Yeah! I made it there and back again alive, with just Teva’s, so now I know it can be done, although my feet paid a price!
I took a bus from Jiri instead of flying to Lukla, because it’s about $200 round trip to Lukla and back to KTM, and I’m supposed to be trekking not flying to Sagumatha National Park. Even though it added a LOT of extra walking and it’s all straight up and straight down everyday pretty much till you hit Sagurmatha N.P., it was well worth it! On the bus ride there (Jiri), I met “the almighty German” (Dirk) as I liked to call him. He was a conceited guy that was very rude to the locals, but somehow I got along with him. He trekked the whole Annapurna circuit in 7 days and it’s a 21 day trek, so he’s a good walker…
Anyway, we ate lunch when the bus stopped for 15 minutes and then the same dinner at our GH in Jiri. When I woke up, “Dirk almighty” was wrecked! He had been up all night running back and forth to the bathroom and could hardly talk. He decided to stay the day to recover and I gave him some re-hydration mix and some medicine to hold him over in case he needed a doctor. I offered to get him some real medicine from the pharmacy, but he said no thanks and I took off. I left by 7am and arrived at Deurali Pass by 2:00pm, I made good time, so I was just chillin in the Tea house for a few hours before I got hit by the same thing as Dirk Almighty. That was it for me!
My room was on the second floor and the toilet (out house) was outside in the back of the Tea house – no good could come of that! After running down stairs and sliding in the mud or hitting my head on the doorway of the toilet for a few hours straight, I decided I’d only wear my boxers, that would save me a few seconds and I would take that course of action for the good of the land. And so, Bear, in all his foolishness, entertained the local village of Deurali for the rest of the day, on through the night and all of the next morning. Running up and down the stairs outside into the rain sliding everywhere, hitting his head on the doorway and smacking into the tiny walls of the well used toilet! The hosts were all nice to me and I’m sure they would have helped if they could, but they were definitely enjoying the whitey falling all over the place, running down the stairs (even though it was cold) in just boxer shorts. As my Uncle Joe used to say, “it’s part of the game”, but I thought it would be hard enough to trek to EBC without being that sick.
I was going to stay that day, but the way they looked at me in the morning made me feel slightly uncomfortable, so I hobbled on along the trail and left my marks all along the way. After the first day I only had trouble if I ate or drank anything, so I avoided that, which isn’t good while you’re trekking, but hey. One close call I had was while I was climbing up an 800 meter section. I was tired and took a break near a waterfall, I filled up my water bottle (it has a built in filter) and had no choice, but to drink! 5 minutes later I almost knocked down this nice old Lady that I had been trying to talk to! I didn’t see any toilets around and there was no time to ask, so I dove 10 feet off of at terrace and landed in a corn field where I made a very large mess! Poor lady! I climbed out of there with my tail between my legs, strapped on my backpack and got the hell out of there! That old lady was watching me the whole time and what could I say? I was spreading toxic waste all over her beautiful corn field!
Luckily, after three days of this I saw Dirk Almighty. He had been to a pharmacist and had a type of dysentery, but he had enough medicine for me. Glad I was nice to him! Trekking is much more enjoyable when you have energy and you can actually drink water and eat food!
Everywhere between Jiri and Lukla is in Maoist control more or less. I was warned in KTM by a few people, that the village of Kinja was particularly loaded with them (Maoists). So, I decided to use 50% of my ninja skills to cross the commie gauntlet… I ran! I ran and I didn’t stop till I was way out of town. I used Tommy Boys technique (you’d have to see the movie to understand) I ran screaming “BEES! THERE EVERYWHERE! SAVE YOURSELF! YOUR FIREARMS ARE USELESS AGAINST THEM! Not really, but I did run.
There are only fourteen 8,000 meter peaks in the whole world and Nepal has 10 of them! 4 of those are in Sagurmatha (the Nepali name for Everest) National Park. Sagurmatha is also the highest National Park in the world thanks to Evererst. From the park entrance it’s a few hours to Namche Bazaar, where they have everything from bakerys to bars and Internet cafes (even though it’s around 12,000 feet high).
I entered the park on my B-day, so I continued on to Namche to celebrate, which I did with nice cold beer and a surprisingly good pizza. Namche is also a good place to take an acclimatisation day (a day off) to give your body time to adjust to the altitude. You’re supposed to “walk high and sleep low”, so I walked around the U shaped ridge that is over and around Namche. While I was walking, I saw some smoke and heard singing and I wanted to know what was going on. I started climbing towards it and finally saw a bunch of Sherpa dudes partying up there and they waved me up so of course I went. They immediately showered me with snacks and Roksi (there local homemade whiskey). I sat down because I had to much stuff in my hands. One guy told me it was a ceremony and a minute later another guy told me his cousin had “expired”. Then I realized it was a cremation ceremony and I crashed it. Wooops! It was amazing though, their outlook on death is totally different than ours, it seems much healthier than ours. Death is simply a part of life that everyone has to go through and is just a means to an end for them and nothing to fear or worry about. To them, there cousin will be back again within 40 days, that’s why they do the ceremony, to help him find his way back. It definitely beats the hell out of our funerals!
