Khumbu Trek March-April 1986
Monday March 11, 1986
Back in India after an absence of 3 1/2 years. It is the beginning of the hot season and if last night is the judge of anything it should become quite hot. It was a humid 27º c as we deplaned at 12:30 am. Customs took about 1/2 hour which is good and then we grabbed a taxi and had a nice cool ride to the YMCA who in their mercy kept us a room (458) on the forth floor in B block.
Some things have changed for the good. There is no more laundry at 5:00 am, neither is there any megaphone prayers or chanting. There is however no more tennis which is rather sad. The place seems somewhat cleaner as there is not so much garbage around the back.
Two vultures have built a nest right outside our window. One of them keeps looking at me and Ron says its because “I haven't been looking so good lately”.
The complex next door seems to be completed, what function it serves is anyone's guess. A few new buildings dot the horizon.
We had breakfast in the dining room as it is included in our room rate. Toast, Tea, and two boiled eggs. Finally after 4 trips to India I get the great idea to order boiled eggs in place of scrambled and the like. What can go wrong with a boiled egg.
We take a motorized rickshaw to Old Delhi after reconfirming or Katmandu flights at Indian Airways. I took lot of shots of people this time.as apposed to buildings. Visited the old English cemetery where Nicholson is buried. Plenty of sad and interesting stories in there. Lots of children who did not live out the first year of their lives. Lots of adults who died between the the ages of 17 to 35. That seems to be the norm (Heat stroke) or serving in the line of duty. The famous Nicholson is buried here. He died of wounds relieved at the siege of Delhi in 1857. The place is overgrown but some parts still seem to be in use. We noticed some graves as late as 1981, mostly elderly British who had stayed on along with a smattering of Indians who had converted to christianity. As this is one of the few christian cemeteries they are buried here.
We then walked to the river Yumana and sat on its banks for a while beside a buddhist temple. This place seems to be a miniature Tibet. we walked across the shores till we reached the Red Fort the grabbed rickshaw back to the Y. showers , naps mail letters, then dinner at Nurilas Chinese room, which is the same as I remember it.
Wednesday March 12, 1986
Let the YMCa at 7:00 am for New Delhi airport. Nice cool drive in the taxi. The airport has changed a lot in 3 1/2 years. The checking is a lot more organized. Except for the confusion as to where we had to [pay out airport tax. Customs is easier now that they have computers. But we haven't passed through security check. This has the look of not having changed much. Well it has not really but they managed to process us fairly quickly. The flight was pleasant enough with the mountains looming in the distance.
We landed safely and passed customs inspection quickly. Picked up our baggage and proceeded to book a room at the Hotel Eden. We got help from the government run tourist agency at the airport. We got a room right away.
Went we checked in I telephoned Tenzing at sherpa Trekking Service. Someone else answered and seem to be surprised but happy to hear from us. He then sent over the companies Mercedes to pick us up and we got together right away. He had relieved none of my letters. But he would be able to do something for us. They are not as busy at this time of the year. Even though it is very beautiful this time of the year, it is a little colder. This decreases traffic in the mountains. The fall is still the most popular time.
Tenzing and his partner Calden took us to lunch at a very nice Chinese restaurant. Plenty of star beer and spicy chinese food then it was back to Sherpa Trekking we arrived at a trek. Instead of walking in as we have done in the past we are going to fly to Lukla. We will then take our twenty-one day from this point. This should give us sufficient time to acclimatize well and explore in all directions. Because of this amount of time we will be able to. go to Namche then up the valley to the village of Thami to Kumjung, to Goykio Peak, to Labouche to Everest basecamp, then back and over towards Island Peak, then back to Lukla. This is costing us $ 750.00 US which is 25% off the normal price. Trekking is getting very popular and expensive.
We hope to be able to get or regular sherpa Passang. Tenzing thinks that this will be possible. we return to the Hotel and get ready for our dinner at Aunt Jane’s. We found the place empty and as the food was only so so this explained a lot why. The power failure halfway through our meal didn't help matters. It poured rain as we left and we got soaked getting back to the Hotel. This is the first time I remember rain in Katmandu.
Thursday March 13, 1986.
