24
Feb

The Air Gets Thin

By: muttler

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20/01/2018 – Acclimatisation in Dingboche (4350m)

Our second and last acclimatisation day heading up. We were getting precariously close to hitting the 5000m mark, so the plan is to get close to that, but then to head back down for bodies to rest up and have another good nights sleep before the few days pushing to base camp.

Even though it was a more relaxed day we still go going fairly early. Why? Well, in yesterday’s post I waxed lyrical about sunrise, so if there was another opportunity to see something spectacular, then we did it. Given sunrise is not actually that early (around 7:30am or so, depending on what peak it was poking above), we were all up and ready to go. As we got a bit above Dingboche we took some time to look back and see the sun come up directly behind Aba Dablam. Sun rising on Everest was one thing, but seeing the sun come up directly behind this stunning peak was something else. It was one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen.

 

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Upwards we went, passing stupas, prayer flags and yaks, eventually getting to 4900m. I was feeling pretty great, although you definitely felt quite different being the extra 500m up. I considered myself pretty lucky with how I was feeling, but to my credit I was being pretty vigilant with my water intake of 3-4 litres a day. Much of the crew was starting to feel the effects a little as well, so we were enjoying our rest and lemon, honey and ginger tea. There was a great small peak at our stop where we had an amazing view from Everest around to Ama Dablam. I doubt I would ever get tired of staring at these peaks.

We sat for a while soaking it in before heading back down at a pretty brisk pace. In no time we were back at the tea house, just in time for lunch and to relax the day away.

24
Feb

Above the Treeline

By: muttler
sun hits everest

sun hits everest

 

19/01/2018 – Tengboche (3880m) to Dingboche (4350m)

Early riser at home, and it seemed I was an early riser in Nepal too. Most of us were typically heading to bed fairly early which would mean that invariably I would be up before sunrise. Some mornings it was a good thing, and this morning it was amazing. Without leaving the comfort of my room (well, the room was cold so I guess the comfort of my sleeping bag) I watched sunrise over Everest. Yep, just think about that… sunrise on Mount Everest. One of those things that is likely once in a lifetime and something most people don’t get to see. One of a few emotional moments on the trip.

 

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Today we were heading above 4000m for the first time. Even though we were rising 400+m, it wasn’t going to be too strenuous as it was being done over 11km. We headed off at our usual 8am and had a gentle downward hike for a start. We were heading through what would be the last of the trees, as the treeline ended at around the 4000m mark. We headed down a little and then on our way back up. Nothing major, with a fairly gentle trek upward.

In no time at all we were at tea break, at around the 4000m mark, and from there just a short gentle upward hour or so (with just the odd set of steep steps) until lunch.

The landscape had well and truly changed by now. No trees, just the side of a mountain, and quite reminiscent of climbing Kilimanjaro at times (well, except for seeing the many other peaks surrounding us). At around 2pm we arrived at Dingboche. This was to be another two nighter, so that we could do some more acclimatisation tomorrow.

 

being greeted by one of the locals

being greeted by one of the locals

 

Once we settled in a few of us decided to explore town. Like everywhere so far, given it was low season the village was very quiet. In this case it was even quieter than the previous villages, with nothing open for us. It didn’t matter too much, although it made for a short walk. We did get to meet one of the lovely furry locals though! I am actually legitimately surprised there are so few hikers this time of year. Yes, it is meant to be the coldest time of the year, but outside of some slightly chilly evenings, we had experienced nothing but beautiful weather. Temperature through the day could get a little chilly at times, but given most the time is spent raising a sweat hiking, I would think it is the perfect time to go. Take note anyone who chances upon this blog!

Not much else to report for the rest of the day… dinner and more cards (yep, a lot of cards being played on this trip!) before rest.

 

24
Feb

Om Mani Padme Hum (aka Oh Mama Take Me Home)

By: muttler

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18/01/2018 – Namche Bazaar (3440m) to Tengboche (3880m)

Today we departed Namche to weave our way further through the Himalayas. The plan was to descend and then ascend… in part because that was the main trail, but also to help some more with acclimatisation. So at 8am it was out the door and a little bit up before heading down a bit of a ways. Today was particularly spectacular as we had frequent amazing views of gorgeous peaks. Ama Dablam was a constant friend as well as Everest poking her head out quite often too. Sigh.

 

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At an early peak we arrived at a stupa dedicated to all the Sherpas who had fallen foul of the mountains, and dedicated in the name of Tenzing Norgay. With views of Everest behind, it was simply stunning.

