wait at the end of a bridge for up to 10 mins till all the mules carrying load from the other side could cross the bridge.
Rakhi, Lakpa, Preeti and Chhiri, waiting for the mules to pass
The morning walk was a walk in the park, which made me wonder how difficult can the afternoon walk be. Oh! I was in for a rude shock. After lunch Chhiri informed us that another 40 mins more we would be walking in similar conditions. I always led the group in the morning, almost pushing the lead guide to be with me instead of waiting for the rest of the group. That gave me enough rest stops as there were points where we regrouped fully before continuing.  After that 40 mins or so The Climb started, man, was it steep! The oxygen levels had dropped and I could feel that in my lungs and sometimes in my head. The initial climb was done with gusto, without falling behind. Slowly the younger ones in the group overtook me and went ahead. The competitive streak in me shook its fist at me to climb faster, but my body wouldn't listen. I stopped after every minute to catch my breath for 30 seconds. It was more physically excruciating than anything I had ever done in my life. My calf muscles cried out loud in pain and every ounce of weight on me made its presence felt. With much difficulty I held on to my camera, resisting the temptation to throw it into the river. 
Encounters of a spiritual kind

When I started on my journey to Kathmandu I had thought that refusing to hear the concern of friends and family would be the hardest thing I would be doing. I would be proven wrong multiple times through the rest of the journey.
Not many times we were reminded of the earthquake till then. But here the small boulders were perched high on the hill as half the hill was lying down. We were asked to run across the path which was hardly walkable, as there was no guarantee that the boulders wouldn't come loose upon us while we were crossing. And run we did.

Trekking through the landslide
I climbed bistare, bistare (slowly: the only word of Nepali I learnt during my month of stay in Nepal) and I kept calculating in my head how many more hours I needed to climb like that. The lack of form of R and sprained leg and altitude sickness of P meant I wouldn't be at the end of the pack. I panicked a few times when P went ahead of me, but I claimed my middle position soon enough to relax and climb again, bistare, bistare.
We met a French couple coming down from Base camp. The girl said she has some really bad memories of this particular climb, this being the worst of all days. It soothed me. I knew if I survive this day, I do not have to worry about the rest of the climb till the Base camp. There would be the challenge of Kala Patthar, but we would face that when we reached there.
Resort where not many tourists can reach, that is the irony.
The leading trekkers were waiting when we reached a small check post and were they a little disappointed to see us approaching so soon after they stopped. They were looking for a slightly longer rest. A big map of Namche Bazaar made me feel that we are at the entrance, almost done. We haven’t had any water sources for the last 3 hours or so and I was running on a 1ltr bottle full of water and conserving to last till the next source. I finished what ever was left and filled the bottle, ate some snacks and started again. It was not that done, it was another one hour when I managed to drag myself up the last climb to our hotel for the next 2 nights. 
Since the next day was our acclimatisation day, we were looking forward to a shorter climb and then rest. With the days climb I felt I deserved 2 days of rest before I could climb further. I plonked myself next to M and N who were cheering me till then from the dining room window, that dining room which will hold us during the rocking event the next day! I joined them in waiting for P and R and cheering them when they appeared. We settled down to some hot tea and well earned rest after 7 hours of climbing. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Everest Base Camp Trek, Day 1

We were up and out by 5 am to catch the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. After paying for the extra luggage (khakhras and theplas and such dangerous items) we made our way to the flight. The sight of the small 15 seater flight had my tummy in a flutter. Halfway through the flight we started seeing the mighty mountains with snow capped peaks. Except for that, the flight was rather eventless and so was the landing at Lukla. Later in the trip I would learn that this is the most dangerous airport in the world. I would have looked at the flight with a little bit more respect had I known earlier.
You don't believe me? Check this out.

After landing we met our guide for the next 11 days and 124 kms, Chhiri Sherpa (ah, who could have predicted that was not to be), the “No problem” man and Lakpa Sherpa. Later I would figure out that I was in a country of  sweet “No problem” men and women. He assured us that the days trek is not too long or hard and herded us into the restaurant for breakfast. After breakfast we were raring to go and when we saw that Chhiri is not anywhere close to starting and is waiting for something or someone M told him that we are ready. Chhiri with a straight face told M, “Ok, no problem, go walk”. We burst out laughing and decided to give Chhiri the guides prerogative of guiding and leading us. Lukla being at an elevation of 2860 mtrs, we were supposed to reach a lower elevation after the days trek to Phakding at 2610 mtrs, but the trail obviously included climbing up and down.

