Everest Base camp trek 2016

everest_base_camp_via_gokyo_trekking_map

I went to Nepal in 2007 with the intention of trying the Everest base camp trek. Mainly due to the circumstances of the weather that year the flights to Lukla were rained off. I’ve been to Nepal several times since, but on each occasion there was some reason or another why the base camp trek remained an unfulfilled ambition. However, this year 2016, that ambition was realised.

Lukla, is the start of the Everest base camp trek. Lukla itself is at an elevation of 2,860 m. It has what is described as the ‘most dangerous’ airport in the world. The runway is only 527 m long and as the planes come in and out of Lukla airport it is easy to see how it gets its reputation.

We arrived at Lukla airport, flying in on Tara Airlines, on the 14th May 2016. We were meant to be flying the day before, but considering this was Friday the 13th – the day after seemed like a better option.

We set out on the trek going through the initial check posts and then got into our stride. The trek to base camp is a 12 day round trip; coming down obviously taking less time than getting up. We decided that we were not going to try for base camp itself, but only to Kalla Pathar, which is one stop before Base Camp. Kalla Pathar, is at an altitude of 5550 meters, and the place from where almost all of the iconic shots of Everest have been taken.

So we headed off towards Namche Bazaar, with a climb that is reckoned to be the hardest part of the trek. Namche is at 3,440 metres (11,286 ft) at its lowest point. In the burning heat of the sun we climbed and climbed this winding route which seemed never-ending. And finally in pouring rain, exhausted and already suffering from altitude sickness, I arrived at Namche.

There was an acclimatisation day here, where I got my first sight of Everest, then we continued the trek the next day.

The altitude as we got higher and higher, became more of a problem for me. Hari, my friend and guide on this trek, seemed entirely unaffected by the altitude and the exertion, but then he is a very experienced guide and has been at the trekking game a long time. He never seemed out of breath and nor once did he break a sweat. While the sweat poured off me and walking and even talking was very difficult.

We made it through Tyengboche, where there is a large and famous Buddhist Monastery. With another siting of Mount Everest in the clear light of the early morning – the day after we arrived.

We pressed on, but by now the altitude was taking its toll. In the end we made it to “Lobuche”. This sits at an altitude of 4930 meters (and which is 16,175 feet). But I was suffering severely from altitude sickness by this time, with an upset stomach, headache and double blindness; which is having double vision and being out of focus at the same time. Altitude sickness is a serious business and cannot be taken lightly. We were going to stay at this altitude in one of the Lodges – but Hari advised that we needed to start heading down immediately. It was a great disappointment to me and somewhat reluctantly, I took his advice and we set off down the mountain. We did pretty well on the way back down, making good time, getting back to Tyengboche in one stage, and Namche Bazaar the next day. We didn’t need the rest days on the way down and on the following day we were back at Lukla ready for the flight home. I was on the whole and particularly in retrospect pleased with my performance. Having finally seen Mount Everest for myself – I was satisfied and we returned to Kathmandu the next day.

Kathmandu Streets

“Kathmandu is alive, vibrant, magical a living city. I have never know a more colourfully textured, rich and aromatic place. To give it it’s due, Kathmandu is a very busy place. Everybody seems either constantly on the move, or quite conversely – sitting through the heat of the midday sun. It is a peaceful city despite its, diversity and noise. Eagles fly silently above the city heights, dogs scrap for left overs in the streets, and kids run a muck. The pollution in Kathmandu can be unbearable, but which does not detract from my love of it in the least.”

 

The Many Faces of Nepal

Bhaktapur, Nepal 2012

Bhaktapur is an ancient ‘Newari’ town to the east corner of the Kathmandu Valley. Famed for its ‘Durbar Square’ which was the Royal palace of the kings of Nepal; the seat of ancient power. Bhaktapur is much quieter and less polluted than Kathmandu. There is an admission fee for entering the city which I paid one Saturday afternoon during my stay in Nepal.

Burning the bodies at Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath is one of the most important Shiva Temples in the world. It is located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, Nepal. The temple is said to be the home of Lord Pashupati (Shiva). And here it is traditional to burn the bodies of departed loved ones. When I visited Pashupatinanth there were several cremations in progress. Around the temple complex there are generally enormous crowds. Pashupatinanth is an important place of pilgrimage to those in Hinduism but many come to witness the burning of the bodies. Many Saddhus also live, eat and sleep in the Temple grounds. It is a very popular tourist destination for those visiting Nepal as there is much to see.

Nepal 2010

The Monkey Temple, Kathmandu

The Monkey Temple is an ancient religious complex at the top of a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu city. The reason for it being named the Monkey Temple is its permanent monkey inhabitants, who live around the complex begging food from the tourists. The ascent up to the top of the Monkey Temple is an impressively steep climb and rewarded by the spectacular views of the city. At the top of the mount is the Buddhist Stupa and various Hindu places of worship; Hinduism and Buddhism sit very closely and comfortably along side one another in Nepal.

On the day of my visit to the Monkey Temple, I met a Buddhist monk in one of the shrines at the top, near the Stupa. I asked to take his photograph and happily he accepted. As well as taking his photo, I asked ‘why had he chosen to become a Buddhist monk’. Expecting to hear an explanation regarding great religious devotion, he simply said that he had been the middle son of his family; and becoming a monk was a duty and a matter of honour for his family. I was surprised to hearing this. The resulting portrait I was particularly pleased with.

Buddhist Monk

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Nepal 2010

             Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal

Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal

The Kathmandu Durbar Square holds the palaces of the Malla and Shah kings who ruled over the city. Along with these palaces, the square also surrounds quadrangles revealing courtyards and temples. The square is presently known as Hanuman Dhoka, a name derived from the statue of Hanuman, the monkey devotee of Lord Ram, near the entrance of the palace. The oldest temples in the square are those built by Mahendra Malla (1560-1574). They are the temples of Jagannath, Kotilingeswara Mahadev, Mahendreswara, and the Taleju Temple. The Durbar square is surrounded by spectacular architecture and vividly showcases the skills of the Newari artists and craftsmen over several centuries. The royal palace was originally situated at Dattaraya square and was only later moved to the Durbar square location.

Shrine

Contemplation

              Thamel District, Kathamndu, Nepal

Thamel District, Kathmandu, Nepal

Thamel market

Thamel bored