09 July 2013

Everest Base Camp Trek - Day 2: Phakding to Namche Bazaar

To read all posts on my Everest Base Camp trek, click here for the complete series.


on the trail to Everest Base Camp with my guides
I enjoy taking stolen shots of these two: my porter Dhan Kumar (left) and my guide Madan (right) 

Day 2: May 30, 2013

This was, without a doubt, one of the worst days on the trail.

During the trek briefing back in Kathmandu, Naba of Himalayan Planet Adventures (the trek agency I chose) told me half-jokingly, "If you don't cry by the end of Day 2, that means you're fit enough to do the Everest Base Camp trek."

And so I woke up that second day, knowing that I would be facing a long trek with some particularly challenging uphills. Our destination was Namche Bazaar, the biggest Sherpa settlement in the Himalayan region which stood at an elevation of 3,440 meters (11,283 feet).  That meant a total ascent of 788 meters (2,585 feet) for that day alone. My heart sank when we left the teahouse at Phakding, for I had noticed that the light rain that had started falling early that morning seemed to show no signs of letting up.

In fact, it rained the whole day. Gloomy weather altogether.  What was supposed to be a 7-hour trek that day became 9 hours of misery because of the muddy, slippery trail that we had to deal with. The trekking poles were a blessing, especially in the last three hours of painful uphills past Jorsale village at the end of the day.

I was doing alright that morning in spite of the weather. A combination of uphills and downhills quickly got me worked up into a sweat, and I was already dying to peel off the layers of clothing I had.  I was covered head to toe in waterproof gear (God bless Columbia for making such excellent waterproof hiking boots; my feet stayed completely dry) which shielded me from the rain and the cold--but sadly enough, I was totally sweating inside my softshell jacket and light thermals.

One of the things I enjoyed most in the trail were the suspension bridges.  There were around nine of them, I think, and I considered them a welcome break from the monotony of trudging up and down muddy, dung-filled paths. It was a good thing I wasn't afraid of heights, because the bridges were a bit scary in their own right--narrow, slippery at times, with the great Dudh-Kosi river rushing beneath. I stopped somewhere near the middle of a suspension bridge just to take a quick video using my iPhone.

video

My first sobering experience during this trek happened on a suspension bridge. I was conversing with Madan after we had easily crossed a bridge.  And then to my surprise, four Sherpas seemed to burst from out of nowhere, carrying a stretcher with someone lying on it. They ran--flew was more like it--across the bridge, because obviously the life of whoever was on that stretcher depended on their speed.

I was flabbergasted. I knew Everest Base Camp wasn't a rainbows-and-unicorns kind of trek and I was even expecting to half-stagger, half-crawl into Base Camp--but I hadn't counted on seeing someone on a stretcher. On my second trekking day, for heaven's sake. I was jolted into the reality of the situation; on rainy, cloudy days such as this, a helicopter rescue is pretty much a no-go. For anyone needing critical medical rescue on the trail under such bad monsoon weather, it was either rapid descent on foot, rapid descent via stretcher, or staying put wherever you were (with the last option likely leading to death, as medical facilities are virtually non-existent on large stretches of the trail).

I remember saying, "Oh my God, oh my God, I don't want to die...!" And the boys were looking at me in semi-amusement, with Madan hastening to say, "No worries, you're with us mountain men. And I have a medical kit!" And Dhan Kumar just grinned at me and said, "Don't worry, chicken curry!"

I nearly died laughing. Who was I to worry when I had such excellent companions on the road to Everest?

jokepe on Everest Base Camp trail
The jokepe, a hybrid of yak and domestic cattle,
can be found frequently on the trail to Everest
I mentioned earlier that I had to deal with dung on the muddy trails.  The rain had turned some parts of the road into pools of slushy mud that had rocks and dung everywhere. It was hard to tell at some point what I was stepping on.  The reason there's so much dung on the road is because many animals ply this route up to Base Camp and back--horses, yaks and jokepes (a hybrid of yak and domestic cattle)--which all carry food, water, trekking equipment and trading goods up and down the mountains. The yak is the main beast of burden in this country, but is seen higher up on the trails.  So what I encountered a lot in the first few days were the jokepes, who are not as hairy as yaks but have the same scary-looking horns.

Every time a herd of jokepes is encountered on the trail, everyone needs to step aside and practically hug the mountain side. Stay on the edge of the mountain or hill, and chances are, a jokepe can nudge you off the cliff with its horns. Good luck with having to deal with them on a suspension bridge.  Because when you do, you need to turn back and run and wait for all of them to pass, because the bridge is too narrow to fit a person and a herd of jokepes. These animals kinda scared the living daylights out of me, and I always made sure to avoid them in a major way. Death by jokepe doesn't seem like a dignified way to leave this world.

By the second half of the day, the rain had gotten worse. My boots and the lower part of my hiking pants had mud streaks--and in all likelihood, jokepe dung as well--all over. Met a group of trekkers on their way down, and one of them (a female) slipped right in front of me, falling on her butt. I was lucky not to have been hit by her; otherwise, I might have slipped as well, or worse, fallen off the cliff. 