I got up at 5:00 am and took some sunrise shots from the roof of the Hotel, then after some tea I headed over to the Rani Pokahari, Mountain Travel, The Yak and Yeti Hotel, Sherpa Trekking, then finally to Brunch at the My Fair Lady restaurant which is located outside the Yak and Yeti Hotel. After lunch we headed for the Thamil district to visit a friend of Laurie Skreslets. Bobby Gentry gave some advice on Chinese Visas which was to prove very useful. The went form there to Sherpa Trekking were Tenzing offered to call the Chinese Embassy. After the phone call we went directly to the Embassy where we were told that our Visa were not what was required to get from Katmandu to Tibet. That they were only good for entry via mainland China. I explained the I personally applied for the entry visas in Ottawa and had gone to great detail in explaining our trip itinerary. We wished to cross over the newly opened border from Nepal to Tibet. We had put all the correct information into our applications so they had they sold us two completely useless visas ($50.00 US each). They had no answers for that question. He said that we should contact the embassy in Ottawa for special Visa to entry to Tibet. we asked if they could telex the embassy fro here. they said not. We asked if they could contact Beijing directly, No.
There was other people waiting in line so we let one man pass while Ronald and I discussed matters. The next man asked if there had been any reply to his telex to Beijing. He got a negative rely and when he left we asked if we could have the address to send our own telex. This he jotted down for us and we returned to Tenzing and sent out our request. We then settled our accounts with Tenzing and were all set to head out first thing in the morning.
We then headed out to look at a new hotel the Tenzing had recommended to us. It was the same price but much cleaner. We made a reservation for the 4th of April and headed back to our hotel and did a wash, showered and headed for dinner at the Blue Bird Restaurant. I had a Filet of beef with french fries for $ 2. Not bad eh!
Friday March 14, 1986
We got up early at 5:30 and took in the view from the roof. Then we went to the Ponderosa restaurant for breakfast. Two Fried eggs (i asked for boiled0 hash browns, toast and pear juice and milk tea (I asked for white tea) it was very good and set me back 80 cents. We then split up with Ron heading over to the Monkey Temple to do some photography and me to Durbar square to buy and write some postcards. This took me about 3/4 of an hour during which time I was hounded by several young street urchin.. Some of these were charming some of them not and full of mischief. At one point 5 of them surrounded me and started pulling at my postcards. I beat them all up (just kidding) and was able to send out the card at the post office about 1 hour later.
I then headed over to the bank to change some of my larger rupees to smaller bills that I would be able to use more easily in the hills. They sometime do not have enough change in the smaller villages in the Khumbu. I could not get exactly what I wanted. I had to settle for 20r notes instead of the 2r’s that I wanted. The I went to the oldest pie shop on freak street, the Stylist Pies shop and had a marvelous piece of cake. Chocolate orange. Their pies were not as yet ready as it was early.
I decide to head off to Pantan to visit the Tibetan camp and buy some carpets. You can get some small 12” square ones that work well as gifts. I pass by Tenzing to see if he has had word as to whether Passang will be available to guide us. Yes is the answer. I then decide to head over to the Monkey temple after all and after a brief stroll I meet up with Ron who is on his way back. We chat for a while abut continue on our separate ways. I take the regular route up to the temple and see plenty of monkeys as usual. One jumped onto someone's back but luckily he wasn’t bitten. I spent quite a bit of time just sitting and taking in the view. I took a few photographs in BxW as I had been wanting to do this for some time. I then descended down and walked to Durbar square and continued using the camera to capture more BxW shots. Then it was back to the roof of the Hotel Eden where I too and entire 360º shot of the view. This now hangs in my hallway at home. I am sad as when we return we will be staying at different hotel and it will not have the same rooftop view. I may never return to the Eden again.
I get a call from Tenzing saying that should Passang for some reason not be available he will provide a good backup. But he believes that Passang will be waiting for us as expected. I had designed my stationary and Tenzing says he liked it very much. He would like to discuss the possibility of me doing something for them along the same lines. He would like me to think about it along the trail and we will discuss business after. God I can’t seem to get way from work no matter where I am.
We had a fairly good dinner at the sam restaurant where we had lunch and then packed for tomorrow's departure.
Saturday March 15, 1986
Got up at 6:00 and got ready to leave for the airport. Tenzing arrives and we sped off in the direction of the airport. I still can not get used to travelling in this poor country in a Mercedes. It makes me feel very uncomfortable.