 

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From there it was down a valley for a couple of hours until it was time for tea (how civilised we are each day!). We stopped at the Ama Dablam tea house in Kenjuma (approx 3570m), where the highlight was not the amazing view of Ama Dablam, rather the two puppers we could play with. These doggos were fast become a highlight of the trip.

 

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An easy hour of hiking later and it was time of lunch. An odd but delicious veggie spring roll (almost more like a sausage roll) hit the spot, ready for what was to come… basically 2 hours of straight up. Alrighty then.

The first hour was pretty steep stairs that just kept going and going. I was feeling pretty good still, something I was super happy about. Neither the altitude nor the exercise was getting to me really. A combination of luck and training I think. I would get a bit puffed for sure, but nothing too bad. The last hour was more gentle, but still a fairly steep switch back.

 

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We were happy to reach Tengboche, a nice small village where the cold was becoming more apparent, especially as the sun crept below a peak. As soon as we stopped we all felt the chill. Tengboche is also home to a nice vibrant Buddhist temple dominating the village. After dropping all our things off we popped in to be lulled into a nice relaxed state by a local monk. “Om Mani Padme Hum”, a typical mantra featured heavily, although by this point in the trip it had become affectionally known as “Oh Mama Take Me Home”. A couple of hours into steep uphill and that often sprang to mind!

The mantra was a nice way to end the day. After dinner once the sun was well and truly down a bunch of ventured out into the cold to stargaze. Crystal clear skies meant the stars were bright and the Milky Way was nice and vibrant. Was this real? Yep.

24
Feb

Hanging Out In Namche

By: muttler

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17/01/2018 – Acclimatisation in Namche Bazaar (3440m)

Today was our first acclimatisation day. When heading upward, while you can gain many hundreds of meters (or more), you are not meant to sleep more than a few hundred higher than the previous night, especially as you go 3000+m. The added benefit of acclimatisation days is simply spending more time getting your body used to the altitude, so today was a day of hanging out in Namche Bazaar, with a nice hike in the morning to get our bodies feeling good.

 

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So a later brekky meant heading out the door at about 8:30am to get used to the altitude. Plan was to hike to Syangboche, a point above Namche at 3860m, where nice clear views of Everest and more would await. Up we began to hike, a quite challenging 2hr trek of fairly steep stairs. As we got up the views got even more spectacular and we were greeted by the odd yak or two just hanging about. The views of Everest were nice and crystal clear, but it was Ama Dablam that really shone, it’s two peaks presenting spectacularly.

 

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the gang

 

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everest!

 

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ama dablam

 

We eventually reached a tea house at Syangboche, with a small peak nearby that afforded amazing 360 degree views. Soaking those views in we settled in for a (now typical) lemong, ginger and honey drink before heading down. 2 hours up, 40 minutes down 🙂

The rest of the day was for free time in Namche. Like mentioned yesterday, the town was quite quiet, but I had the opportunity to pick up a handful of small souvenirs (an EBC beanie, map, patch and some prayer flags), as well as (most importantly) load up on some chocolate for the coming week. Most of us then hung out at a coffee shop, having some decent coffee and hot chocolate while watching a doco of the Sherpas that help get people to the summit of Everest. I had seen quite similar docos before but their commitment never fails to amaze me.

With a long day tomorrow, it was another low key evening of dinner, cards and sleep.

 

24
Feb

How Bazaar

By: muttler

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16/01/2018 – Phakding (2660m) to Namche Bazaar (3440m)

Our first big day of hiking awaited today. Even though 7+ hours was ahead of us it was still a relatively relaxed start to the day. A 7am wake up, leisurely breakfast, and then out the door a bit after 8am. The destination was Namche Bazaar, sitting at about 3440m. It was also the location of our first acclimatisation day so it was a fairly gentle way to get the trekking underway.

 

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Like yesterday, the path was half “Nepali Flat”, but also we were going to encounter our first real upward trajectory. Over the course of the day we crossed a number of amazing suspension bridges. As someone who loves heights it was awesome! Happily all our group was good with heights too meaning no coaxing or blindfolds were required.

 

officially into the national park

officially into the national park

 

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Most days consisted of a few hours of hiking and then a rest stop at a tea house to enjoy a cup of tea, or in my case usually a lemon, ginger and honey tea to ward off any colds that may think they were going to strike. Today at about 10:30am we settled in for a cuppa, meeting our first fellow travellers coming the opposite way. Given it was low season for hiking, we were not really encountering many others, only a handful per day. Certainly at odds with the stories of crowded trails.