We were somewhere past the 3,000-meter elevation mark, and I was breathing heavily already from the high altitude.  By that time, I was feeling a slight headache and I wondered if that was the start of altitude sickness. I forced myself to take it easy, and do it one step at a time up the steep and slippery paths. The uphills in the last few hours were a challenge, and I knew that this was the difficult part that Naba was talking about. One trekker--an American man in his fifties--on his way down yelled out to me encouragingly, "You can do it!" 

On this trail, all trekkers are the best of friends.  You all just simply had to be, regardless if you knew the person or not.  No one can feel your pain as acutely as your fellow trekkers.

altitude can kill
"Altitude can kill." This was the sign that greeted me before I entered Namche Bazaar territory. Such cheer. (Oh, and free movie, anyone?) 
It was a blessed relief to have finally reached Namche Bazaar at the end of a long day of traipsing in the rain and mud. Near the entrance to Namche, I even had to deal with this annoying jokepe who followed me everywhere I went; when I stopped, it stopped. And when I started huffing up the path, it followed me closely from behind.  It took all of Madan's willpower not to laugh because I kept saying to the jokepe, "Go away, stop following me! Madan, make it go away, please!" 

The difficult trail on Day 2 did not make me cry, but that jokepe sure drove me close to tears. I was so petrified of that ridiculous animal, I could barely stop and admire the large Sherpa settlement of Namche Bazaar. The busiest and most populated part of the Himalayan region, Namche Bazaar consists of a sprawling mass of colorful houses, restaurants, and tea lodges all prettily laid out by the side of a hill.  

We stayed at The Nest teahouse in Namche; it was owned by the same person or family managing The Nest teahouse by the Lukla airport. When we got to the place, there was no electricity; that entire part of the region had to go without because the government was doing repairs of some sort that affected the power. My room was spacious and I had my own bathroom, but the hot shower was practically non-existent. Was feeling so extremely dirty from all that mud that I peeled off my clothes without hesitation and braved the cold shower.  Which was a mistake, really, because by the end of my bath, I was shivering in the cold and nursing a headache that was getting a bit worse.

arriving at Namche Bazaar
We reach Namche Bazaar. Elevation: 3,440 meters (11,283 feet)
Madan wanted me to take Diamox (altitude sickness medicine) already at that point, but I pleaded and said I'd wait and see first.  I was feeling slightly feverish after nine hours in the rain, and I took flu/fever medicine and Dolfenal (a painkiller) for the headache.  I didn't want to add Diamox into the mix, as I wasn't sure how my body would react to it combined with all those meds. But I had to follow at least the order from my guide to have garlic soup along with the dal bhat I had for dinner. Apparently, garlic soup naturally helps ward off altitude sickness.

I collapsed into bed in my pitch-black room after dinner. It was 9:00 pm. Fell into a deep, blessed sleep but I woke up at around 2:00 am when I felt something fall by the side of my face, on my hair. Then it fell off my bed and I heard it skitter across the floor in the darkness. Under normal circumstances I would have screamed; it sounded like a mouse or a rat. But I was too exhausted and sick to care, and so I went back to sleep, mumbling to myself that at least it wasn't a frog.

No tears at the end of Day 2.  If I had managed to survive nine hours in the rain plus a headache, a lovesick jokepe, and sharing a room with a rodent in the darkness, then sure, I could handle anything in this trek.

* * *

If you want the same Everest Base Camp trek experience I had, visit Himalayan Planet Adventures and go for the 16-day Everest Base Camp trek package.



9 comments:

  1. I like that after you trek for 9 hours along scary cliffs and hanging bridges you ended up being scared shitless by the yak thing. And whatever it was that fell on your face, you were right not to investigate na. Scary.

    I love your writing! More! More!

    <3

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    1. Thank you, dearest! I'll try to keep you entertained, haha. And yeah, the weirdest things scare the shit out of me. I'm just so happy it wasn't a frog, or I would have DIED! Haha.

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  2. Gina, it’s a trekking in Himalayas and part of adventure too. Trekker has to face many problems during the trek but if they can bear/adjust themselves it would be signal of success but whoever feels loser they never success in the goal. You are that lady who can face many problems and tolerate yourself as a result you completed Everest base camp finally.

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    Replies
    1. Hello, my friends from HPA! Yes, I did encounter so many challenging things on the trek and at that time, I was feeling so stressed out. But now that I look back on my memorable experience, it was those challenges that made the trek so special and worthwhile. EBC is amazing, and I'm so happy to have made it to Base Camp! I hope to see you all again in April 2014 perhaps. :)

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  3. Gina, you're my inspiration! :-) I may not ever trek to Everest Base Camp, but I will do it vicariously through your blog entries. Such adventure! :-)

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    1. Oh, Nevs, super kaya mo ito! We're both stubborn and we're both tough cookies, I think!

