Where to begin.. This post has been split into two because of the amount I have to share and show. Nepal itself has already been an outstanding country, however, my expectations of the Himalayas have been met and surpassed. Not only by the ever-changing landscape, but the people you meet and grow with along the way. Never have I been in a location where in the morning it has been snowing, within an hour bright with sunshine and after lunch, thick with fog and low lying clouds to leave you shivering. It has left me speechless at times, especially when I finally reached the climax of my trip. Before I start on my journey in a bit more detail, I’d like to just note that the people I met along the way are a huge part of what has made this 15 day trip such an amazing experience. It is an incredible thing to be around a plethora of people so entirely different, but all united by one cause.
So straight into it, the first day brought an incredible yet intimidating flight, landing on the world’s shortest and second most dangerous airport, Lulka. With a runway of only around 350m it doesn’t leave much room for error. We were off pretty quickly considering there was a delay due to an electrical storm. Somehow I managed to bag myself one of the best seats on the plane. The 10 man aircraft had a stewardess and an open cockpit. I must have had some luck because the pilot let me lean into the cockpit during the flight and even whilst filming the landing. For anyone completing this trek in the future, I urge you to sit in the front left seat as the views from that side were breathtaking, however, no worries if you don’t because within a week you will have the same views every morning!
Shortly after the landing we set off to our first destination, Phakding. For a first taste of the trekking, it was a nice and enjoyable downhill walk – but what stunning landscape! The next day we hugged the river for the majority of the trek and with it came amazing but daunting bridges and incredible views, the valley and mountains are just unlike anything I have ever seen before. I knew the terrain had to change at some point, it couldn’t possibly continue on a level flat pace if we were going to reach base camp. It indeed changed, becoming steep and tough for about three hours and seeming as though the sheer 45 degree climb would never end. I do feel that I was not mentally prepared for such a climb. However, after arriving and lying in my bed for an hour with self pity, I was rewarded with incredible clear skies and views. Namche Bazzar is by far my favourite town, sitting at 3440m above sea level. The village sits on the edge of a spectacular mountain range, and what a way to wake up in the morning! I think it was here that I first experienced a few altitude headaches, however, they seemed to wear off by the time it came for the evening meal. Looking back, I was incredibly lucky to have a clear sky to capture the stars and the Milky Way. Since this evening, we have had only clouds and misty evenings. The sunrises throughout the walk are where the views are always best – this should be a note for every morning in fact: the earlier you rise, the luckier you are with what you see.
At this point it was good to take a day to acclimatise to the height we had reached. These days consist of a little trek, walking up a few hundred metres, staying at this level for a few hours, then descending again later on. Although the weather was stunning, when we reached the top of the climb the views were blocked by clouds and fog rolling in. On a clear day you are able to see Everest and surrounding peaks, so it was a shame but I knew I had other opportunities. On the descent we detoured via a small desolate village named Khumjung. This village is worth a walk through if nothing else. It was lovely to see countless children all playing together perched up high on large boulders, flying kites, running around and giggling.
The 4th day quickly became the hardest and most demanding for me. The beginning started like all the others, a beautiful walk tucked into the edge of the undulating landscape, descending down to rejoin the river. But like all of the trekking in the Himalayas, what comes down must go back up. After a brief stop for lunch, the road then swiftly lead to another 800m climb to reach a town and a monastery located in Tenboche at around 3860m. It was at this point I started to really feel exhausted and the effects of the altitude, however, my guide seemed to want to push me further and continue on for another few hours and a few hundred metres more. This day was far too aggressive for me and left me vomiting in my room, migraine-like throbbing in the back of my head and crying to my dad on the phone. I even had a friend I met back at the airport offer to try to find me, with medication and comfort from her dad at 9 or 10 in the evening. Acute mountain sickness can affect anyone of any size or orientation regardless of fitness.
It didn’t really seem to improve by the next morning. A short 2 hour walk took me nearly 5 hours with a lot of stops and breaks. Unfortunately the language barrier between myself and my guide was too vast for him to understand the extent of how unwell I was feeling. On arrival to Dingboche things still didn’t seem to improve. Having now climbed to 4400m, my symptoms were becoming increasingly severe and I was beginning to lose my will to complete the trek. By this point I was on Diamox and trying every trick in the book to improve. During an acclimatisation walk I broke down because I was dizzy and drained of everything I had left. I have to give special thanks here to two wonderful people, David and Cecile, they are really amazing and such a perfect couple. Having met them on the small flight out, we kept bumping into each other along the route. They really helped motivate me to carry on when I thought I couldn’t and gave company when I needed a good cheering up. Luckily I spent a fair bit of time with them during the trip and they were really always a pleasure to be around.
The second part to my trip in the Himalayas can be found here.