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Lukla to Kathmandu for 3 days

Last night was hilarious, a celebration of the end of our trek, with us shouting our crew a few beers after a successful trip. For days now we have been hearing about Suba’s (one of our porters) prowess on the dance floor, and we finally got to see him in all his glory jiving away, with a few beers under his belt, to the intoxicating Nepalese beats!

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What a groover!

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The rest of the boys didn’t hold back either, especially after lubrication, hitting the dance floor at the lodge till the bar was shutdown, thankfully at 10 as our bar tab was getting substantially inflated! Great to see everyone in relax mode, especially the porters who have a tough job lugging our gear for 17 days, and deserve all the beer they could down, which was A LOT!!

Credit to them though, they all crawled out of bed at 5.30am to farewell us at the airport, especially Mingma who looked decidedly wobbly!

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Only Dawa was flying back to Kathmandu with us, the rest live in Lukla and headed home to nurse sore heads, probably with little sympathy from their wives.

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We got back to Kathmandu at about 8, and were greeting back at the hotel by our original trek mates Mike, Rod, Hannah & Steve, who were heading home that night. Only Aussie Steve had already left, which was pity, would have loved to get his tales, but it was great to see the others, as they also had a great trek.

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We’d been given a tip about a great coffee spot, so hotfooted it to Himalayan Java Coffee for our first fair dinkum coffee hit in almost three weeks. It was excellent, as was the toasted BLT which hit all the right spots, so much so we dragged our friends along two hours later for lunch and a debrief.

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The rest of the day was spent wandering the madness that is Kathmandu, having a beer of three with the Canadians & Brits before they headed off, and having an early dinner at a great restaurant, The Ship, around the corner. A last chance for Dahl Baht, staple of any/all self respecting Sherpa’s…and now us!

Kathmandu is crazy…people, cars, bikes, tourists all scrambling for what little room there is on the roads, a riot of colour, sights and sounds.

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Even the fast food joints try not to infringe on copyrights! Nice try, Mc Donald Fast Food!

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Dirt roads are regularly watered to settle the dust…or swept!

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Food vendors abound…

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Not sure what he is selling?

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Dried fish, anyone?

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The local laundromat.

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Colours abound everywhere.

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See, more colour.

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Vibrant, coloured  cloth.

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Mannequins strung up like the condemned.

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Construction mayhem.

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In need of some construction, please!

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The effects of the 2015 earthquake are evident everywhere, and no more so than at Durbar Square, one of the most religious site in Nepal, and UNESCO world heritage listed.

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Bureaucracy gathering moss, two years later.

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The local tabernacle choir?

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Crowds blocking the entrance, blocked by support beams.

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One of the few open spaces, perfect for displaying wares.

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Who doesn’t love primary colours?

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Offerings…

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Temporary road block, presumably to be used…eventually.

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…and a final dinner, back at The Ship restaurant, to finish off a truly memorable, wonderful adventure we will all cherish for a very long time.

They say ‘once is never enough” when talking about visiting Nepal, Rachael has been back now, …so maybe, just maybe they are right, we will all be back, won’t we? The place is intoxicating!

 

DAY 16 Phakding to Lukla

Our last day of walking, and a nice easy three hours at that with only one hill near the end to remind us of what we will be missing!

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As we walk we see reflections of ourselves going the other way, all fresh and eager, chatty and excited, still smelling like roses unlike our own slightly grubby, well worn and worn out fragrance!

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The closer we get to the finish the slower we seem to go as the magnitude and scope of what has gone before dawns on us. The culmination of 15 days battling both the elements, the environment, and our own mental demons (especially the Chola Pass, thanks very much!) is just at the top of the hill, through the arch we gathered at to date stamp the start of our trek….and soon, the end.
Our final destination.

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But, it’s not the destination, but the journey we celebrate.
At times it was hard, bloody hard, but for every tough climb, a moments rest was had to bask in the satisfaction of being here.

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To stop and listen to the mountains, free of noise pollution, fresh of air (if a little thin), peaceful, nature’s true calling
Then, to continue the journey…
Pretty simple life; wake up, eat, walk, rest…repeat!

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Smell the roses.
Suck in the surroundings.
Enjoy!

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And we have, immensely. It’s been so beautiful, majestic, stunning, awe inspiring, serene.
A scenic kaleidoscope, an imagery masterclass, a sensory dream! A seven course banquet, none of this degustation here, a fully laid on feast!

So, nothing for it now, but to sit back at our teahouse, drink in hand, and reflect on a job well done. Tonight, we celebrate!

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DAY 15 Namche to Phakding

We are truly on the home stretch when wake up is 7.30, and we don’t need to leave till 10…so, some random thoughts/insights on our fellow trek warriors.

