This is my travel diary of a trek to see Mount Everest and Gokyo lakes in Nepal, up close on December 2005. Hope this helps you decide to travel to this wonderland!
I got a ticket to Lukla from a local travel agent (referred by a friend) in Kathmandu. Cost me about $60 (It costs around $ 120 at the moment for the tourists).
Took one of the early flights out. (There are different rates for natives and for foreigners). As usual, had a bit of delay before the start, because ofweather. They say, Lukla has one of the most dangerous looking airports in the world. They certainly weren’t wrong. The runway actually slopes down right into a cliff to a ravine possibly a thousand feet below
I was taking the hike alone (at least till Namche bazaar- the hub for all Everest trekkers) and then meeting my doctor friend who was stationed there.
Everything started smoothly and by 10 in the morning I was in Lukla. It wasn’t as cold as I expected. This was in the beginning of December. I took my bag and the stopped by a bakery shop (yes, one in a line of many bakeries such as german, Italian, swiss along the way it seems its quite a business over here). Had coffee and some fresh german bread (at least that’s what I was told it was).
At the end of the day, I reached up to Monjo (2800 meters or 9240 feet). Most people stay further back at Phakding. But I thought I should save the distance for the strong climb of the next day up to Naamche bazaar. The Food at the lodge was okay, nothing worth remembering. Accommodation is bare minimum but for a weary traveler its nothing to complain about.
- The sloping air strip in Lukla
- The walk along the boundary between hilly regions of Nepal and higher regions
- The superman porters carrying more than their body weight of supplies to the businesses near Everest.
Nothing could have prepared me for the steep climb up to Naamche Bazaar at 11,480 feet – excruciating climb indeed. Only the shame of being out of breath, shape and, the obvious fitness of some other trekkers, pushed me to go up and up. Indeed it took the wind out of me. I climbed from 9240 feet to 11,480 feet and basically this is the altitude around which you start getting very susceptible to AMS (Acute mountain sickness). Many good trekkers have died because they tried to walk too high in too short amount of time. Everest region is very unforgiving even for the fittest of you when it comes to AMS. Heed the warning: if you feel sudden dizziness, start heading down. That is the only treatment.
I actually was foolish enough to meet my friend up at Naamche and still climb further way up to the twin villages of Khumjung and Kunde (3800 meters -12, 500 feet) where the Hillary Hospital is located and where my friend was posted. I had to rest for a full 3 days here because of fatigue and also to acclimatize here for the tougher journey ahead.
Photo credit: Mountain medicine specialist Dr. Bishwa Dawadi
Day 3, 4 and 5
Rested in Kunde hospital. (I wasn’t actually sick but waiting on my doctor friend to get off duty and trek together further up). It was also a good place to rest and acclimatize myself to the altitude and the harsh cold weather. Although I had spent past 5 winters in Vermont, the combination of altitude and cold was heavy on my mind/heart.
Nevertheless the breath taking scenery you see of the huge mountains all around you, keeps you soul light and in a poetic mood. You reflect back on your sense of place amongst such majesties of nature.
- The majestic mountains surrounding Naamche, Kunde and Khumjung Sherpa villages.
- Pool houses (they actually transported the pool tables from a helicopter to here amazing!)
- Naamche is a contradiction. You can almost find “Ben and Jerries icecream there.
Started wondering a lot about life while sitting and staring up close at a 20,000 feet mountain, Ama Dablam.
Most of my thoughts were specifically about relationships, environments.
“What would one look for to spend a life with? a partner? a servant? What is it? Is life all about connections? just connections? Are these feelings of longings to be longed for? Are these positive dreams or illusions of pains?
Places like this bring a lot of internal reflections, I suppose.
I started with my friend, A Mountain medicine specialist Dr. Bishwa Dawadi off to view Mt Everest through the Gokyo region (alternate route to Everest base camp)
Wrote in my diary while resting along the way,
“Silence is the wonderful music of imagination. I wish for it, there in lies my salvation and an awakening of my soul beyond comprehension”.
