Friday, 27 September 2013

Diary of a Trekker

I am going to write up bits from my handwritten diary from the trek and add in whatever I remember from after I stopped bothering to write my diary...

Day 3, Sept 3rd, Kathmandu (& Day 4 and 5)

I finally have a notebook! Its now day 5 [I wrote in a bit of a strange order] and we should already be in the mountains! Day 3 was the project visit, and Day 4 should have been flying to Lukla. We were up at 5am, waited until 10 or so and told to go back to bed, which was fine as we were tired. I missed lunch as I hadn't slept the night before (too hot and damp sheets) and I couldn't face more Indian food but turned out it was pasta and good fries. So I joined the group later to head to the Monkey Temple. It was much harder than I was expecting, 400 steps to the top, in flip flops and running on only the food I ate at 6am meant I was dead by the time I got to the top and wondering what the hell I was thinking climbing Everest. It was very hot and of course there were monkeys everywhere. We got a gorgeous view over all Kathmandu, much bigger than I realised it was.
rooftop cafe

view over Kathmandu

too many steps

There were loads of prayer flags hanging around and a religious ceremony was going on with lots of rice throwing and lots of people sitting on the floor holding a piece of string...
Steven James Jenni and I spent ages on the rooftop (even more steps!!) of a café drinking banana lassi and chilling above the sounds and smells and dirty air of the city. Some people got taxis but we walked back, then halfway James wanted a haircut which made us late for dinner so we got a taxi the rest of the way (scary ride!!) all the taxis are the same small square car and most say 'Sports' on them in large letters as if it'll make it go faster.
Dinner was at 6 in the hotel, it was Chinese but I only fancied the sweetcorn soup  and then Pemba took me to get the fries I'd missed at lunch, BK's, "best fingerchips"!
So as I said Day 3 was the project visit which I have written a bit about... We got the bus for 90 mins or so to the middle of nowhere across a bridge that was a dodgy plank of wood to the school. There were two buildings, the main one, and the new block down a steep slope (which the kids hopped down like goats and we all skidded down holding on to eachother!). Kids were running everywhere in little cute uniforms and were excited to see us. We painted the ceiling with white primer and then blue, and I sanded the wooden window shutters and painted them. We stopped for lunch and had a wrap thing and potatoes and biscuits and sprite on the floor of the concrete building. It was pretty sparse and I wasn't that impressed really considering what the amounts of money we raised must be able to buy out here! We were just in and out after the DIY, we didn't really get to interact with the kids which was a bit rubbish to be honest and I think we thought it'd be better than it was. We saw their library, including books such as "A tree is nice".
On the way back we daw dead dogs in the road; stray dogs just wonder around in Kathmandu and in the mountains. We went to the hire shop after this to get last minute things and did a bit of shopping then had an Indian dinner which was exactly the same as the Nepali dinner.
So back to Day 5... Thursday, we were up at 6am. We were the third flight scheduled (the day before we were second) and so by 10.30 it was clear none of the other flights had flown due to Lukla still being too cloudy. It is one of the most dangerous airports with like a 2inch runway that appears as if from nowhere in the clouds and suddenly you've landed! So I guess we wouldn't want to fly in bad weather, but still pretty gutting.
Now Friday 6th was our LAST CHANCE to fly otherwise we'd have to do the Annapurna trek instead. Now when I wrote this I was so sure we were going to be stuck on this other trek and was completely gutted to be honest. Only one group has ever had to do it and the June group flew on their last-chance day so I guess delays are common but everyone makes it. So I am up tomorrow [Friday] at 4am to leave hotel Marshyangdi for good either way... Suffice to say its an understatement to say I am hugely gutted if Everest doesn't happen after all the stress and money spent, and time spent raising the money, and all of the people (e.g. theyre all talking about it at Aviva apparently) expecting me to go to Everest. At 11am Thursday we left the hotel on the bus to go to another Buddhist temple, similar to the monkey one without the steps and the monkeys...but first stopping at G-Café for lunch which served Nepalese, Chinese and pizza. You were only allowed to walk around the temple clockwise... like the Mani wheels.
We got Everest beer and Lassis on (yet another) rooftop café and all prayed for good weather with a minutes silence. Then we went to Durbar Square, with lots of temples and things but kind of disappointing for $7.50. We walked down 'freak street' and saw a guy fighting off a drunk guy, was a pretty lame fight.
Steven made me laugh saying he had four disappointments that day; 1.Everest not happening, 2.Durbar square, 3. getting up to get his pizza at G-café when it wasn't ready, and 4. getting up a second time for his pizza when it wasn't ready, hahaha.
I picked up my $2 laundry; was clean-ish. There was more Indian food that night in the 'garden of joy' [we ate inside] and I couldn't stomach any of it. There is not chicken due to bird flu there so all the curries are horrid things like mutton and buffalo, ugh.
Tomorrow [Friday] we don't get breakfast as we leave too early....fingers crossed!!
Friday 6th- last chance day
So we were up at 4. I had about an hours sleep and felt like crap (considering I had to trek for 3/4 hours later that morning too!). We were booked on the first flight of the day.
I showered and did my third 'final' hairwash and we were waiting by 5am. None of us got our hopes up....on the bus to the airport... could still be cancelled...going through security[they love a good frisking in Nepal and India!] ...its not going to happen...getting plane tickets and checking in the bags...might not go... getting on the plane at 6.30 and it begins to taxi to the runway I felt like I finally let out the breath I'd been holding since 4am..ITS REALLY HAPPENING! But I wouldn't believe it 'til we landed in the mountains.