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1. They come in all ages, male & female equally, and in varying states of preparation & condition.
2. Dinner conversation in luxury apartment (anywhere in China)… “What do we want to do for our next holiday? How about a nice stroll in Nepal?” Next week!! “Better prepare by getting the best gear, must be organised”.
3. Re point 2, a lot of mainly Chinese, but not exclusively, seem very ill prepared physically. The pain on some faces at the start of a climb, and the agonising, crawling pace makes you wonder if they will ever complete any days trek, let alone the whole thing!
4. Lots of chirpy banter on day one, less so day two, almost none by day five!

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5. We saw some spectacular outfits, from the stunning crocheted poncho, ultra wide brimmed hatted, monster sunglasses ensemble; thru to the parasol shaded gent staggering to base camp, then on to the orange & black pant combo favoured by many a German preambulator. Goretex, goretex and more goretex, sometimes worn as a fourth layer from sun up to sun down, rain, hail or shine!

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6. Indians by the gross! Heaps of them, which seems to make sense, they are just down the hill a bit! They do like to hog the scene though, just try moving them on from the best vantage point at base camp, not a chance. Too many photo opportunities which take forever to achieve. Include Kala Pattar to that!!
7. Germans, Italians, Swiss, Pom, Dutch, Lebanese, Chines, Indian, Aussie, Kiwi, Yank, Canadian, etc, etc….a varitable United Nations all clambering towards a common goal. If only it were that easy!!!

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8. We met plenty on the track, most more than once. Adolf (I mean, Otto) the Swedish maestro, leading his group with an iron fist; the Belgium boys passing, being passed, then passing again, day after day. The lovely American couple, smiling and chatting, walking fast and having fun. The Brit couple, Harrison & Kate, on a nine month adventure, which will include Australia from Boxing Day. Four lads from Kathmandu joined us loosely for a few days, joining us on the dreaded Chola Pass day, then swapping positions with us for days after. Nice guys who were seeing their own backyard before exploring the rest of the world. We chatted, swapped horror stories and good, laughed, shared meals…did everything except have a beer!

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9. Overall though, a friendly, cooperative bunch all looking to achieve their own personal goals in a pristine, spectacular setting.

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Walking seems to be becoming almost secondary now, we have already done this stretch the other way, but it still had its challenges, took almost 6 hours, and we were glad to be at our lodge in Phakding again….this time for a BEER!!!

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“Beer, glorious beer…”

DAY 14 Dingboche to Namche

Today looks to be a long one, so up early for breakfast and hoofing it by about 7.30. Breakfast was a little slow, and then the attractive aroma of someone’s scent (read BO!!) had us rushing outside, screaming for mercy. Oh, the humanity!!

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Finally, de-scented, we headed off for lunch at Tengboche, which houses the most famous Monastery in the region.

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The walk was mainly uneventful, rolling hills with a few ups and downs, including a solid climb to the monastery which sits proud on the mountain ridge.

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The monastery was quite beautiful, which Liz would attest to if only she hadn’t been wearing shorts!

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Read the fine print, Liz!!
A nice lunch with spectacular views back to Everest, then the long descent to the valley floor.

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We spent over an hour going down, while hundred of miserable suckers (umm, I mean, trekkers) slogged their way up, up, up!
One nasty hill climb to Tengboche Monastery.

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Actually, murder on the feet going down, not that we would have got much/any sympathy from the climbers.

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We then spent about 3 hours going up, then down. Up, then down…
Where the bloody hell is Namche?

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We sight a Stupa, which is always a good sign a town is just around the corner…around the corner we sight another Stupa in the distance…pass it, no village!!!

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Yet another Stupa…WTF, where is NAMCHE???
FINALLY, at about 5.30…Namche, Thank God!

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Told it was about 7, ended up being 9 hours walking, including 1000 metres of descent.
Thanks for nothing, Dawa!

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We had been talking for days about having our first beer for over 2 weeks when we got to namche, but now we are here, too tired to bother.
The beer better be cold tomorrow at Phakding!

 

DAY 13 Kala Pattar to Dingboche

This morning will be the last ascent of our trip, and to celebrate we thought 4.30am would be a great time to commence said journey.
Liz, who has been troubled by an ear ache plus a dry cough, valiantly attempted the climb, but wisely saw the folly of her ways, a bridge too far, and went back to the lodge, and bed.

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Rachael was fresh, and I had run out of excuses, so off we went with our faithful guides, Dawa & Mingma, climbing to our highest point of 5550 metres, reaching the summit after about an hour and a half of up hill grind.

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The cloudless sunrise produced breathtaking views, with Mt. Everest the shining centrepiece surrounded by nature in all its incredible beauty.

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It was freezing, about -5C, so we didn’t hang around for too long, but long enough for plenty of snaps, and a few moments to contemplate the awesome power of the Himalayas.

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Getting down only took about 20 minutes, breaking into a jog as we needed to thaw out, and eat as we were starving.

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Breakfast, pack and off by 8.30 for the long walk down to Dingboche (4500mt).

