What Our Client Says About EBC Trek
Flying in, you can see the sun come up, and the mountains poking up through the clouds. It was difficult to get a decent picture though. Jeffrey, my trekking partner, was on the same plane as mine, and I didn't realize it until after we landed. The airport was small and dark. Since I already had my visa, it was quick and easy to get through customs. Our Trekking agent, Ram was waiting for us right outside the door.
If you are new to traveling outside of the US, then Kathmandu is going to come at all of your senses fast and hard. You can taste the air, hear tons of city noise, (namely honking), and go through a constant gauntlet of aggressive street vendors, dealers, and or other Nepalese selling services, (they don't take the first 6 "no's", for an answer). Once in a cab that drives on the left side down narrow streets, it seems absolutely chaotic. The roads are shared by cars, buses, rickshaws, Ox carts, Bicycles, motorcycles, mopeds, pedestrians, and stray cows. All of them seem to want to go in different directions.
There are little to no stop signs, signals, or other road signs. It seems that one just goes to the corner, and honks until everyone gets out of the way. I'll be honest, riding around town was always one of my favorite parts. Ram would later treat me to a few rides on his motorcycle, (don't tell my Mother). Ram, Jeff, and I tidy up our plans, and Ram introduces us to our guide Chin. Chin takes us to a shop for some last-minute gear and then sets us loose in the city.
Jeff had been to Kathmandu before, so I was spoiled with his ability to know which directions to go in order to find the major attractions. That afternoon, we visited The Kathmandu, Durbar Square, Swayambhunath, (the monkey temple), Pashupatinath (temple of Shiva), and Boudhanath. For more info on these places, just look them up online. You'll probably get a better explanation there, rather than me just filling up the page. That night, Chin treated us to a genuine Nepalese dinner, along with entertainment involving local dances.
Nepal - Day 05, Namche Bazaar (11,352ft) to Tengboche (12,738ft)
May 12, 2014:
The best view of the mountains can be seen between 5 am and 7 am.
I occasionally looked to the sky at night, because I assumed that there would be a million stars, but it was always cloudy. : Until I reach Everest Base Camp, I've decided to stick to a strict diet of boiled potatoes, boiled rice, and porridge. I don't want to have a repeat of what happened the day before. I also stock up on meds. I don't plan on getting sick, but I'm a little paranoid.
We are out the door by 8 am to hike to Tengboche. I'm a little overdressed, but I'm okay with that. Setting out is easy. After hiking up and out of Namche the path flattens out. We will end up going down and losing altitude until we cross the river, and then have to hike up.
At this point, I have started to realize that Lakpa, our porter kicks a lot of ass. Jeff and I went easy with how much stuff he had to carry for us, but I admire his quiet demeanor and ability to beat us to every destination. Later on, I would find out that he is great to play cards with.
As we come upon the Tenzig stupa, we can see the high bridge that we crossed two days ago, far, far below. We stop for lunch before crossing the bridge and talk about Bryan Adams. The food portions are huge everywhere we go, and I can never finish my plate. The trek up was a little tougher than yesterday, but not bad. The Rhododendrons are in bloom at this altitude and occasionally blast the landscape in scarlet. When we finally arrive, we stay at the Hotel Himalayan: Wifi = $5, Hot shower = $4.
I had chocolate cake at the bakery. It was super dry, but,…..it's cake. It's very dusty here. I tend to wear a scarf over my mouth while hiking. It's also cold, even though the sun is hot. it's confusing. I feel more comfortable when I am hiking than when I am idle because I don't get cold when I'm hiking. I still have not felt any symptoms of altitude sickness. At this point, I have started hearing other trekkers mention that they have symptoms. The only residents in Tengboche are the monks in the monastery and the tea house owners. Otherwise, it's just travelers passing through.
At 5:00 pm the stoves in the dining area are fired up, and that is where you will find me. They use wood from the rhododendrons to heat the room. This is the last tea house that will be using wood for a source of heat. There is not much to do here other than bundle up and look at the mountains. The construction for all the tea houses appears to be consistent. On the outside, it is all stone, hand-chiseled, and beautifully laid together. There is a dining room that is usually made up of solid wood. The rooms are always a square box lined with plywood. Occasionally, there will be exposed wires sticking out of the wall or ceiling. I electrocuted myself in Phakding.
Ram gave Chin a bag of apples and pomegranates before we left Kathmandu. Every night, Chin presents Jeffrey, and I with a plate of both fruits cut up and ready for consumption. It was very nice to have fresh fruit, and it made other trekkers a little jealous. After dinner, there was a spectacular view of Everest, and Nupse. Soon after that, most of the patrons found themselves sitting near the stove in the dining room as the hotel staff frequently offered us hot steaming towels.
An older French woman talked about the last time she came here 34 years ago. She did not have a guide or porter then. An older German couple from Munich struck up a conversation with me. They were eager to practice their English, and I had an opportunity to practice what little German I know. They were on their way back from the Island Peak region. They had to cut their trek a little short due to altitude sickness. I'm finding more and more people at this point coming down earlier than they had planned for similar reasons.
