Saturday, 11 November 2006

Notes from Nepal

Photo Gallery - Khumbu Porters

Photo Gallery - Khumbu Kids
Lhakpa Tenjing Sherpa Water Duty
Photo Gallery - Everest Sunset from Gokyo Ri
Everest and Lhotse at Sunset Cholatse at Sunset Everest Sunset Full Moon and Everest
Trek from Gokyo to Jiri

I'm back in Kathmandu now having survived my whistlestop 11-day trek around the Everest region from Lukla to Jiri via Thame, Renjo La and Gokyo Ri.

It started inauspiciously enough with 24 hours in bed at Namche with food poisoning. After a day getting back on my feet, I plodded up to Thame for a couple of days with pretty murky cold cloudy weather. I wandered up to towards the Trashi Lapste a couple of times to visit the remote lodge of Thengpo in a stunning remote setting.

After 2 days' faffing at Thame, I teamed up with a Swiss and French Canadian for the wander up the valley to Langden at 4350m. We spent a crowded uncomfortable evening in the lodge before flogging over the Renjo La (5350m) the next day in challenging weather - cold, cloudy and snowing.

Luckily the following day was back to perfect blue skies. I took a quick hike up Gokyo Ri (~5350m) in the morning, and raced a sherpa down in just under 15 minutes. I could have descended faster, but was massively overheating with too many clothes.

Later that day I wandered up to the 4th lake, but was feeling too tired cold and weary to continue to the 5th Gokyo Lake. Instead I wandered back to the Gokyo Resort Lodge and dossed around the rest of the afternoon... until at a whim I decided to head out again since the light was getting interesting.

Gokyo Ri started to look appealing as I headed back up the hill. Not really meaning to, I somehow ended back at the summit at around 5pm. The sun was just setting, and there was a sea of cloud beneath at around 5000m, with snowy peaks emerging from this cloud bank. Cholatse, Makalu and Everest all shifting from pink to orange, until finally just the summit pyramid of Everest was catching the setting sun, and bathed in dark orange light.

Just before the colour drained, the full moon crept into view along the edge of Changtse - just left of Everest summit. 4 of us were on the summit of Gokyo Ri at this moment, transfixed by the rising moon. I stayed as long as I dared before heading down into the darkness torchless, floundering back down the hill to the dim lights of Gokyo.

The next morning I was in 2 minds what to do - cross the desolate Cho La or descend to the land of oxygen and trees. The weather looked unsettled to I decided to make a run for it back down the valley, and without really planning to, made it all the way back to Lukla that evening, having a bit of a race with some Nepalis in the dark towards the end. I spent the night at the Mera Hotel (no hot water), where the proprietors seemed astonished I'd come from Gokyo that morning.

Next day I went straight to Lukla airport and cancelled my flight out, then hit the Jiri trail. I was pretty sure I could make it in 3 days. In fact it turned out a bit tougher than I bargained for, but this was partly due to having a stinking cold. The first day I thought I might make Junbesi, but this turned out to be wildly optimistic. In fact I only just struggled over the 3000m pass to Ringmo in the dark and pissing rain. I was caught by a sherpa guy in the dark who kindly showed me to a tea house. I sat in the kitchen with the Nepalis in a thick pall of wood smoke drinking black tea.

I was away before 7am the next morning determined to make up some ground. I was in Junbesi by 9.30am in plenty of time to watch the hoardes of children descending on the biggest Hillary school in the region. I was invited into the schoolyard to watch and photograph the proceedings at close range. A tremendous display of aerobics and marching saw all the children disappear into the appropriate classrooms, with shrieking and hilarity.

After that I was on my own for a while, before bumping into another school teacher on the descent from Chumbu to Kenja. We chatted and walked/jogged the 800m descent the teacher does every day. Once in Kenja, I checked into the New Everest Lodge, then checked the surroundings. I was quickly invited to the local volleyball match, and wandered along to watch the lively proceedings.

Next morning I wandered along past the paddy fields and banana groves until hitting the climb to Banthur. Little by little I became surrounded by children on their 2~3 hour walk to school, working hard to keep apace with the 11 year olds on the climb. 100 camera calls later we reached their village school, and I returned to quiet and solitude.

One more big climb then big drop and I was in the scruffy town of Shivalaya. Only a brief stop here to chat to Spanish couple and photograph more eager posing Nepali kids. Then away again for the final slog up to Mali, and long endless descent to the hellhole of Jiri, plagued by Maoists celebrating Wednesday's "victory".

All that now remained was the horrific 8½ hour bus journey back to the mental madhouse of Kathmandu.

1 comment:

Andy K said...

Chris

great to read you blog on Everest region, similar to my experiences, (though wetter than mine by the sounds of it. Though we trekked all the way in from Jiri- as you say a great section - much quieter in terms of treckers than above Luhkla.
Trekked up to to Gokyo and watched the sunset from Gokyo Ri (I reckon I made it up from the village in about 50 minutes - I'd like to think it might be a record !!) - watching the sunset on Everest with the sky (stratosphere ?) taking on the colours of the rainbow was an experience that moved me to tears I have to say - Staying as long as possible and descending in the gathering darkness was also fun.