It has been a while since we've caught up! When we last left off we were about to embark on our Everest Base Camp trek and what an adventure it was!
Before we get into the details we should mention that we found an amazing tour agency that really helped us out a lot. We spent four days researching and wandering the streets of Thamel trying to find a good place to assist us with planning our trek. It was really tough to find one that wasn't trying to rip us off or lie to us. At last we found Mountain Guide Trek & Expedition. They went above and beyond with their service, attention to detail and overall professionalism. We've even become friends with Manil and his family as we'll go further into detail about in our next post.
If you need full tours or even just a bus ticket you should contact them. Their office is close to BK's which is in Lonely Planet for those of you that use it.
Here's their contact information:
Mountain Guide Trek & Expedition
You can get Manil's international number off the website.
It's a great company and we would highly recommend their services. Thanks Manil!!! We will never forget our trip and your dedicated service and friendship.
We woke up early on the morning of October 10th and headed to the airport with Pasang, our porter/guide. Our flight was scheduled for 11:30 am. We weren't super excited about having such a late flight. The earlier the flight, the better your chances are of getting out. We mentioned in our last blog that we were crossing our fingers that our flight would not get cancelled. We must not have crossed them hard enough. After waiting in the extremely crowded airport (see picture below) for hours, we finally made it onto the bus. We were on our way to the airplane when we were told we needed to go back inside the airport and wait a little longer due to the weather conditions in Lukla. After 15 more minutes of waiting we were given the bad news...the flight was cancelled. NO! We were so close. The airlines don't have a system of rebooking your tickets when your flight is cancelled. What a mess! We begged the airline staff to rebook our tickets for the following day. The earliest flight they would give us was 11:30 am. At least it was better than nothing. We left the airport feeling exhausted and defeated. It was an emotional roller coaster of a day.
We reluctantly caught a taxi back to Thamel. However, our spirits were lifted when a public school bus rolled up next to us at a light. These little boys brought smiles to our faces.
Later that night we went to dinner and we received a call from Manil. He had managed to get us on a 9:20 am flight instead of 11:30. We were ecstatic! This greatly increased our chances of getting out on a flight.
Take Two - the next day we did it all over again. We woke up at 5:30 am and headed to the airport with Pasang. Thanks to Manil's and Pasang's great work, we boarded a flight at 10:30 am. A delay of 1 hour was much better than a cancelled flight. We couldn't believe we were willingly getting on a flight that would soon land at the world's most dangerous airport!
Leanne was first in line to board the plane. We were told we would have views of Mt. Everest on the left side of the plane.
We settled in for the 45-minute flight to Lukla. The airplane was so loud that the airline attendant handed out cotton balls for your ears. She also handed out hard candy. There were 14 passengers, 2 pilots, and 1 airline attendant. Ted, the guy sitting next to Josh, actually gave him something to calm him down. Leanne thanks you, Ted!
Leanne had a great view of the cockpit. She was so excited that she didn't need anything to calm her down. She had been dreaming of hiking to Everest Base Camp since she was a little girl.
Scenes from the window. Incredible! The flight was filled with nervous giggles and smiles.
This is why the Tenzing-Hillary airport is deemed "The Most Dangerous Airport in the World." The landing strip dangles on the side of a mountain! What a feeling it was to look out the windshield and be greeted by this scene.
Here's a link to a short video of the plane ride. We were worried that the speakers would blow because of the noise so it's brief:
It was a successful landing! Everyone on the flight clapped and cheered when we touched down.
Our Mission: To trek through the Himalayas to Everest Base Camp.
Day 1: Thursday, October 11th
Agenda: Fly to Lukla and trek to Phakding. This was an easy day of trekking and mostly downhill. We started at 9,383 feet (2,860 meters) and ended at 8,563 feet (2,610 meters).
We came up with nicknames for each other.
Josh = Bear (of course)
Leanne = Butterfly (Pasang came up with that one)
Pasang = Sherpa Bee (Josh came up with this one "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee")
However, Sherpa Bee still referred to us as Sir and Madame. Our goal was to change that by the last day.
View of the landing strip. Amazing, right?
Spinning for good luck.