We board the twin otter and take off. The flight started off well but turbulance started up pretty soon after takeoff. Actually the worst turbulence I have ever encountered. At one point the entire plane dropped 10 feet and people and bags jumped. I don}t think I have been ever so scared in my life. I tell my self to relax but with each successive bump I tighten up. Most of the passengers look like they might loose their biscuits. My stomach is ok but I am nervous just the same. My hand is knotted around the arm of my aisle seat. I am sitting beside a sherpa who is not enjoying himself either. As we pass through the worst of the flight his hand is gripping my leg tightly as he has nothing to hang onto. He is playing with his prayer beads with his other hand. I find this strangely reassuring that someone else is experiencing the same fear as II. As we approache the pass I can see that it is completely cloud covered and very dark. It begins to snow and the pilot banks the plane to the left sharply and we begin to head back. All I can see out of the front window is a wall of rock. We turn around and level out and return to the airport. We spend another night in Katmandu in our new hotel this time.
It is located in the Thama district.We have a nice room with a terrace. And a brand new washroom to boot. Lunch was nearby at an Italian BBQ restaurant. Very good but the chickens are thin as usual. We then went to the tourist bank and changed our bank notes for even smaller ones then on to another bank where we did the same process again and got them even smaller. The it was back to the hotel for some photos of clouds and lightning as the storms moved across the valley. The it was roast chicken at the Italian place again the repack and get ready for tomorrow's repeat of our flight.
Sunday March 16, 1986
We arrive safely in Lukla after an u eventful flight. Very smooth and spectacular views of Everest, Nupste Lhoste and a host of others. Passang meet us at the airstrip. We go to eat lunch at his new lodge.
Passangs life has changed a lot since we last saw each other. He no longer has a Wife only a girlfriend. As we intend to visit his village of Thami we will get to visit his house. After lunch we walk for only about 4 1/2 hours and camp at Chumowa which is about 1 1/2 hours from Phakding. We went this far to ease tomorrow's journey. It is just above the rive with many mani wheels. I drank about 10 cups of tea as well as one coke.I hope this helps me acclimatize. The lodge that we are staying in is empty except for us. It seems very comfortable. There not may other on the trail this time of year.
Monday March 17, 1986
Had 6:00 am breakfast of toast, cereal and hot milk, boiled eggs and Tea. (Hot milk Ugh!) We then walked for 3 hours to the village of Namche. Along a new trail as the older one we had travelled on in years past had been washed away when the dam in Thami broke. It must have been quite something as the damage that we saw was extensive. The was was tiring as we have yet to acclimatize but was enjoyable as we were in no hurry and stopped at numerous places for tea.
We stayed at Passangs aunts lodge in Namche and enjoyed many glasses of tea and later in the evening chang. Passang headed off to Thami to get new porters and a cook who would go to higher altitude. Ron and I took an 1 1/2 hour stroll to Shangboche and the closed Everest Overlook Hotel. While I was feeling lightheaded when I got there I had no headaches of other problems. The keeper of the hotel opened up for us to take a tour. Its not that special really for 100 USD a night but the view is unbeatable. we gave him a tip for his trouble and descended down to Namche. I stopped and registered my name a nd trekking permit at the police station. But I had left it too late and they were closed for the day. I would have to repeat the process tomorrow morning. I had a dinner if fried vegetable rice and vegetable garlic soup. along with tea and an orange. While I am writing this one of Passangs cousins is doing here homework at the dinner table with us. I think she wants help with her English lessons but is too shy to ask. she is attending the school in Kamjung.
Tuesday March 18, 1986
A good nights rest had me up at 6:30 am. We slept outside in a new tent which was quite comfortable. We had tea and breakfast of porrage, toast and a coffee which was so so. I then went over to the police station and did my paperwork. We then accompanied the kitchen staff toward Thami. We had thoughts of trying to cross the pass at the end of the Thamo valley but there was too much snow and Passang had not been able to convince the police to allow us to pass. Even an offer of a gift had not worked. It is cloudy today and there is the occasional snowflake. We stopped for awhile at Passangs sister’s house. It was nice to see the photos we had sent up on the wall of the hose. A little worse for wear but there just the same. We said hi to his mother who had not changed much and had a drink of hot lemon. Our cook prepared us pancakes for lunch. We then photographed Passangs parents and continued on our journey. We arrived in Thami in a snowstorm. While it was not too bad it did make for a colder environment. We stayed outside for the most part because Passangs girlfriend's house was very smokey. Actually to the point of making us nauseous. It got better by supper so the meal wasn’t unbearable. We had a good soup but the chow mien was too spicy. A treat of a tin of cherries was downed easily. I then had some discussions with Passang before joining Ron in our tent which was free of smoke thankfully. Ron had headed for the tent much earlier as the smoke was driving him mad. I had to get up at night to pee. I can’t seem to get these thing right even with the best of planning.
