12.04.2006 28 °C
I'm alive! Yep, after 20 odd days trekking in the Himalayas I have made it back to Kathmadu in one peice (except for my foot). I think it got a bit too cold despite wearing 3 layers of socks and started to crack. Its pretty gross. Doesn't feel too flash either.
Perhaps it has been news back home but for those who don't know, Nepal is going through some tough times right now. I got back to Kathmandu last Sunday morning and it was the last day of a 4 day strike. The strike was called by the alliance of all 7 political parties to protest against the king. The whole country was shut down except for the airport, hotels, and tourist buses/taxis. Everything and everyone else has been under curfew. For the locals, its bascially 'stay at home' or get beaten up. For the tourists, we are allowed to go anywhere we want, which doesn't mean much because eveything is shut so there's no where to go. As such, I felt obliged to upgraded to a 4 star hotel for US$20 a night...it has a pool which has been good during the curfew hours.
I've felt pretty safe so far. Thats because I've been in Thamal (tourist district) most of the time where there is a strong police and army presence. In other parts of town, there has been strong rallys, protests, and fighting. My guide and his friends actually defied the curfew and went protesting! He was running away from the police and lost his sandal during the process. I told him to wear runners next time and he agreed. Those who are too slow get caught and beaten up. Luckily my guides group broke into someones house to hide from the cops. Apparently they only try to chase you off the streets but won't go into houses to beat you up, which is lucky for him...
Anyways, the curfew has been getting shorter by a few hours each day. Yesterday it was 12 - 5pm. The day before it was 11 - 6pm. Of course there are night curfews as well, ie. you can't be on the streets after 10pm i think. Today was weird. There was no curfew announced so everyone thought it was back to normal. I was at an internet 'place' (its pretty dodgey), and suddently the owner pulled down the metal roller doors and locked us in. !?!? well, it was a bit of a shock and quite scary as no one knew what was going on. Apparently the army was outside and they had called a sudden curfew.
After a few hours we were 'released' so it seems to be ok now...
With all this going on, i've only 2 more days in kathmandu. I am hopeful of making it to London alive.
Here's some pics of kathmandu city which i didn't get to put up last time. The net speed here is so slow (slower than dial up) its not funny. i think it took me over 2 hours to upload these tiny < 100k pics.
Loved it. Absolutely amazing trek. Beautiful mountains, wonderful people and culture. Funny thing is, it didn't really feel like a 'trek' or 'hike' as I had imagined. It was more like a journey into the lives of the local Sherpa people and their villages.
Dodgey Sita Air 'scenic flight'.
This is the view from the lodge in Lukla, The first town where we landed and our starting point for the trek. Lovely place and this is where my porter Arjun lives.
Everyday I would get up at around 7am (yes..me..7am..and sometimes earlier like 4am to climb some peaks and avoid strong winds). Then have some breakfast and head off. Get to the village we were staying at around lunch time and then spend the rest of the day there exploring the village. My guide was Sumba Sherpa and my porter was Arjun. Sumba is 25 and works as a trekking guide for his brothers company. Arjun is 19 and married! They are both wonderful people and we had a great time doing the trek.
Thats me, Arjun, and Sumba.
On the Trail.
Thats right. At Namchee Bazaar, there is a market every saturday where all the people from the area would trek there to buy/sell fruit vegies and other goods. Well, we bought 10 packets of coconut biscuits as they looked nice and was only 30 cents a packets! Thats cheap for the Himalayas. Note that everything up here is like 300% more expensive than in kathmandu as EVERYTHING needs to be carried up and down mountains by porters. You often see kid porters and some quite old ones too. The amount of stuff they carry is crazy.
This dude has 3 x 20kg bags of rice plus some other stuff on top.
Thats easily about 70kgs there. Later I found out that they get paid by the kilo.. its hard work but i guess for them they are used to the mountains and high altitude. But still, carrying that much weight by a strap accross your head isn't easy. They also dont carry any water with them and often have inadequate clothing/shoes for the conditions.
Typical Kitchen of the lodges we stayed at along the trail. Mostly wood burning. The higher you go the more primative the kitchens are. However, due to a great lack of trees higher up, gas is often used. Its heavy and expensive which means hard work for the porters carrying tanks on their back and more costly meals for trekkers.
