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(Carried on from Part 1)

Namache Bazar, at 3440 metres is generally seen as the first day of rest to acclimatise to the altitude. It is also the first opportunity to see Everest. A tiny spec in the distance, its beauty is  dwarfed by the far more impressive peaks that surround it.

 

It's so small

It's so small

 

 

 

In Namache it is your last chance to change cash or travellers cheques, purchase really heavy souvenirs so that you get your monies worth out of your porter and buy more hiking crap that you are paranoid that you think you will need.

 

I purchased a  wooden stick. A very fine stick at 110 ruppees and probably the only time in my life that I will ever purchase a stick. This stick though became my best friend on the journey and helped me through much terrain. I love my stick.

 

Me and stick

Me and stick

 

 

Moving on from Namche my next stop is Dingboche at 4410 metres. Now the symptoms of altitude sickness is extreme headaches, followed by vomiting and then death – a nasty way to go, less you get yourself down to a lower altitude fast. Everyday helicopters fly hikers back to Katmandu because they did not heed the warnings, at $3,000 a pop, this is an expensive mistake to make. For me I did not suffer from altitude sickness, however I did suffer from altitude.

 

Altitude does weird things to your body and mind. I woke up one night, paranoid that I could not breathe, at this altitude oxygen is running at 57%. I am in some kind of panic attack, I do not know if I am too hot or too cold, my sleeping bag feels like it has become a claustrophobic shell, strangling my body. My mind is saying “You cannot do this – strip off naked and run down the hill towards oxygen”. I need my air.

 

I tear myself out of my sleeping bag, death trap, and run outside. I focus, breathe, breathe Colin, breathe. I am alive and the panic subsides. I look up to the most perfectly clear sky and wonder at how beautiful it is with the mountains illuminated by a full moon. I then realise it must be -10 degrees out here, it is bloody freezing and I have the urge to return back to my snuggly warm, life giving, sleeping bag . Thank god I did not strip off naked and run down the mountain in a futile search for oxygen. Being naked in -10 degrees is not a good idea for more than 5 seconds.

 

Other things that I note is that my tongue feels twice the size and seems to have lost most of its taste. The relatively bland food seems even more relatively bland. Furthermore, mucus seems to be taking over my body like something from 1970s Doctor Who series. Blowing out snot and gobbing up chunks of phlegm are a regular occurrence. Being at altitude is going to be a reasonably disgusting experience I realise.

 

Click on photos to see full collection of images.

 

Go to Part 3

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“Everest………because it’s there”, purports a T-shirt in a Katmandu tourist shop, referring to the famous words of George Mallory frozen in time as he was frozen to the top of Everest like a inquisitive 6 year old’s tongue on a freezing metal goal post.

 

Yes it is there and it sure aint moving for a while, I know, I’ve seen it. To see Everest in the real has been an ambition of mine for many years. I don’t really know why, the romanticism of it I guess. To feel a little of the spirit of Hillary and Tensing, Mallory and Irvine, the sense of exploration and pioneers of discovery all bundled into one, relatively safe, easy package of an amble up to the side of a mountain.

 

My journey starts in Lukla located at 2840 metres, a town built around the tiny but chaotic airport, where only 2 days before a plane stuffed it on take off, burning all the German tourists on board to death. The pilot miraculously managed to survive by jumping out.  Now this is an airport where you cannot make a mistake – once you are committed to take off or landing, there is no pulling out or the mountains will consume you and your “Everest…because it’s there” T-shirt . On the up side it will save your family a fortune on cremation bills.

Lukla runway

Lukla runway

 

I quickly get myself a local guide come porter for $300 plus tip, one Pemba Noru Sherper. With a name like that I figure he must have some vague idea as to what he is doing. Now you don’t really need a porter or to that matter a guide, but it would be so un English to go on an exploration of this magnitude without a lacky to carry my bags. Furthermore, being terribly English, I am carrying way too much stuff, but like to have so that I am prepared for any kind of emergency or toilet situation. So with this sense of adventure in mind – myself, Pemba and a shed load of toilet rolls set off. 

 

Now the first thing that you realise about the track that winds its way up from 2840 metres to  my destination, Kala Patthar at 5550 metres, is that yes there is a fair amount of uphill travel and that this track is an express highway for everyone and everything. Large groups of hikers whose habiliments consist of the latest in fake Gortex purchased in Katmandu rustle along with their double walking sticks like day glo shrimps feeling their way towards altitude sickness and dietry hell. Everything must be carried up this path and as such everything gets more expensive the higher you climb. A continuous stream of porters with amazing strength and yaks lug up the necessities of life – beer, Mars Bars and snooker tables. If you are so inclined you could make this the highest pub crawl in the world and can play snooker as high as Namche Bazar at 3440 metres. The price of a bounty bar rises from 70 ruppees in Katmandu to a staggering 150 – 200 ruppees above 4000 metres.

 

Despite the feeling that you are not on a quest of uncharted mountainous regions, the scenery is stunning, in fact I would go as far to say, jaw dropping. High mountains are surrounded by even higher mountains and you traverse deep river gorges over wire bridges that are decorated with prayer flags and have just enough wobble to cause the tinniest amount of concern and visions of yourself plummeting to you death in the freezing torrents below.

 

Accommodation is in tea houses, solid stone structures on the outside, but made from the thinest of plywood on the inside. Sound proofing is not their bag, Earplugs are pretty handy if you are disturbed by your neighbors rustling sleeping bag and/or flatulence. Also they are all run by vocal Nepalese women whose voice pitch is irritatingly located just under that which only dogs can hear.

 

The food is pretty much the same in all of them, consisting of variations on pasta, rice, potatoes and eggs. They are not exactly welcoming either, everything comes at a price. Your scrambled eggs will cost 200 ruppees in the morning and god forbid that you want toast with that, that will be an extra 150 ruppees thankyou very much. The mountains will eat up your money, so take plenty of cash, your American Express card will not be welcome here. Even my porter I feel is eying up my cash and stuff, considering his tip and what I may leave him as a present. Nepal is a poor country, but this is the money trail and I am on it.

Click on Images to see full selection of pictures.

Now see Everest……Because it’s there (Part 2)

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