Leaving from Lukla

OH MY GAWD!!! The wheels have lifted off the runway – and that’s its end, that’s where the runway runs out (bloody hell!!) and the slope just continues downhill steeply. And there’s the trail we walked, and there’s a mule train. Following the landscape, it takes just 10 minutes to overfly what took us 6 days to walk. The plane never going higher than a few 100 metres above the land, skimming over the Lamjura La (Pass) before heading back to Kathmandu.

After an extra day in Namche Bazaar (sick – yuck!!), we headed up the valley towards Everest. However it stayed stubbornly behind cloud. Heading up the Gokyo valley we encountered snow and cold. Then three awesome days with clear blue skies and sunshine, stupendous views and mind-boggling scenery. And hard physical and mental effort to walk up Gokyo Ri (Peak). Starting at 5.00am with millions of stars overhead, up and up though snow and up and up and up and even as the sun rises it is still up and up and up. Step, step and step, then stop to breathe and breathe. Then on again and again. No trees or shrubs to hide that this climb just keeps on going up and up.

700 metres of tough effort until the top – then views of Everest, Lutse, Nupste, Cho Oyo and mountain peaks and snow and sharp black ridges – and the glacier and lakes below us. We stay until we are too cold and start the slow descent trudging, through the snow.

The surroundings in the Goyko valley were so mind-blowing, I just couldn’t take them in. We sat and looked and looked and looked, and still it is breath-taking. The only sounds (once I stilled and stopped the Gortex rustle) are the wind gusts and the thumps and cracks from the Ngozumpa Glacier (longest in Nepal).

Leaving there, we trekked down 1100m in one day, most of the walk really enjoyable, the last steep section tough on my knees. Next day we have lunch at the highest hotel in the world, taking in clear views to Everest. So surreal. Leaving just as the clouds came up from the valley and obscured the views.

Hiking down to Namche, the locals trekking up carried their purchases from the Saturday markets. It was like watching the supermarket go past, each load carried on some one’s back – 25kg bag of rice, 2kg bag of butter (from Tibet), cartons of cigarettes, cured sides of goat meat, slabs of beer, boxes of instant noodles, drinks, lollies. Reckon I can NEVER complain about my shopping foray to Coles again.

Our high altitude training paid off, once we descended to lower altitudes (less than 3000m), walking was easy. Uphill sections presented less challenge. Arriving at our final village, Lukla, I felt amazed and proud and humbled by all we had done, achieved and seen.

From 3440m

namche bazaar is where we are at. i sit and type using a dodgy keyboard at an expensive internet connection, just amazing that this can be done from here at all.

7 days of walking, at least 7 hours each day. Up up and up followed by down down and down. the rare flat sections most welcome. i know the sight of my boots so well. tough , very tough but wonderful. getting up at six each day and walking by seven. through villages where some things have not changed in 100s of years. wooden ploughs pulled by two bullocks. women working in the fields. all sorts of foods being dried in the sun. children washing at the outdoor tap (no water shortage) to get ready for school. old women lying in the sun next to babies. mule trains passing by with melodic bells chiming. porters carrying impossible loads.

and then the new – mobile phones, tv via satelite, electric lights, small hydro schemes, fake north face clothing, and Buffs – the “in” wear for the region, trekkers and villagers alike!

all with incredible views. overwhelming ever-changing views. it could take me a lifetime to move through this landscape and fully appreciate it.

our first view of everest was exciting and awesome. seen from a far it was lower than other peaks but it was Mount EVEREST!!!

with strenghtened legs we moved up into the khumbu today, joining the ranks who fly into lukla. even more trekkers and porters and mules and now dzopkyos on the trails.

a rest day here tomorrow and then further up into the real mountain zone

Leaving behind the familiar

Last Friday seems another world away…the mad rush and panic I was in to get all done…pack, get cash and foreign currency, make the bed, empty the dishwasher, bring in the washing, feed the pets – argh, the bird escaped from her cage and is terrorising Harry, get him out, entice her back and the cat is nowhere near – phew! Back to work. Oh no, now where’s the cat? Harry eventually finds her under a rug on the couch. Final quick email to my daughter. Abandon the dishes in the sink when the taxi arrives – off on the start of our adventure!!

The flight to Singapore was comfortable with great food and a restful sleep. Singapore’s humidity hit us but the air-conditioned taxi took us to the air-conditioned hotel and somehow in the morning after sleep, we relaxed in the humidity and strolled slowly around. A few shops, a great park (Fort Canning maybe?) an escape from the noise of the city, a boat ride along the river, no hobos living on the banks here as we saw in Tokyo. Singapore is way too orderly for that, even had two men in a boat with a net collecting leaves out of the water.

Singapore was a great stopover, a welcome break between home and what lay ahead.

Sunday morning and we flew into Kathmandu, awestruck by our first view of the Himalaya. The airport was such a contrast to Sydney and Singapore – a functional building where we were processed smoothly and quickly without any glitz or hype or shiny stores.

Kathmandu – like nowhere I have ever been before. Our hotel driver met us at the airport and drove us into the city. Home to 3, maybe 4, million people. People, traffic, dust, rubble, bricks, motorbikes, bicycles, chaotic roads, funeral pyres, Hindu pilgrims. Pollution haze dulling the views to the mountains.

All so new and disconcerting. Driving is an artform, apparently chaotic to me yet motorbikes, cars, bikes, pedestrians all come within an inch of each other without mishap.

We were so glad to have organised hotel (Tibet Guest House)and trekking company and even trekking gear shop thanks to Chris Walker. As we wandered dazed and fazed through the narrow Thamel streets yesterday, we were happy to have a clear destination and were able to stride past the masses of other gear shops with confidence. The narrow streets are a lane’s width, have no footpaths and flow with walkers, cyclists, cars, taxis, small buses, hawkers, motorbikes, rickshaws and us! We have learned how to go with the flow, though I do find crossing narrow, frantic roads a challenge.

Sonam from Sherpa Adventure met us and went over our trek plan. He reassured us that our outline is a guide and we can change and adapt it as we go.

Now armed with porter bags full of gear for the next 3 weeks, weighing in at 12kg each, tomorrow we leave for Jiri, a 6 to 8 hour drive from here. We’ve learned a little of the Nepali way of life, started to bargain, tried some new foods and have become more relaxed with the mayhem.

Ready for yet another step into the unknown..