Yeti Airlines

World's most pointless air hostess


It was a tiny plane so we were split in two, I think it was a 12 seater. And there was an air hostess who flashed us the security card (LOL like that would help us in this thing..) for the twin otter plane and shoved her way through the seats to hand out toffee sweets and cotton wool for ear plugs. At first I was pretty scared as the plane felt so fragile but the views were stunning and soon we were all glued to the windows, Kathmandu, rolling green hills and valleys, then misty cloudy mountains! The engine was really loud on landing and take off. After 30 minutes, out of nowhere the shortest runway just appeared right in front of us surrounded by cloud and we pulled up so quickly and turned to the airport and that was that. We were rushed off the plane and the next lot rushed on and it was off again! In the group that got on was someone on a stretcher that looked in pain, not really the best omen for our first day...
We headed into the main town of Lukla, 2,850m. Breathtaking scenery, lovely fresh air, no horns, no piles of rubbish. We had takeaway breakfasts in slightly squashed boxes. sandwich, boiled egg, apples banana croissant muffin and juice and got on the free wifi to let the world know we'd survived.
We explored Lukla and saw the 'Starbucks' not sure it was real.

Day One (of the trek) Phakding, 2,610m.

Day Two, Namche Bazaar, 3450m
Namche is the main hub for the Sherpas and quite a big town. We stayed in Hotel Tibet. I had my last shower here for 300Rs. Was hot but then scalded me! The trek here was Nepali flat before lunch then steep ascent after but I was prepared for it to be hard so just kept steadily plodding onwards and upwards! In the afternoon we officially entered Sagarmatha National Park, and the Khumbu valley; the area that includes all the Sherpa villages and many mountains besides Everest; Lhotse, Cho Oyo and Ama Dablam (which we saw many times, apparently meant to be the third most beautiful mountain in the world-according to who I don't know). There was a small model of the park and its mountains at the entrance and our trek so far was nothing compared to what we had left, I saw we were going down the valley through all mountains to the end where the foot of Everest stood.
Entering Sagarmatha national park

We registered all our cameras at the entrance to Namche, if they get stolen they close down the village! We are spread on two floors here in the hotel and my floor doesn't have power, damn!

Day Three, Namche Bazaar, 3450m Acclimatization Day
Acclimatization days are a bitch!! You think its more chilled as its only a half day and we get up an hour later but we go steeper in a shorter time period and for me there was no motivation to walk up just to come back down so I hate them. I found it hard and couldn't breathe properly. Everest viewpoint we walked to was a dud as it was all just cloud which was a shame. There was a museum too but wasn't very exciting.
View of Namche out my window

Day Four, Debouche, 3875m
Debouche was just past Tengboche with its famous monastery. The only thing worth mentioning here is that when we woke up on day five we could see Everest for the first of only two times on the whole trek!

Day Five, Dingboche, 4410m
More walking...

Day Six, Dingboche, acclimatization day.
The others trekked up to 5000m today but I got to 4650m and went back down with Bali because my stomach was giving me so much pain. Other people began to get sick too with headaches, or throwing up and some people began taking Diamox that's meant to help acclimatize but I never had any.

Day Seven, Lebouche, 4910m
By this point I was truly sick and tired of the whole routine, of being dirty, of the food, of walking after no sleep, of the horrid toilets, of feeling sick, just the whole thing and was really desperate to go home, it was here I decided I was not going to travel after but just come straight home. Interesting part of this days walk, seeing the monuments for all those who died climbing Everest, often on the descent after summiting, including Scott Fischer's who I have read about in Into Thin Air.
I just realised I have forgotten an integral part of the trekking; the words "Jum Jum!" which means 'lets go' basically and its what the Sherpas shouted after every break, boy I grew to hate those words.