Items are first flown to Lukla and then carried up the mountain by porters. Some of these porters travel for days to deliver the products to the higher elevations. As a result of this, the price of goods increase dramatically the higher you climb. We're talking 2x4s, steel rafters, pool tables, beer, candy bars, things that you can't even imagine that could be carried on a back. It was unbelievable seeing some of the things that they carried.
We made it to Phakding in only 2 hours. Once we settled into our teahouse we did some exploring in the town.
Our teahouse room cost us a little over $1 but the hot showers cost us a little under $6. We took advantage of the hot showers because we knew our days of showering were limited. It was so cold in our room that we had to zip ourselves in our sleeping bags just to warm up. We were in bed by 8:30 pm.
Day 2: Friday, October 12th
Agenda: Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Starting elevation - 8,563 feet (2,610 meters)
Ending elevation - 11,286 feet (3,440 meters)
Leanne getting motivated by the local children. It was right about here when she contracted the germs that would evolve into a full blown cold a few days later. At least they were cute!
Along with the porters, many animals carried the heavier goods. Mules, oxen and yaks were used in the transporting of goods. It is proper etiquette to move aside to let them pass. Well, it's not really etiquette it's that or risk getting bit, kicked or even worse, knocked off the mountain.
We stopped at a waterfall along the way. Josh said stopping to take a picture was a good excuse to catch your breath.
Sherpa Bee pointed out this huge bee nest on the side of a cliff. This picture is zoomed in to the max. It was kinda of fitting he found this since we nickname him Sherpa Bee the day before.
Follow the river...
First glimpse of Mt. Everest!
Almost to Namche Bazaar. Josh was a champ fighting off his cramps. This day was quite possibly one of the hardest days of the trek.
It was supposed to take 4-6 hours but we made it in a little over 2 hours. No wonder why Josh had cramps.
Namche Bazaar was a really cool town filled with bakeries, markets, a few bars and supermarkets. We stayed here for 2 days so that we could acclimatize. We splurged in this town and stayed at a teahouse with an attached bathroom. The room cost us $14 but it would be the last time we would shower for 7 days so it was worth it.
The markets were set up on the edge of a cliff. The prices were really reasonable considering all that went into getting it up here. We bought a package of 20 banana flavored gum to hand out to the village children along the way. Sherpa Bee did some negotiating and got us a good price.
Bringing on the good luck.
Helicopter landing pad or the end of the world? The fog settled in like a thick blanket over the town.
Day 3: Saturday, October 13th
Agenda: Day trekking to Khumjung and Khunde
Khumjung elevation - 12,475 feet (3,790 meters)
Khunde elevation - 12,598 feet (3,840 meters)
Howdy, Mt. Everest!
Welcome to Khumjung
What a creative way to dry yak dung and decorate your house!
This sweet old lady was seeking her daily dose of good luck.
And now it is Josh's turn for good luck.
Drum roll please... we found the infamous Yeti head in an old monastery. For a mere $1.50 donation they unlocked the cabinet and showed us the head. It looked like a yak head and smelled like pure death. Really, like a rotting carcass.
The villagers were excellent at preparing potatoes. We had our fill of potatoes along the trek. Fried potatoes, potato chips, steamed potatoes, roasted potatoes... Okay, we are starting to sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump.
Heading back to Namche for our last shower for a week.
Day 4: Sunday, October 14th
Agenda: Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (Day 1 - No shower)
Starting elevation - 11,286 feet (3,440 meters)
Ending elevation - 12,664 feet (3,860 meters)
It was time to hit the trail and seek higher ground.
These monkeys posed for a picture in exchange for a pack of gum each. It was a great deal for us because we were able to capture this priceless picture.
We kept on truckin'. This day's hike included lengthy stretches of uphill battles.
Excuse us. We passed with care.
We made it to Tengboche in record time. It was supposed to take 5-6 hours but it took us only 3 hours and 10 minutes. We also stopped for an hour to have a second breakfast. They may have helped fuel our fast trekking feet.
Legend has it that the Dalai Lama visited the site of where a current monastery stands. We were able to sit inside the monastery and witness their daily prayer/meditation rituals. It was a moving, yet relaxing experience.
We headed back to our teahouse for an afternoon warm up session in our sleeping bags. It was so cold!
It was a bit uncomfortable in our teahouse because there were so many people staying there. We had to camp out at a seat near the fire for a few hours to make sure we had a place to eat dinner. The fellow trekkers were like sharks when it came to snagging an open chair.