Wednesday March 19, 1986
To day is to be our rest day. We had a breakfast of boiled eggs, toast and honey, porrage and of course tea. We then checked in at the local police station and headed up the ridge above Thami to the monastery. We did not stop there but continued up to the top of the ridge at about 14,000 feet. The view was excellent. We could see straight into Tibet. we could see the pass that we would not be taking into Gokyo., Cho Oyo, Kantega, Thanserku, and Kusam Kahn. we stayed there quite a while in the snow. The weather had cleared nicely. We then headed down to visit Passangs cousin at the monastery. We were greeted by a meal of tea and boiled potatoes and were given a tour of both the upstairs and downstairs.
The place was very old. I took photos of both Passang and his cousin and left donations everywhere. Then we descended back to Thami. After tea Ron did a wash and I went to a nearby vantage point. and took in the view, I kept studying the ridge on the opposite bank for mountain goats to no avail. My kept playing tricks with me giving the impression that I could see some. I saw plenty different types of birds, crow with black beaks Crows with red beaks. I guess the black beak ones are Ravens. even colored peacocks. there is also a bird that is much like a pedgeon but has very distinctive coloring of white, black and grey. They fly in flocks and have the most amazing cry. There is also a small puppy that I have befriended. He is yelping outside at the moment as we about to have a dinner of Momos. Momos are a Tibetan style dumpling with a reddish stuffing. It is probably yak meat mixed with tomato paste as well as spices.
Thami is much different from most of the villages I have visited so far.We seem to be quite a novelty as they do not get the same visitor traffic as it is off of the standard Everest-Gokyo highway. I am glad that we have made the trip here. It is quite beautiful and as we are the only trekkers around very peaceful.
I have gotten a little sunburned today and have to take care of my lips. I miss the people back home and I guess it must be the onset of a bit of homesickness. I won}t be home for another thirty-five days so I best get over it. I go into Passangs girlfriend's house and I find that the smoke has subsided greatly. I discover this is because the fire has gone out. It is soon started up and drives up both out into the cold. Supper was good with onion and garlic soup.. we had some more of the now famous momos. I get the feeling that I am going to pay for this later.
As I am writing this I am being stared at by a Zupkio. Perhaps he is thinking of going off of vegetables. I went to bed early.
Thursday March 20, 1986
Got up early at 6:30 and packed my bags for the trek to Kamjung. We are going via Passangs parents village of Thamo. Kamjung is where one of Sir Edmund Hillary schools is located. In nearby Khundi there is a hospital which when I passed in 1982 was staffed by Canadian doctors. I wonder if it will be the same this time around. The journey seemed to take a long time but was only about 2-3 hours. I visited the hospital and was shown the operating room by the American staff doctor. I couldn’t stay and chat too long as my stomach began to act up. I headed out after leaving a donation in their good will bottle.
Walking down to Khumjung I was besieged by groups of runny nosed little beggars. I say beggars as it seems as you enter the region the children all become beggars of a sort. They will follow you everywhere wanting BONBONs, Maytang, or just holding out their hands and pointing to their palms, So of them are real wise guys as they have a limited knowledge of English which they have learned at the nearby school.
Because of the presistent nature of the kids we have decide to remain indoors tonight as it will be quieter. I also do not trust that our tent will stand up to any slash and rob action. This is one tough neighborhood. I’m not sure if this is what Sir Ed had in mind when he built this school. I wonder what will become of these kids who are more knowledgeable than most but not as knowledgeable as others. Will they leave the hills in search of opportunities that do not really exist for most. Or will they stay and become resentful to the tourists. I can see this area deteriorating and crime becoming a real issue.
The staff doctor had told me earlier that people we slowly coming to accept the hospital but that there were still Tibetan doctors. But generally they were working side by side.