Day Eight, Everest Base Camp, 5364m and Gorak Shep, 5140m
I have already spoken about the Base Camp part of today.. and Gorak Shep was where we stayed that night, the highest place we would sleep-although I didn't sleep much. We all wrote on a tshirt which will be forever (maybe) immortalized on the ceiling of the Yeti Resort.
Day Nine, down to Pheriche, 4240m
This was the day we got woken at 4am and then 7am and I still had a lot of trouble breathing on the walk so this wasn't a great day. It was quite long too, we got the Yak pizza that evening.
At some point on the way back, either this day or the next we had to cross a new 'bridge' that had been put up since the one we were meant to cross a few days before had fallen down at 2am one night and we'd had to take a longer way round on the way there, but now we could use the 'new' one. It was pretty dodge to be honest!!! And we passed the broken one, scary stuff.

Day Ten, back to Namche, 3450m
During the walk today we visited the Tengboche monastery, and it wasn't that exciting to be honest. Good old Namche, back to the first shower ($3) in EIGHT days, it ran cold after a bit but was still one of the best showers of all time. This was the night we watched Tashi's Sherpa documentary and had Yak steak. It would have been a great night had some people not gone out, including the girl I shared a room with that night, and come back screaming like bloody 5 year olds at god knows what time in the morning, I was pretty pissed off!!!

Day Eleven, back down to Lukla!! 2850m
This day was hard and long especially after my lack of sleep. A lot of downhill which I'm slow at before lunch, which was at Phakding and everyone had a nap, then after lunch it was actually uphill for the final leg of our trek!
After lunch we detoured to Tashi's mum's house where they had lots of apple and pear trees and we picked fresh pears and the Sherpas shimmied up the trees to knock them off, one fell on Padam's head bless him! It was lovely and then we carried on in the right direction but off the main path, crossing one very dubious bridge with sides low enough to fall over. We stopped for a short break near the end, and there was a house with an open door covered by a curtain. Outside, in front of us was a horse a pony and a chicken. The horse kept sticking his head in the door, but got stuck on the curtain, and got one or two hooves inside before the lady came to push him out. He'd walk off and then try again in a few minutes. Maybe it was lack of TV or entertainment over the last week or two but I swear to god it was the most entertaining thing!! We all didn't want to leave as we wanted to see it actually walk all the way in.

After the horse show there was just a few gruelling hours left and finally I was high-fiving Padam back in Lukla!! That night we stayed at Bali's uncles house, where we'd had breakfast when we first landed. We had ensuites! We had our final mountain meal, it was the first serve-yourself buffet, with a starter of tomato soup. There was buffalo curry, rice (both of which I avoided) small fried chip like things, some green veg, lentils, and garlic pasta. Then as it was two people in the groups' birthdays soon they'd made a birthday cake that said "welcome to Everest lodge" on it and was very yummy!
I sat with Bali's niece for a while and she was so cute, she drew me a drawing too. I forgot to mention all the little kids that we saw running about as we passed through the villages are SO cute, all big round faces and cute red cheeks.

We kicked off the celebration with an Everest beer and then Mike was forcing shots of whiskey on everyone and music began to play and Yak man worked his magic on the dance floor!
We headed out of the hotel and the whole group + all Sherpas and yak man went to a 'Scottish' (few random Scottish signs was about all that was Scottish) pub, which was basically an underground bar that was all to ourselves, with a pool table, a bar, a dancefloor and once the ipods were plugged in playing our songs, and vodka shots and more Everest beer was had (I didn't pay for anything of this...) it was such a great last night, I couldn't have made it better! The pub also had writing all over the walls so we had another chance to leave our mark...theres a photo somewhere but its not up yet. There were also some great things groups from all over the world had written such as "What do you call a fat computer? Adele" hahaha and "I yakked on a Yeti".
The June group was stuck in Lukla 2 or 3 days due to weather but strangely didn't come here.
Everyone danced with eachother, and whenever I or anyone else sat down to take a break yak man pulled us back on the dancefloor, Mike (the older guy) got off his face drunk and made an emotional speech then sat on the sofa staring into space the rest of the night, Aaron and Helen tried to teach us some random Spanish dance, I had a dance with all the Sherpas, and James C did the full on dance to Lady Gaga's Applause by himself. There were probably a load of other funny moments I can't remember. Everyone got so drunk due to altitude and lack of drinking in the past few weeks.
The best part was I never ever would have thought I could have such a good night if you'd told me I'd be going out wearing my sports bra and well worn tshirt, (my Everest hoody which soon came off, so hot in there), my thermal leggings and sleeping socks which I'd shoved on for dinner, plus hiking boots, no make up, the hairiest legs I've ever had, and hair that hadn't been brushed for 3 or 4 days at least!! But it was great and I danced for hours!
I was one of the first to leave around 1 or 2 am, bearing in mind we were due to be up at 5 for a flight at 6.. Bali walked Steven and I back and told us we'd see him when he woke us...
A little while after I was back Aaron and Claire dragged Mikki into bed and forced her into her sleeping bag like she was a baby she was so wasted, and Tashi came in and wouldn't leave 'til they dragged him out, so drunk!
Then a while later Tashi came back in and woke us up telling Mikki he had more beer (she did not need it!) so I told him to leave her alone then he got on my bed and started nibbling my ear!! Silly guy!
So anyway, 5 am came and went with no wake up call as Bali was probably too drunk to wake up, and Aaron woke up somehow and was banging on our doors at 5.40 yelling '20 minutes we are going in 20 minutes' SHIT! my stuff was chucked everywhere and I was sleeping in the clothes from last night so I had to just stay in them and shove everything into my bag as first as possible. Mikki had thrown up all over her pillow in the night and didn't want to get up. Mike was most definitely still drunk for the flight and security didn't look too happy but we all, including Tashi's Mum, made it onto the plane and Bali and the others eventually got up to wave us off and watched us fly.
Although a few days before I'd been dying to go home, I actually really missed the mountains as we took off, we'd had such a great last night there. My ears killed during the landing but we got back in one piece.