      I'm not planning to do a day-to-day account because that might be quite tedious. But yeah, Days 1, 2, and 8 really stood out for me and deserve separate entries. Will see how I'll write up the rest of the days together. I'm just thankful I wrote down field notes religiously at the end of each day during the trek (even when the light was fading and there was no more electricity, haha). The notes really helped me construct the blog entries. Am so appreciative of all your nice comments and praise. :) xxx

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  4. Anonymous6:05 PM

    I too traveled to EBC with HP, a wonderful time, I also trekked the road to Namche in the rain. I can't wait to read the rest of your post. my adventure is on :
    zooman888.tumblr.com

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    1. Hi! Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I'll be sure to read your EBC stories too. I'm totally missing Nepal. I think every trekker that has gone through something as special as EBC gets 'homesick' for the Himalayas. Here's hoping I can visit Nepal again--maybe next year!

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  5. Everest base camp trekking &Everest base camp trek&kala Patthar
    Everest region is popular all over the world for mountaineering, peak climbing, trekking and expedition. Everest trekking is the adventurous place where you can find numerous trekking options in this region of a life time experiences to Everest Base Camp, Kalapatthar, Gokyo-Ri Trek, Gokyo Cho- La Pass Trek, Everest Panorama, and in the Everest view points to capture the stunning views of the Everest.
    The main destination of many Everest adventure is to reach Everest Base Camp of about 5430m. You can find Everest icefalls, glaciers, many other eye catching mountains parallel to your walk in the base camp hiking but it’s the great Kala Patthar at the height of 5545m from where you highly enjoy the majestic views of Mt. Everest from a few minutes ascends.
    During ascend on the high altitude mountains; be aware of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) which is caused due to too quickly climbing to a high elevation. The symptoms like headache, vomiting and loss of appetite are common and must be immediately informed to the guide so that he could provide you some first aid treatment and provide you the further medical facilities.


    Everest base camp Itinerary Day by days
    Day 01
    Arrival in Kathmandu (1,300m/4,264 ft)
    Day 02
    Fly to Lukla (2,800m/9,186ft) & trek to Phakding (2,652m/8,700ft), 3-4 hrs walk
    Day 03
    Trek to Namche Bazaar (3440m/11,283ft), 5-6 hrs walk
    Day 04
    Acclimatization day at Namche
    Day 05
    Trek to Tyangboche(3,867m/12684ft), 4-5 hrs walk
    Day 06
    Trek to Dingboche (4,358m/14,295 ft), 5-6 hrs walk
    Day 07
    Acclimatization day at Dingboche
    Day 08
    Trek to Lobuche (4,928m/16164 ft), 5-6 hrs walk
    Day 09
    Trek to Gorakshep (5,160m/16,929ft) & hike to Everest Base Camp (5,320m/17,450ft) 6-7 hrs walk
    Day 10
    Early hike to Kala Pathar (5550m/18,204ft) & Trek back to Pheriche 6-7 hrs walk
    Day 11
    Trek to Kyanjuma(3,500m/11,480ft), 5-6 hrs walk
    Day 12
    Trek to Khumjung to Monju (2,850m/9,348ft), 6-7 hrs walk
    Day 13
    Trek to Lukla (2,800m/9,186ft), 4-5 hrs walk
    Day 14
    Fly back to Kathmandu
    Day 15
    Departure from Kathmandu
    Trekking Cost per person =1097$USA dollar

    Cost Include :
    • All airport/hotel transfers
    • Welcome and farewell dinner
    • All accommodation and meals during the trek
    • Domestic flights and airport departure taxes
    • An experienced English-speaking trek leader (trekking guide), assistant trek leader (4 trekkers: 1 assistant guide) and Sherpa porters to carry luggage (2 trekkers:1 porter) including their salary, insurance, equipment, flight, food and lodging
    • Down jacket, four seasonal sleeping bag and trekking map (down jacket and sleeping bag are to be returned after trip completion)
    • A comprehensive medical kit
    • All necessary paper work and permits (National park permit, TIMS )
    Cost Exclude:
    • Nepal Visa fee (bring accurate USD cash and two passport photographs)
    • International airfare to and from Kathmandu
    • Excess baggage charges
    • Extra night accommodation/s in Kathmandu because of early arrival, late departure, early return from the mountain(due to any reason) than the scheduled itinerary
    • Lunch and evening meals in Kathmandu(and also in the case you return early from the mountain than the scheduled itinerary)
    • Travel and rescue insurance
    • Personal expenses (phone calls, laundry, bar bills, battery recharge, extra porters, bottle or boiled water, shower etc)
    • Tips for guides and porters
    http://www.nepalguideinfo.com/Everest-Base-Camp.php
    http://www.hikehimalayas.com/trekking-in-nepal/trekking-region/everest-region/everest-base-camp.htm
    http://www.nepalguideinfo.com
    Email-:sanjib-adhikari@hotmail.com
    https://www.facebook.com/sanjib.adhikari

    ReplyDelete