The lights went out, and it seemed to have made the room a little warmer, and a little more pleasant. It was colder than the night before.
Nepal - Days 10-13:
I woke up in Gorak Shep. I didn't really wake up,.I was already awake. Because of the altitude sickness, I may have slept 2 hours. It's not as cold here as I had expected. My water did not freeze overnight, and I never needed my shell gear unless I was sitting idle. My mouth is very dry, and my lips are chapped despite many applications of chapstick. It was hard to breathe last night.
We were scheduled to climb Kala Pattar (18,000 ft), for the best views of Everest, but none of us are in any condition to go. Instead, we eat breakfast and headed out towards the lower ground. We won't be going back exactly the way we came. Instead of going back to Lobuche or Dingboche, we are headed to Tengboche via Periche. I'm glad for this because it gives us a fantastic view of Ama Dablam as we approach Periche.
Periche is 10.2 miles from Gorak Shep, (approx. 5 pee breaks). It is also 1000 meters lower. We stop there for lunch at 11:00 am. We are now meeting up with trekkers that are 3 days hike from Everest Base Camp. It takes 9-10 days to go up, and only 2-3 days to get down. The clouds hung low and made the rhododendron forest appear mysterious and beautiful. We passed many Sherpas carrying 10'x4"x4"s.
We talked about Chin's plans to plant mango trees at his home, Monsanto, and the local agriculture. I'm pretty sure I have a cold. I also have a growing concern about having less feeling in my lips and tongue for the last few days. Things would go back to normal eventually. Tengboche is 16.2 miles from Gorak Shep, (approx. 9 pee breaks). That's where we crash for the night.
It's a very short 4-hour hike from Tengboche to Namche Bazaar, (4 pee breaks), but it's 50% downhill, 40% uphill, and 10% flat. It will be only the second time on the trip where my feet will hurt. I will get to take a much-needed shower, and eat a magnificent cheesecake there. That's where we crash for the night.
I had a chocolate pancake for breakfast. We had lunch in Phakding where we saw a television for the first time in over a week. It was showing a Bollywood action film. It reminded me of Kung Fu Theater. We arrived in Lukla at 2:45 pm. There was no hot water, and no internet, but we still had Bollywood TV. Our flight was scheduled to leave early the next morning.
I went to the fake Starbucks down the road, and it was really nice. Lots of sun, secluded spots, and wicker furniture, I had a slice of cake and a Snickers bar. My body wasn't used to so much sugar at once, and it was too much to handle. That night, the folks returning partied it up, and the place resembled Ft Lauderdale during spring break, (only slightly colder).
we said goodbye to Lakpa. I tipped him and donated my coat. We were the first flight out, but due to cloudy skies, the plane left 2.5 hours late. The weather at Lukla can make flying very dangerous, and it changes fast. There are never any guarantees that your flight will be leaving when it should. There would only be three flights leaving Lukla that day, and we were fortunate. A lot of trekkers got stuck there for at least another day.
As soon as we got back to Kathmandu, we met up with Ramat Nepal Spirit and gave him a report on how the trip went. If you ever do a trek in Nepal, I recommend going through him.
Nepal - Day 13 & 14, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Garden of Dreams:
I caught a ride to Bhaktapur from a cab driver named Suresh. After negotiating, we agreed that he would take me there, wait 2 hours, then drive me back to Thamel for 2000 Nepalese Rupees ($20). On the way out, I caught a glimpse of the Nepalese Parliament building, and its Supreme Court.
Bhaktapur is a beautiful, ancient Newari town, but is lousy with an aggressive solicitation from locals wanting to be your guide.
On the way back, Suresh suddenly stopped along the dusty highway, got out, and said that he'd be right back. After the first 5 minutes, I had it in my head that he had sold me and the car to kidney thieves, and I was going to be abducted at any moment. After 15 minutes, he came back with a 2 liter of black-market petrol. He explained that there was a shortage, and there was no gas available at the gas station. A man has to make a living in spite of shortages. BTW, I later observed a gas pump that charged 100 NPR's a liter. That is roughly $3+ a gallon for gas.
On the way back, I also saw the Royal Palace, and Suresh made a stop to pick up his brother's wife. Ram took Jeffrey and I out to dinner that night. I ordered Filet Mignon, and they brought two. For a country with deep Hindu roots, this place really knows how to cook a steak.
I saw Jeff off to Pokhara early in the morning, then I walked around and got lost. It's very easy to get lost in Thamel. There aren't any street signs, and many of the shops look the same. After a few days, you start to recognize familiar corners and don't get as hopelessly lost as before. Only half of Thamel comes alive by 8:30 am. Unless you go to a guest house, it is very difficult to find a cup of coffee before 9:00 am.