Tashi, possibly still drunk!

We slept for a bit back at Hotel Marshyangdi, where we'd spent many nights before the trek, then went for lunch at 1pm to Fire and Ice Pizzaria which was pretty similar to pizza express, it was very nice and western although the food wasn't that good, I had a Hawaiian and a banana lassi. Later on I shopped with James and he was great at bartering so I got better at it and picked up loads of goodies. We returned our hire stuff (my poles) and then went for dinner, the celebratory dinner at Rum Doodle. I wasnt hungry after the huge pizza so didn't really enjoy my food but it was a cool place. Rooftop [of course] fulllll of white cardboard feet that all the groups who had trekked or even climbed Everest had filled out, they hung above the tables and plastered the walls down four or five flights of stairs! We tried but failed to find the June group's foot.

 We got given our TIMS card which was the trekking permit with our photo stuck on and cool stamps (and my name spelt wrong of course) it was pretty cool!!!
Some other Childreach leaders were also at the meal and one was having his birthday so we got our second birthday cake in a row that night! I also had a really good mocktail that was basically OJ, sprite and cream! A few of us (half the group were leaving at 7am to go travelling) went out that night for shisha, and then to a club called Fire club which was apparently the best Kathmandu had to offer but was frankly awful. I left at 1 to go to bed because I was so tired having only had about 2 hours sleep. At the shisha bar Helen was intrigued as to where another table was from and asked them; all American, and one of the guys came over and started chatting to me. He was really nice and from Alaska I think and was on his gap year (so young bless him!) trekking with his dad and little brother. He left to go to a club and asked us along but I didn't want him to think there was anything more than chatting so I was like yeah..maybe but then that was the club we ended up going to so I got stuck talking to him there too. I wanted to go home and he offered to walk me but then he went to the loo so I did a runner and got Tashi to walk me home. Poor boy I just couldn't shake him off! Then at the airport on Thursday morning we were all sat reading and he walked past with his family, I could have died it was so awkward! He came over and said hi and I went really red because I felt bad about running off, and his Dad (who wasn't out before) said something super cringey like 'Does he know you or is he just going around talking to pretty girls' ah god! Then when he left the whole group was like who was that Emma?? hahaha I should never be allowed to talk to guys!
So anyway, Wednesday morning half the group left to go travelling, and the rest of us spent the day spending the rest of our dollars/rupees
Some of the rupee notes (missing the nice purple 50)
Then that evening we went back to Rum Doodle and I got a half decent lasagne, and some chocolate mousse. Wasn't particularly eventful and we were up early again the next day for the flight. FLYING HOME!!
So I had a nice time reading my Sophie Kinsella book aside from the airport awkwardness, then on the flight I was in the seat just behind everyone to Delhi, as I'd been booked on later. A couple hours later, my stomach was full of Delhi McDs 9which I later regretted), with no coke spilling this time and then we were on the final flight, (my tenth one in a month which is just ridiculous!!). This time the plane was much larger and so I was about 20 rows behind everyone else. However since it wasn't full I got 3 seats to myself and laid out and watched Modern Family again, and Halle Berry in The Call (really good!) and turned down all the meals on that plane since I'd already had three meals by eleven am!!! (breakfast, first plane's food, McDs) so I didn't need to eat again that day, bleugh! I managed to get some sleep but I landed at 630, 1130 for our bodies and been travelling since 5am so I was totally dead and just threw my stuff at the taxi man and said 'take me hooome'. Also just as I was leaving a customs guy stopped me and started asking questions about where i'd been (as if I had drugs, dick!) and I basically had a huge go at him saying I'd been travelling all day there's nothing in my bag leave me alone I need to go home!! And he gave up, haha.
So a few hours later, and I was home and straight into my amazing bed!!!!!!!!
Everest was an amazing experience, but I am very glad to be home, I've got a bad chest/cough situation I got in the mountains that still won't go so I am still waking up all through the night to cough my guts up, so I am making the most of lazing around until I start real life AKA my job on Monday. It's great to know that I really achieved something, not to mention all the money I raised for charity, and its definitely changed my views on my life seeing people living like they do in Nepal. It has also made me realise I could get used to living in the mountains (as long as I had an ensuite...) as its lovely and simple and beautiful, but for now I am happy in my little English valley.
So until next time.... hopefully I'll take this blog up again for another Disney adventure in the future, fingers crossed!!!!!!!!!!!