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We slogged our way back over the rock laiden glacier to Lobuche for another coffee at the “highest cafe in the world”.

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We ordered a round of coffees, shouting Dawa & Mingma, and the bill came to 3500NRP ($40), which would have paid for 2 x showers, 2 x full battery charges, WiFi for 24 hours, 2 x toilet paper, and a box of pringles…the sacrifices you make for a decent coffee?!

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Onward we strove, passing hoards of trekkers going the other way, until we stopped for lunch at a very popular spot overrun with trekkers refreshing before climbing a nasty hill we had just descended.

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Thank God we were going the other way!

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After lunch the weather turned cold, so we hoofed it stopping only to check out a Yak farm with fabulous stone yak cabins, before reaching our destination at 3.30, after being on the go since 4.30…11 hours! Yee gods!

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We followed our usual pattern and adjourned to the dining room to read, play cards, and wait for tea and bed. Another request for an early dinner so we could be in bed by 7:30 at the latest.

 

DAY 12 Lobuche to Gorakshep plus Everest Base Camp

We are sitting in the dining room of our lodge in Gorakshep, knackered after a long, fruitful, and ultimately very successful day, culminating in finally getting to Everest Base Camp.

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We started early leaving Lobuche at 7, to be instantly stuck in peak hour EBC traffic!
One of the beauties of taking the Gokyo/Cho La Pass route is the lack of traffic on the trek, as only about 10-15% of trekkers tackle this journey, mainly due to the perceived fear of the Cho La pass, and the extra five days required. The rest take the road more travelled, and today we get to see firsthand how travelled that road is…A LOT!

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The walk to Gorakshep was bumper to bumper, making what would have been a pleasant walk quite the culture shock.
The scenery was as magnificent as always which certainly made up for crowds, though.
We got into Gorakshep at about 10, dumped our packs and ordered a very early lunch of Sherpa stew, soup & macaroni.

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By 11 we were back at it for the walk to base camp, which took about 2 1/2 hours, mainly due to the crowds on the path, most who refused to give way, barging past without the slightest nod of thanks.
We’re looking at you Chinese & German people!

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Thank God a school group of Kiwis passed, restoring our faith with choruses of thanks.
It was a fairly challenging walk up and over rocks, along a thin crevasse, before descending and crossing the glacier to get to the pile of rock and ice called base camp.

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There’s actually nothing at base camp except a lot of over excited Indians, hogging the main rock pile for photo opportunity after photo opportunity, giving the Chinese a run for their money on the posing stakes, and group after group having pictures taken to mark the high point of a long walk…us included.

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It is called the EBC trek after all, so getting there has been the focus and reaching this point is the obvious highlight.

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Each year in February Sherpas go to base camp to cut out camp sites from the uneven rock and ice, as the camp sits on a moving glacier, changing from week to week. The climbing season only goes for a few months, the rest of the year it returns to its natural state…i.e a pile of rocks and rubble.

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We were very excited to have finally reached our destination, the natural culmination of our trek. All there is to do now is climb Kala Pattar (5550mt) tomorrow morning, then start the long descent back to Lukla which will take four days.

 

DAY 11 Dzongla to Lobuche

Before we get into todays walk, lets discuss hygiene, shall we?

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1. Showers are scarce, and expensive, so rarely applied! Washy washy (a bowl of warm water) in the morning is surprisingly effective, and refreshing

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2. Toilets, as previously discussed, tend to the squat variety as we get higher up, so to see a western dunny is greeted with giddy excitement. Regardless of style, odours can be a little fruity, and flushing is by means of a large bucket of water and a jug for dispensing! “Shit tickets” are placed in a bin beside toilet, thus adding to the sensory overload!
3. Hand basins are a novelty, thus hand sanitizer is liberally used.

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4. Laundry is an option extra, we washed a few things by the river one day which proved adequate. Merino wool clothing is surprisingly odour free we believe, in fact I wore the same base layer T-shirt for 7 days before washing it (might have been stretching the friendship there!)

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Ok, walking time and we are back on the track at about 8.45 from our cosy lodge in Dzongla to Lobuche, after a sleep in till 7.30, and leisurely breakfast.

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We only have a short 3.5 hour walk following the valley, the scenery along the way was magical, as always!

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Everywhere you look you are greeted by surprise after surprise, truly awesome in its scale and grandeur.

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We reach the meeting point of the main EBC route, before joining it and wandering in to Lobuche which consists of a few lodges, and a cafe who’s claim to fame is being the coffee shop at the highest altitude in the world, and luckily the coffee was good!

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We went for a short walk to check out the glacier we’ll tackle tomorrow, before heading for the dining room for the rest of the afternoon/evening, to read, people watch, or just take in the heady aroma of kerosene and yak dung, as attempt after attempt to get the pot bell to fire up failed.

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Eventually success, and a reduction in that very special scent which permeates the walls of lodge dining rooms throughout Nepal.