Most of the trekkers we spoke with were taking a medication called Diamox. It helped with the symptoms of altitude sickness. We decided against taking the medication since we were somewhat used to high altitude. Sherpa Bee kept giving Josh hot chili peppers with his food. The other porters and guides told us this was their form of taking Diamox. They called it "Sherpa Diamox." We incorporated Sherpa Diamox into our daily diets from that day forward. It also helped give some flavor to what would otherwise be bland, disgusting food along the trek.
The entire teahouse was woken up that night at 3:30 am by a large Spanish trekking group. Apparently, they were trying to catch sunrise somewhere. We nicknamed them "The Spanish Armada." We were also awoken up by a man snoring so loudly it sounded like it was in surround sound. It was one of the worst night's sleep.
Day 5: Monday, October 15th
Agenda: Tengboche to Dingboche (Day 2 - No shower)
Starting elevation - 12,664 feet (3,860 meters)
Ending elevation - 14,689 feet (4,410 meters)
It was a brisk start to the morning as we headed out at 6:50 am. We just wanted to get out of that teahouse as fast as we could.
We counted down the minutes until our frozen feet and hands would feel the warmth of the morning sun.
It truly felt like an autumn day on this part of the trail. The leaves were changing colors and our smiles were stretching wider as we were continuously captivated by the surrounding beauty. We felt so lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of famous mountain trek.
Sherpa Bee was still smiling and leading the way. He was such a great guy. We found out later on the trail that it was actually his birthday the day before. We were so upset he didn't tell us. Pasang, we hope it wasn't too bad spending your birthday with us.
Ummm...we were speechless at this point. You can see the trail following along the ridge of the mountain. Unbelievable!
Dorky picture time.
Look, I see the town just ahead of us. Onwards!
It felt good to sit down. We stayed at a cozy little teahouse. It was only $1.10 for the room. It wasn't the fanciest of places. It had a squatter toilet and no sink but the lady that ran the place was so nice that it made up for what it lacked. This place would become our home for the next 2 days/nights as we had another acclimatization day here. These nights proved to be some of the coldest nights during the trek. Thank goodness we had blankets and had a minus 20 degree sleeping bag.
Tea time and Leanne's attempt to take an artistic photo.
We pulled out the ol' binocs in quest of some sumitting trekkers on Mt. Everest. We were told about an hour later that we weren't even looking at Mt. Everest and no one was summiting that day either. Oops!
After some tea and lunch we headed up the mountain for a little day hike. We went up to 15,092 feet (4,600 meters). Not too shabby for a day's work!
Day 6: Tuesday, October 16th
Agenda: Day hike to Nangka Tshang (Day 3 - No shower)
Starting elevation - 14, 689 feet (4,410 meters)
Ending elevation - 18,425 feet (5,616 meters)
This day was a memorable day as it was the highest elevation that we climbed on the entire trek.
Josh pulled out the thinker pose. It was appropriate for the occasion at hand.
Yes! We made it to 18,425 feet.
Day 6 went down in the history books for us.
Is this for real???
A different angle from the top.
Bird's eye view. Yep, it's an eagle soaring through the most picture perfect blue sky.
What goes up most come down. Sadly, we had to leave our spot at the top and make our way down the mountain.
We met back up with our new British friends Pippa, Ian, Andrew and Andy at our cozy teahouse.
History on the emersion of the friendship: We first laid eyes on each other in Tengboche. If you recall from our Day 4 recap there was a man that was snoring so loudly at our teahouse that he woke everyone up including Pippa, Ian, Andrew and Andy. The next morning at breakfast we all laughed when the snoring culprit announced loudly that he had "one of his best night's sleep ever." Good for you Mr. Snorer, the rest of us had our worst night's sleep thanks to you.
Pippa said we actually should thank that snoring man because he initiated a friendship between us all. We actually wound up traveling off and on together for the next week and a half. More on that to come.
In below picture we sat around laughing as Andrew got in a quick shave with partially frozen water and some hand soap. We have to hand it to you Andrew, that shave took courage.
We'll stop for now and pick up on the second half of the trek soon.
As always, thanks for following us!
We miss you all.
Leanne & Josh