Trek, trek trek!!

Our routine for each day was mostly as follows; woken up at 6 (or 7 if we weren't leaving and having to pack that day) by the Sherpas, "knock knock MORNING", having an hour to dress and stuff the damn sleeping bag into its tiny bag and shoving everything I didn't need in my day pack back into my big rucksack which I had to take downstairs so that it could be strapped onto the Yaks. The Yaks always overtook us near the beginning of our walk as they didn't need so much rest, but they did always look like they were panting with their tongues hanging out! It's amazing what little path they can walk on. They were led by Yak Man who always greeted us with a very cheery 'Namaste!' as he passed, and it turns out he is a great dancer (more on that later). I only learnt a few words when I was over there; Namaste (hello, sometimes goodbye), Dhanyabad (pronounced Dan-e-bad) is thank you, and something that sounded like 'tik cha' which seemed to mean are you ok? to which I'd usually say no....haha. Also on the subject of Yaks, baby ones are super cute and look like cows but run around like dogs, then the less shaggy ones like the ones we had are actually 'Yows' a mixture, and female Yaks are 'Naks'. Also they all come equipped with a nice bell that meant we heard the gentle chiming and knew to stand to the side of the path! *Yak facts*

Our Yaks with yak man in the background!

So anyway, we usually had breakfast around 7 and then left at 8am to begin walking that day.
Breakfast was odd sometimes and other times nice. One day we were given spicy/garlicky potatoes and the rubbish fake-naan type rubbery bread which I just couldn't handle that early, but we also had porridge, with honey or sugar, and muesli or cornflakes (but with hot yak milk, bit weird) or boiled eggs which were good and one time rice pudding which wasn't half bad! Oh and quite often there was toast with honey or (super excitement...) crunchy PB!! And then there's the tea...we were constantly plied with tea! For every meal and also when we first arrived at the next destination. Tea with no milk this is, either plain, or lemon, ginger, berry or mint and although I don't really like that kind of thing everyone gave in and drunk it. Something I did like is the hot orange they gave us when we reached the stop for that day, it was really nice and hydrating, but that seemed to disappear mid way through the trek, there was hot lemon a few times but then just tea which is a shame.
After breakfast people got there bottles and camelpaks filled up and stuck the purification tablets in, and then we were on our way after doing our count off to check we were al present (there was 21 of us). Our group was mostly UEA people, but there was also a 30 something woman from Sweden, a girl from Czech Republic who was my age, a guy from Germany, a boy at Uni in England but who lives in France, and a man who was 48! Then there was a couple of people from York Uni, Newcastle and Manchester so it was quite a mix!
I started having the purified water with my chlorine dioxide tablets but frankly it was just foul like sucking on a swimming pool and because they were constantly on at me to drink I just got the mineral water 1L bottles and drank that (Everest or Sherpa brand!) and they got more expensive as we went higher but mostly the Sherpas bought it for me so that was nice.
So its 8am, bags are packed and yakked and water is ready, we are good to go! I should mention that some of the crazier people carried their big bags because they wanted to be able to say that they had, and I don't doubt that they were heavy but each day they put more and more stuff in the day packs and gave that to the yaks so if you are going to give a bag of stuff away anyway I don't really think it counts!
Before I talk about the trekking itself I should mention the Sherpas. There was Pemba our guide from Childreach who met us in Kathmandu.

Tashi and I

Me and Bali walking from Namche

Walking with Padam

Then in Lukla we met the rest; Tashi, 32, has summited Everest twice, once from each side, once as a guide, and kept mentioning that if any of us wanted his services to let him know (its costs around $40,000, and I'm not sure I am keen to go back any time soon!). Then were was Bali, who was the only one also helping the June trip I was originally down for, that my friend Emma went on. He was my age and he was my guy; he was normally always with me and when I got ill usually carried my day bag, made me drink, and held my hand on scary bits!
We tipped the Sherpas at the end of the trip, they suggested $50 but I gave $80 as they were so helpful. Then there was Padam, and Bhuwan both 22 or 23 and Bhuwan was married, it must not be fun leaving her for 2/3 weeks at a time! You could tell the Sherpas were often bored and messed around by taking different routes over the hills, climbing up rocks to show off, dangling from trees and rolling down hills!
Bali with rocks on his head!

