Started from “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer 2 years ago
This trip is inspired by the true story of the 1997 Mt. Everest Disaster. Jon’s description in his best-selling book did not scare me, rather, the Everest Basecamp became “a must-achieve Dream”.
My plan originally was to reach this basecamp – a journey which takes 14 days but all I had were ten before Phuket’s peak season arrived. Phuket is a paradise in the south of Thailand. So I decided to do a half trek while assimilating Nepal culture for the rest of the trip.
Nov 6, 2017 … at Phuket International airport
I slept there that night. I tried out a chair, but it was not as comfortable as compared to the floor I ended up sleeping on in front of the toilets. My flight was 7 am the next morning. I also started cleansing (detoxing) my body, avoiding unhealthy foods as much as possible… I needed to be healthy. The lady next to me also had an early morning flight but seemed to be ill as she kept on coughing. She asked for a sip from my water bottle – the only one I would be using on the trek (no way was I allowing her to do that) – and suggested she get some water from the machine provided by the airport. It’s cool, and you can choose either hot, cold, or room temperature water.
Nov 7, 2017 … Landed and Happy Birthday!
The flight was amazing! A great experience with Thai Airways. They provided a perfect timetable and we were on time. Only taking along a backpack is the most convenient – traveling light you only take along what you absolutely need. After landing, it took me a while to find my taxi. I thought to myself, “Does this company even exist?”
Are you Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese? No one thought I was Thai and a solo backpacker. The drivers at the airport were very nice and helped me phone my trekking company. Finally, my driver pitched up with two other passengers from Japan. An older couple, they were heading for Annapurna.
It turned out it was the wrong driver. He landed up dropping me off at the wrong hotel, but KP (https://www.himalayastrek.com) came to pick me up and take me to Samsara resort, Thamel, Kathmandu. After paying at KP’s office, KP took me for some last-minute shopping for things I could not find in Thailand that would withstand temperatures of minus ten degrees Celsius.
I ended up celebrating my birthday at a café’ that sells cheesecake. The best thing about getting into the wrong taxi was that I landed up with total strangers who sang happy birthday to me in the car! I had a great day!
Nov 8, 2017 … Lukla 2,860 m to Phakding 2,652 m
My Sherpa was on time but all I wanted was more sleep. I felt guilty for being 5 minutes late, but we arrived at the domestic airport in time to grab a cup of coffee – which cost the same as one from Starbucks (I didn’t realize until after I converted the currency).
Most, i.e. 90% of the tourists were fully equipped and don’t have to ask about our itinerary. I had to carry my own bag, and it is only 8kg – but consider carrying 8kg for 5-6 hours a day for five days! I Had not been working out much, but at least I was sure my mind was ready.
One thing I love the most about the people there is that they treat you like family. They don’t do it because they feel they have to provide you with a service. It is genuine – you can feel it.
The temperature made me nervous. The lowest I had ever experienced before was between zero and three degrees Celsius – never below six to ten…It was something that was out of my comfort zone since I had respiratory problems when I was younger. This trip would give me a good indication of how my body is holding up these days.
I felt like I was in heaven during the flight to Luka (take into consideration…people say that Lukla airport is one of the most dangerous airports in the world). I was a little scared but I had to respect my decision – whatever may happen will happen. The landscape and nature, however, was gorgeous – life is so blessed!
Lukla welcomed me with freezing cold temperatures. Right after getting off the plane I felt the lack of oxygen. I tried to adjust to slow breathing.
Lapak took me to the Everest Inn for breakfast. If you ever get there, go for the hot ginger tea and garlic soup! Your body needs to be well-taken care of!
So by the way, Lapak, my Sherpa, treated me like a princess. He is a very polite, humble gentleman.
Four hours from Lukla, we arrived at Phakding (2,652m above sea level). Rest was needed because the next day would see us embark on our destination, Namche village, which was six hours away.
Day one had come and gone … I wanted to throw everything out of my bag and make sure I had what I needed. I had summarized that all I would need for trekking this season was a pair of trekking shoes, two pairs of socks – one normal and a pair of warm ones for the night, one windproof pair of pants, and a lightweight pair to wear inside. Furthermore, I had one dry-fit T-shirt, one fleece jacket, one down jacket, one scarf, a pair of gloves, one set of underwear, and a toothbrush. It would be so cold the idea of the water touching my teeth filled me with horror. The company provided me with a sleeping bag that would withstand temperatures of under minus ten degrees Celsius. I had to decide what to take and what to leave of my luggage for the next day.
Nov 9, 2017 … Phakding 2,652 m to Namche 3,440 m
I would have had no idea what day it was if I didn’t look in my diary. There was no internet signal (although they had WiFi I was not able to use it). I had gone to bed right after dinner the previous evening – around 8 pm – and slept like a baby – in a sleeping bag that could withstand temperatures of -10 degrees, got up at around 5 am – fully charged – and ready to trek the six hours to Namche.
I had an interesting conversation with another Sherpa who told me the highest point was close to 8,000 m. He had gone to Everest with six clients, but two of them died during the night…. “they just sleep and didn’t wake up”.
I had no idea how cold it was that morning, but I felt that my body had adjusted to the climate remarkably well. I was packed and ready for my breakfast of “garlic soup”, which was my favorite. It is just normal garlic in hot water but it really helped in that weather. I needed and anti-fungal, anti-bacterial antioxidant.
We left Phakding at 8 am and trekked for two-and-a-half hours before stopping for lunch. There was not teahouse until we got to Namche, which meant another three hours later – taking a spiral route!
Each step was a step up, even crossing the river. We walked up that mountain for hours! I felt my quads starting to cramp (it was only my imagination) and I prayed to the trees to give me strength. My legs and big toes hurt.