Hospital visits cost only 1Rs.. As the old people are considered more valuable they save their money to go to Tibetan doctors or exorsists as they are sometimes called by Passang. The children all go to the Khunde hospital.
We were tented outside but due to the amount of children and the cold then moved inside a nearby lodge. This just happened to be owned by Colin Sherpa the owner of Sherpa Trekking for which Tensing, Passang and everybody works. The older lady who we took to be Colins Mother was in fact his step-mother.
Passang or sherpa we found out only went to school for 3 years. As his father was always away on expeditions, Passang was needed by his mother to help out around the house.
Before dinner Ron and I went out to photograph Ama Dablam from this new angle. I did not take as many as usual as I have many images of Ama Dablam already. I therefor tried different effects nd some bxw with filters. This year I have not shot as many as before on the trip as whole and will no doubt return with extra film.
Friday, March 21, 1986
Rose at about 6:30 after a very good nights sleep. I only had to get up once and it was not too cold. The problem was not waking anyone else as we are all sleeping on the floor of the lodge and have to step around everyone before you reach the door. The hinges creak as well. After breakfast we followed a somewhat familiar route (only higher than before) towards Thangboche but instead going down and around towards Phorste and the Goyko region. This was proving to be the most tiring day of the trek so far. It was not so bad before the lunch break but was tiring an seemingly endless after.
We ended the day in Dongla where I washed my hair in snow and icy water. I must be crazy but it wasn't’ as cold as it would sound. After supper it was collapsing into an icy tent.
Saturday, March 22, 1986
As you can see I found my pen again. It was so cold last night and I could not be bothered looking for it. So I used the trusty Bic. I wen to bed about 8:00 pm and did not have to get up once. I must be training my body to go only during daylight hours. That or I am not drinking enough. Breakfast consisted of tea, french toast and a Sherpa version of Rice pudding, which I didn’t care too much for.
Our day is to only take 3 hours today. Passang feels that with our altitude gain that this will be enough. Tomorrow we will complete the trip to Goyko. Another day of only 2-3 hours. Our night will be spent at Machairma (SP) which consists of only about 5 houses. This is the second to last village before Goyko. I am now drinking my third glass of lemon juice.
We have an excellent view of Twache and Cholchase (Passangs spelling). Plus the backside of several unnamed peaks. When the sun is out and the wind is at a minimum it is actually quite warm. But when the wind picks up it is bitterly cold. Don’t ask what happens when a cloud moves in.
A young sherpa and his father are playing around on a pair of home made skis. The skis themselves are make from two pieces of scrap wood. The bindings from flattened out tin cans. He is falling a lot but they are both having a great time. There is actually a lot of snow now and the sunglasses are a must.
We just saved a small dog from being trampled by three Zupkios. And Have been payed a visit by the Khundi Doctor and his wife. His name is Bruce and his wife Wendy. They are to be stationed here two years. So far they have been here 7 months. Most of the medical problems have been bronchial. as I suspected. They do say that the people here have healthier lungs and better ventilation than those in the lowlands. That is a surprise.
When asked about the success of the tree nurseries. He say that there is a 90-95% failure rate. Most of the problems occur around the planting and that they need an Good forester which is not always available. There is now a Nepalea in Winnipeg, Canada studying just to be that. It is suspected that upon his return he will be given a cushy desk job and it will all be for nothing.
The doctor went on to relate a stoy of a 44 year old Janpanese who jumped off of his plane at Lukla and carried his full pack to Goyko before collapsing. Hard to believe he could make it that far. He was carried down and treated by the doctor before return to the safety of lower altitudes. He had another story of a japanese brought into the decompression chamber at Pheriche and brought all the way down to 7,000 feet before he began to scream and bang on the door to be let out to go to the bathroom. They apparently had to bring him back up to 14,000 feet be fore letting him out. why do these stories all involve Japanese? We both came to the same conclusion that they must all still want to become Samurai. (or Kamakasi as he put it). It seems to be true. Out of all the trekkers we see on the trail it is the Japanese that always seem to be pushing the envelope on speed. Another group are the Isreales who seem to be carrying everything they own. The ones we have met do not have a lot of money and there fore must travel in this fashion. They are not spoilt trekkers like us. A tough bunch.
End of part one. To be continued.