They were a really great bunch though, they also always brought us tea, filled our water, and gave us our food and seconds before they ate.
So the actual trekking, we usually walked for about 4 hours before lunch which was relatively early, and then 3 or 4 hours after although sometimes longer. For one or two days it was sunny and I think I even got a few blisters on my hands on the last day, but the majority was all cloudy, this did mean the walking was easier though.
We stopped at 'toilets' sometimes (a shed with a hole in the ground inside) but most of the time we had to find somewhere just off the path to go, so I quickly became an expert squatter! The first time I went 'in nature' as it were, I was desperate and had to wait 'til there was somewhere I could go, and there was a nice foresty bit that I walked through, and it was so much nicer and freer than going in the stinky shed holes!! There was also a time when lots of us girls needed to go and we all went off in the trees and spread out ha. I took 3 loo rolls with me, and a few packets of tissues but I had to buy more as I blew my nose a lot and they were rough out there so my nose got really sore and looked like a burns victim it was gross! And I brought one loo roll out there so 4 would probably have been enough. Handgel was obviously a necessity out there, and I was so so so sick of mine by the end, and so desperate to wash my hands with running water and soap and have clean nails!!
So the toilet situation... first there was no soap and loo roll, then no hot water, then no running water, then no electricity, no flush...just a 'manual flush' (a jug in a barrel of water) sometimes no lock, then no actual toilet just a ceramic plated hole!! Every SINGLE night even if I hadn't drunk much I woke in the dead of night absolutely dying for a wee, but it was just so much effort to go to the gross toilet, as I had to find (mental checklist here..) head roll...and handgel and it was just so much hassle and my head torch was very bright so I worried abut waking whoever I was in a room with up. So I tossed and turned for like an hour not wanting the make the effort but every night I ended up having to get up and go, so I should have learnt my lesson and gone straight away but I didn't. So that was the joy of the toilets in the night. I believe you could probably do most of the trek with an ensuite to make it slightly less hassle if you weren't on a budget, but we usually had one or two proper toilets in the hotel/tea house and a few hole ones. There was also a few times when I nearly slipped in the dark in my hurry to go, lets just say I appreciate my bathroom at home a hundred times more than I did!! And I never want to use handgel again. On our last night in Lukla we were amazed with our ensuites!
A sign above the toilets in Namche!

I will just mention my equipment now...
my sleeping bag was a good RAB one that was meant for up to -20, so I was always warm enough to wear a tshirt and pants to bed. They also gave us blankets in each tea house, one had really grimy ones with Hello Kitty on, but some were really nice knitted pink and purple, while another had duvets.

Headtorch; borrowed from Dad whom I ridiculed for having said headtorch, but in the mountains it was amazing!!! SO useful, definitely a must have. It had a dimmer setting that was red so that was a bit creepy! One night we met some guys from NZ and Hannah and I spent a while talking to them, they were one day ahead of us as they had gotten a helicopter up to the mountain whilst we were still delayed...anyway I realised id had my headtorch on red while we'd spoken, looked like a right weirdo!
My daypack was 20L which was more than big enough as you didn't need too much stuff in there. It was a Deuter one and had lots of good adjustable straps etc.
My walking boots were like trainers with more ankle support, they were Salomon, and I didn't get a chance to wear them a single time before we went, but they were perfect, I wore them with thin inner socks and a thicker outer sock and I didn't get a single blister or cut or anything! And my feet are usually pretty sensitive.
I had thin gloves which I needed towards the end of the trek, and wore my buff around my neck and a hat, but I only needed a waterproof jacket (North Face) with a fleece or two underneath, and with my hoody for the evenings I definitely never needed a down jacket, although a few people had one.
I took a few pairs of sports/legging type bottoms but I wore my waking trousers that zipped off to shorts basically everyday. They were Craghoppers and I only brought them at the last moment but I'm glad I did!! I wore thermals on the last day but didn't really need them otherwise. I had a 2L camelpak but it was just too heavy for me once full so I used my bottle until I began buying mineral water. If you can carry it they are very handy though! I hired poles as I said before, and only used one, but it was very handy!! It goes without saying that baby wipes were useful, especially as back-up loo roll. We didn't shower past Namche, day 2, until we got back there on day 10, and so had 8 days without a shower which is going to be the longest ill ever go for sure!! My hair wasn't too bad until the last few days luckily, but my hairbrush took one look at the state of my hair at Gorak Shep and broke, so I didn't brush my hair for about 6 days until I was home!!! Finally I took all kinds of painkillers and things with me, including the dioralyte sachets meant for rehydration, and they.were.foul!! Tashi tried to give me an orange one that they carried too and it made me feel so sick I didn't bother! Avoid, avoid, avoid.
I think that's most things...
So as we trekked we passed many different types of scenery. At first it was quite populated villages, then more mountains views with far off waterfalls and a river through the middle with a strong current, we sometimes had to hop across rocks in the rivers, and then there were crazy suspension bridges

that got extremely bouncy when the idiot boys jumped on them and had pointy wire wrapped around the sides so if you tried to hold on you often got stabbed so it was best to just go quickly! Later on we clambered up the sides of huge hills on really thin paths that felt like I might fall off the side, and edges down paths with loose rock so people kept slipping. Then it got less green and more desolate and everything was grey and houses were a lot less frequent. All the views were amazing though and it was often a nice reward to look down on a beautiful view after some heavy steep trekking.