This part of the trip was very quiet. Not a lot of people were traveling, probably we were trekking at the end of the trekking season. It typically stops in the beginning of December. There was just us and some hybrids of yak and cows moving to and fro.
We stayed at Dudh Kosi at 3700 meters. Since we were going to see Everest from Gokyo lake, we were going in a slightly off direction instead of going to Tengboche which most trekkers go on to go to Everest base camp and to climb Mount Everest. I would argue that we took the more scenic way to see the tallest mountain in the world.
Here on the way, you start seeing Yaks, the real ones, not the ones who are cross bed with cows. Yaks carry all the items for business in this region. Very little grows here and the way was dusty because of unusual lack of snow at this time of the year. It still was cold with the Himalayan cold breeze sweeping through us.
The cold starts hitting you full frontal at this altitude where its all rocks and more rocks everywhere around. Unluckily for us, the dust too was not helping at all. I would have preferred snow to dust here. On the way, there was a small hospital but it seemed it only opened during the tourist seasons in the autumn and spring. Some generous tourist had donated money to build that. These hospitals in such inhospitable region sure save quite a few travelers lives every year.
Near the evening, we reached at a resort in Machermo. My heart was beating like a wild horse even while trying to sleep. I suppose at this altitude, my heart was pumping harder for that needed oxygen. We talked and talked and talked more, in the hopes that we would sleep but couldn’t really in spite of our tired bodies.
Note to readers: At higher altitudes, it becomes harder to sleep, even though you might be dead tired.
Highlights: One Yak got bloody mad at me and nearly came after me. I wonder why?
The day I was waiting for. As we walked along a gentle slope, we started coming into abundant streams and soon found out that we were at the tip of a huge glacier. A glacier sure doesn’t look like a river of ice, basically more like a huge solid mass of rocks and more rocks. But the highlight of the day was the majestic “Gokyo lakes”, a series of lakes along the way. At the end was the biggest of them all. Here is a picture to illustrate the breathtaking beauty of the place.
There are quite a few lodges at the Shore of Gokyo Lake. All of them we inquired were virtually owned by the local Sherpas. We made plans to scale the Gokyo ridge (mountain) the next morning. We still were over stretching ourselves so made a quick trip up a gentle slope and back just so that we could acclimatize ourselves to this altitude.
“bonds, love, permanence, these are issues that the sherpas discuss around the fire place. Furthermore, what joy and irony in a place not far from the violence that engulfs rest of the country” (at that time civil war was going on, which stopped in early 2006).
We scaled Gokyo ridge. It took us quite a while to scale up this ridge of 5400 meters – 18000 feet) and desperate gasps for oxygen surely made this an arduous memorable three hour climb amongst bloody cold, cold wind howling at us. But this is a personal triumph for my ego, to have broken my personal record for climbing to the highest altitude. From the ridge, you can get a panoramic view of all the major mountains nearby, Everest, Nuptse, Hiuchuli, Rolwaling, and different glaciers underneath them. The view is breath taking and is rewarding for any traveler who has come this far. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.
“Climbing up to 18,000 feet has a certain sense of achievement, acknowledging that life is a series of many firsts and treasured moments.”
Photo credit: Mountain medicine specialist Dr. Bishwa Dawadi
Day 10, 11
We backtracked our way back to Kunde / Khumjung from Gokyo. We stayed at the hospital for a few more days and I had a chance to meet the locals there and see how the villagers worked around.
“Home is not a physical place is it. It truly lies in where the heart is. Where the heart is, is where despite the heart beats faster and faster, the mind remains serene”.
We walked back to Lukla and the next day were back in Kathmandu after a sweet 20 minutes flight from Lukla. I quickly download all the pictures, selected a few of them and sent it around the world.
“When you go on journeys like this, you wonder about such variety and uniqueness in each object that you see, feel, and hear here. And then think of the civilization I have left behind, where most try to confirm to, to strip oneself from their uniqueness to blend in”
More photos of Nepal here in the facebook page of exoticbuddha.com Any questions ? thoughts ? Do write below.