 

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From there it was a couple more hours of hiking then lunch. A big plate full of potato later and it was the first real challenge of the trip. Up. And up. And up. It kicked off in earnest at the most amazing suspension bridge, 100m above the river, the colourful prayer flags adorning and flapping in the wind. From there we kept heading up, constant steps and paths leading the way. To be honest I was feeling pretty good. Sure you welcome a breather, but for the most part I was hiking strongly. I was getting the feeling that the training was going to pay off.

 

EVEREST!

EVEREST!

 

Then at one point it happened. There she was… Mount Everest, crystal clear. It was both surreal and overwhelming. A nondescript peak in the distance was the tallest one in the world. Given there are a number of other peaks over 8000m, and that you can’t necessarily see it all the time, it just blended in to the landscape. But now it was etched into the memory and would always cause some goose bumps when we spied it on our travels.

 

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namche bazaar

 

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the view from my room window

 

From there it was not much further to Namche Bazaar. Namche is the largest village we encounter on our hiking. In the peak of hiking season, say April and May, there can be a couple of thousand people here. But for us, we were probably only one of 2 or 3 sets of travellers in the whole village. That meant that while a number of shops were open, selling their beanies and maps and prayer flags (and importantly chocolate), many were shut meaning it was a bit a ghost town. It didn’t worry us too much, as on arrival we were keen to just start to relax a bit after our day.

Some Dahl Bhat replenished the energy banks and after some relaxing in the common area it was off to bed.

 

24
Feb

It Begins!

By: muttler
trusty companion

trusty companion

 

15/01/2018 – Kathmandu to Phakding (2660m)

Into the Himalayas we go! Well… eventually.

A nice early start of about 5am, and it was off to Kathmandu airport. The trek to Base Camp starts in the small village of Lukla deep into the mountains and while a 7hr bus ride is an option, it is not really the done thing. Rather a small plane will get you landing in “the most dangerous airport in the world”. Or so they say.

So we got to the airport, checked in and were all ready to board out 6:45am flight. Sadly, the weather was conspiring against us. Fog in both Kathmandu meant we couldn’t depart. So we waited. And we waited. And we waited.Then, after about 3 hours it was go go go! We jumped on the bus to take us out on to the runway and… we waited. Sadly, it wasn’t go time so it was back into the airport we go.

The departure hall was packed with very few flights getting anywhere. This was an ominous sign to start. But then, another couple of hours later and it was go time. For real this time! On to the small 15 seater we went and take off! The flight was super smooth. Heading through the Himalayas can often be a bumpy journey apparently but ours was relatively calm. About half an hour in we were greeted with massive mountains out the left hand side. We were really heading into the Himalayas!

 

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Lukla approached. Why it is often thought of as being such a dangerous airport is that the approach is between the mountains on to a runway that can’t be much more than a couple hundred meters, and on quite a high angle sloping upward. But it was all fine as there is not really anytime to think about it as you approach and then you have touched down in an instant! Our landing was smooth and just a little late (well a lot late) and we were in Lukla.

 

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it officially begins!

 

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We were all hungry so we had some lunch at a tea house in town (potato pancake, yum) and with some food in our bellies, it was time to take our first real steps. First day was only just an easy one anyway, so being late didn’t really matter. We had about 3 hours of “Nepali Flat” to contend with. Pasang dubbed fairly gentle ups and downs as Nepali flat, with gentle being relative. So for 3 hours we strolled through the mountains, passing through tiny villages, crossing suspension bridges, and meeting the first of MANY dogs that would join us on our hike. They are amazing… you will be walking along and then suddenly you notice a dog at your feet. They will wander with you for a while (sometimes hours) and then just head back.

 

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our friendly hostess

 

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actually much more luxurious than i expected!

 

With spectacular views of the mountains at every turn, we came to Phakding, our first nights stop. Given the late start it was starting to cool down, but overall it was a little warner and less snow (i.e none) than expected. But beautiful blue skies were alright with me. Shangrila Lodge was our accomodation and the evening played out just as most would coming up. A little time to chill out, dinner, then some more time to relax before settling in to bed. We had all been advised that meat was probably not best given the locale and time of the year, so it was the first of many meals of veggie momos.

In most tea houses the common eating area will have a wood fire that will be stoked until after dinner when it will slowly burn out. It means we would typically hang out chatting and playing cards until the fire had gone out. Tonight was such a night, all of us being weary after an early start, and so retreated to our cold rooms for a good nights sleep before a longer day of hiking tomorrow.