At Base Camp itself was slippery ice and large boulders to navigate.
Mostly we didn't pass that many people, and when we did it was yaks or Sherpas more often than fellow trekkers although we did pass some. They carry ridiculous things like huge pieces of wood and when they stop to rest with their load balanced precariously I don't know how they don't topple over the edge! Its almost impossible to believe when you think that everything (apart from building materials that already existed in the mountains) from the houses they have built to all the food they eat and stuff that they sell has been brought up by people, along the same trail that I couldn't carry my day bag on! They are all quite small people but amazingly strong, and of course are acclimatized to the oxygen levels. There are also stray dogs on the mountains, and horses that just walk past, strange to see them without a human!
 A Sherpa with his load!

There were steep ascents and tricky descents and a lot of Nepali flat (little bit up, little bit down) AKA not really flat at all. I actually preferred up as I was quite slow going down feeling like I was constantly going to slide or trip and fall. It felt like half the time we missed the view because we were so busy looking at our feet. Speaking of which there was a lot of yak poo to avoid on the paths, big lumps all over the place! But it still seemed a lot fresher and nicer than the pile of rotting rubbish strewn across the streets back down in Kathmandu, and when we first landed it was so so good to breathe the crisp mountain air!
As we walked we would pass religious 'Mani stones' and 'Mani wheels', and also poles wrapped with prayer flags, all these things we had to walk to the left of as it is the custom. The Mani stones have prayers inscribed on them, and the wheels are meant to be spun clockwise for good luck. There are also giant Mani wheels that are turned by the water power from the river. The small ones were often 10 or 20 in a row that you could spin as you walked by, I gave up about halfway through the trek though.
Mani stones.
Giant Mani wheel in Kathmandu

So lunchtime... always a good chance to rest and refill our water. There were a LOT of carbs thrown at us, and until day 10 we had no meat and were all vegetarians because the meat would have to be transported over days and days=not safe. The first day for example we were given plain rice, plain potatoes and plain pasta which wasn't great, but other lunches were pretty nice like pasta with a spicy tomato sauce (my fav) pasta and potato with a cheesy garlic sauce, or on the last day we had a spicy curry in a bowl with some fake-naan chewy bread which was really good.
The Sherpas love love LOVE chillis and often have a bowl in front of them at lunch, and I took Tashi's offer of spicy sauce once (I was the only one!), and I dipped the tiniest bit on my food and it was reallllly hot! Crazy Sherpas. We had lots of potatoes, noodles, spaghetti, pasta and rice. We had a lot of chips too which was always my favourite because I can normally always stomach chips. One lunch in Dingboche was chips and baked beans and was really good. One evening we had Sherpa stew, full of vegetables which was lovely. On the 9th evening, i.e the day after BC, as a reward we got pizza, either cheese or tuna, I went for tuna, but it was Yak cheese which is pretty strong so it wasn't too great and I felt ill so didn't love it. On the 10th evening, back in Namche where we also stayed on Day 2, we got the best thing; Yak steak with chips and salad, with some kind of gravy on it and a little salt it was quite yummy! Although that may have been because it was our first meat for ages. James got carried away and ate about 3 steaks and looked really ill after!!

So dinner was usually about 630 or 7 and followed similar lines to lunch with carbs, and cups of tea, but we always got some form of 'starter' and a dessert too. These ranged from Oreos (exciting) to more average biscuits, often popcorn (which I never had but everyone else seemed to go crazy for), one time was vegetable bhaji things which were great.
Then before the main course came the absolutely DREADED garlic soup!! Now, I love garlic, but this soup was just pure garlic with liquid, not nice!! I forced a bit down then gave up most nights, it is meant to help us acclimatize but, yuck!! On the way back down we got nicer soups like veg or tomato which tasted amazing in comparison! Then dessert was sometimes tinned fruit which was nice, one time was a kind of apple pie with cinnamon and another time a pie thing with melted chocolate in which was good! I snacked on snickers but got bored of them pretty quickly. One night Tashi and I shared a tube of pringles (original) for 600Rs aka $6 because we were high up (coke, pringles, chocolate ...everything got more expensive the higher we went; in Kathmandu a coke was 55Rs, but near BC I paid 390 for one!) and at that time they tasted amazing! Whilst on the subject of food the one thing I enjoyed in Kathmandu was a Banana Lassi, this was a milkshake type thing but with yoghurt so it was more sour, but it was good.
Banana Lassi!

