Welcome to Nepal

Welcome to Nepal

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Namche to Tengboche and beyond [Day 17]

Meeting up with Trek D

I wake at 0425hrs after having gone to bed at 2000hrs, excited at the prospect of trekking up to meet my team. I think about buying some Mars Bars as a treat for them, but decide against this because of the heat.

My thoughts wander back to home, to my wife and family, where I will get back to normality... to get back on my computer, view my photos, to check my finances, to continue work on the cottage, to write up this diary on my blog site and plan my trip to Snowdon with my son. So many good positive things to look forward to. But for now I need to pack my rucksack and get on the trail straight after breakfast.

I arrive downstairs much earlier than necessary and mix with the Sirdar and porters of Trek G. The Sirdar is a really experienced climber and has organised climbs for Alan Hinks no less. One of his porters (Husan Sunawar) exchanges email addresses so we can keep in touch once I return to the UK - a nice touch.

I have my normal diet of porridge, omelette on toast and lemon tea for breakfast and finish before Trek G come in, as they have been completing their morning testing. I nipd back up to my room, pack my sleeping bag, wash kit, waterproofs, medical kit and extra layers... fill my water bottle, use the loo and then leaving a note on my holdall of my route, plans and timings, lock the room and pocket the key.

I don my sack and leave the lodge, around the crashed helicopter, up the steps, through the arch and onto the sandy trail. I greet some of the locals as I head through the narrow paths and then I am out onto the open hillside looking down into Namche.

I set out at a good pace and it is great being on my own again. As I walk, I find that many of the porters carrying loads stop and chat to me... much more so because I am on my own, rather than in a large group. The locals carry huge loads up the mountain.

Ideal resting place

Lovely walk through the forest

This is the main highway to get goods up the trekking trail in support of the climbing industry. Of course helicopters can be used, but it is not really cost effective, except for very wealthy expeditionary. I see children perhaps as young as twelve carrying massive loads and some of the sights defy explanation, but I'll try.

I see one porter carrying four sheets of thick ply - each sheet 6' x 3' x 0.5". The weight must be immense. I would have difficulty lifting just one sheet of this... and yet here he is with this load roped up and suspended by a band around his forehead. I can see his tendons and muscles straining as he walks... in flip flops... heading for Tengboche and beyond. The weight must have been well in excess of 60kg... astonishing.

I continue to romp along, the route and places by now very familiar. I take a few more photos of Everest and particularly of Ama Dablam, and soon arrive at the base of the climb up to Tengboche. I have a rest at the bottom near the river, use the loo, refuel with a Mars Bar and half a litre of water and then start the climb.

It is really hot and only mid-morning. The path snakes its way, ever upwards, the dust dry and coating my boots. I keep resting in the shade and taking on more liquid, as I am leaking no end.

The porters rest constantly at little scheduled stops created in the stone walls - they have to with the loads they are carrying. It is all I can do to keep going uphill, placing one leg after another. The paths are so steep and rocky... and all I am carrying is a measly rucksack.

I come across a porter who has a towering basket, full of crates of San Miguel beer, with boxes of confectionery beneath, toiling upward ever so slowly, his brow furrowed with the weight and strain of carrying. Another has a carcass of some meat or other, open to the elements, with flies buzzing around in the heat... that's how the meat in the dishes arrives at the lodges higher up the mountain.

With great relief I finally top out at Tengboche - it is just 1045hrs. I set out from Namche at 0745hrs!

Nice to stop and chat

I am still feeling very strong and the weather is excellent, so I decide to push on through Deboche to head up to Pangboche. I know this permission has not been granted to me, but I reason that Trek D will be descending down this trail, so will bump into me... or me into them sooner or later.

This section of the trail is delightful... much of it through colourful rhododendron forests, high above the Dudh Kosi.

Rhododendron trail

Just after Deboche, I meet one of the Trek D porters who recognises me instantly and comes over to give me a hug. He seem genuinely pleased to see me, and me him... and it makes me feel a million dollars. Chatting, he said the team were about an hour away... so this gives me some idea of their position coming down from Dingboche.

I head over the unusual bridge below Pangboche (this is not a hawser suspension bridge like most, but is constructed out of scaffolding tube... and as such looks out of place) and head ever onwards. I arrive at the welcome archway just before the junction of trails for Upper and Lower Pangboche and stop for a rest with some other porters who are also having a break.

I offer them some of my biscuits and soon the whole packet has been devoured. The porters seem to find my rucksack quite humorous, as I have my solar panel strapped to the outside and my GPS fastened to the side. I'm sure this causes them great amusement, as they trek up to the higher reaches of the mountain with nothing more than flip flops, trousers, shirt and jacket.

Unsure as to which Pangboche route Trek D were descending by, I decide to wait on an outcrop of rock, high above the valley, looking right up at one of my favourite peaks, Ama Dablam.

Ama Dablam means 'mother’s necklace' because the long ridges on each side of the mountain are like the arms of a mother (ama) protecting her child, and the hanging glacier is thought of as the dablam, the traditional double-pendant containing pictures of the gods, worn by Sherpa women.

Waiting for Trek D to arrive

Ama Dablam

It is a wonderful spot and the sun is beating down, so I remove my rucksack and settle down to wait for Trek D to arrive. I hear, rather than see, the Yak transport coming down. The clanking bells signalling a warning to all on the trail. Before long, the blue Jagged Globe bags come into view.

I go to speak with our yak herder who grins in recognition and she indicates the group are only about a half hour away. A few false alarms... and then I recognise Deborah's (Trek Leader) yellow rucksack bobbing down the hill.

I shout up: 'Are you missing a trekker somewhere along the trail?' and bound up to meet them. With many hugs and handshakes, I am back in the womb of my team again, although two (Dennis and Nadia) haved left the group earlier to do an extension to their holiday.

Mike comes over to greet me... it is great to have his company again. We walk back to Tengboche chatting and catching up on the news, with me asking about their experience at EBC. I also have to fill them in about what has happened to me since being left at Pheriche.

Many have had an uncomfortable time at EBC and whilst they would not have wished to have missed it, wouldn't want to repeat the experience. I don't think they are saying this just for my benefit... as I remember looking at Trek C after they had arrived at Dingboche and thinking how drained they looked. Trek D have a similar gaunt look.

Just as we are climbing the hill out of Deboche, I am at the front talking to Llakpa (our Sirdar) when three horses come thundering around the corner of the trail, in a cacophony of bells. One horse has his leg caught up in a saddle that has slipped. We only just manage to leap out of the way before they crash into the trees near a precipice, where they manage to regain the trail and continue ever downwards.

We shout warnings to the rest of the trekkers below, hoping that no one is in the way. Shortly afterwards, a breathless monk comes into view looking quite fraught. We point him in the right direction... and laughing said the horses would probably be at EBC by now. He set off again running downhill after his wayward mounts.

Arriving back at Tengboche for the fourth time (for me)... it is incredible how a place suddenly becomes very familiar, even though one has spent so little time there in total. Mike is billeted with me and after dumping our bags, I ask him if he would like to walk up the prayer flag ridge.

Mike offers to say some words in prayer with me, but having previously left my scarf tied to a bush with a little prayer for the health and happiness of my family, I kindly declined... but what a nice gesture.

A fitting touch to the end of an excellent day.

Prayer flag ridge at Tengboche

No comments: