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Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Tengboche to Namche [Day 14]

'Club Namche'

The two guys I share a room with tonight, one has the bed on the left hand side of me, the other the right hand bed. I am already in my bag when they decide to retire for the evening. Almost immediately they manage to fall asleep. One goes silent before gasping and sucking in a lungful of air, whilst the other is rasping steadily.  Stereo snoring... yep, stereo.  I swear I don't sleep a wink. I will not name them... but if they read this blog, they'll know who they were.

I am now sat in the lodge writing my diary - it is cold. The dung burner from last night now asleep - out of fuel. Looking around the room, it is covered with posters of expeditions. Everest (South Koreans) 2003; Pumori (Italians); Llotse (South Koreans) 2007; Ama Dablam 2002; K2 (South Koreans) 2006. There is also a poster about Jamling Tensing Norgay's book "Touching My Father's Soul" - which I must purchase. There are also old photographs of Tengboche Monastry and various Buddhist posters. In the background a radio blares out Nepali political propaganda... and a mix of nationalities come and go for breakfast... Brits, French, Koreans, Nepalis.

This morning the smell of the drains is overpowering, drifting into the lodge putting you off your breakfast. I suppose the term 'drains' is too elaborate for what exists here, as sewage discharges into a pit below the porcelain squat and left to decay... hence the strong smell.

My camera seems to be eating batteries lately... possibly due to the cold. When I get to Namche I must set up my solar panel and recharge them all.

We set off a little later than scheduled - 0815hrs. A long descent down to the Dudh Kosi... and a nice steady climb to Sangsun. The sun shines steadily and the rhododendrons are out in pink force. A very large bird circles above the valley and I grab my camera to take some shots of it. I don't think it is a Golden Eagle, possibly a Lammergeier.

Rhododendrons clinging to the hillside

Out in bloom

Prayer wheel

Well maintained trekking trail

Opportunity to buy souvenirs

Himalayan birch

Lammergeier
Namche

Arriving back at Namche, there is a comforting familiarity about the place.  A return to good staff, good accommodation, good food... proper sit down toilets and great showers. Relative civilisation.

As instructed, I go to check in with the duty doctor (Jo) at 1500hrs and hand her my medical data on the USB drive given to me by the Kiwi doctor at Pheriche. After a further examination and confirmation that I am now OK (no further headaches or after effects), I ask permission to go trekking on my own (whilst waiting to be reunited with Trek D descending from EBC).

Jo said she would speak with Monty... the Lab boss. I therefore decide to wander over to see if I can get on the internet, but find this dominated by the Americans from the Imax team. I decide to try again later rather than waiting.

It is extremely busy at the Sherwi Khangba Hotel due to Trek F having been delayed by bad weather flying out from Kathmandu to Lukla. There are now two trekking groups in residence (Trek F & G).

Trek F happens to be John Caudwell's team and the Imax film crew are accompanying him to EBC tomorrow. With my current group Trek C on their way down, the accommodation is full to overflowing.

I know I have a few days to kill in Namche before my original group descend from EBC, so I decide to go and check the trekking schedule for Trek D. I discover they are not due to arrive in Namche until the 29th April, a day later than I expected. I will need to somehow occupy this time, so studying my maps I put a rough plan together.

On the 26th, I think I will ask permission to trek up the adjacent valley to visit the Thamo Nunnery. After all, we had completed a short section of this route during the Trek D acclimatisation walk, so at least part of the route would be familiar to me. This will involve minimal risk.

I'll use the 27th for personal admin... to sort my kit out and try and organise a shower and shave.

I will then seek permission on the 28th to trek back up the Khumbu, to see how far I can get before surprising my Trek D colleagues as they descend from Dingboche.

Excited, I went to layout my plans to the permanent staff.

Whilst I was waiting for a decision to be taken, I bump into Kit Spencer of Summit Trekking (who organises the Nepali side of operations for Jagged Globe). The Summit Hotel (where he is Managing Director), is a fantastic bit of real estate in Kathmandu and a lovely retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Kit is an ex-Gurkha Officer and I have a great deal of respect for what he has built over here and for what he contributes to Nepali society. He is in Namche today overseeing all operations to make sure everything runs smoothly for the Imax team and Caudwell group.

Kit patiently listens to my story of headaches and sickness and is very understanding, but quite firm in his opinion that I shouldn't have continued ever higher to EBC in the circumstances. It was clear I could have become a real burden in any emergency. His pragmatic view - it is best to make the most of my Himalayan experience in other ways. It is just what I needed to hear and it makes me feel so much better about things.

Then the news I'd been waiting for - permission has been granted for me to go solo trekking, as long as I leave details of my route and timings... and check back in afterwards. This clears the issue of my trek to Thamo, but more important to me was the longer trek back up the Khumbu to meet my own trek group coming back from EBC.

On this matter, I am advised to accompany Trek G to Tengboche and wait there for my group to arrive, just in case of any relapse with my headaches. This makes sense I suppose, but I was really looking forward to trekking back up on my own. I am confident that I know the route having covered it twice, once up and then down again. Also I am now feeling extremely fit and well. I promise to myself, I will make the decision what to do after seeing how I perform on my day trek to Thamo.

That evening, after I finally manage to get on the internet and email my wife with the up-to-date position. I am sitting with the members of Trek C, their Sirdar and porters in a private annex of the Namche Lodge. There is a warm hubbub of conversation and the guitar appears again.

A rendition of Trek C's song is given in preparation for the Farewell Party at 'Club Namche' - and I sing along to the chorus: "Hey, hey, feeling blue; Yaks on the mountain two by two; Who'd believe what we've been through; Let's go back to Kathmandu". Of course, having a musical director amongst us (Harry) helps no end.

At 'Club Namche', the evening is a success. Trek C perform their song, as did the Sirdar and his porters. The Club Namche permanent staff do their best to entertain with some type of dance instruction. I just stand at the bar with a beer chatting and philosophising about life in general.

Whilst Trek C are still together, I decide to thank them for making me so very welcome. This was politely received and everyone clapped - it will be nice to see them off tomorrow as they head for home - but I will be sad to see them go. I will have to get up early tomorrow (0530hrs) to see Trek C depart for Lukla, so I decide to retire early to the 'dormitory' (six lads sharing together - great fun).

A good evening, with good company and a fitting farewell to Trek C - thanks folks for making me so welcome.

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