So lunch was between 12 and 1 usually then we'd walk for 3 or 4 hours or so and reach our destination for that evening about 5, sometimes earlier and we'd change and then laze around til dinner, playing card games etc. Then after dinner we got a briefing every night which was given by Tashi and then later on by Bali who, bless him, always asked the same three questions 'how was your day' 'how are you' 'how was your dinner' then he'd say 'I am going to brief you about tomorrow'. And they always seemed to say 'the Everest' or 'the Lukla' like it will be three hours to the Lukla rather than just saying Lukla.

They'd tell us how long we'd walk and how much was up, how much down etc and where we were going. Tashi also included some information about the Sherpa culture most evenings, like how they are a people not just porters, and that they were all Buddhist, and a bit about their weddings and funerals and so on, very interesting. He told us the 'che' on the end of most place names (Debouche, Lebouche, Pheriche, Dingboche..) meant print like a footprint and I think 'Namche' actually meant footprint. Back in Namche on day 10 after the steak we got to watch a documentary on Sherpas about them climbing to the summit and all their tasks and it was from their point of view. I was also (among my other books) re-reading Into Thin Air as it made more sense and mentioned things I came across as we went which was cool.... he writes the trek to base camp in about 2 pages though! And I had lots of question for Tashi like is the Khumbu icefall really as bad as it sounds (yes) and it was great to be able to ask questions of someone with first hand knowledge. However he didn't like that book and similar ones as it barely mentions the work Sherpas have to do, such a setting the ropes for all the climbers, clearing the paths, setting up ladders, not to mention carrying all the equipment up, setting up the tents, bringing it all down... when he guided a woman to Everest in May ( I think he summited around the time I was sat in my final exam, crazy) he carried all her stuff around 45-50 kg up and down! And he has also nearly gotten frostbite from removing his gloves every time he had to change the carabiners for himself and his client, and so he said he just hit his fingers on a rock to regain feeling and it must have really hurt but I guess it worked!
Something that's also pretty cool is that...back in April as I remember reading on BBC, there was a 'brawl' on Everest, between climbers and Sherpas, and I know at the time it made out that the Sherpas attacked the climbers or something, but it turns out that without knowing it I was reading about my future guide! And the craziest bit is that Tashi is the least violent guy, but he got caught in the middle when someone pushed him, and then fellow Sherpas came to his aid...He hates how Sherpas are portrayed so he decided to give an interview!
It is very interesting and I can definitely see his personality in this interview. He also mentions that families are beginning to prefer other things for their children than for them to be mountaineers, and that was already evident when we spoke to our guides; Bhuwan and Padan will just be trekkers, Tashi is a mountaineer, but Pemba could climb Everest, and one time he had sorted out a trip, got sponsorship and equipment together and then his family did not allow him to go. Then Bali is in training so that he can climb Everest or guide people up it, but he tells me his family is not happy about it.

We often went to bed by 8.30 or 9 pm after the briefing because we were so tired. All the rooms were shared by two people, so I had a roommate once again, which makes about 10 days in four months that I have gotten to sleep by myself, very weird!
I shared with Mikki, Bea, Becky and Helen and everyone kept swapping around. Rooms were just wooden boxes often with some kind of lock on the door that often involved a key with a very bulky keyring, with two beds in with pillows a bed sheet and a blanket folded at the end.
Still being built?

Sometimes there was a light and sometimes not so there was often packing in the dark with headtorches! Most nights I read a bit of my book then tossed and turned, from stomach ache or back or chest pain I usually only slept intermittently and coupled with the nightly toilet run its a wonder I found the energy to walk at all the next day! The teahouses always had a large main room with bench seats lining 3 of the 4 walls and tables, then at one end would be a counter with a plastic display which held tissues, coca cola, various pringles and fake pringles and chocolate bars, loo roll and other bits and pieces for purchasing. Often the room had a woodburner in the centre too so this is where we hung out. Rooms would be down a corridor or up some stairs, or sometimes outside then up some stairs, and there'd be one or two toilets somewhere and that's about it. It goes without saying charging electronics and showers cost extra, charging started at 100 and went up to 250 near the top. I had a battery charger thing Dad gave me that allowed me to plug USBs into it to charge my phone and camera but I forgot I had it til halfway up so I paid for charging a few times (stupid!) Oh and we could pay for wifi too ($5) in a few of the places but most didn't offer it and by then we'd given up on contacting the outside world! We even went one day to an internet café but after sitting there for an hour id managed to send one message it was so slow so I gave up.

This post is crazy long so I am going to split it into one more when I will mention the itinerary of the trip and add some bits that were in my diary!