Cold shower! Yep, this is the most dodgey shower of all time. Firstly, the lady said 'we have hort shawar'. I thought fantastic, must be some gas powered indoor hot shower. Well, when she said it was ready, she showed me to this thing. It was cold enough that day and I was pretty tired and wanted a nice hot shower. The bloody door is too big so won't shut properly so guess what happens? Wind picks up and it bursts open during my shower. Then the Lady didn't quite fill the bucket to the full and I only got about 3 mins of warm water. I was still soapy, cold, and not happy jan! But then again, i'm up in the middle of nowhere, can't expect too much
Hot shower technology. Buckets on the second floor and runs along a hose to the shower. I must say, after i think over 10 days without a shower, this was the best shower i've ever had. only about 5 mins of warm water but boy was it good. Worth the $3 i paid for it. Note that accomodation was only $4. I guess they make a killing from stinky tourists who are desperate for a shower. And info for those who have not experienced not having a shower for many days: you build up all these dead skin on your body over the days and no matter how hard you scrub and clean yourself during the shower, every time you dry yourself with a towel there is still dead skin and muck peeling off. Its disgusting. Sorry no pics. After I got back from the trek I had a super long shower.
Nice mountain hut along the trail. Its empty now but during the monsoon season yak drivers take their yaks up here above the rain to graze.
My guide Sumba's relative. He accidentally bumped into her in a village and she invited us to her place for supper. Thats her Kid. And its a boy. I asked her how old her daughter was...woops
Heaps of yaks on the trail, going both ways. Can cause quite a yak jam sometimes. Guide tells me the yaks are smart animals, ie. they can find their way home by themselves.
Hot and Shower soup anyone?
Scenary towards Dingboche Village
Tengboche. My favorite village. It has a big Monastry there which got burnt down in 1989 by some kitchen fire accident but has since been rebuilt. Quite a few lama's here. I've read somewhere that there used to be some flying lama's, ie. they can trance walk and 'jump' walk long distances. I asked the old man at the lodge we were staying at and he says that he heard about it but hasn't seen it. He said that about 100 years ago some lama flew from lukla to tengboche..humm..thats about 3 days trek.
LOOK who I bumped into! None other than the great hikker himself, Jason Leow. He tells me his hiking partner Jason Ho is in the next village.
Gokyo region. Lots of lakes and glaciers here. This place is about 5000 meters. I started getting Acute Mountain Sickness here. Started off with a slight headache and then I lost my appetite. So I took 2 panadols (not keen on medication but didn't want to die up here) and had an early night. Luckly felt a lot better the next day. During my trek I meet 2 British guys who had to get choppered off to kathmandu due to AMS. Its a serious killer here and recently there have been 3 deaths due to AMS. I felt sick again after doing base camp and kalapathar (about 5500 meters). Just felt very very very tired. Tired like you can't even move a muscle. Every step is like a struggle. The air is so thin and its so hard to get enough oxygen, its like breathing through a thick sock. Every time you exert yourself you are short of breathe and take twice as long to recover. I had my oxygen concentration level tested by some student doctors up at Gorakshep which is the highest/last town before base camp. I was 59 percent. I think that means there's only 59% oxygen in my blood. The average at Gorakshep was 71%. NOrmally at sea level it would be 100%. The doctor told me to go down NOW. So I did and felt a lot better.
Up high there is little firewood other than those which are portered up. So for heating, they use dried yak shit. Theres plenty of it around and it burns hot and warm so no complaints from trekkers.
Gamma Bag, or i think its also called hyperbaric chamber or something? This German dude got some stomach pains and thought it was AMS so hopped into it just to see. We thought he was kidding as they were just testing it out. It basically simulates conditions at lower altitude.
yak me up!
namchee bazaar, another one of my favorite villages. Spent 2 nights here to acclimatize.
again namchee bazaar. It snowed when we came back here.
Prays carved into stones. Its quite common.
some random kid.
I think i've spent enough time in this internet cafe so i'm off to get some food and sleep.
Next stop, London/Europe. Should be broke after that. Suspect I will be heading back to OZ and slave away at work sooner than I expect!
Till next time, seeyas!