Heavy packs, laden yaks, tales of a yeti, badly cooked spaghetti, tasty cakes and gorgeous lakes..194 days in.
This blog comes to you from the diligent fingers and creative minds of our latest guest bloggers, Glenn and Pinto. All events are based on true stories.
We flew in from Kathmandu and swooped down to the start of our 16 day hike from Lukla to Everest Base Camp. We’d been told the flight was a hair-raising affair but in truth it was more like being scalped as the plane plummeted towards the 16 foot runway made of yak hair and left over tsampa porridge. Safely off the plane we collected our bags and began the first leg of our trek, unexpectedly downhill and incredibly short – a nice warm up!
The next day things got serious. With a map in our hands and fire in our bellies (or skipping straight to our bums in some cases) we set our sights on Namche Bazar a thousand metres higher that our starting point and the Sherpa capital of the world! As the day wore on an enthusiastic trot became a hopeful plod, a hopeful plod became a relentless trudge and a relentless trudge became a near crawl. We got there in the end, in various states, and there we remained for 2 days to acclimatise to the altitude, allowing our beleaguered bodies to get cracking with increasing red blood cell production and so increase the oxygen levels in our hurty heads.
Namche was a turning point for us, we hadn’t decided to beat a complete retreat from the Himalaya but an alternative destination was now in the offing. Having sought advice from local yokels and ardent aussies alike, we’d heard that heading to a little place called Gokyo rather than Everest Base Camp would offer better views of the top of the world, fewer tourists and more yaks than you could throw a stone at (a favourite pastime of the locals) – triple win!
And so in the dim candlelight of our lodge we unfurled our map and moved counters around with canes to plan our next steps. After much tea, some debate and a little thought we decided that despite the armchair kudos of base camp, we would face the blank faces that our tales of “Gokyo” would evoke for the sake of a more hearty Himalayan experience!
Leaving Namche Bazar behind and heading towards our new goal we found ourselves shedding a few luxuries, like meat, mo-mo’s, comfort and oxygen.Not to be deterred by asphyxiation we travelled ever upwards, day by day, past gompa and stupa, past yak and sherpa, stopping only for tea and nightly refuge.
The path to Gokyo was long but littered with wonders. The peaks rose ever skyward and the glacial river we were following roared past in an endless turbid rage as it carried forth the waste of the village upstream to the drinking water of the villages downstream. The lakes were still and the yeti nests empty. All was well…Then disaster!
Whilst joyously skipping and singing merrily along our way we stumbled upon a weary looking porter fellow. In right and proper empirical style we enquired,
“Baugh, are you alright old chap?”
“No, vomiting” replied the porter.
We quickly convened a meeting to discuss the likelihood of AMS (acute mountain sickness), an ailment we had all taken our PhDs in the day before at a remote sherpa rescue post.
With checklist in hand and absent stethoscope in the other we decided it was time to call the A-Team into action!
Hannibal stepped forward to guide the porter down to safety (the only known cure for such a crippling disease), whilst B.A. and Face mobilised to move the patient’s load up to Gokyo, so the landed gentry whom had solicited the porter’s services to transport their wares up to their would-be encampment would not be without their diamond encrusted dinner service. Meanwhile with no porter to save, or white goods to lug, Murdoch decided the best course of action to make it to Gokyo would be to join another team.
The hours rolled on. Hannibal and the Porter got ever lower, Murdoch ever higher and Face and B.A. stumbled slowly about somewhere in between telling well-meaning passers by to quit their jibber jabber.
Eventually, in an impossible way that the A-Team scriptwriters would’ve been proud of and that we’re yet to understand, by mid-afternoon we’d all made it to Gokyo (except the porter of course who was left at a mountain doctor’s outpost) and had managed to find each other, and all without getting on any damn plane. We love it when a plan comes together.
The main draw of Gokyo was to climb Gokyo Ri and in doing so sneak a peak at Everest above and the green lakes below. It was a hard, breathless slog and just thinking about it makes us need a little snooze, so we’ll let the photos do the talking…
There was also a very important, deeply sacred ceremony to perform on the top of the Ri too. Ardent blog readers and chums of Sugs will be all too familiar with the sight of him in “those” shorts. Flapping around on those lanky legs for more than 2 decades they’ve seen it all, and in recent years with the holes beginning to coalesce and the material wearing thin they’ve come pretty close to revealing it all too. As such it was decided that they should be given a fitting sendoff before the authorities were called in. As we were in Buddhist lands, where prayer flags (square bits of material joined in a line to a string) are everywhere the plan almost made itself. Imagine one legs-worth of the shorts that have brought so much happiness to so many being able to see out it’s days fluttering in the wind and watching the sun rise and set on the top of the world, magical. And what of the other leg? Well that would return home with Sugs as a lasting reminder of what once was and what, if reincarnation for clothes exists outside of an Oxfam shop, might once more be.
The decision to deploy the penknife scissors there on that summit was not taken lightly, nor was it met with universal approval by the locals, but deployed they were and thread by thread an era came to a close, history was made and a lasting leg-acy was left.
After a few oxygen-light, bakery heavy days at Gokyo we were more than ready to make our way back down the valley. I say down, but in the days that followed we seemed to ascend a great deal in our quest to lose altitude. Still, slowly slowly catchy monkey (Hanuman if you’re lucky) and as the days rolled on the mountain tops gave way to grassy hummocks, the barren rocky outcrops gave way to trees and plants, and the knees gave way to steep downhill slopes.
We saw monks chant at dawn in Tengboche (Sugs and Pinto even played football with one in fact!), we ate cake whenever, wherever and however we could, we were reunited with pals we’d met on the way up, we sang, we danced and we dreamed of all the tasty, unfried food we’d feast on once back in Kathmandu. Mmm, momo’s…
And that dear readers is the tale of how 4 went walking. It’s conclusion marks the end of our hostile takeover of the hemiexplorers blog. We’ll leave Sugs to explain in his own words how he got punched by a monkey…