 

24
Feb

Exploring Kathmandu

By: muttler
cute but will steal your food in the blink of an eye

cute but will steal your food in the blink of an eye

 

14/01/2018 – Kathmandu

I was keen to explore Kathmandu a bit so booked the free day before my Base Camp trip started, along with a day at the end (although the end day was more a contingency day in case we couldn’t get out of the mountains). In Kathmandu it seems there is two main things that most folks who are on a tight schedule visit: Durbar Square and Swayambhunath (better known as the Monkey Temple). I slept really well, but was up nice and early, so by 8am I decided I was done being in the room and headed out into the streets.

 

 

It was great wandering the streets as the city woke and set itself up for the day. Quite quickly you get out of touristy Thamel and into streets where local shopkeeps are setting up and people are out getting their daily needs. I love seeing the people wandering the streets going about their business, quickly stopping by one of the many stupas (Buddhist monuments) to pay respects and keep moving. I naturally ended up down at Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the main place to visit for tourists.

 

mr ryan showing me a thing or two

mr ryan showing me a thing or two

 

From what I know “durbar” is a general word, and there are actually a number of “Durbar Squares” that exist. This one is the centrepiece in Kathmandu, home to many buildings including palaces and religious monuments. As I approached I immediately got the sense that sadly this square bore the brunt of the earthquake in 2015. While I could see many beautiful monuments, there were also many piles of bricks, and considerable scaffolding about. Like many please such as these around the world I was approached by a number of people offering to guide me about the complex. I was happy to have someone show me about, and so Mr Ryan it was. Obviously his name was not strictly “Mr Ryan” however he seemed happy that it was the easiest pronunciation of his actual name, so since I couldn’t write his name down at the time, Mr Ryan it is.

 

looking for the kumari

looking for the kumari

 

He as a delight and super knowledgable so I was happy to have acquired his services for the next hour or two. He led me all about the complex, which although it is not necessarily confusing, having a guide helped orient myself and also place everything into context. He led me first to a very special temple, one in which the Kumari was currently present and watching over the visitors. From what I can gather, the Kumari is a young girl (4 at the moment) who is a revered goddess for the Nepalese Buddhist community. She makes appearances at key times in the year and this was one. Alas we could not see her, but the signs advising against photos suggested she was certainly above us watching.

 

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Mr Ryan showed me around the complex, and sadly as mentioned, a number of things he pointed out were now just a pile of bricks, including the “Hippie Temple” where apparently the Beatles, Hendrix and others visited and played guitar. Thankfully though there was a lot of construction meaning that hopefully things will be returned to their former glories.

 

invader!

invader!

 

I bid farewell to Mr Ryan, wandered about for a little longer, and then headed off, this time toward to Swayambhunath, the monkey temple. On the way, up a random street, I was super stoked to come across an Invader! I had no idea that Space Invader had visited, and after some reading up afterward apparently there are a number around the city (although supposedly many were destroyed in the earthquake). But I was happy to see one in such good condition… plus the red dot on the forehead was a nice touch.

 

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The Monkey Temple is high on a hill overlooking Kathmandu, so for half an hour or so I weaved through the streets toward it. As you arrive you then have about 400 steps to ascend to reach the main stupa and buildings. Along with the other visitors, you are also joined on your way up by the many monkeys that hang out there. There are warnings to keep your bag closed and food away, and the monkeys playing with a Sprite bottle were evidence of that. I made my way up easy enough (I would hope so given I had several thousand meters of ascent to come!) and wandered the gorgeous, vibrant stupa at the top, all the while being eyeballed by the monkeys.

 

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There were great views looking out over Kathmandu, the haze that seems to be common here not too obstructive. From this height the city looked bigger than I first thought, sprawling all around.

 

chilli buff momos!!!

chilli buff momos!!!

 

It was time to wander back to the hotel for my first meetup with the rest of my hiking group. But on the way back I had to stop for food sine I had been all go since early in the morning. What to have? MOMOs! I wheeled in to Yangling Restaurant on my way back and had what was undoubtedly my favourite dish of the trip… Chilli Buffalo Momos. Damn. They were SO good. Steamed first then lightly fried I think, they were coated in a delicious, slightly sticky chilli sauce. The buffalo was great but the whole dish was just amazing. I would undoubtedly having more of these bad boys on my return to Kathmandu 🙂

I got back to the hotel and had a little time to chill before meeting my G Adventures group. Our CEO was Pasang Sherpa, and he was joined by Mingma who I had met at the airport. There were 8 of us hiking… 3 Aussies, 3 Brits and 2 Irish lads. If first impressions are typically right, then I had a very good feeling about the trip as everyone seemed cool and up for it. Pasang ran us through everything… not much to know really but making sure we had all the gear we needed. At this point I knew I had done well with tour leader as Pasang had the BEST laugh. This was going to be 2 weeks of good times I could tell.