Anyway, while I was in Namche I heard some people talking about Gokyo lake and the Cho La pass. It sounded cool, so I decided to try it out. Gokyo lake runs pretty much parallel with EBC, but about 20 K the the west, it’s linked to the east by Cho La Pass (5,420 meters or 17,777 feet high) which joins the trail to Everest. In Gokyo, I woke up early and climbed Gokyo Ri (peak) in time to watch the sun rise over the Himalaya (that turned into a habit of mine). That was something special to see! I can’t describe the beauty of the sun rising over the largest mountain chain on earth while completely alone, with no man made sounds or sights to taint or distract. I could see Everest from there and spin 360 degrees and watch the rising sun warm mountain faces in all directions. I’m getting all emotional about it…. somebody hold me!!! Later that day I crossed a glacier (which looked like moon landscape) to the only Tea house at the edge of Cho La pass. The glacier was covered with dirt and rocks, so the only ice you could see was when streams of melted snow water under the glacier eventually melt the ground away and make a big sink whole, which is an instant lake or pond.
I crossed the Pass in the morning with a nice, reeeally old American guy I met (49). Yeah, that was for you dad! He was a real climber (unlike me) and taught me a lot about climbing. He had a guide and porter with him, I had neither, so it was cool of him to invite me along with them. It was a good thing too, because I would have had a hard time following the collapsed trail (sink holes) alone. The top of the pass was all ice and it was pretty hard core, that was the first time I was cursing myself for wearing Teva’s! The Sherpa guide and porter were flipping out, because they’d never seen someone stupid enough to wear Teva’s across the pass.
Once I crossed the Pass I was all pumped up and wanted to keep walking, so I went on and said goodbye to those nice people who helped me out. I walked north for a few hours and stopped about six hours south of base camp. In the tea houses I expected to bump into some egos and find a few rowdy people (especially that tea house so near to Base Camp), but I didn’t. First of all, up until that point the trails were dead and I was the only foreigner in every tea house I slept in outside of Namche Bazaar. The people at this tea house were really mellow the whole time and the tea houses felt more like a ski lodge than anything else. Everyone’s constantly cold out there, even in the tea houses, so that kinda zaps you of energy. Most people just sit there all bundled up holding there hot beverage with both hands and watching the steam rise, with a look in their eyes like “isn’t life swell”, but not actually saying so. It reminded me of a super long Folgers (coffee) commercial from the ’80s and I could hear the guy with the constipated voice singing his stupid song “The best paaart of waking up…”. Anyway, that thought kept me up (that and the altitude) at night in my dorm and I would start cracking up at 1 in the morning. My dorm mates found out that I’m really psycho and didn’t say a word about my outbursts.
In the morning I climbed Kala Patthar, the most famous and “best” spot to see Everest. I watched the whole thing again, this time I was right next to Everest, any closer and you can’t even see the mountain. That was over 18,000 feet, and I was cursing myself again about the Teva’s. It was all amazing though and I felt really lucky to be there. I stayed up there for a few hours and when my feet couldn’t take it anymore I ran back down and try to thaw out in the tea house, then I ran up to EBC!
EBC wasn’t much to look at. You’re to close to Everest to actually see it, but I was still excited about being there. EBC is also on a glacier and the streams of melted water (that you can see) look like water slides! I also saw a crashed Russian helicopter right at Base camp as well. Two years ago they were dropping people off there and they crashed, three people died, crazy. I didn’t summit Everest, but still, just making it to the the base camp of the highest mountain on earth feels good and the only way you can go further is if you pay between 30 and 60 thousand dollars!
So, I stopped off at a few more places, crossed the commie gauntlet (successfully) again and took the bus back here (KTM), where I’m trying to fatten up for my last trek to Annapurna. From Jiri to EBC and back is about 300 kilometers, so I’m taking a nice long break here in KTM. The whole trek, including bus tickets, park entrance fees (1,000RS) food, lodging, and renting a sleeping bag, for 20 days totaled only 162 dollaa ($)! They don’t tell you that at the travel agencies!
I didn’t have many goals when I set out on this trip (over a year ago now), but getting to Everest Base Camp was definitely number one. I’ve never really set goals for myself, but I can see now how it feels to accomplish a goal or to live a dream. It’s an amazing feeling…
This whole trek was for me and me alone and in a strange way I’m a changed person for having done it.
Nepal’s been great to me, it’s my favorite country so far. Tibet was great, Nepal was better, can’t wait to see what India’s got! Oh, that’s (above) what happens when you go to EBC without shoes…