Go through a Sthupa for some climbing luck before we start.

M, N, P, R, S at the Pasang Lamu gate to the climb.

The climb starts with an arch created to felicitate Pasang Lhamu who is the first Sherpa woman to have climbed the Everest. It felt it quite apt for the start of the climb. Once we started, the initial few minutes I tried to stay away from the mule dung which was abundant on the trail. I decided a few minutes into the walk that it is not possible at all when I saw that the dung clung onto the ground in a dry layer and at times climbing up to our nostrils. The mules kept walking the trail and we kept pressing ourselves to the mountainside so that we are not in their way. Sometimes it was load carrying Sherpas who were climbing against us and most of the time looking down as the load they were carrying tied to their head and back didn't allow them to look up. We found it a little funny to predict their route and stay away from that. R got scraped on her head once when she miscalculated.

Throughout the journey Buddhist chants accompanied us on rocks.

As promised by Chhiri, the trek was a short one, a distance of 6.2 kms. We managed that in around 3 hours and reached Phakding with a long and satisfying lunch tucked into us on the way. We were warned that the next days trek is hard and long. So we decided to chill, play cards, have an early dinner and retire early to bed.

Day 2

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Everest Base Camp Trek, Day 0

Exactly 2 weeks after the deadly earthquake of 7.8 magnitude shook Nepal, we landed in Kathmandu for our Everest Base Camp Trek. We had multiple considerations for continuing with the climb one of them being "let us go and spend some money there to get Nepal back on its feet". 

Once out of the flight the first person I saw was an African American in combat fatigue which gave me a feeling of war. Then aircraft after aircraft full of relief material being unloaded. There were no signs of a Disaster anywhere though. The incredulousness of the travellers on the normalcy of the whole situation was palpable. When the bus which was taking us to the terminal from the aircraft braked suddenly and a lot of people were thrown around in the bus, I heard a lot of people letting out big sighs as if they were holding their breath till then. People were more comfortable after that, the normalcy was broken.

When I visit another country, the difference is what I am going to thrive on as an experience. But when I landed in Nepal I knew I would be looking for similarities and that is what would be comforting for me. I was not disappointed as the first cars I saw were Ford Figos and Mahindra Scorpios. Then the people who really looked like people I have seen around while I have toured the North East of India and I see on a daily basis in Bangalore.

While waiting for P who was arriving by a later flight, I spent my time observing the people around. Two youngsters with hair cropped closely on one side of the head and growing wildly on the other (mirroring each other) came up to two middle aged women and touched their feet, the women animatedly talked to them and they were very respectfully listening, the wild hair and their obedience making a huge contrast. A Caucasian man with a hippie look was waiting for someone. I got a feeling that a guitar was going to appear on him and he would break into hard rock music and some head banging right there. Suddenly he got excited and ran towards the gate when a Caucasian girl made her exit from the gate. Then followed some PDA which everyone around happily ignored. The voyeuristic thought occurred to me that with such a huge number of casualty from the earthquake some of these people around me would have lost their loved ones. I looked around and saw a people who were as normal as I would see in any Indian airport, under normal conditions. I think it made me feel normal and hopeful for a good trip in Nepal. Nothing would have given me an indication on what would happen in 3 days time.

After collecting P when we set off driving, we looked around for spotting devastation which Indian media was reporting as wide spread. We drove for quite some distance before we could spot the tower of a temple broken and hanging. At places we could see small damages to the walls of buildings. When we talked about this our guide and driver loudly abused Indian media for giving such an impression to the outside world, later they made peace by telling may be their reporting helped in getting the support and relief from all over the world.

One difference in getting into the same hotel then and after a week would be the way in which we would end up looking for escape routes on the latter day, immediately on entering the room. This included the option of jumping out of the window with details on where we would put our leg, how we will hang on to the parapet wall and shimmy down and jump to the floor without breaking our legs. We stopped short of going out and measuring the height from which we would have to jump and honestly we didn't do a trial jump, though we were really tempted to.

After dropping the luggage at hotel, taking a few minutes rest and the trek organisers working us up a little bit about altitude sickness, we got out to Thamel to do some last minute shopping before we started the trek. The street which at other times would be teeming with trekkers was quite desolate. While we started browsing we realised what a mistake it was to shop for all that stuff in India despite the organisers warning us against that. The things available were much cheaper and except the shoes which needed to break in before the trek we could have bought almost everything in Thamel. Since the restaurants were closing early after the earthquake, we had a hurried early dinner, went back to the final packing and rest before the trek.