We got to Namche at 2:30 that afternoon. To my left, I thought I could see Everest, although the top was obscured by clouds. I would get to the viewpoint the next day, which would be better for taking photographs. I needed some rest before dinner at 5 pm.
Nov 10, 2017 … Namche 3,440 m
“One can escape from reality, one can also escape to reality.” – Osho
I had been warned before we left Phakding that Namche would be colder than usual and that I had to be prepared. It was extra cold, but my body seemed beautifully adjustable. I felt I must have some chameleon genes in me!
Breakfast was at Himalaya Java coffee. I think I became addicted to the “Honey Latte”. This place, just like Starbucks, has branches throughout the tourist area. I walked for two hours to get to the viewpoint before walking down to Khumjung village situated at 3,780 m and then back to Namche. It was a seven-hour round walk. Along the way, I stopped at the Art and Culture Museum where I had a wonderful experience in the toilet. You know that moment when you laugh at yourself while you… (you know what I mean).
Nov 11, 2017 … Namche 3,440 m to Lukla 2,860 m (10 hrs)
My Sherpa knocked at my door at six that morning, telling me I had to order my breakfast by 6:30. When I got to the care area, I saw why. There was a large group of old Korean people. Even though they had their own cook, I realized things would get busy.
Every café at Namche is busy during the trekking season, especially those that provide free WiFi and battery charging services. But with over twenty people in one café using their WiFi, the net was very slow. You could, at least, update with friends and family, but that was about it. It was a question of “Yeah Mom I’m still alive” (even though mom knows how I am but still goes crazy).
We left Namche by 7:15 because it was going to be a long day – trekking about 19km up and down a mountain. We arrived in Phakding for lunch around 11:30 am. We would have made faster time if my feet had not hurt so much. We would be in Lukla in another two to three hours where I would stay overnight and fly to Katmandu early the next morning.
Although I had no exact idea what the plan was for the next day, I needed to get a shower and rest my legs.
Nov 12, 2017 … leaving Lukla 2,860 m
It was my last two hours on the mountain and I didn’t want to leave even though it felt like the climate was killing me. I had, however, gotten used to sub-zero temperatures by now.It was even colder than usual in Lukla that morning, with 90% of the trekkers coughing and sneezing. Although I have tried my best to protect myself, I had a bit of a sore throat from the dust I had breathed in during the trek.
Our flight was delayed for an hour. We were about 100 people at the tiny terminal. Our plane circled twice (I noticed the mountains) before preparing to land at Kathmandu.
My Sherpa organized a taxi for me to the same hotel in Thamel. I had a three-hour break before going sightseeing in Kathmandu. I felt low immediately after checking in. I had respiratory tract infection. I thought I would be okay, though, until I visited the first sightseeing spot. Walking around and listening to a tour guide rattle off information was not my kind of travel style. I used to be a tour guide myself, and prefer reading. Also, I like to experience things, not listen to them. And so I looked around and noticed the differences between their art and ours.
I asked my guide to take me back to the hotel because I realized I had a temperature and my throat was getting worse. But he just kept on with his conversation.
Back at the hotel I ordered some hot soup, took medication, and slept from 6 pm to the next morning.
Nov 13, 2017 … My cat died
I know he loved me and I loved him too. I was not the original owner but we lived under the same roof so we were friends. We would play together, and I would feed him. He would run to me any time he heard my bike or voice. My day is okay, though. I cried a lot, and though I was sad about hearing about his passing, I was excited about exploring the city.
I got a two-hour massage at Zen Spa. They know their job, and know exactly “how to give massage for trekker” – every spot is just right. Their price range is the same as compared to Thailand, but the treatment not as luxurious. Who cares? My Iliotibial Band and quadriceps were fighting against each other.
Moving to a new hotel … Alpine Hotel and Apartment.
Nov 14, 2017 … Walk around, hang out and chill … another sick day!
I was truly sick and trying to take it easy but I still wanted to go out. I couldn’t just lay in bed and do nothing! But all that dust out there had me coughing all the time. I did, however, managed to visit a few places nearby – a small temple, a garden, did some shopping and ended up at the Himalaya Java Coffee again. There are many expats who live just like me. So long as we have our laptop and WiFi, we can live anywhere in the world. I read but mostly write, make new friends, and answer FAQs.
Nov 15, 2017 … A Little Better
My internal alarm clock was the same each – I woke between 4 and 5 am. Besides the medicine that was all over my bedside table, there were also a few empty of water bottles all over the floor. I had to go to the bathroom while the room temperature was only 10 degrees Celsius was a challenge, but at least I did not feel so feverish, so all was okay!
I have to say the breakfast at this hotel was great. The service was good, and they made me feel safe as a solo woman traveler. They did not try to sell me any of their packages either… “Madam, you can walk … no need to pay for taxi”
As usual, I started my day at Himalaya Java Coffee where I would read and write. I also managed to visit one place – ‘Swayambhunath’.
With a map and my Sony a6000, I followed Google maps for about 45 minutes. I was in no rush. I pretty much enjoyed observing life pass me by – what they did and how they did it. The only problem was the dust. I had to cover my nose and mouth all the way. I passed through the town, crossed the river, and walked up a portion of a hill before finally reaching the base of the temple. I got a bunch of colorful flowers and began walking up the stairs – I forgot to count how many there were.
From the top, I looked down at the town and horizon. Swayambhunath is a very sacred place. I walked a few round feeling peace and blessed.
I think I spent about one and a half hours there before walking back to Thamel. My feet were still hurting terribly. I decided to do no more walking, but to rather concentrate on doing some reading and writing and preparing my next projects – mapping out my next move.
Nov 16, 2017 … I know why I live
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