I visited the Narayanhity Palace. You aren't allowed to take pictures in there, so you'll just have to look it up online. For lunch, I met up with Ram at the Garden of Dreams; a neo classical historical garden that was recently renovated with the help of Austria. They served panini's. The garden is a nice escape from the loud city surrounding it.
Nepal - Day 15, 16, & 17, Chitwan National Park:
I woke up early, ate breakfast, and Ram gave me a ride on his motorcycle through the crazy Kathmandu streets in order to catch my bus to Chitwan National Park. I told him I wanted to do a safari there, so through his company, Nepal Spirit, he set it up for me to stay there for three days, and handed me a bus ticket.
The bus I ride belongs to 'Baba Travels and Tours'. Ram introduces me to Baba himself. The bus is very comfortable and full of locals, and tourists. Observation: nobody rides a bicycle on the sidewalk here.
Once outside the city, it is a series of narrow roads, switchbacks, semis, and lush greenery. Most semi-trucks are decorated with tinsel and elaborate paint jobs. One semi after another is loaded in bling and makes the ride more entertaining. The bling is usually accompanied by an elaborate horn system.
Houses continue to be a mix of apartment buildings with many terraces all the way down to a storage locker with a garage door. Eventually, as we get closer to the Chitwan, these buildings will have a more thatched structure. We stop once for a potty break, then again for lunch. I got burned by one vendor that sold me an unripe banana. I couldn't even peel it. Asian bananas are smaller but sweeter. They are absolutely fantastic. My ticket just says "Chitwan", which is a large area, so I don't know where I am supposed to de-board the bus. I just assume that I get off of the bus when the white people get off of the bus.
Sure enough, we get to the end of the line, and my Chitwan guide, Krishna, is waiting for me. He takes me to the Hotel Rainforest. At this point, it is the most luxurious place I have stayed, and I appear to be the only guest. It is the offseason, and it is quiet here. My closest neighbor is an elephant that stays 50 feet from my room.
For dinner, my server, Suman, brought a giant plate of food and knocked a fruit out of the tree that I have never known. He called it Jubran. It is crispy with a light citrus flavor. Krishna took me for a walk along the river to view a glorious sunset. On the way, we passed Government work elephants, Wild elephants, water buffalo, crocodiles, kingfishers, egrets, and came upon a rhino that was bathing in the river. After the sunset, I went to a cultural center and watched many local dances performed. The lights went out, but the dancers didn't miss a beat. Many audience members lit up flashlights, and phone lights to keep the stage lit.
I rode an elephant through the jungle for a few hours. I shared him with a young Korean man and an older German couple. Animals observed were wild boar, herons, deer, monkeys, an owl, peacocks, and a mother and baby rhino. I did not see any Bengal tigers, but I did get to see deer bones up in a tree that was leftover from a tiger.
After the elephant ride, I went down to the river to watch the elephants bathe. For $5, you can get on an elephant while he sprays himself with water before he knocks you off by flopping over on his side. After the elephant bath, I got in a dug-out canoe and had a calm ride down the river. It was lightly raining, but it felt good. Krishna pointed out alligators, poking their eyes out of the water, and several waterfowl.
After the canoe ride, Krishna and I hike through the jungle. It's loud with various jungle noises, but not many animals showing themselves. We come upon a series of 4' - 6' termite mounds, gnarly vines, and some more water buffalo. Krishna makes a point to tie his shoes in case something comes after us, all he has to do is out-run me. Before we get to the elephant breeding center, we come upon a wild elephant. We can see it tearing up some higher branches in a tree, and we go out of our way to stay far from it before it saw us.
I got up early to go bird watching with Krishna. He pointed out psychedelic mushrooms growing out of a pile of elephant dung. We immediately find rhino tracks on the ground. Krishna is slightly alarmed that it had tromped right through a high traffic area.
We observe several birds, mostly kingfishers. We also see 3 crocodiles hanging out, catching some rays.
The ride back to Kathmandu was a little white knuckle. The bus driver is cruising at a high speed along a narrow road that runs along a cliff. Looking out the window, many times I can't see the road, but can see the river far below. I ponder the possibility of us careening off the side until I look down, and see a burned-out, crashed bus at the bottom of the cliff. I stopped looking out the window.
Ram picks me up at the bus station, and he invites me over to his house for dinner. At his house, I meet his wife, Mother-in-law, and his two boys. His boys show me what they are learning in school, and the ladies are in the kitchen preparing momos. I go into the kitchen and try to help them make the momos, but every time I put one together, I get a chuckle from both ladies. My momos are ridiculous and unacceptable. I settle for cutting up vegetables, and not interfering with the final preparation.
The momos are absolutely fantastic and are currently on my favorite food list.
Thank you, Ram, for your wonderful service during my Nepal trip and I can forget this Everest base camp trek in my life would not any hesitate to other travels: https://www.nepalspiritadventure.com/everest-base-camp-trek
Mr. Jeremy Smith
Kalamazoo, United States of America