A short wander in Thamel to get last money and then dinner, and it was off to bed for our early morning trip to the airport and official start to the journey.

 

24
Feb

The First of Many Momos

By: muttler
welcome to kathmandu

welcome to kathmandu

 

13/01/2018 – Melbourne to Kathmandu

My trip to Everest Base Camp begins!

Yep, after having conquered Kilimanjaro a couple of years ago, it was now time to cross that other epic journey off my list. But that makes it sound like it was just a box checking exercise. Nothing could be further from the truth. My bud (and Kili climbing partner) CC had waxed lyrical about the trip to Base Camp, and like many before me, just uttering the word “Himalayas” was enough to trigger goose bumps. So this was a trip I was excited and nervous (every emotion really) for. So on the plane I jumped, with just my hiking gear accompanying me, and headed on my merry way to Nepal.

The flight was with Thai, via Bangkok. This seemed to be the most direct route and was reasonably priced so worked for me. The airline itself seems to be looking a bit tired these days (especially when you have been travelling places via the Middle East in the past years), but an uneventful flight is a good one, and with 6 hours sleep under my belt I arrived in Kathmandu.

As soon as I arrived I knew I was in a new and unique place. While I have travelled to a lot of places now, not too many have been what I think too rugged or overwhelming. Tanzania to a degree, and parts of Central America I guess, but even the more random parts of Europe (or say Japan) tend to have familiar elements to them. Kathmandu was the same, although the air of difference and chaos does hit you as soon as you are in the airport. As I awaited my bag, very strange animal noises emanated from a large crate. I *think* it was a dog of some kind? But boy were they strange. I then fought my way through the crowds and past the huge number of folks trying to get me into their taxi. I had a transfer waiting, but even one guy was cheeky enough to approach me and let me know he was my transfer (even though he wasn’t) and try to get my bag and an accompanying tip for his trouble. But Mingma from G Adventures (my EBC tour company) was waiting and we headed the centre of town.

The roads were what I expected would be the case… dusty roads where there is no such thing as an indicator, rather a beep of the horn always sufficed when moving left or right. So love being in a new environment where all this craziness is happening around you. In no time Mingma (who I should say was one of our main tour leaders) had me at the Fuji Hotel, our starting point in the tourist area of Thamel, safe and sound and let me know the deal for meeting the group tomorrow. I now had a few hours of afternoon and the whole day tomorrow to get acquainted with Kathmandu.

 

and this is not even as chaotic as most

 

Even though I got some sleep, I was keen to take it easy for the afternoon and do my main sightseeing tomorrow. I marvelled at the incredible wiring on display above my head everywhere I looked. Local NBN? After wandering hectic Thamel for a bit (deflecting the many shopkeeps, randoms on the street, and many offers of drugs), I settled in for the first of many meals of Momos. Momos are basically dumplings, but Nepal’s version. Not much different really… steamed or fried… but with a focus on local fillings. So I was keen to strap on some Buffalo and also Potato and Cheese momos.

 

tucked away

 

mmmmomo!

 

While you can’t walk 10 meters without having the option of momos, I did a quick search for “Best Kathmandu Momo” and was greeted with Newa Momo, so why not? Tucked down a small alley and hard to find, I wandered into the family run restaurant. Buff momos and also Potato Cheese momos please! 20 momos was a lot, but you know… travel makes you hungry hey? Mmmm… delicious. I could see many momos in my future.

The sun was down and I was sleepy, so I decided to settle in for the night and get some sleep before the real adventure started.

 

12
Feb

Everest Base Camp is Coming!

By: muttler
these posts are taking me longer to write than it did to walk there

these posts are taking me longer to write than it did to walk there

 

“Hey Matt!”, I hear you ask. “Where are your posts about your trip to Nepal and Everest Base Camp?!”. OK, so maybe you’re not asking. But just in case you are one of those two people who are thinking that you wouldn’t mind seeing some pics and reading about it, just to let you know that I am busy typing away my adventures! It is probably still a couple of weeks off, but I am working on it when I find time. Rather than post as I finish, I will likely post them all in one hit, Netflix style. No one likes anything drip fed these days do they?

So stay tuned!